The rural department of Creuse in the centre of France attracted more foreign buyers than any other area last year, a survey by Le Parisien newspaper reports.
It found that 11% of properties sold in 2020 were bought by foreigners.
The area in Nouvelle-Aquitaine is sparsely populated – the entire population is around 118,600 – with a landscape of lakes and hills, offering an active outdoor life.
Census results (Insee 2017) show a population density of 21.3 people per km².
It is also one of the cheapest areas of France to buy property, with a five-bedroom house in 3,000m² of land costing about €86,000.
The Dordogne, traditionally associated with British buyers, was second in the rankings, with 8% of properties sold to foreign buyers. Alpes-Maritimes was third, with 7%.
A spokesman for the Monts de Guéret tourist office in Creuse said: “We have noticed more foreign buyers, both residents and holiday-home owners.
“People come to be close to nature and live in a rural environment. Even here, in the department’s main town, you can be away and in beautiful countryside within minutes.”
Estate agent Vanessa Luneau, at the Bourse de l’Immobilier agency in Guéret, said house prices were a significant factor.
“You can buy nice properties here at prices you cannot find elsewhere,” she said.
“You also have the countryside and, even in the centre, you can be in the mountains or at the sea inside three hours.”