Houses in one of cheapest departments in France can have a hidden cost

We look at what you should know before buying a house in Cher

Houses may be cheap in the historic village of Sancerre, but they can be expensive to maintain
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Property in Cher may appear to be a highly attractive prospect due to its extremely low price and its proximity to Paris. We look at why it is so affordable and what hidden costs you may have to consider before buying.

The median price of homes in Cher (Centre-Val de Loire) is €1,070 per m², compared to €1,710 in Manche (Normandy), or €4,820 in Alpes-Maritimes (Paca), the latest report by French notaires shows.

Read more: From +12% to -9.8%: how French property prices have changed in year

These extremely low prices belie the department’s name, leading to much mirth on social media as it realises ‘Cher c’est pas cher’ (Cher is not expensive), to the extent that a house in Cher can cost less than a parking space in Paris.

Why are house prices so low in Cher?

Ironically for a department that is very much in the centre of France, Cher is very isolated.

“There is no motorway, no TGV here,” estate agents Sancerre Immobilier told The Connexion.

“Access to the department is limited. People struggle to find work around here unless they are involved in wine or agriculture.”

Outside of the department’s capital, Bourges, Cher is predominantly agricultural, with winemaking concentrated around the picturesque mediaeval hilltop village of Sancerre.

Another factor at play is the architecture of the houses themselves.

“There are lots of very pretty houses, but they often need complete refurbishment and the roofs are expensive to maintain,” said Sancerre Immobilier.

“The roofs are steep, which means they need up to 80 tiles per square metre.

“The cost of roofing in the Cher can be up to four times as much as it is in the south.”

People often prefer to sell a house rather than pay for the expensive roof repairs, which means that the local housing market is flooded with houses in need of significant investment.

The historic roofing style, with its picturesque steep tile roofs, is protected by the local planning authorities. This means that when maintaining their roofs, people must respect the local style.

Despite these potential extra costs, bargains can still be found:

€55,000 - 4 rooms, 90m², with 1,000m² garden

Sancerre Immobilier Pic: Human Immobilier

An old farmhouse with two garages, kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms, a large living room, cellar and attic, not overlooked, and with a view of the countryside.

Sold by Sancerre Immobilier

€139,750 - 4 rooms, 97m², with 597 m² garden

This house has three bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and living room. Outside, it has a terrace and a fenced garden.

Pic: Human Immobilier

Sold by Human Immobilier

Second homes and empty homes

“Lots of people who buy houses around here are from abroad, not so many Brits these days, but lots of people from Belgium and Holland,” said Sancerre Immobilier.

“Lots of people have secondary homes here. People ask about how hard it is to see a doctor around here, but it doesn’t really seem to be a problem, at least no worse than elsewhere in France.”

According to government statistics bureau Insee, 7.6% of homes in Cher are secondary residences. Another 12.9% of homes in the department are considered vacant, which is far greater than the national average of 7.5%.

Read more:

Seven key trends in new French property market data

Why it can be good to buy a French property at an auction