International Real Estate: House Hunting in … France

This 17th-century chateau is in Saint-Victor-des-Oules, a hilltop village in the south of France just outside the historic town of Uzès, about 90 miles northwest of Marseille and the Mediterranean Coast.

The 18-bedroom home anchors two landscaped acres, with two guest pavilions, a caretaker’s unit, swimming pool, tennis court and lily pond. The property has served as a hotel and restaurant in recent years, and is currently used as a private home.

Since 2014, the 9,000-square-foot house has undergone extensive renovations, including improvements to its slate-tiled towers, which were added in the 19th century, and the lime rendering on the stone facade. It was also redecorated, said Tanya Cavé-Darbey, an agent with Prestige & Chateaux, which has the listing.

A long, tree-lined drive leads to the front door. Inside, the airy foyer has an original stained-glass window and a chandelier, with a 17th-century carved stone staircase ascending through an archway. The ceilings have aged wood beams, and the newly laid floors are marble tile. Contemporary frescos inspired by motifs of Louis XV and Italian frescos adorn the walls.

The dining room has a vaulted stone ceiling and a large wood-burning fireplace made of a local stone used in the nearby Pont du Gard aqueduct, a Unesco World Heritage site. Two adjacent drawing rooms each have a fireplace, one dating to the 19th century and the other contemporary. Beyond the public rooms is a large, commercial-grade kitchen with stainless-steel appliances, a wine cellar and cold storage rooms.

A carved stone staircase dating to the 17th century connects the chateau’s three levels. Glass doors open to a terrace on the second floor.CreditGabrielle Voinot for The New York Times

There are six bedrooms on the second floor, with 13-foot ceilings and wood or tile floors; some have access to the stone terrace that runs along the exterior of the house. There are 12 more bedrooms on the third floor. Sixteen of the bedrooms have en suite bathrooms, renovated in the 1990s and mostly done in marble, Ms. Cavé-Darbey said, and many of the bedroom floors are covered in ornate 19th-century tile. (The house’s furniture is included in the asking price, she said.)

Glass doors open to a patio with eating and lounging areas. The grounds are landscaped with mature plane trees, lime and cypress trees, and a rose garden. The 59-by-26-foot swimming pool is heated. One pavilion, which includes an Italian-style shower room, has a tile roof and walls decorated with traditional Czech designs.

Saint-Victor-des-Oules and Uzès are in the administrative region of Occitanie, which was created in 2016 from the former regions of Languedoc-Roussillon (where this property is) and Midi-Pyrénées. But the area may be closest in spirit to Provence, which abuts Occitanie to the east, Ms. Cavé-Darbey said: “For the French, Uzès is still in Provence, and the joys of Provence are the beauty of the countryside, the charm of the little villages and the abundance of fresh food, olives, cheese and wine in the local markets.”

Saint-Victor-des-Oules is 10 minutes outside Uzès, which has a population of about 10,000 and is filled with medieval and Renaissance architecture, as well as shops, restaurants and museums. A well-known landmark, the Fenestrelle Tower, is France’s only cylindrical bell tower. The Provençal cities of Avignon and Arles are within an hour’s drive. Montpellier, 60 miles to the southwest, offers the closest Mediterranean beaches and a small international airport.

The housing market in Occitanie, a large and varied region that shares a long border with Spain, has followed the general trend of French residential real estate over the past decade, with sales increasing and home prices growing roughly 3 to 4 percent annually, said Stuart Baldock, a consultant with Hindle Baldock, a British company representing home buyers in France.


A ground-floor drawing room has high ceilings, stone columns and marble-tile floors.CreditGabrielle Voinot for The New York Times

The dining room has a vaulted stone ceiling, an imposing fireplace and doors to a rear patio.CreditGabrielle Voinot for The New York Times

While there has historically been some rivalry between the residents of the former Languedoc and Provence, with Languedoc regarded by some as Provence’s poor relative, “Occitanie — its new name — shouldn’t be underestimated,” said Nicola Christinger, a client-relations manager with Home Hunts, an agency representing buyers in the south of France.

Most vacation homes in Occitanie start at about 500,000 euros ($558,000), with seaside properties going for about 1 million euros ($1.1 million), said Eric Perenchio, a consultant at Barnes International Realty, in the Occitanie city of Montpellier.

Castles within an hour of the Mediterranean coast can sell for as much as 4 million euros ($4.5 million), he said. But unlike in neighboring Provence, “transactions above 4 million euros are rare,” he added, “though two wine properties have recently sold for nearly 10 million euros,” or $11.2 million, each.


The 530-square-foot master suite has parquet floors, beamed ceilings and access to a balcony.CreditGabrielle Voinot for The New York Times

There are foreign home buyers in Occitanie, but not nearly as many as in Provence and on the French Riviera, where most of Hindle Baldock’s clients want homes, Mr. Baldock said.

In Occitanie, he said, “you get more for your money, but you very much get what you pay for.” A village house, for example, can be bought for 150,000 euros (or about $167,000), but “when you live there, you’re not going to get the bright lights and the bling, the nightclubs for your teenage children, and you’re not going to get masses of Michelin-star restaurants.”

In the past few years, foreign buyers have showed growing interest in the region, Ms. Christinger said. “Properties that can generate income are currently very attractive to buyers,” she said. “I think they choose Languedoc because of its broad-based appeal in terms of scenery, including beautiful mountains, some stunning beaches and quaint villages.”

Mr. Perenchio said he has foreign clients looking for seaside homes in Occitanie, as well as wealthy clients looking for castles and wineries: “The region is more and more popular with foreigners, because they can invest for much lower prices than the French Riviera and Provence, while enjoying so much sunshine.”

Ms. Cavé-Darbey said she has many European buyers in the Uzès area, as well as clients from Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

British buyers have traditionally been the largest group of foreign buyers, but they’ve thinned out since the 2016 Brexit vote, Mr. Baldock said: “The local French market is by far the biggest, with some Parisian buyers.”

There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in France, brokers said. Notaries working on behalf of the government handle transactions for both the seller and the buyer, and the fee is paid by the buyer.

The notary fee and other taxes typically come to about 7 percent of a home’s sale price, Ms. Christinger said.

If a buyer offers the asking price, the seller is obliged by law to sell that buyer the home, Mr. Baldock said: “That means for high-value homes everybody puts a huge surplus on the asking price. It’s not a 10 percent negotiating margin; it’s a 30 percent negotiating margin. And we’ve bought property at half of what it was offered for.”


The grounds include two guest pavilions, a swimming pool, a tennis court and a lily pond. CreditGabrielle Voinot for The New York Times

The seller typically pays the listing agent’s fee, which is about 6 percent, Ms. Christinger said. As a buyer’s agent, Hindle Baldock charges a 2.5 percent commission, Mr. Baldock said.

There are specialist companies that can assist in finding mortgages for foreign buyers, Ms. Christinger said.

French; euro (1 euro = $1.12)

The annual taxes on this property are about 8,300 euros ($9,300), Ms. Cavé-Darbey said.

Tanya Cavé-Darbey, Prestige & Chateaux, 011-33-6-07-10-09-41;

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Published at Wed, 01 May 2019 13:31:23 +0000