I remember looking through ads to find a rental in Languedoc, France back in 2012, when we were thinking about making the move from Seattle. At some point I came across an online forum where people were ranting about how impossible it was for foreigners to find rentals. At the time I brushed it off, thinking, how hard can it be to rent? We have a good credit history and our finances are in order, we should be set…
I was very, very wrong.
The truth is, it is extremely rare to find a French landlord willing to rent to expats. “Don’t even bother talking to regular real estate agents,” explains Jane Laverock of GoLanguedoc, one of Renestance’s trusted partners. Jane has been assisting English speakers with rentals since 2007, and I sat down with her a few weeks ago to learn more about what the rental market is like these days for retirees and other expats moving to the area.
Type of Rentals available in the Languedoc
Jane explained that rentals are essentially divided into two types of properties–either unfurnished or furnished lets. By unfurnished, we mean not even a refrigerator or light fixtures. These unfurnished standard rentals are typically three-year leases. Real estate agencies usually won’t even show them to you unless you can prove employment in France and have paid a few years of French taxes. At times, you can find a French property owner who is willing to rent to you directly, but more often than not they request a year’s worth of rent upfront or a similarly high deposit. Monthly rent, however, will be less than for furnished rentals.
Furnished rentals are far and away an easier bet for newcomers to the area. These tend to be short-term (under one year) leases where the tenants can cancel with one month’s notice and landlords with three. They are often only available by the week as vacation rentals during the high season, but are rented at a more affordable rate between October and May. This means that you may have to vacate the property during the summer and move back in after September. One American woman who has rented three furnished houses while awaiting a resident’s visa explained that while these are the easiest to find, they aren’t always ideal long-term. “I’ve got to the point where I want to have my own things: Furniture, pictures, silverware, linens, dishes, kitchen equipment, books, music, etc., around me.”
Renestance partners work with many foreign property owners and therefore specialize in these transitional properties. The leases are bilingual, usually go up to twelve months with the option to renew, and utilities are typically not included. Most of the houses are either villas with pools, often not available during the summer months, or what the French refer to as “Village houses”. Village houses tend to be vertically oriented, with 3-4 floors and while some have a terrace or small courtyard, outdoor space tends to be limited. The featured property above sits in the lovely seaside town of Marseillan. Villas will run about 1,000 – 1600 a month from October to May while village houses are often about 600€ a month for a two bedroom with a small terrace.
Apartments in towns and cities are also available furnished or unfurnished, with the same conditions as houses. The main difference with apartments is that you share common areas and sometimes heat, water and a gardien, with your neighbors. Here is a furnished one bedroom in central Montpellier, located close to public transportation.
What to consider when looking for a rental in France?
• Location, location, location. Do you want to be near airports? Do you care about being within walking distance of your local boulangerie? If you are going to be house hunting make sure you are well located for the region you are targeting. If you won’t have a car, are you near public transportation?
• What kind of outdoor space do you want? Do you need a parking spot? Are you OK navigating the steep staircases typically found in village houses? How close do you want your nearest neighbors?
• Take into account the cost to furnish and decorate rentals. Are you willing to purchase a clothes dryer, dishwasher, etc. if your furnished rental doesn’t have one? Quite often, unfurnished rentals in France don’t even have kitchen cabinets or curtain rods, let alone large appliances/white goods. Stores like IKEA do big business here.
• Don’t forget to ask about heating and insulation. Even in the sunny Languedoc it can get down to five degrees Celsius in the winter.
• If you are house hunting, Jane recommends a six month lease as it takes at least three months to purchase the house. Autumn is a good time to be looking, as you don’t run up against the pricey season for rentals, which begins in May.
How can Renestance help you find a rental in Languedoc, France?
If your goal is to find a rental in the next nine months, Renestance offers several assistance options:
• Take this questionnaire to help you narrow down the criteria that are most important to you.
• Email us for a detailed Information Report on Renting Property in France.
• Contact our Administrative Assistance service to guide you through the process of searching, putting you in contact with our trusted partners, presenting a dossier, signing the lease, performing the move-in day walk-through, insuring the property, and setting up utilities.
If your ideal move-date is further in the future, you might be able to benefit from the residence that Renestance is planning. Private apartments in a classic French estate, which will also serve as a clubhouse for gatherings and activities, should be available in Q2 2016. The leases will have flexible and renewable terms to accommodate your personal plans: three months for an extended visit, three or six months for house hunters, six or nine months for those wishing to stay part of every year, a year or more for those wanting to stay indefinitely, or whatever arrangement makes sense for you. The apartments will be renovated to the highest standards, with modern kitchens and bathrooms, and will have security and alert systems. The residence will offer many on-site services (cleaning, laundry, transportation, etc.) with bilingual staff on the premises 24/7.
Whatever your situation, Renestance can reduce the stress and make it easier to settle into your new nest. Drop a line and let us know what you are looking for!
Natasha Freidus was Renestance’s first blog editor and web content advisor. She is a consultant and trainer specialising in multimedia storytelling. You can learn more about her work at her website, Creative Narrations. Natasha moved to Roujan from Seattle in early 2013 with her husband and two children.
All articles by: Natasha Freidus