More refreshing honesty from a local estate agent
Freddy Rueda from Real Estate Languedoc has been talking to us again about why people come to Occitanie, in particular l'Hérault where he is based.
Why is the Hérault region so popular for international buyers?
300 sunny days per year, access with a short drive to the Mediterranean, rivers (Orb), lakes (Salagou in this area), great landscapes such as in the Natural Parc of Haut Languedoc. You add in all the local specialties of food and the great local wines, reasonable prices in terms of restaurants, and it makes it the perfect place to be. I’m not ‘selling it up’, I’m just stating facts! You also have a great choice of airports and flights these days. Also, the price of houses are still affordable compared to Provence and other areas in France.
Is there a pattern of preferred locations for different nationalities?
Without wanting to state too many stereotypes, there is a pattern with different nationalities. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I’ve noticed that for example, Cessenon-sur-Orb and the Saint Chinian area in general are very popular with Dutch people. The reason could be that there are already many Dutch owners there, so maybe that’s the first place which made its mark while visiting friends for example. Also if you’re of the persuasion that you don’t like to have very close neighbours, it is possible to find houses with larger plots of land at reasonable prices in that area.
British clients often ask for the area in and around Pezenas. The stretch from Cessenon-sur-Orb to Pezenas is popular, and the typical demand is in a village with amenities and a café. That area is particularly known for its Mediterranean climate and the landscapes are pretty. Most of the villages are surrounded by vineyards and olive trees so it’s appealing for its typical ‘Languedoc feel’.
Again, I’m trying not to stereotype, but in our experience German people often want to be near the coast, and are often happy in an apartment, where as newish bungalows with a large plot of land are more popular with Dutch people, and the British may have a dream of an older house with good outside space. My American clients generally prefer old houses. The Dutch and the Brits often think in terms of rental possibilities as they know there is a high demand in their own countries to rent a house in this area.
How do your clients know about Occitanie?
We have clients who have come for holidays in the past and who know the area very well. Some of these clients specifically want this area, whereas others come looking with an open mind for other areas too.
The Languedoc is getting more and more coverage from the international press, so more people are reading about the fact that it’s a great but affordable place to live.
Typically people come for a week to concentrate on house hunting and to experience local life. I must say ....once they’ve discovered it, it is rare for them to decide that the Languedoc life is not for them!
Are your house hunters French speakers in general?
Many of our clients know some minimal French, to enable them to get by in restaurants and shops. For those clients we generally speak in English, as the vocabulary for house hunting can be quite specific. We want to make sure that the client say what they really feel about a place, rather than having to limit themselves to broken French. Our staff are fluent in English, Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish.
We often get clients who know France pretty well, and just love it. The food and the sunshine is generally what people rave about.
Do you ask them why they are moving or buying a second property, and what are some typical replies?
Some just want to escape from bustling city lives or their country in general, but are so busy with their jobs that the house will simply be used as a holiday home for them and for their family. Some are planning a real move.... but might be buying a few years before they retire. It is often a decision with several goals in mind (holidays, retirement, investment, rental-income). We also regularly see people who want to make a new life here after a divorce or a death.
Is the area in competition with Provence?
Rarely. It’s not the same type of client who wants to live here, as those who want to live in Provence. Of course the houses are much cheaper, and once a client has seen both, then often the decision is that they would rather live in the Languedoc (sorry, it’s still so difficult to call it Occitanie)!
Maybe you will tell me that of course I don't see the ones who have decided to live in Provence, but as an estate agent here I am happy when I get clients hesitating between those 2 areas, because I think there are so many reasons to help me convince them to stay here! House prices aside, the taxe fonciere can be double in value; it’s also far less busy, and you won’t spend two hours trying to get over a roundabout near the Cote d’Azur in the peak of summer! I could go on!
Do you have clients who have regretted coming here, or are leaving the Languedoc to head ‘home’ again?
Almost without fail, my clients who are selling are disappointed to be selling their house. They all say they love the Languedoc, that they will come back, that they have several friends here who have told them they are welcome to come and stay at home with them in the future when they plan to come back. They are selling for the usual reasons which might be "we don't have the time to come enough anymore”, “we have grandchildren at home”, “we are getting on a bit and want to live near our children for our old age”, “my wife/husband has passed away and it is too much to maintain the house abroad alone”, “I am scared about Brexit”, “my UK pension has devalued so much that I can’t afford to live here anymore”.
I have only ever had one client saying that he didn’t like the Languedoc, and he left for Tenerife, so I don’t have to say any more about that!
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You can read more interviews with Freddy here:
You can speak to Freddy on 04 67 36 34 28 or 06 09 58 54 26, or mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Steve Meltzer for the photographs of the region. Photo 1 is at Sète, and photo 2 is from the river at Roquebrun. Steve Meltzer is an American photojournalist who now lives in Tourbes.
Regular traveller and sometimes editor of Languedoc Living, Phil, has a travel story…