Where to buy a house

Been there? Done that? Where to go in the Pyrénées-Orientales

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SteveB
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Where to buy a house

Post by SteveB »

As mentioned in an earlier post, I am planning to buy a house in the area, and up to now have been looking in Céret, my favourite town that I've seen so far in the area. However I have been wondering whether to consider other places, as finding somewhere in Céret that ticks all the boxes is proving quite difficult (mountain views, swimming pool, in easy reach of the centre, old but modernised). The advantages of Céret for me, apart from it being a beautiful town, is that there seems to be a lot going on, good restaurants, etc. Other places I have visited have been attractive but small and sleepy with few amenities; larger places such as Amélie-les-Bains and Arles-sur-Tech seem to have more going on but lack the attractions of Céret. I have so far restricted myself to the Tech valley as I'm told that the climate is milder than the Tet, but the latter may be worth considering. Places on the coast such as Collioure are wonderful to visit but I think rather too busy with tourists to be places I'd want to live, and also more expensive.

I would be very interested to hear about people's experience of living in various places in the area, and any that you'd recommend according to my criteria - i.e. attractive, good amenities, reasonably lively, mild winters, not too remote, and, dare I say it, not completely dominated by expatriates.

Many thanks for any suggestions.
CPB
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Post by CPB »

Not sure about mountain views but have you considered thuir? Accessible, rural yet close to amenities. Charming centre. Quite a lot going on but not far from other places. You don't mention if you want a village house/farm or villa but you get any of those around there. Lively local and ex pat scene.
SteveB
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Post by SteveB »

[quote="CPB"]You don't mention if you want a village house/farm or villa but you get any of those around there.[/quote]

I was thinking of a villa or village house (though the latter I get the impression is likely to have less garden and no swimming pool). The idea of a restored old farm is appealing but probably not practical as they tend to have a lot of land which I wouldn't really be able to make use of as I'm not planning to be there all the time, at least initially - also they tend to be more remote from what I've seen.

Thanks for the suggestion of Thuir - as I said I haven't explored that area and should do so on my next visit.
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Gus Morris
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Post by Gus Morris »

Apologies. I'm not going to sing the praises of where I live. It suits me just fine but might well not be your cup of tea. Even if we do have views over the sea and mountains and a supermarket just a few hundred metres away!

I've met people who've spent ages trying to find the perfect house. The one that ticks all the boxes. And in the end they have almost invariably had to compromise.

Maybe the single most important factor is the neighbours. And you only ever get to find out about them after you've moved in!

Gus
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Post by CPB »

Nice village houses and villas in Thuir. The out skirts no doubt have moi rain views but right in the middle I'm not sure (I don't live in Thuir, I'm just thinking of buzzing places etc that sound like they for your bill). Might be worth a visit to see if it's the right sort of place for you :)
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Post by martyn94 »

It depends what you mean by "easy reach". For me, it means "not in a car". But I would have thought you would be lucky to combine that with a pool anywhere: for better or worse, you are looking for an essentially suburban lifestyle.
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Post by CPB »

A quick Google earth view of potential towns should give you an idea of swimming pool locations and if it's realistic to get a house with a pool in the locations you like :)
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Vernet les Bains

Post by Owens88 »

Hi

I hadn't heard that the Tech valley was milder than the Tet. We are on the Tet and it can snow in winter.
However we do not get the Tramontane or any of the persistent winds as we are further up than Prades.

One thing you should consider is what life there is in Winter. Going into too small a settlement could be a mistake.

From the Tet, and of course Vernet in particular, there are stunning views of the mountains. We have the Canigou in front and others at the back.

Good luck.
John
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Santiago
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Post by Santiago »

Ceret is a town than seems very attractive to Brits when they first arrive and look around. I can understand why. The town centre seems buzzy with shops, bars, restaurants and the market. It's got those lovely plane trees and an art gallery.

However, I'm not convinced about it as a place to live. I can't put my finger on it but I never really like the atmosphere there. Maybe it's a personal thing but I would definitely spend more time there before buying anything.

I would consider looking at Thuir, the Alberes towns like Saint Genis, Sorede, Maureillas and Saint Andre.

One place that I think has really improved over the years is Argeles. It has good restaurants, shopping, leisure facilities and is very accessible.

I would also suggest the growing towns around Perpignan like Villeneuve de la Raho, Cabestany, Canohes and Toulouges. They seem more popular with French people moving to the region.
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oulibede
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Post by oulibede »

Like you we were seduced by Ceret and viewed many houses, none quite hitting the mark. Eventually we discovered the Alberes villages and bought here. The attractions were garden with pool, walking distance to shops and restaurants, the benefit of the sea on the climate, great views, life all year round and a good mixed community of expats, locals and people from other parts of France. We wouldn't change a thing.
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Gus Morris
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Post by Gus Morris »

Last time I flew into Perpignan I had a window seat. I was surprised to see how many swimming pools were an interesting shade of green! I can name at least two people who bought houses with pools and subsequently filled them in. They found them a drag.

Personally I prefer to swim in the sea where I can snorkel and explore the world just below the surface. In the depths of winter I use one of the public pools where I get a choice of pool, sauna, jacuzzi or steam room.

A jacuzzi is a much better proposition. Easy to run and maintain, can be enclosed and heated. An affordable all year around facility.

However I accept that a pool is a "must have" if you are going to let the property

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Post by Ariègeoise »

Santiago wrote:Ceret is a town than seems very attractive to Brits when they first arrive and look around. I can understand why. The town centre seems buzzy with shops, bars, restaurants and the market. It's got those lovely plane trees and an art gallery.

However, I'm not convinced about it as a place to live. I can't put my finger on it but I never really like the atmosphere there.
Interesting that you should say that Santiago - I feel exactly the same, and I've never been able to work out why! We spent many holidays (always in winter, as we had a restaurant) in Ceret, and always enjoyed them - in fact it was while in Ceret that we decided to move full time to France. We moved in the end to the Ariège but have a tiny village house - cottage, really - n Villelongue dels Monts. I really do like the Albères villages; if we eventually move over here to live full time though I suspect we might end up in Thuir. It seems like a very lively and most importantly, liveable town. (Though I'm a bit dismayed by all the grands surfaces going up on the periphery ...).
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Post by Daphne »

We have lived permanently in the region since 1986 and have to say it is difficult to recognise certain parts. We lived initially in Perpignan where my husband's post was. I found a part time job in Thuir, a village neither of us knew but fell in love with. We bought a house in the center but found it very noisy and after 4 years moved to Llupia. After 19 years in our house here we down sized but were determined to stay in Llupia! There are more Brits here than before in the Thuir region and our neighbours are English, with a holiday home here but it works well as we are not intrusive and I'm sure they lived in dread when they found that next door had been sold to English/Spanish as usually to buy abroad is to live the dream of that country.

As for the Saturday morning market, during the summer you do hear more English but they don't seem interested in other Brits and the worst scenario would be a Brits colony like in the Dordorgne which I don't see happening here, at the moment anyway!

We do have the Tramontane however it that would cause a problem;
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budget ?

Post by rhys »

I would have thought a pool would be a nightmare to maintain - and are they even attractive any more with the Regs about having fencing around ?

When I lived in the Caribbean I had a pool, which certainly looked good, but tbh I hardly ever went in as I actually found it rather cold - be totally honest would you really really use it ?

Far better to get a nice village house which ticks all the other boxes and check out local municipal pools with occasional trips in summer to the seaside ( I would have thought ).

You don't mention your budget...........surely that is relevant ?
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Post by SteveB »

In reply to Rhys, my budget is up to around 400,000€ (assuming the exchange rate doesn't change dramatically). I gather from research so far that "piscines" do indeed need regular maintenance, but maybe those who have them could comment on how onerous and/or expensive this is. Certainly the prospect of an early morning or late night dip feels very appealing, in a way that sharing a municipal pool doesn't, and having swum in an outdoor pool in May and the sea in October (both in the S. of France) I don't think the temperature would be an issue!
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Post by Santiago »

I'm not convinced about the pool thing either. If you have kids and love a daily dip in the summer, a pool is great but they cost a lot of time and money to maintain.

I'm a swimmer so if I had a pool it would need to be 25m long, not that feasible. What we do is put up a temporary pool from July-Sept. It's 3m x 5m and cost me about 150€ and requires very little maintenance compared to a permanent one.

Like every country, there are lovely towns to visit and lovely towns to live in.
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rhys
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pool vs sea

Post by rhys »

I had not guessed you had such a substantial budget.

That being the case, and if a regular dip is important for you, would there not be benefit in at least investigating seaside houses walking distance from the sea ( for ease of early morning / evening baignade ) ?

More healthy, I think, and a lot less bother to maintain, than a pool. ( Maybe you could buy somewhere with no pool but with enough land so that if in due course you really wanted to you could install a pool to your preferred design and size - they are not that expensive if you already own the land. )

If you will be retired ~ presumably the most sensible option would be to rent somewhere for 6 months maybe while really getting to know both all the places recommended above plus some coastal towns ?

http://properties.aplaceinthesun.com/ov ... &sld=False

I recall seeing a few months ago an utterly stunning house with reasonable amount of land, and i can't recall if with a pool but with wonderful views, not far from Sorède , on the Place in the Sun Channel 4 programme, and it was lower than your budget.

The man on the programme didn't buy it, so maybe it's still available !

I cannot immediately find the programme but you might well find it worth while trying to locate it ~ possibly someone on this forum may have seen it also, and noticed that the house was within the Forum's geographical reach.
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Post by oulibede »

Everyone is different, different people get their enjoyment in different ways. We use our pool almost every day from the beginning of May until the end of October. A private pool is especially pleasant in July and August when the seaside is full of visitors. We carry out the maintenance ourselves and so far we haven't found it either difficult or a chore, we quite enjoy looking after it. It is a weekly activity about the same time commitment as keeping the house tidy. It takes far less time than we used to spend cutting lawns in England (grass doesn't grow much in the dry climate so less cutting here). It takes a lot to beat a swim or even just a splash about on a warm evening. There is of course a cost to consider.
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Post by Smiley G »

Just a small point about your comment SteveB on 'swimming in an outdoor pool and the sea in May and October'. In our case, when we came to live here it was amazing how quickly we became accustomed to the temperatures and how swimming in the sea became far less appealing in the early spring and late autumn, too cold. Yes I know lots wear wet suits, but then it all becomes a bit of a chore.
I do recommend renting and getting to know places before buying and do remember, whatever anyone says about the high season it is only 6/7 weeks of madness, a small price to pay for the pleasure of living here all the year.
Happy house hunting.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
SteveB
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Post by SteveB »

Thanks to everyone for the various advice and suggestions. Clearly more areas to explore.
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Post by GrahamC »

Petra

You should take a look at Prats de Mollo. Its a pretty little village in the Haut Vallespir. Looking in the estate agent's window there are a few things which probably suit your budget.
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Post by jethro »

The best advice I can give, as one who lives in a ravine, is, don't buy in a ravine. However, all along the river below us there are swimming holes which require no expensive upkeep and have flat, smooth rocks for sunbathing and plenty of little pools where kid can catch minnows and adults keep the beer cool. We recently had a steep rustic staircase put in so that we could descend to the "marmite" at will and have the Labrador swim to her content. Saves on dog shampoo. Try the Massane valley for natural swimming opportunities and proximity to Sorede and Argeles; there may be nothing for sale, but there is usually something in the Vallée Heureuse in Sorede. Make sure you are on the right bank as the other one gets little winter sunlight. Best of luck.
an' the wun' cried Mary.
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