IT TOOK David and Pamela
Guy only three weeks to find their home in the
sun. Committed Francophiles, they had taken
holidays across the Channel for 20 years, often
staying with Pamela’s cousins in southern France.
So when her health demanded that they downshifted,
they looked at just 15 houses before moving lock,
stock and barrel from Worcestershire to
Fontareches (population: 196) in the Gard
department of Languedoc-Roussillon.
Says David: “We have never considered it
‘living abroad’ — to us it’s just down the road
and a bit farther. It is our home and we now know
more people in the locality after two and half
years than we ever did, living in Evesham.”
The couple, both teachers, are not unusual in
choosing to live in France. But they are
representative of the rapidly growing number of
Britons who, having visited France on holiday, are
buying, converting and renting homes in France to
the next generation of holidaymakers.
It is a discernible trend. Carol Bowhill began
renting out houses in France 30 years ago when all
her properties were locally owned. This year,
one-third of her 300 cottages and villas are owned
by Britons living here or across the Channel.
And the trend is accelerating. According to a
travel company survey, one in ten Britons will
specifically put time aside on their French summer
holiday to look for properties.
I visited Fontareches last week, when the
temperature had been above 30C every day for a
month. From their terrace under a spreading olive
tree, Pamela and David can see the farmer tending
his vineyard. Little else is stirring.
In the course of my two-hour visit, a couple of
cars tootle by and one woman on a bike, followed
by a panting labrador. “That’s Bridget,” says
Pamela. “She and her husband have a wooden lodge
near by. He helps with the Tour de France. He can
be away for weeks. They’ve got a son,” her train
of thought unconsciously painting a watercolour of
The couple now have time to ruminate but they
can’t afford to do nothing. Like many Britons now
buying in France, the couple need an income — and
the most obvious way is through tourism.
They bought the house for £135,000 and spent a
further £20,000 converting it. Now a high wall and
corridor, both with connecting doors, separate the
two-bedroom holiday property from theirs. Out of
season, it all becomes their home again —
including the terrace and pool.
David says: “We have put everything into it,
given up everything and couldn’t afford to live
here unless we rented out.
“We have rented places like this on holiday for
years so we knew what we wanted to create. Pam is
an interior designer and knowing what gave us
pleasure, we knew we could make it work for other
people on holiday.”
When the Guys visited France in the 1970s and
1980s, a holiday in the country usually meant a
run-down gîte with flock wallpaper, a
rickety table and an uncommunicative French
farmer-owner who didn’t understand a word of
English when the shower broke down.
Now the most popular properties are cottages
with character — but with modern facilities and
decor — in the right place, the right size, with a
terrace and pool. OK, going native is nice, but
there’s more chance of getting the plumbing fixed
with an English-speaking owner or agent.
“Back in the late 1980s, France was all to do
with adventure,” says Carol. “Now what
holidaymakers want is certainty about what they
are paying for. They are also more
design-conscious and more aesthetically minded.”
It is easy to buy a property in France — but
buying one that will sell well to holidaymakers is
a matter of considerable research, she adds. “The
principal thing is that it has to be photogenic.
Swirly brown/orange wallpaper and Aunty Flo’s
cast-off 1960s furniture is not popular. Wistaria,
vines, stone walls and a pool all help.”
Continued on page 2
Page 3: need to know
ten tips for your home-buying holiday