Property in Dordogne
When the British picture rural France, it’s probably images of the Dordogne that pop up in their head. Pretty little villages with cobblestones and medieval houses, maybe beside a river carved through towering limestone cliffs or in an elevated position looking out over a patchwork of green fields and vineyards, with geese around the pond.
The many British people who come here to buy homes are normally more interested in the villages. France has prepared a handy list called the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, the most beautiful villages in France, and 10 of the 153 are in the Dordogne. Most of us have our own favourites though, which you can hardy believe were left out of the 153, so don’t limit yourself.
Choosing between villages will be your hardest job. Nowhere is particularly expensive – properties to restore are available from £25,000 but from £80,000 you will have a huge choice of property from large but ramshackle farmhouses to nicely restored cottages. Your home could also be your castle here – the Dordogne is known as the “valley of the 1000 castles”. The villages of Eymet and Montignac are very popular among Brits, however.
The joy of looking to buy property here is the many house-hunting trips you can make. The drive from the channel ports is anything from 600km depending on your port, or you can fly into Bergerac, Bordeaux, Limoges or Brive.
And what will you do there? You’ll probably shop in local markets and patisseries and boutiques selling everyday objects that just look a lot nicer than the ones at home. You’ll flit between brightly-coloured cafés that make you want to sit down in the sunshine and eat and drink the local wine and people-watch and never move.
The Dordogne is a department of central south-west France named after the Dordogne River. You may see it called Périgord, which was the area’s original name, and the Dordogne is divided into four communes, Périgord Vert, Blanc, Pourpre and Noir. (You see another charm of living here? Using that French that’s been sitting idly in your brain since you were 16). The weather can hit extremes of heat and cold, with winters occasionally getting below -10ºC and summers well over 30ºC.
It’s a rural area – the population is only 400,000 – about an hour’s drive from the Atlantic Ocean at its closest point. The main towns are Perigeux and Bergerac, neither of which are very large, with Bordeaux the closest large city, 50 kilometres outside the department.
Where to Buy Property in Dordogne
Most people want to buy character stone properties of between €150-300,000, and with prices quite static, there’s plenty to choose from. But where to buy?
The Dordogne is divided into four areas: Périgord Vert in the north with its popular town of Nontron, Périgord Blanc which contains the region’s capital Périguex, Périgord Pourpre that centres on Bergerac and Périgord Noir that houses the lovely but touristy Sarlat.
Although these towns are technically the ‘hotspots’ of the area, of the department’s 557 communes – 498 are rural and it’s these quieter, more rustic places that tend to appeal to overseas property buyers. Here are a few places to bear in mind.
The largest town in the Périgord Vert area - named after the area’s green (‘vert’) forests and meadows, Nontron’s characteristic townhouses, cottages and farmhouses are surrounded by gorgeous rolling hills and great rocky plateaus.
Despite such exquisite natural beauty, the prices in the town are surprisingly competitive. A three bedroom townhouse can be picked up for under €100,000. Whereas, those looking for something more bourgeois could choose a maison de maitre (master’s house) with 12 acres for under €400,000.
Famous for its wine, whose purple (‘pourpre’) grapes also give rise to the name of the area, Bergerac and its surrounding vineyards sit at the heart of the Dordogne’s south west.
The area has become a common arrival point for visitors since the opening of Bergerac airport. And this convenience of transport, in addition to Bergerac’s attractive countryside and proximity to a glorious stretch of the beautiful Dordogne River – means that it’s a pricier property prospect for potential buyers.
Much of the houses available are of the desirable Perigourdine style and you’ll be hard pressed to find much under €300,000, although for around this mark you could get a lovely three-bedroom stone house. Those with grander ambitions, however, could walk away with their very own nine-bedroom Chateau for under €1m.
Some people might call Eymet “Little England” for the number of Brits every week at the market or buying PG Tips in the British shop. But it’s a lovely Perigourdine town and liked by so many for good reason. You could get a barn conversion with a pool for €350,000 or a lovely restored farmhouse with pool for €550,000 - there are some high-quality renovations thanks to British owners in town.
Brantome is an historic town that is currently very popular with British property hunters - you can get anything from a two-bed fixer-upper for less than €100,000 or expect to pay €250,000 to a lovely four-bedroom home readily restored.
The main town of the Périgord Blanc – named after its white (‘blanc’) limestone plateaux, Périgueux is also the department of the Dordogne’s capital. It’s a place steeped in history, with lots of Roman and medieval architecture still standing.
In terms of the types of houses on sale, there is some variety - you could pick up a four-bed property for less than €200,000, but on the whole properties tend to be older, more expensive renovations and unique homes, around €350,000 upwards.