Even in a time of crisis within the European property sector, it is still possible to buy a property on France's Mediterranean coast for less than £100,000. Taking £100,000 (or 120,000 euros) as my limit, a study of the property market where I live showed that with careful selection and a little imagination, you can still purchase a beachside studio, a small apartment or even a village house close to the Mediterranean for under - sometimes well under - this target figure.
The cheapest - Perpignan
Absolutely the cheapest habitable property I identified was a ground floor studio apartment in the centre of Perpignan, situated in a pretty courtyard, not far from the cathedral and priced at just 38,000E. It was already let and producing income and therefore sensibly priced at 20 - 30 per cent less than it would be with vacant possession. For under 50,000E you can still find numerous similar properties in, for example, the St Martin quarter (south west of the town centre) - for example a third floor studio, with parking and balcony, or situated in a belle résidence near the Castillet and the Palais des Congrés overlooking a park which hosts weekly bric-à-brac markets, a large modern studio with balcony and easy street parking.
The one I liked most (now sold) was a fourth floor two-room attic apartment, with exposed brickwork and wood beams, and - a magnificent bonus - a roof terrace offering panoramic views over Perpignan. It was priced at just 59,000E and co-ownerships charges were a mere 65E per annum.
Slightly south of the centre, near Boulevard Kennedy, I found a top (fourth) floor apartment of 40m² which seemed to offer everything for occasional or permanent living, including a living room, separate kitchen, a bedroom, dressing room, combined WC and shower room, a huge terrace of 13.5m² and additional basement storage. With its white tiled floors, ideal for overlaying a wood floor, it had all you need to move into right away.
Another interesting find was a 40m² modern apartment near the University, which featured a fully equipped open-plan kitchen, white tiled floors, a balcony, reversible air conditioning for summer and winter use, private parking - all for 109,000E making it an ideal rental property that could bring in 400 - 450E monthly unfurnished.
The Mediterranean coast
Given the importance of tourism in the region, the coastal resorts north and south of Perpignan contain a mix of older apartment buildings and holiday villas, from the 1960s and 70s, primarily designed for holiday use but increasingly occupied by permanent residents who have decided to move to the sun. Some of these properties may be be starting to show their age and require modernisation, but can still be bought for as little as 70,000E - allowing sufficient budget to install double glazing and update the kitchen, bathroom and electrical installations.
The influx of tourists and permanent residents has led to a boom in apartment building, especially around the yacht marinas at Canet, St Cyprien and Port-Argelès, and many dating from 15 or 20 years ago can still be found at prices from 80,000E for a studio or small two-room apartment, in all of the three resorts.
In my search for something larger, with a garden attached, I found a typical villa 100 metres from the beach in Canet, in a complex with pool, costing 105,000E and featuring a living room, open plan kitchen, two bedrooms (one ground floor, the second under the eaves) and a 20m garden for eating out and relaxing. Further south at St Cyprien I found another pavillon de vacances in a complex with pool, which featured a living room, kitchenette, small bedroom, large sunny terrace and parking, at around the same price.
In Argelès Port studios and small apartments are in short supply and tend to command a premium. There were still one or two studios available at around 100,000E with a loggia or balcony (open or glazed-in), some with a small separate bedroom or cabine and with a designated ground level or basement parking space. Coastal villas in Argelès probably fall ouside our bedget unless you are very lucky.
Traditional village houses
To stay within our budget limits, I concentrated my researches away from the coastal towns, but still found a nice village house in Argelès-Ville (2 kms inland) at 102,000E completely renovated with an attractive fitted kitchen and a bedroom with a mezzanine. Another at Elne, a cathedral town south of Perpignan and close to St Cyprien, was on three floors, completely modernised with a fitted kitchen and three bedrooms, on sale at 125,000E but the owner was open to offers, so I have included it here.
Moving inland away from the Mediterranean coast, I found I was spoilt for choice. Even ignoring older houses 'ripe for renovation' which can be had for 50,000E upwards, adding the same amount for renovation, still brought them within our 120,000E budget.
The cheapest ready-to-move-into village houses I located were to the north-west of Perpignan (near the airport) or north-east, nearer to the coast. Two examples in the first category included a two-storey restored village house in the village of Baixas, which featured a fitted open-plan kitchen, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, laundry room and balcony, priced at 110,000E. The same agency was offering a charming 100m² house in the next village, featuring three bedrooms and a study for 118,000E. Closer to the coast in the village of Claira, I found a typical two-bedroom house for 120,000E just within ur budget.
South of Perpignan, I located a well maintained village house on three floors at Le Boulou, almost on the Spanish border, at just over 100,000E and featuring exposed beams in the attractive living room, and two bedrooms. Not far away and in the heart of wine growing country at Tresserre, there was a more modern two-bedroom house on offer at 110,000E and a second one - fully restored with two bedrooms and a large living area - at 100,00E.
Finally, still to the south but moving closer to the coast and the attractive artificial lake at Villeneuve de la Raho, in the village of Bages I located a large village house of 100m², with a living room and open-plan kitchen, a second living room or dining room, two bedrooms, airey and light with wood parquet floors, priced at 120,000E. Some finishing was needed so you could probably strike a bargain.
This list is not by any means exhaustive and includes only a small selection of the many good-value properties for sale within Roussillon. Phone calls to agencies during my research (in early 2009) confirmed that several of the more interesting properties had already been sold, yet another sign that the market is still buoyant, for virtually all types of property and all across the region.