Charente Immobilier

By on March 17, 2014
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If you’re looking the ideal location for a holiday home or considering a permanent move to France, then Charente Immobilier, based in the Charente department of southwestern France, could be your perfect partner. Named after the river that runs through it, the Charente forms part of the Poitou-Charentes region and is home to perhaps one of France’s most famous exports: Cognac. King François I, rival to Henry VIII of England, once said “La Charente est le plus beau fleuve de mon royaume” (the Charente is the most beautiful river in my kingdom). He may have been a little biased as he was born in Cognac but he does have a point. It is a beautiful part of France which really has it all: wonderful countryside strewn with vineyards, great rivers, the nearby coast, easy connections back to the UK by road, rail and air and an agreeable climate (statistically it’s the second sunniest part of France after the southeast). On top of all this, it is one of the best-value regions of France in terms of property prices.

The department has an extremely rich history dating back to prehistoric times and retains a wonderful architectural heritage spanning the entire range – the area is littered with Neolithic dolmens, bronze age remains, motte and bailey castles, early medieval churches and abbeys, manors, chateaux and ultra-modern homes and buildings.

The 19th century saw the department prosper enormously and huge wealth was brought to it by the manufacture of Cognac. That industry remains the life-blood of the department with huge swathes of land dedicated to the vineyards necessary to produce the wine for distillation, creating the beautiful landscape seen today.

It is easy to see why the area is popular for holiday homes and permanent homes alike. The pace of life is slow, and allows for a deep appreciation of the local culture.

The Charente is a relatively sparsely populated department with just a few large towns and plenty of small villages and hamlets. Peaceful and tranquil, the department is often referred to as “La douce Charente” – the mild or soft Charente – used to describe both its climate and its landscape which is generally one of rolling vineyards interspersed with fields of sunflowers.

With its ease of access, rich history, climate and lifestyle, the Charente is a popular holiday and retirement destination for the French themselves and it is easy to see why the Charente has become a popular destination for the British too. There is a house to suit all tastes and all budgets. At the most modest end there are village houses that have been added to over the years to create unusual homes full of character, or the little townhouses with perhaps a small garden or a balcony which make great lock-up-and-leave holiday homes. Next there are the larger village houses – perhaps a ‘longère’ designed with all the living accommodation on the ground floor or a small ‘fermette’ with its outbuildings arranged around a courtyard. The larger farmhouses or vineyard owners’ houses include the typical ‘Charentaise’ – an imposing double-fronted stone house over two or three floors with a distinct Georgian look and feel. This is the style of house that really defines the local architecture and has become emblematic of the area. Next come the ‘maisons de maître’ – the local manor houses with dressed stone walls and slate roofs which showed the wealth of the owner since slate is not a local material and had be transported from a great distance. Finally we have the chateaux – ranging from the medieval ‘chateau fort’ or castle to the more romantic Renaissance chateaux with their tall towers and formal gardens.

Charente Immobilier has properties to suit all budgets. Village houses and small town houses can sell for as little as €60,000-90,000. As is to be expected, the larger the townhouse, the more expensive, with those in the most sought-after locations selling for over €600,000. A fermette or larger village house would sell for €150,000-250,000 depending on its location and condition, and the typical Charentaise would command anything from €250,000-500,000o or more. Mills vary in price, from €200,000-700,000 and you should expect to pay €1,000,000 or more for a genuine chateau. Have a look at our website (www.charente-immobilier.com) to see hundreds of houses currently for sale. If you don’t have the time to look yourself, why not contact our property finder service (www.houseincharente.co.uk) – give us your criteria and we will try to find the perfect property match.

The department’s tourist board sums it up: “The Charente has its secret: nothing is excessive and passing travellers frequently stop here, seduced by its sweetness, its quality of light, its unspoilt nature and its white stones reflecting the sunlight… why not do the same?”