Retiring in style: France

Sunday September 24th 2006

Alexander Garrett

The British in particular really are all over France, from Brittany in the north-west to the Côte D?Azur in the south. Although summers are distinctly hotter than in the UK from the Loire valley southwards, the weather in many parts of France can be pretty indifferent at times. People tend to choose France for the space, the slow pace of life and property prices that offer some of the best value in Europe, whether for crumbling gites in need of a makeover or new developments.

If you want an expat network ? in the form of a Women?s Institute chapter, a cricket club, bowls or anything else reckoned to be peculiarly British ? the place to head for is the Dordogne. These things do exist ? the St Aulaye Cricket Club traces its origins back to a match in 1981. The club, actually on the river Dronne, has a ground in the nearby village of Chenard. The fact that there is a local league to play against says it all.  According to Saga, one in three people in some Dordogne villages are from the UK.

If you are planning to stay for more than three months, you will need to obtain a carte de séjour - the residence permit. You need to be able to show you have at least £12,000 available in capital to get one and you will need to renew it every year, showing that you still have funds available.

France has one of the world?s best health systems, which, if you are a citizen of an EU member country, you have the right to use, although you must obtain the necessary paperwork. However, the government pays only 70% of health costs, so a long-term resident will have to make their own contribution.

One of the big pluses for Brits about retiring in France is that you can drive there, via the Channel tunnel. There is also an increasing number of cheap flights to small French provincial airports.

The French have never been quite as obsessed with property as the Brits, and until recently it was often said that the only two places in France where property could be considered a reliable investment were the Côte d?Azur and Paris. That has changed recently, with the French becoming more aware of the investment potential of property; and lower interest rates leading to sharp increases in values.

Money Observer

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