The Covid pandemic brought about a rush to buy properties in less populated areas of France as people sought space and greenery to manage the series of lockdowns and curfews.
This trend has been confirmed by various housing market studies, with coastal areas proving particularly popular.
In our map below, we chart the 15 departments where countryside properties increased the most in value between 2018 and 2021.
The data are based on a study by Le Figaro that evaluated average property sale prices.
Biggest price rises
It was three northern departments that came out on top – Calvados (Normandy), Haute-Marne (Grand Est) and Finistère (Brittany).
Calvados has the advantage of being close to Paris with several big cities, such as Caen and Le Havre. It also has beaches and a good climate, with temperatures not too high in summer or too low in winter.
Géraldine Caillet, an estate agent based in Sannerville (Calvados), said that a lot of the buyers come from Paris.
“They come here at first as second-home owners and then get used to it. Little by little they make the house their main residence and switch to working from home,” she said.
But houses with big outdoor spaces are rarer and rarer in the department, she added.
“It's not even a question of price anymore, it's hard to find them for sale.”
The jump in price in Haute-Marne could be down to the more affluent market, a local estate agent suggested.
“Bigger, more expensive houses have been sold in recent years, while we have sold far fewer ‘doer-uppers’,” they told Le Figaro.
For Finistère, the main attraction appears to be Brittany’s general popularity among people in France, combined with the nice coastal areas.
Lowest price rises
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the departments where the average property sale has decreased in price between 2018 and 2021.
In Ardennes (Grand Est), the average property sold for €115,000 in 2021, 8% less than in 2018.
Next was Haute-Corse, with property’s selling for on average €224,000 in 2021, 5.88% less than in 2018.
And in third place is Occitanie, where the average property sold for €111,000 in 2021, 1.77% less than in 2018.
Franck Barbière, a property consultant based in Ardennes, said he expects prices to increase sooner rather than later.
“People from Reims are starting to widen their search. We are only 45 minutes away,” he said.
“The area is a real haven of peace with all the services, there is a friendly atmosphere, which is what people are looking for since the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, the problem in Ariège may be that it is too remote, with the villages and towns spread too far apart.