It’s no secret Tom and I are looking to move out of our 1BR apartment into a home we can call our own. From beautiful, modern homes to cramped, dated places that feel dark and isolated, we’ve seen it all on our house hunt so far. While it’s fun to visualize a before and after in your head after seeing a fixer upper, sometimes you just want to find a place that needs minimal help and just move-in already! But this is too big of a step to rush, so the hunt continues and I’m sharing it with you. What are French homes like? There’s no typical French house across the board. They come in all shapes and sizes.
What are houses in France like
Some of you have asked to see pics of what houses look like in France and I have to start off by saying that they really vary just like they do in the U.S. There’s no single “French house” that’s typical of everywhere although there are some similar characteristics. Sizes of lots and actual living spaces vary depending on if you’re out in country or in a town’s center. For us, it’s important to be near civilization, so the spaces we’re looking at are NOT huge and sprawling. All of the differences I’ve noted actually get me excited about moving and I am looking forward to getting to know my new French house!
This is by no means a complete guide to houses in France.
Below are a few general things I’ve noticed while house hunting and info on typical housing in France and home buying:
- Houses in France tend to NOT be made of wood (though it does exist) and instead have concrete or stone walls, especially old houses. So what do houses look like in France? Tile floors are popular and so is parquet and other floor coverings we’d use in the States.
- Roofs are slate, red terracotta, thatched or even stone depending on the area and property. My fave? Slate! Just the most attractive to me.
- Windows are vertical and open from top to bottom. Instead of unlocking a window horizontally and sliding it up, generally French windows open more like a door with two vertical parts and unlock with a handle.
- The roof pitch is generally steeper than traditional homes in the US making interesting angles out of the ceiling in the upper level (can’t walk standing up without hitting your head in the corners). There are homes with less steep pitches as well, but the older homes tend to be uniform in this characteristic. It’s actually — as the French would say — quite charming.
- Many apartments and houses in France don’t have a “real” kitchen with cabinets and a cohesive feel, and if they do have what I’m calling a “real” kitchen, it’s because the owners installed it themselves (houses aren’t built with these options in many cases). Many French people have a sink with some appliances that line up and create a kitchen of sorts, but no real storage overhead (like our situation now). Many French people bring their appliances, including fridge, washer/dryer and more with them when they move as well.
- Most houses in France have the toilet in a separate room from the shower or bath. Some of these toilet rooms don’t have sinks. Sometimes the toilet room is down the hall and not right next door! This isn’t the end of the world, but it’s strange to me to have to pee in one room, then touch the door and walk somewhere else to wash your hands. Or if you have house guests and are about to get in the shower when you realize you have to use the bathroom.
So do you walk out in a towel or just pee in the shower? Decisions.
But I guess if that’s my biggest qualm about the bathroom, I should consider myself lucky.
- Many French apartments have the washer in the kitchen and usually not concealed, right next to the dishwasher or a cabinet. If it’s not in the kitchen (taking up valuable real estate), it’s in the bathroom (also taking up space). To paint a fair picture, houses are different and if a house has a basement, we’ve seen a bunch hidden away down there as well. I definitely don’t want a washer in my kitchen!
- If the home has a modern kitchen, the kitchen space (and appliances) seem to be smaller than the American ones I’m used to seeing — cabinets seem lower, islands seem smaller, counters seem narrower, etc. I like a lot of counter space and freezer space. You can absolutely find big fridges and install a kitchen any way you’d like, but in general, homes tend to NOT be built around the kitchen. Not ideal entertaining spaces. (Wait, who would I entertain? Ha.)
- Many houses in France are not move-in ready and require a bit of “refreshing” which is a euphemism for a total overhaul including windows, electricity, probably a new roof and of course the cosmetic things a new owner would want like paint color, etc. If your budget is higher, this probably isn’t a problem.
- You’ll have a lot of real estate agents. Many agents have exclusives which are only at their agency, and if you like that agent and want to work only with him or her, you’ll be severely limiting your choices. One agent cannot always show you properties listed by another agency. Split commissions don’t seem to be the norm here, so get ready to have a handful of agents all competing to show you the best home.
- It’s not the norm for a French person to pay for a home inspection before signing a sales contract. THIS IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE. There are several inspections required by law (termites, gas and energy consumption and others) but to my knowledge, none of them provide a comprehensive look at the property’s foundation, roof, plumbing and other items that most Americans would require an inspection for just to be sure. That’s not to say no one has their prospective property inspected — just that most do not do it and don’t see the need for it. Seems crazy to me to NOT inspect the biggest purchase of your life. Too much could go wrong and surprises aren’t usually good when it comes to things like this.
Here are just a few pics of the houses in France we’ve seen:
Here’s a dated kitchen. It’s functional with space and adequate cabinets but quite old:
Here’s a nice kitchen, but it’s in its own room (complete with a door) and doesn’t have much space:
A spacious family room that had a wall removed to create more of a flow between rooms:
A little deck and backyard space off the kitchen of one home we visited. While small, it was private and perfectly manicured:
Anything surprise you about houses in France? Maybe you can you relate?