So what do Angelina & Brad, Eric Idle, Vanessa Paradis, and David and Victoria Beckham have in common? They all have vacation homes in Provence, and in particular, the VAR department of France. Branjelina’s Chateau Miravale is situated in the all-organic village of Correns. This area is so scarcely populated, it’s rare that we see paparazzi bothering to make the drive out from the busier areas like St Tropez, Cannes and Antibes.
These celebrities are not stupid. They bought property here because they know it’s quiet, private, beautiful, and a bargain compared to anything on the Côte d’Azur. And you too should get in on this real estate bandwagon now, before it’s too late and prices go climbing back up again. And we at Provence-Living.net bets it will.
Cotignac experienced a property boom back in 2003. Prices went sky-rocketing in correlation with the big British invasion (alongside the strength of the pound sterling). Since then, however, and after the global financial crisis of 2008 in particular, prices have dropped to reflect a more realistic market, but Cotignac still stands out from the villages that surround it.
Take a typical 4 level village-house with basement for storage. For a 130 metre-square pad, nicely renovated (i.e. needing no extra building work or improvements) in the heart of all the village sundries and life you can find a place for around 260,000 euros. For an equivalent place in Valbonne, you’d pay close to twice that, and in Cannes (Banane area), upwards of three times as much. But should you find even the mid 200K range too expensive, you can look at neighbouring villages like Carces or Montfort or Entrecasteaux. For a family home in the middle of these villages you can find places for as low as 180,000 euros. This is an affordable price for almost any family, even on local salaries.
Down the street from my home in the heart of Cotignac there are several places for sale. A beautifully renovated 2-bedroom duplex apartment in the middle of the village is for sale at 230,000 euros. Another small but charming village house (95 square metres) on three levels, stunning views of the cliffs and with massive 45 square metre garage was going for 175,000 euros (needs some work). A family house on 5 levels with 145 square metres of space, big basement and a small garden is on sale for 250,000 euros. There are several real estate agents here, all offering a range of properties from village house-studios to 80 acre estates and chateaux. Contact Sophie Carrere of Cotignac Immobilier for more info (www.cotignacimmobilier.com).
“Prices are definitely lower now than they were a couple of years ago. The country raised interest rates to fight fiscal debt but the lower prices or more precisely, the now-rock-bottom-prices, counteracts this expense for buyers and pretty soon prices will climb back up due to higher demand” she says. So, the time to buy is now and within the coming year.
Cotignac is definitely more up-market (let’s call it classy) and with a good number of wealthy inhabitants from all corners of the globe – like a former CEO of Coca-Cola, who has made his home just outside the village. There are also several famous artists (like Avril, Tigrane, and Lovighi-Bourgogne) and celebrities walking around, whose names I cannot mention here, but live here all-year-round, hassle-free. There are at least 32 different nationalities present here representing 12 per cent of inhabitants. Two of whom are even members of the Municipal Council. But what’s charming is that the place remains very “French” and the traditions and culture well preserved. And best of all, you can do away with the bad traffic, the dangers, and all the annoying aspects of city life. Here you have an active yet peaceful village life combined with great weather, good access to toll ways, trains and air transport. The international airports of Toulon and Marseilles are less than an hour’s drive away, as is the TGV station in Aix. Nice is a one and a quarter hour drive away.
It’s no coincidence that Cotignac is nicknamed ‘le petit St Tropez’ by the locals. This village has a relatively large number of shops that sell quality goods – shoes, gifts, decorative items, new and vintage clothing, art in show-offy galleries, Oriental rugs, jewelry, a flower shop, a butchers’, sixteen restaurants, a small but well-stocked supermarket, a deli (traiteur), several hair and beauty salons (with a fully-organic one), several stylish bed and breakfasts with swimming pools, a wine cave selling champagne and exotic wines (expensive rarities like Petrus) and a popular outdoor organic and local produce market on Tuesday mornings.
The schools here are smaller but retain a high standard; because of the desirability to live here, they attract good teachers. The size of my daughter’s 5th-grade class is only 20 pupils. Amongst Cotignac’s forty-odd associations is its very active Parents’ Committee (the AAPE or Association Autonome des Parents d’Eleves) who organise fund raisers for pleasure trips, village parties, and festivals for children and parents alike, within and outside the village, throughout the year, and has a six-member volunteer team assuring that no kid misses out on the free fun. Associations in this village, compared to others of similar or greater populations, are given more government grants than any other in the region.
In contrast, in Brignoles (the largest nearby town, 17 km south of Cotignac), parents who do not work or are in between jobs are forced to take their children out for lunch in the Maternelle and bring them back in the afternoon. Overcrowding is a problem, particularly where schools are experiencing cut backs in staff.
If your profession (or travel plans) requires that you regularly commute to areas like Cannes, Nice, Marseilles, Aix-en-Provence, and Toulon, then Cotignac and the villages of Provence Verte would give you the best quality of life in a central location.
And last but not least, the recent heavy rains brought destructive flooding once again to the Var and the Côte d’Azur but Cotignac was relatively untouched due to its positioning of being 200 metres above sea level. Flooding possibility is something to take into priority consideration when looking at house purchasing these days.
Cotignac is an affordable utopia for now, but this may not last for long. I’m going to bet that this village and its immediate neighbours will enjoy a renewed sense of esteem, attract a healthy class of international and French habitants and merchants, and find themselves the crème de la crème of the Var.