Finding French Charm in Epernay…and Everywhere!
Volume XX, Issue 37
Tuesday evening I returned to Paris from the Champagne region town of Epernay. It’s the “Capital of Champagne” located 25 kilometers from Reims and boasting of some of the most famous Champagne Houses along its prestigious “Avenue de Champagne”—Moët & Chandon, Perrier-Jouët, Boizel, de Venoge, Vranken, Pol Roger, Mercier and G.H. Martel.
It was here that I taped a House Hunters International episode with a woman working for the U.S. State Department who has taken a one-year sabbatical to “live her dream”…in Epernay. She fell in love with the town, thanks to her love of champagne, kept coming back to visit, and ultimately decided to make it her home.
She had a small budget of €180,000 to spend, which doesn’t go far in Paris, but it does in Champagne. As part of the Reality TV show, we visited three properties within her price range, in spacious sizes ranging from two to three bedrooms, all in the city center. She wanted what everyone wants: “charm.”
That word—”charm”—is what everyone imagines their life in France to be—charming. And that means their abode must ooze with charm, too. (I can’t remember anyone coming to us wanting a contemporary building that looks and feels just like their American home!)
Epernay is amazingly inexpensive. According to Meilleurs Agents, the price of property in Epernay ranges from 1,114€ per square meter for an apartment to 3, 060€ per square meter for a home. Compare this with Paris at 7,054€ per square meter for an apartment to 23,407€ per square meter for a home.
Special note: Keep in mind that while these are statistics provided by the INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, https://www.insee.fr/en/accueil they are skewed much lower than true market value because they don’t include agency fees, furnishings that are sold with the property thereby reducing the price on the deed, cash transactions (illegal, but often done) and the lag time between when the property is placed on the market and finally sold, then reported months later.
Nonetheless, in Epernay and in the region, your money goes a long way to buy a lot of space. Epernay has a pretty city center, but it has a lot of contemporary buildings and champagne warehouses, some of which have been converted to housing. One property we visited was just that—a one-time warehouse. For Krisi, the “contributor,” this property was not her idea of “charm.” In the course of the property visits, I also showed her a contemporary apartment as well as an old, but renovated, village house oozing with “charm.” As part of our discussion about the properties, I tried to convince her that a champagne warehouse in Epernay IS the epitome of charm in a town like Epernay, because that’s what Epernay is all about!
The definition of charm is “the power or quality of delighting, attracting, or fascinating others.” So, the question is, what is French charm and what does that mean to you? What images come to mind when you imagine living in a place that oozes with French charm? Parquet flooring, fireplaces, high ceilings, molding and wainscoting, window shutters, lacy or brocade draperies, etc., etc., etc.? All the details that contemporary decor has eliminated usually make up what we think of as “charming.” Right?
When you’re seeking the French charm you have in your mind, remember that you buy what you can’t change, meaning you can change the interior to be as charming as you like, and create the French charm you imagine. So, if your building is contemporary or an old warehouse, just add the elements that create the charm you want. It’s actually quite easy—just part of the decor process!
Personally, I didn’t find the town of Epernay as “charming” as Krisi does, but that’s because our definitions of the term may differ. And I’m not necessarily suggesting Epernay as a serious place to consider in France to hang your hat. Granted, it’s only about 1.5 hours from Gare de l’Est and it’s such a small village, that you wouldn’t need a car (although you might want one). You can walk just about anywhere within the town within 10 minutes. It is highly touristed by international visitors thanks to the champagne industry.
I didn’t find the town folk very sophisticated as I expected, but I did find them very charming! Champagne is an industry run by the farmers and staff working in the vineyards, the tank room operators (“cuvistes”), the cellar workers who take delivery of the newly-bottled wines and stacks them manually, the oenologists who test the quality of the newly-pressed grapes, the cellar master who creates a blend of wines from different grape varieties and vineyards, as well as human resource workers and public relations and sales professionals.
These are not necessarily all glamorous jobs! What is obvious, even from an outsider looking in, however, is that the people of Epernay are genuine, warm and friendly and passionate about their trade. This is what touched Krisi’s heart, and what we experienced while taping there. The people in the champagne industry are very proud of what they do, of their lineage, and their craft. It would be very easy to find your passion within that, too. And all at a fraction of the price of living in larger cities in France.
Epernay is not much different than many other provincial towns in France from a property perspective. Once you move out of the top major cities, the price of property dramatically drops. If you can have immediate access to an international airport and a good train line, coupled with a solid North American community, then you can take full advantage of the province’s low property prices.
For more information on the prices all over France, visit Meilleurs Agents.
Although our teams are located in Paris and Nice, we can still help you find and secure property anywhere in France. We work with agents all over the country who represent the best properties, so don’t limit your imagination!
The Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. We were among the first expat real estate agencies to provide services for North Americans seeking to move to France or invest in French property. We have years of experience as well as relationships with top industry experts to help you with everything related to French property. Please visit our Services page for the full range of assistance we’re able to provide.