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How do you determine the size of the plot you're looking for?

Here's the 4th important criterion to consider before diving headlong into the search for your ideal home (see How to buy a house in the country - Part 1 for the complete list).

When you buy your very first home, especially after living in small Parisian apartments, you think big: you imagine 3 guest bedrooms, bathrooms for each of the bedrooms, a playroom for the kids, a cinema room and a huge plot of land. Because the exterior is often the tipping point between the apartment and the house, we want it to be as big as possible. But is this the right approach? What does the garden entail, and how do you sort things out so you know you won't be disappointed once you're settled in?

For our part, we set ourselves a minimum but no maximum. My wife wanted a bit of land for peace and quiet, but I was super-excited at the idea of having acres of garden/woodland/fields. After a few visits and, above all, numerous discussions with friends and family who had been living in houses for several years, we quickly tightened up the criteria and reduced the size of the plot. To sum up, here are the essential points to bear in mind when defining the size of the plot you're looking for:

  • Location

Depending on where you're looking for your home, you may find it more difficult to get a plot of land. If you want to be in the heart of a village, close to amenities, you won't be able to claim a huge plot (see Where to buy your country home? for more information). Conversely, the larger the plot, the further away you are from the shops and the more isolated you are from your neighbors. We visited a house with an 11-hectare plot, but with so much land, the first neighbor was 3 km away.

  • Tranquility

As with my wife, this is often the main reason for those looking for a minimum of land: to get away from the neighbors. People generally want to be isolated from the noise of their neighbors and the city, but also from view, and with swimming pools this is important. To give you an idea, complete isolation requires a plot of land of at least 2000m².

Beware, however, of huge wooded areas that may conceal hunting cabins. When you come from the city, you think you're totally isolated, but you don't anticipate this point, and yet it can be very annoying with dogs or gunshots. It can also be worrying for walks or other outdoor activities.

  • Maintenance

This is the central point, because as with any real estate project, you have to think about your budget, and not just at the time of purchase. I've said it over and over again, but if you want to convert your real estate project over the long term, you also need to have the day-to-day budget to reap the benefits of your choices. Here we're right in the middle of it, as for the surface area of the house.

When we visited our current home, the landscaped garden contributed as much to our falling in love with it as the house itself. So it's essential to maintain it if I want to keep this sense of well-being. So either I have the desire and the time to look after it myself (I might as well tell you that I'd have to stop working), or I hire someone to do it for me and put in the money. On average, you should expect to spend around twenty days a year on good maintenance for a plot of over 2000m².

For those who like gardening, it's normal to think it's important to have a place to express oneself, but for those who think they'll enjoy looking after it, it's important to remember that it's not without a personal investment. Lawn mowing, weeding, ivy removal and pruning are all tasks that may not be exciting, but they are necessary.

  • Fire

This is directly linked to maintenance, but we're no longer talking about aesthetics, but risk and insurance. To take the house we visited with its hectares of woodland, we would have been obliged to maintain the firebreaks (linear forest lines) to contain the advance of any fire. Indeed, it is the responsibility of property owners to maintain their land to prevent the spread of fires, and this is all the more important in southern regions. In the Drôme, we received garden maintenance instructions at the beginning of the summer, and this is not painless financially.

  • Pests

They can exist in small gardens too, but when you own a house with a large plot, you're usually in the middle of nature, close to a forest or a river. It's therefore common to be visited by relatively wild animals such as deer, wild boar or even wolves in isolated areas. You'll need to think about this when starting a vegetable garden or letting your chiwawa wander alone in the forest.


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