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Buying a house in the Languedoc - the hunt begins

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After half a dozen trips to the south of France, DH and I have decided to address the biggest wish on our bucket list, and buy a house in the Languedoc. We live in Canada, and plan to spend up to six months a year in France once we've retired, which is not too far away now. Although we wouldn't count on rental income, we would like to be able to rent out during the summer, when we'd be in Canada.

Of course, we have a check list of must-haves and nice-to-haves, which in no particular order is as follows:

* In or on the edge of a village (bigger than a hamlet, smaller than a town), as we would prefer to have neighbours and become part of the community, but not far from a market town (DH is an ardent cook)

* A pool (small)

* A garden (small) and patio at ground level

* Old stone house in good repair (not a new villa)

* Proche to a major highway/autoroute as we would want easy access out of the region for short trips away.

* No viz-a-vis; private

* Perhaps no more than half an hour to good medical services (always a consideration when we're older)

* Relatively nice weather in the spring and fall particularly

We realize that finding our new home will require looking, and then more looking, but to begin with, there are two things that we need to start with.

First, what area of the Languedoc? DH loves Spain, and therefore the areas around Perpignan would be one choice. We weren't as enamoured of the landscape in the region around Carcasonne, although many of the towns of course are quite lovely. We enjoyed time spent in and around Pezanas, but don't know that area very well. All of our trips have been in the summer, so we also don't have any feel for the climates in mid and low season.

Secondly, any advice on finding a good estate agent. We will be babes in the woods, with some french (albeit with a Quebecois accent). I'm not familiar with how far afield one agent can go, so it may mean finding several agents.

We're planning our first house hunting trip in April, but I dont' want to book a gite until we have narrowed down the search parameters a bit.

As always, many thanks in advance for the invaluable advice Fodorites are famous for.

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