Close to the Var coast, these two communes dating back to the Middle Ages offer undeniable charm. The scenery is mostly composed of pines, vines and scrubland.
This is the village where Marcel Pagnol filmed “La Femme du Boulanger”. 23 km north-west of Toulon, Le Castellet is comprised of four villages or hamlets : Le Castellet Village, Le Brûlat, Sainte-Anne du Castellet and Le Plan du Castellet. The village, on a hill-top at an altitude of over 250 metres, is laid out around its medieval château and consists of narrow paved streets lined with houses. Most often, the ground floors are given over to boutiques much appreciated by tourists, while the upper floors accommodate apartments or duplexes. Living here means that one is fond of old stone and authenticity, and also prepared to do without a parking place. For, like all hill-top villages, Le Castellet is worth the effort of doing everything on foot. At most, residents can drive in to unload their cars, then return to one of the village’s car-parks. Which explains why a good number of lovely village houses are now holiday homes, highly-prized by north Europeans, from Belgium, the Netherlands or Germany… or French buyers investing in old stone in the South of France, sure of having made a rational and profitable choice over the medium term. A house of 150 m2, for example, on three floors and renovated throughout, with a panoramic terrace on the top floor and a (very rare) garage, is currently on offer at 645,000 €. A 2-bedroom apartment with a delightful view is priced at 370,000 € and will probably be of interest to locals working in Le Castellet itself or within a 34-km radius ; Marseille is, in fact, a 35-minute drive away, Toulon just 15 minutes. At the foot of the village, small houses with good-sized gardens start from 600,000 €. Here again, clients tend to be locals, often moving into a larger home. More family-oriented and offering easier access, Le Brûlat offers housing estates and detached homes where middle managers rub shoulders with company directors and self-employed professionals. “This type of client, earning good income, has frequently sold a property in order to acquire a larger one,” says Jean-Philippe Vecchio of L’Immobilier de Bord de Mer
Rural and less densely built-up, Sainte-Anne-du-Castellet is further away from the entrance to the motorway. Vineyards predominate here, though for 450,000 €, one can buy a house of 100 m2 on an estate, in grounds of about 1,000 m2 with a small pool. 600,000 to 700,000 € will bring a detached house of 100 to 120 m2 in grounds of 700 to 1,000 m2, near the seafront but still in the country. This is where one also finds desirable properties, more or less recent ; one example totalling 450 m2, run as a guest-house and comprised of a private home of 150 m2, four guest-rooms and two modest apartments for paying guests, on almost 2.5 acres of land with a pool and open view, can be had for 1,980,000 €. Very spread out, Le Plan-du-Castellet plays host to an intermediate school, but above all has to live with noise from the motorway. Which, oddly enough, has not had any effect on prices. A house of 130 m2 in grounds of 1,200 m2 is worth about 600,000 €. Like many other French communes, Le Castellet has experienced a very slight downturn in the number of transactions, partly due to the presidential elections : it is, however the LGV that worries people most. It seems that uncertainty about the route to be taken by the “Ligne à Grande Vitesse” (hi-speed railway line) has put a brake on the market, with some buyers falling back on Toulon for fear of seeing the local landscape transformed by construction work. The verdict should fall in the summer of 2012, and the commune will then know whether the project will be implemented or not. “Aside from this particular issue, properties in Le Castellet are rare, and supply does not meet demand,” notes Bruno Basma of Le Castellet Immobilier
More highly sought-after than Le Castellet, La Cadière d’Azur clings to the side of a cliff - rising to an altitude of 460 m -, offering a superb view as far as the Mediterranean. It also surveys the famous AOC vineyards of Bandol and basks in the timeless charm of Provençal villages, with narrow, flower-filled streets and lovely old stone. “We are very close to Bandol and Saint-Cyr, and benefit from high-quality properties,” explain Nathalie and Michel Tollari of Rêve Immo
. Traditionally, village houses are built on two floors ; one example of 180 m2 on three floors, with a roof terrace and breathtaking 360° view, is up for sale at 475,000 €. Also at the heart of the village, a fully renovated 3-bedroom apartment of 80 m2 with two large terraces can be had for slightly less, ie. 428,000 €. In addition to these old houses, La Cadière d’Azur proposes old “bastides” and farmhouses, together with more recent homes, on estates or not, spread out over the commune. A recent property of 80 m2, detached or semi-detached, with a slightly sloping garden, an open view and no noise, will be offered for sale from 420,000 to 550,000 €. Benefitting from easy access, the village offers shops which are lacking in Le Castellet ; in particular, a chemist, butcher’s and bakery. It is also easier to drive around. All these advantages naturally draw local buyers who appreciate its pleasant life-style. La Cadière d’Azur also appeals to personalities, sportsmen, TV celebrities and actors. It can offer some very desirable properties : it’s not rare to come across houses of 250 m2 (the maximum authorized by the urban planning authority) in lovely large grounds, priced at 1 million euros and more. If they are set in landscaped gardens and benefit from a pool, sea view and top-quality appointments, they can easily attain 2 million euros. But here as elsewhere, buyers both French and foreign are no longer naive ; properties have to justify their prices, even if Provence still offers incomparable charm which is hard to evaluate in euros.