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The French language is so wonderfully descriptive. Just as the Inuit have 100 different words for snow, the French have multiple words to describe properties that in English we tend to bundle into one definition.

Those French descriptions may be used to differentiate between the architectural style, geographic region or building materials used in the construction.

La Résidence are UK estate agents selling French properties and we tend to specialise in classic French character homes as well as more modern, architecturally interesting properties.

Here is a glossary of frequently used terms you’ll find during the research phase of your search to find your home in France.


A traditional French farmhouse, rectangular in shape and often single storey. They usually are positioned so that the back of the building faces the prevailing wind, creating a sheltered area at the front of the house. Originally the ground floor would be the living quarters for farmers and their animals and food would be stored under the eaves in the roof. Find out why French Farmhouses are popular with International buyers


To the French, a gîte means a house in a rural area where families can gather together. Gîtes are often now either a smaller building, close to the main house, or independent section of the house that often houses visiting family & friends, and often may be let to holidaymakers to provide a supplementary income.


Chambres d’hôtes

In the UK, we would call this arrangement a Bed & Breakfast. A house where paying guests may enjoy a short stay, sleeping in one of the bedrooms and might expect some croissants, orange juice and a strong coffee to see them on their way in the morning.

Maison de Maître

The Maison de Maître in France has an iconic architecture, similar to a Georgian-style property in the UK. Symmetry is key with large windows arranged evenly on either side of a central front door. Rooms are traditionally large and light, with high ceilings. The arrangement of rooms is often replicated between the different floors, and, with some clever design features, the scale and proportions of the rooms often lend themselves to creating a house with the ‘wow’ factor. A Maison de Ville might be similar in architectural design but located in a town.

Colombage house

The word Colombage indicates the architectural style, technique and materials used to build the property. Colombage properties will be timber-framed, with the timbers used to create the walls on view and bricks or cob (a lime/straw mixture) filling the gaps in between. Colombage properties are often found in medieval towns across France.

Country house

What we might term a ‘country house’ the UK might include properties described in France as manoir, mas, bastide, chateau (a small one), grange (converted barn), villa. Basically, a large property in a rural setting, often with gardens or parkland that surround the house.


Home-&-income property

This will predominantly be either a gite or a property with a versatile layout, suitable for a chambres-d’hotes arrangement where there is space and privacy between the guest quarters and the owners residence.

Lock & Leave property

This is a house that would be an ideal pied-a-terre in France. A house and garden that would be considered ‘low maintenance’ and probably with good access to ferry ports or airport terminals. The idea would perhaps be on shorter but more frequent visits where the focus is on relaxing, exploring and enjoying some good for and wine.

You can find examples of all the various properties listed above in our portfolio of properties for sale in France. As and when you have dates in mind for a viewing trip to France, do give us a call on +44 (0)1865 582382, we’d love to hear more about your plans.


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