Investing in a French mid-sized city: a relevant choice?



The figure surprised everyone in mid-October: the city of Paris lost 5% of its schoolchildren at the start of the 2021 school year. Certainly, it’s a small percentage, but it’s significant. Families have left the capital for greener pastures. The challenge of raising children in Paris is not new, and many choose to leave when their first or second child arrives. However, the COVID crisis has intensified this trend. Successive lockdowns and the possibility of remote work have made relocation desirable (and feasible). And it’s the mid-sized cities that are benefiting from this. Long overlooked by investors, mid-sized cities now deserve attention for their potential. They offer attractive investment opportunities. What underlies their potential? Which cities should you consider for investment? Patrimolink takes you on a tour of these emerging municipalities, which defy stereotypes about provincial life.

What are mid-sized cities?

Definitions vary depending on the source. One can adopt the definition of INSEE, which delineates a statistical range of 20,000 to 150,000 inhabitants. These municipalities do not constitute a homogeneous whole but rather a diversity of economic, geographical, and social situations. Nonetheless, the “mid-sized city” is an urban area defined in contrast to the “large city.”

Mid-sized cities have a special place in France. Their size does not reflect the prominent role they play in the organization of French territory. Well dispersed, they carry an essential part of its dynamism and identity. The works of the CGET (General Commissioner for Territorial Equality) underline their role as centralizing hubs because they host numerous basic services (healthcare, employment, education, sports, and culture).


Mid-sized city: yellow / Paris: black / Urban areas: light and dark grey

A Renewed Interest in Mid-Sized Cities

The health crisis has had a significant impact on the national real estate market, notably due to successive lockdowns. Initially, they slowed down the sector’s activity for many months, which then picked up momentum. Lockdowns also altered the desires and needs of the French population. They accelerated an awareness of the constraints of life in major cities, such as overcrowding, the cost of living and real estate, or declining quality of life.

Now that remote work is institutionalized, many barriers to mobility have fallen: it is now possible to work from anywhere, provided there is a good internet connection. Some households now seek larger accommodations, with outdoor space, as well as easy access to transportation and basic services (schools, shops, healthcare). They find what they’re looking for in mid-sized cities.

Real Estate Barometer of Mid-Sized Cities, Higher Council of Notaries, and National Agency for Territories Cohesion , June 2021 – Last trends for existing apartments and houses over 3 months and a year



According to the Real Estate Market Outlook from the French Notaries No. 52 (July 2021), the number of sales of existing homes across the country over the past twelve months reached a record level of 1,130,000 transactions by the end of May 2021. The trend observed in the previous quarter is confirmed: this dynamism is in favor of small and mid-sized cities. It is currently observed in municipalities near major cities.

Evolution of buyers coming from Paris region



For over a year since the start of the pandemic, the trend has thus been confirmed. Mid-sized cities are attracting attention, and the reasons are easy to understand. These cities offer a good compromise between the constraints of the metropolis and the distance from rural areas. They are increasingly appealing to urbanites considering a move.


Impact on Real Estate Prices in Mid-Sized Cities

This demand from major cities is often accompanied by higher purchasing power, mechanically driving prices upward.

The French Notaries observe a continuous increase in the price of houses and apartments in the provinces. Their data shows a rise in the median selling price of existing houses by 11.9% in Poitiers, 10.3% in Chartres. Regarding existing apartments, prices in Caen increased by 16.2%, Tours by 10.6%, and Poitiers by 17.5%.

Despite this continuous increase, there are still good opportunities for investors looking to diversify their investment strategies. The real estate market in mid-sized cities is indeed evolving.

Variation of existing properties prices over a year in France




Mid-Sized Cities: Cities of the Future

Investing in a mid-sized city means investing in territories with promising futures. There are several reasons for this.

First and foremost, they respond to new population aspirations. As mentioned earlier, lockdowns have sparked a desire for space. Mid-sized cities offer the opportunity to buy a larger area, with outdoor access (garden, terrace), for a lower price. The price per square meter is more affordable, and there is less competition for properties.

Many mid-sized cities are also well connected in terms of public transportation and will continue to improve their connections. Under the impetus of the legislature (the 2015 NOTRe law), many urban areas have grouped together and invested in efficient multimodal networks (buses, bikes, parking). Some, like Angoulême, Pau, or St Brieuc, host high-level bus lines (BHNS, also called Trambus): longer vehicles (double bus), running on dedicated lanes. Their networks experience little congestion and therefore fewer delays than in major urban areas. Beyond remote work, the time spent commuting to work is reduced.

For those close to major cities, regional trains (TER) make regular and fast shuttles possible. Agen is, for example, 1.5 hours by train from Bordeaux, Douai 40 minutes from Lille, or Amiens 1h18 from Paris. New High-Speed Rail (LGV) projects promise to bring new mid-sized cities closer together. As part of the new Bordeaux-Toulouse connection, Agen and Montauban will soon have their TGV (High-Speed Train) stations.

Urban populations continue to grow, yet urban dwellers are increasingly reluctant to densify their neighborhoods. Mid-sized cities offer an alternative. While they suffer from a reputation for deserted territories, the reality is quite different. According to experts from Géoconfluences, mid-sized cities have long been excluded from national territorial development policies. Considered the weak link in French urban geography, they have gradually concentrated several types of recurrent problems that have affected their dynamism. This is why they have received renewed attention from the authorities since the 2010s, as evidenced by the “City Center” project launched in 2017. This multifaceted initiative has materialized through the construction or renovation of housing (for example in Pau, Oyonnax, or Brive-La-Gaillarde), the return of commercial funds to the market (Mâcon or St Nazaire), the revitalization of city centers (Limoges), the establishment of new businesses (Châteauroux), or the creation of cultural hubs (Laval, Beauvais). 5 billion euros have been invested in 5 years.

Which Cities to Follow for Investment?

It should be noted that not all mid-sized cities have benefited from this dynamic. A study by the CGET (General Commissioner for Territorial Equality) shows the municipalities with the most solid development. It analyzes the situation of mid-sized cities from three perspectives: demographic dynamics (average annual population growth rate between 2008 and 2013), economic dynamics (average annual employment growth rate between 2008 and 2013), and social vulnerability (poverty rate in 2013).

Although the data may be somewhat dated, this study provides valuable insights. What can we glean from it? That municipalities most connected to major urban areas, endowed with dynamic economic sectors, are the ones thriving. And they are numerous across the entire French territory.

Carte CEDG

The study by the CGET clearly demonstrates the polarizing role of these “favored” mid-sized cities. They host dynamic employment hubs, attracting new residents, and stimulating the local real estate market.



Mid-sized cities are on the rise, and investors would be remiss not to take an interest. Quality of life, professional prospects, accessibility: the most favored ones have plenty to convince. While not all are affected by this dynamic, those most advantaged in terms of connections and employment have embarked on capitalizing on their potential. With their burgeoning advantages, they offer the extra quality of life many seek. The sustained strength of the real estate market in these locations indicates a lasting trend. Are mid-sized cities the future of rental investment? PATRIMOLINK accompanies you in building your investment strategy.


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