All the boring part is out of the way, and I assume you know your budget, so now we can get down to the serious business of actually buying a house.
You will need to set aside quite a lot of time to visit and view properties. You should try and phone two or three estate agents in your chosen region a week or so before your visit, to enable them to prepare for your visit, and prepare some viewings.
Of course, you can also see properties that are advertised directly on the internet, in an attempt to avoid the high estate agency fees. There will be less houses available to view, however, and you should still see properties through estate agents so that you have a better idea of the correct price for a property - an individual selling a property will often see both the property and its value through rather rose-tinted spectacles.
In my experience, email does not have the same effect - estate agents prefer to hear your voice on the phone or actually see you in person.
The good news: estate agents in France, especially in regions popular with 'foreigners', will almost always be able to speak English, and will be happy to show you a range of properties. They will often show you plenty of unsuitable properties as well, so make sure you have clearly explained your requirements before you start.
Remember that checklist? If you must live within 2 kilometres of a town, don't be enticed to see properties further out. If you need at least an acre of garden, insist on it. Otherwise you will waste a great deal of time being shown unsuitable properties, while you smile nicely and say it's not quite what you're looking for. Worse still, you will fall in love with the property, abandon your list of critical requirements, and buy the property anyway - which is why they showed it to you in the first place. The property that meets your requirements is out there somewhere, so keep looking!
Of course, some degree of compromise might be necessary if you have been over-specific or over-optimistic - a nice town-house in the medieval centre of Toulouse with a hectare of garden and costing less that 200,000 euros might be your dream, but it doesn't mean you will find it.
Estate agents in France like to drive you to properties themselves, and will not usually tell you in advance where the property is. So you can't go for a quick drive-past to check if it looks completely unsuitable. They do this because it guarantees their commission in the case of a sale, by avoiding disputes about who introduced the seeler to the buyer. From your point of view it will be a time wasting exercise.
You will probably need two or three visits to a region before you find the property that is right for you, as you get to know the area and the types of property and their prices. It is a big investment, so don't rush it!
It is possible that the first house you see wil be the perfect house, but you can't know that unless you have seen quite a few others. There are a lot of very beautiful properties around France.
Having found your property, it is common to revisit it with a local builder and roofer who will tell you whether he thinks material amounts of work need doing and how much they will cost. This is especially important with a property in a poor state since work can be more expensive than you think. Surveys are less common, especially among French buyers, but UK purchasers sometimes like to organise a survey. If you do, be sure the surveyor is familiar with the local building techniques, costs and practices.
You are know in a position to make an offer on the property. Don't be shy about offering less than the asking price. Sale prices are often set by the seller rather than the estate agent, and can be over-optimistic. If you are confident, having seen other properties, that the one you want is over-priced, explain why to the estate agent, and make an offer.
Related sections: An introduction: Buy property in France
how to choose a region to move to: Which region of france to live in
How to actually Find a property
How to finance the deal: Finances of buying in France
Completing on your purchase:Close the deal