Defining exactly why you want to live in France or own a property in France is a critical stage in the property buying process. At all following stages in the process you need to keep these reasons clearly in mind, to avoid being convinced to buy a property that is unsuitable for your needs or requirements.
These needs will vary significantly according to whether you are looking for a permanent home, where the family and friends can come and visit; or a holiday home for your own personal use. For example, in the second category, the focus will be much more on ease of maintenance and accessibility.
Many people retire to France, and may hope to find an active expatriate community, while others may actively want to avoid the expatriate community. The presence of a large number of English speaking residents in an area will have a big impact on your French experience, with both positive and negative aspects.
It is also becoming common for families to live in France while one member commutes to the UK to carry on working, returning to France at the weekend. Transport connections and cheap airlines make this practical, but be aware that 'cheap flights' often stop being cheap in the summer, and it is not impossible for an air-route to a little used airport to stop flights at short notice. Some families seem eminently suited to this lifestyle, although it can be difficult for the family members in France to deal with the everyday problems of living in a foreign country without the support of a partner.
The last frequent situation is that people move to France to work. The most common work is to own gites or a bed and breakfast; 'working from home' on the internet; or working as a builder or other tradesmen, usually serving a predominantly English community.
The category you fall in will largely determine the type of property you are looking for. The important thing is to ensure that the property you buy meets the criteria you have, and you are not persuaded to live 10 kilometres up a grassy track if you need to be near a city, for example. It is instructive to make a checklist, and identify the three or four most important factors for your ideal property, and then hang onto this checklist at all future stages.
Having decide the 'why?' you now need to consider the 'where?'
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