Hi, I've lived in France for 14 years with my wife, my 3 kids were all born here. First thing to say its a great country to live in! But its not all great, like anywhere there are plus and minus points. For us there are more plus's though! I love the space, the people, variety of countryside and having a house with a massive garage! Simple pleasures really.
Think carefully what you want. Yes, there is an amazing selection of cheap rural properties with land. Do you want total isolation? often properties are cheap but they are miles from anyone or anything. It could be lonely and the lack of activities and long drives for a litre of milk is not for everyone. We lived in the Mayenne on the Normandy/Brittany border for about 9 years. Its a lovely region and handy for the ferry to and from UK. Land with properties is cheap, but do you need lots of land? People are lured into buying lots of hectares because its cheap. They then spend every visit trying to tame it! The land is very fertile and there is good rainfall, so everything grows like mad. Particularly pastures. We moved around 5ookms south to the Charente maritime, for a change and to be nearer more amenities and activities for the family.
The cost of living is comparable to the UK, its definitely not cheaper. Your council tax is calculated on the Sq metres of living space. And as said will be around 1000- 1500 euros per year. A lot of houses have electric wall heaters for heating, they eat up electricity which isn't that cheap. Oil fired heating is also common, likewise the price of heating fuel is always going up. There are good stocks of firewood in that region, so good quality woodburners definitely are worth fitting to boost the heating.
If your looking for a project, realistically how much time can you allocate to renovate a run down property? It can take along time as the properties can be big, and in bad condition. You don't want to fall out of love with something because your flogging yourself every visit trying to finish a house. Local artisans in traditional skills such as timber framing and stonemasons tend to be excellent so well worth considering. Building materials are expensive here.
Overall its a great place to live, I've just tried to add a few realistic pointers. If your planning to move over then sign up for an evening class in French, you will get so much more out of the country if you can just speak a few words it will get you started. Try Leggett immobilier for properties they have agents across the country. Good luck and keep us posted on your plans.