How to buy your own castle

A castle doesn't have to cost a fortune and it might not be as difficult to find one as you think.

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Castles. To most of us, they’re not the type of property we can envisage ourselves living in.

We may reside in homes that have some similar features, like the old Edwardian styles, Victorian and Tudor designs, but a real castle?

Sounds like something straight out of a fairy tale.

Well, it’s not, you can buy a castle today, even if you’re not royalty.

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Ready to get started? Let the castle hunt begin.

Why buy a castle?

Buying a castle is unusual, but it could be one of the best purchases you ever make. Here’s why:

1. Live in your own castle

Many people only dream of owning a castle, but you can actually do it. As long as you’re willing to commit to a few improvements, you can renovate a historical castle into a liveable home or you can build your own.

2. Make it a restoration project

Castles are filled with history, steeped in political intrigue and battles through the ages, so the restoration is all part of the fun.

3. Make it an investment

Buying or living in a castle is not right for everyone. If this is you, why not buy it, restore it then rent it out and make money from it? You could develop your castle into a hotel or bed and breakfast, or restore it and allow history buffs to see its storied halls. You can also upgrade it and rent it out for weddings, birthdays and family reunions. The opportunities are endless.

4. Have the most unique home

With a castle, you’ll have the potential to check off the craziest interior features from your ideal home checklist. Looking for architectural features like a turret with a spiral staircase or a large grandfather clock in the middle of the hall? Always pictured enjoying your own library or ballroom but never quite had the space to make it a reality? With a castle, you have the space to do what you want.

Finding your perfect castle

Contrary to what you might be thinking, listings of castles for sale aren’t too difficult to find.

Start your hunt at international property companies that sell luxury real estate.

  • Le Figaro Properties. Le Figaro sells luxury properties in France. On its website, you’ll find almost 1,000 castle listings with a range of prices.
  • Sotheby’s Realty. Catering to high-net-worth individuals, Sotheby’s lists castles and chateaus online, most of which cost millions.
  • Prestige Property Group. This UK-based company offers castles mostly in France and Italy.
  • Christie’s International Real Estate. Christie’s is a luxury real estate company that sells properties priced well over £1 million.

How much does a castle cost?

You won’t be surprised to find out that castles vary wildly in cost.

A castle can cost millions of pounds, or roughly the same as you’d pay for a house in the UK. On Le Figaro’s website, for example, you’ll find many listings for smaller castle residences priced at under €1 million (around £870,000).

Which castles can you buy for under £1 million?

Wondering how much castle you can afford for less than £1 million? Compare a few of these recently listed castles across Europe.

This 19th-century chateau boasts 11 bedrooms and was built by a singer in the Opera de Paris. It was listed for £526,588.

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Image: Prestige Property Group

This castle complex in the Czech Republic was originally built in the 18th century. In 1958, it was deemed a protected monument. Today, it’s under private ownership and was listed for €350,000 (around £303,000).
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Image: VIP Castle

Whether you’re looking for a castle that’s move-in ready or one that’s perfect for a restoration project, you should be able to find one for under £1 million.

At the upper end of the spectrum, you’ll find castles that are veritable mansions. They can set you back millions of pounds, but you’ll get a truly one-of-a-kind manor.

Here’s a beauty of a property: A 40-room castle in Limoges, France, that was operational between the 12th and 15th centuries. It’s now outfitted with modern trappings, complete with 16 bedrooms, a home cinema and a semiprofessional kitchen. It was listed for €16.8 million, which is around £14.6 million.

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Images: Group Mercure

Best countries to look at

Countries like France, Germany, Spain, Italy and England are classic destinations for castles and they’re filled with history. There, you’ll find many castles built hundreds of years ago. If you’ve ever wanted a castle with a tower, turret or moat, these countries are excellent places to look.

Those aren’t the only countries in which you’ll find castles though. You can find listings in European nations like Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. There, you can find many history-rich castles at affordable prices.

Look beyond Europe and you may be surprised at what you find. You’ll find castles in places like the United States, Canada and even South Africa. These properties tend to be newer: many were built in the 19th, 20th or even 21st century.

Here’s an eye-popping modern castle in South Africa’s Western Cape. The asking price was a cool £4.9 million.

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Images: Sotheby’s

Consider these factors while choosing your castle

Before starting your search, decide what you want to do with your castle. Your goals will inform many important decisions. For example, do you want to live in your castle or develop it into an investment property?

  • How much do you want to pay? Setting a budget can give you an easy way to narrow your options. Many real estate sites let you filter listings by price.
  • Which country do you want to live in? You may be drawn to a country’s history or want to develop in a specific region.
  • Old or new castle? A castle doesn’t have to be hundreds of years old. You’ll find castles built recently, as well as properties that stretch back to mediaeval times.
  • How much work will the castle need? Many castles aren’t move-in ready: you may need to spend a lot of money on renovations and you might not be able to live in the castle during these major improvements.
  • How much will it cost to maintain? Castles are often very old structures that need continued maintenance. If you’ll spend a lot of time away from your castle, consider costs for caretaking.
  • What are the locals like? Are the locals comfortable with you buying part of their heritage? Do you like the local culture and will your neighbours welcome you?
  • Could this be a popular holiday destination? If you’re turning your castle into an investment for renting out, what activities are possible around the property? Some locations are particularly well-suited for hunting, horse riding, hiking and more.
  • What are the local rules for buying castles? Local regulations may limit what you can do. For example, your renovations may be restricted because they don’t fit with a castle’s artistic heritage.

Should you buy a castle or build it yourself?

You don’t have to buy an existing castle, you could build your own instead. Buying and building both have pros and cons.

Building a castle

Pros

  • Create the castle you envision, without following someone else’s template
  • Ensure your castle is built solidly and energy efficiently, according to modern standards
  • More flexibility for location
  • Bypass many historical structure regulations

Cons

  • You’ll likely need to find somewhere else to live during construction
  • You might need to find a specialised construction company for the look you’re after
  • You won’t get an authentic historical structure

Buying a castle

Pros

  • Own a castle with a potentially rich history
  • Become a custodian of a historical structure
  • Bask in the prestige of owning a one-of-a-kind property
  • Enjoy unique features you might never have imagined

Cons

  • Could be more expensive to restore than building a castle yourself
  • You can’t choose the castle’s location

What to watch out for

Buying a castle may sound like a fairy tale experience, but it can be anything but. Before taking the plunge, consider these points of caution.

1. You might not like castle life

Stay in the same town as the castle you’re thinking of buying or rent a nearby castle first to see how you like it. It’ll be a huge hassle if you buy a castle and later find out you hate living in a historic property.

Don’t go into the purchase thinking it’ll be easy to sell the property later. Castles are a niche market and it could be difficult to find a buyer. Think about a backup plan in case you have difficulty selling.

2. Be realistic about renovation costs

If renovation becomes so expensive you’re unwilling to finish it, you could end up with an unappealing residence. Worse, you might need to sell your castle and it may be less attractive to buyers because it isn’t complete.

3. A castle may not come with much land

The current castle owner might have already sold the land around the property before deciding to sell the castle itself. Confirm how much land you’ll receive along with your castle purchase.

4. The purchase price isn’t your only expense

It’s not cheap to maintain a castle. Consider additional monthly expenses like gardening, structural maintenance, heating and air conditioning.

5. Research your host country’s residence laws

If you want to live in your castle, you might have to apply for permanent-resident status in your host country. This can be a tricky process, so do your research before buying your castle.

6. Research national and local rules for castle purchases

A host country’s laws may put a crimp in your castle-buying plans. For example, in Switzerland you can’t buy a castle as a residence unless you’re a Swiss citizen or permanent resident. You may also need to navigate local regulations. For fewer headaches, consult with an estate agent who specialises in the region.

How to pay for your castle

Once you’ve found the castle of your dreams, it’s time to figure out how to pay for it.

Chances are the castle of your dreams isn’t in your home country. If that’s the case, you might not find a local mortgage to pay for the property. And if you do find one, it’ll likely come with poor financing terms, like high interest rates.

Your best option might be to pay cash for your castle. Though shelling out the big bucks may sting, it could increase the chances of a quick sale. An all-cash offer may also give you more room to negotiate the price with the seller, especially if it doesn’t need renovations before the sale.

Get a little help from the government

In some countries, you might qualify for tax rebates or renovation grants. For example, in France you may receive financial assistance from the government if you buy a historically significant castle.

It’s time to buy your castle

Your castle is out there somewhere. Now, it’s time for you to find it.

Do some soul-searching on why you want a castle and what you want yours to look like. Then start your hunt online: luxury real estate websites make it remarkably easy to zero in on the right property.

Once you’re clear on your budget and where you want your property to be, consider contacting an estate agent that specialises in castles. They can help you flesh out your preferences and navigate country-specific laws.

With any luck, you’ll find the castle you’ve always dreamed of.

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