As an Englishman who has bought a home in France and thoroughly enjoys being here, I am perhaps a bit biased. I would recommend it to everyone. However, I've stumbled over most of the hurdles that you will probably face, and probably made more mistakes than most, so I know what it takes to successfully buy a house in France.
Are there any drawbacks? Well yes, a few. Aren't there always with a house purchase? The good news is that with a bit of knowledge and a bit of research they can all be overcome quite easily.
The first, and for some the biggest hurdle, is themselves. Now please don't take offence, I'm saying this because we've done exactly the same ourselves. The biggest obstacle to buying a house in France is often rose-tinted spectacles!
I don't know why we do it. If we were at home we'd look at a discoloured patch on a wall and wonder if there was a problem with damp. We'd look at missing roof tiles and worry about the underlying structure, we'd question leaking pipes, funny smells or strange noises.
All of a sudden when we look at property in France these thing aren't problems at all. We think, "old houses do that" or it's part of the "character" or, (my personal favourite) "just a cheap five minute job ". Is there something in the French air? Why do we all suddenly loose grip on reality?
The fact is that the damp patch is probably... damp! Most old French houses have no damp proof course. Of course there are solutions, and not necessarily expensive ones, but why wouldn't you check? A few missing roof tiles could just be a bit of neglect, especially if the place has been empty for a while, but what if the roof needs replacing? Not a five minute job and not cheap. Ten, twenty, thirty thousand Euros maybe?
So please, when you go to buy a French house, leave the rose-tinted glasses at home!
Most other drawbacks will depend on how well you know how you actually go about buying a French property and the legal process involved. It's not that complicated - in fact it's easier than the English system and I've spoken to other foreign nationals who feel the same. It is different though, and the French do like their paperwork. There's also the language.
If you speak fluent French that's great. If not, make sure you get good advice that you can trust. French property agents are highly regulated and very professional, but not everyone operating in France is French and not everyone is operating legally. You can find out a lot online but make sure your sources are reliable and don't have their own axe to grind. You can also buy books on the subject. A few dollars or pounds invested now could save you literally thousands later on.
In a nutshell there are no 'secrets' for a successful French property purchase, just a few things you should do - and you probably already know what they are. Research your chosen region, research the property market and research the process you need to go through - in detail. Add in a sense of humour and a bit of patience (because things do go slightly awry from time to time) and you'll be fine.
Apply the same attitude as you would to buying property at home and you won't go far wrong. If you don't understand something ask, and don't be fobbed off.
If I've given the impression that it's difficult or onerous to buy a house in France I apologise, I certainly wouldn't want to put anybody off. France really is a great place to live and it's still packed with property bargains. If you get it right, it's a pretty straight-forward process. You might get frustrated occasionally but that would be the same wherever you bought a house.
Jeff's invaluable book is available at http://frenchpropertybuyersguide.com