Having rented houses in all parts of France since the 1970's and just organised this years stay of 12 weeks in Burgundy I came across great differences in the pricing of houses. This year 2012 we are paying 1200 Euros for the 12 weeks, fully inclusive of all services. At the moment 1200 Euros is about 1500 Australian dollars.
I am not saying you can all get such low prices but you should be able to get really nice and clean houses for no more than 200-300 Euros a week. Chateaux will be a little dearer!
I always wander the numerous websites looking at prices and am always amazed at the differences and values. I came across one local site whose prices started at about 1800 dollars a week! And rising to over 2300 dollars a week for quite ordinary houses. And that was the starting price, just for two people, extra people were 200 per person or more on top. If you could afford four weeks at these prices then you might get a 10% discount!
Always shop around!
Our 12 weeks dropped from 175 Euros for one week and zoomed down to 100 Euros a week for the 3 months.
So it pays to look at many sites and spend as long as it takes to get the best price with good value and facillities included.
I have always looked at UK, Australian and USA house rental sites but have never in all my years ever rented anything from one of them. They rarely offer good value for money and often your large deposit is their commision.
A few simple ideas for getting a better deal.
Go onto a French search engine site and type in "location vacances"
and this will bring up numerous suggestions. Don't worry about the French language as most sites have English versions to click on.
A couple of things to look for on a particular house site that you chose is to look closely at the photos shown and the location map at to where the house is located. The French have many good map sites and if you have an address for the house you like then you can type it in and go flying over 'your house' and maybe even see it from the roadside in photo form.
Often where the rental rates are printed there might be a simple little sentence "selon duree degressif" or similar. This simple means they are offering discounts for longer stays. Even three weeks might give you a suprising discount.
Another word is 'arrhes 20%' which means the deposit you must pay on acceptence of the rental. They will give you a bank account in which to pay this into. When you first write mention that you will send the deposit by draft and pay the rest in cash on arrival, the French just love cash money. There will be a "caution" mentioned on the site and that is the security or bond you must pay on arrival. This might be about 100-200 Euros and will be returned the day you leave as long as the house is in the same top condition as when you arrived. A cleaning fee might range from 20-50 Euros.
In Winter or early Spring there might be a charge for wood or a fee for the central heating if oil fired.
May I suggest you chose a particular region of France to explore and and spend your whole visit there and not go racing all over the country trying to do the lot in one hit.
Where it has the name of the owner, and this is why I use French sites, you will be dealing with the actual house owner of the house you might be choosing. They often just pay a single yearly advertising fee to be on the site of about 50 Euros and do not have to pay any high commision fees on every week they rent out.The owners often live next door or in the same village so any on the spot problems can be sorted instantly.
If the owner speaks another language other than French there will be flags or words denoting which.
If you really like the look of a house but the language is only French contact them anyway. They often have friends or children that speak English. Another way is to write out your request for dates and discounts in English and then go to a 'translation' site and turn it into French.
From the French point of view this is a big plus for you because it shows you are trying your French out. When you get there big grins and the waving of arms will cover most situations.
If the owners reply in French then just go to the translation site and reverse it into English.
Once you are offered a discount, don't quibble, either accept or say no thanks this time. Have three or four houses as favourites and pick the best deal.
Know you holiday dates and don't chop and change them once committed.
Once you have booked the house in question, get to know the region you will be in by buying maps and a book or two. On some French maps you can actually see the black dot that represents your house.
That would need to be a 1/25000 scale series type map. A hikers map of which France has hundreds.
Quality Supermarkets and Hypermarkets abound in France and you will never be too far from one of them. If you are lucky your house might be in or near a village with a small supermarket for the always forgotten milk or bread.
Try not to be too gobbed smatched at the quality of food in France and the lower prices of almost everything.
Buy an icebox for the car and simple picnic chairs that fold up and pop in the boot. Allow an amount of money for this and happily leave them at the house or with the lease car when you return it.
If you plan to go to another country in Europe rather than France then all the above can apply just as easily.