As well as ever-pop­u­lar Eymet in Dor­dogne, the Alpine ski vil­lages and Haut-langue­doc com­mu­ni­ties are among the places most sought af­ter by Bri­tish bor­row­ers, finds Felic­ity Sul­li­van

French Property News - - Contents -

The prop­erty hotspots in France favoured by Bri­tish bor­row­ers

Brexit has been cited as both the rea­son for a drop in Bri­tish in­ter­est in buy­ing in France and a driv­ing fac­tor for in­creased de­mand! De­pend­ing on who you ask and when, it seems we are just as un­sure about the im­pact the 2016 de­ci­sion has had as we are about the de­tails of any deal made with the EU prior to Bri­tain leav­ing.

How­ever, amidst the con­fu­sion there are some cer­tain­ties. Firstly, we aren’t buy­ing in France purely be­cause it’s in the EU; our love for France, its cul­ture, food, wine, life­style, and our dream of mov­ing there is still strong. En­quiries at In­ter­na­tional Pri­vate Fi­nance are up by 15% on 2017, and es­tate agents have been re­port­ing sim­i­lar in­creases. Sec­ondly, for all our com­plain­ing about the cold Bri­tish weather, we love an Alpine re­treat!

The Au­vergne-rhône-alps re­gion is the most pop­u­lar re­gion for our Bri­tish buy­ers so far this year, and we’ve seen a 10% in­crease on 2017 in the num­ber of pur­chases there. Its pop­u­lar­ity with the Bri­tish is noth­ing new; it’s been the most pop­u­lar re­gion with our buy­ers for sev­eral years. This growth seems to be com­ing at the ex­pense of the sea­side ar­eas in the Provence-côte d’azur re­gion, which is the big­gest faller in terms of our trans­ac­tions this year.

The hills are alive with the sound of buy­ers The Au­vergne-rhône-alps re­gion is a vast one, cov­er­ing al­most 70,000km2 (half the size of Eng­land). It stretches from the beau­ti­ful, ver­dant Au­vergne in the west, with its lush vol­canic land­scape, to the snow-filled val­leys and peaks of the Alps, bor­der­ing Switzer­land and Italy, to the east. And it’s in the east where the Bri­tish have con­tin­ued to flock, es­pe­cially to the depart­ments of Haute-savoie and Savoie. Our stats show that they are the two most pop­u­lar depart­ments in 2018, an in­crease of 12% on last year.

Prop­erty prices within these two depart­ments can vary con­sid­er­ably. Our av­er­age is €718,000 which is a two-bed flat in Courchevel or a seven-bed chalet in Châ­tel. This year, we’ve seen a huge in­crease in non­res­i­dent Brits buy­ing around the key re­sorts near Geneva. Cha­monix is up 80%, fu­elled in part by its in­vest­ment in non­ski­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as moun­tain­bik­ing and climb­ing, which has made it a true year-round re­sort.

With euro mort­gage rates for non-res­i­dents at his­toric lows (1.25% for a 15-year fixed rate), smart buy­ers are see­ing the sense in bor­row­ing money in eu­ros to mit­i­gate any ex­change rate fluc­tu­a­tions and, with no lim­i­ta­tion on rent­ing out the prop­erty, the abil­ity to at­tract tourists all year-round in­creases the rev­enue po­ten­tial.

Other ar­eas in and around Morzine, such as St-jean-d’aulps, Châ­tel and Megève are also in­creas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, and we have seen a fall in de­mand from those re­sorts with three-hour air­port trans­fers, such as Méri­bel, Courchevel and Val Thorens in Les Trois Val­lées. It makes sense to have your Alpine re­treat within an hour of a main air­port hub, to max­imise those week­end get­aways and when trav­el­ling with the kids (al­though the sea­sonal weekly di­rect Eurostar ser­vice to Moûtiers and Bourg-st-mau­rice does make those re­sorts more ac­ces­si­ble in the win­ter sea­son).

We spoke to Alpine Prop­erty, an es­tate agency in Haute-savoie spe­cial­is­ing in as­sist­ing for­eign buy­ers. Their fig­ures backed up our as­sump­tions around the de­sire to find value for money. Found­ing part­ner Gareth Jefferies said: “2018 is al­ready well up on 2017, kicked off by the great (and early) snow we had this sea­son, and the sum­mer hasn’t showed any signs of slow­ing. Our feel­ing is that the av­er­age prop­erty in the big-name re­sorts is cur­rently los­ing out to re­ally lovely prop­erty in the sur­round­ing vil­lages. When you com­pare what €900,000 will buy in the cen­tre of Morzine the Brits pre­fer what they see in St-je­and’aulps!”

Red red wine So, we love the Alps for its all year-round ac­tiv­i­ties, but let’s be clear; we do still love wine, vine­yards and fields of sun­flow­ers. In­clud­ing the pop­u­lar depart­ments of Dor­dogne, Lot-et-garonne and Gironde, the Nou­velle-aquitaine re­gion to the west of France re­mains the sec­ond most pop­u­lar re­gion with our Bri­tish buy­ers this year, with pur­chases in the Dor­dogne in­creas­ing by over 4%. The French banks pre­fer to lend in

French banks pre­fer to lend in prop­erty hotspots, where the mar­ket is more liq­uid

prop­erty hotspots, where the mar­ket is more liq­uid and will of­fer higher loan-to-val­ues on homes in those ar­eas. Here the rental mar­ket is go­ing strong with over 80% of our pur­chasers say­ing that they in­tend to rent out their prop­erty for part of the year. We’ve even had a client come back to buy a sec­ond French prop­erty within a cou­ple of miles of the first; their first pur­chase proved such a pop­u­lar rental they have had to buy a sec­ond to be able to make use of it them­selves!

Berg­erac and its sur­round­ing Dor­dogne vil­lages con­tinue to draw in for­eign buy­ers due to the low-cost flights. In­deed agents in the nearby town of Eymet, which has long had a high con­cen­tra­tion of Bri­tish ex­pats, were say­ing they had reached 30% of their 2018 tar­get by Fe­bru­ary!

If you are think­ing of pur­chas­ing with a French mort­gage it’s sen­si­ble to get an ap­proval in prin­ci­ple be­fore head­ing out on view­ing trips. When prop­er­ties are sell­ing quickly both ven­dors and es­tate agents are in­sist­ing on see­ing ‘proof of funds’ be­fore go­ing out on view­ings or ac­cept­ing of­fers.

Walk­ing on sun­shine

Fi­nally, our third most pop­u­lar re­gion in 2018 so far is Oc­c­i­tanie, with al­most 15% of our Bri­tish buy­ers pur­chas­ing in the re­gion. With a coast­line stretch­ing al­most 200km from Per­pig­nan in the south to Mont­pel­lier in the north, it en­joys over 2,200 hours of sun­shine a year (Lon­don av­er­ages 1,400) with an av­er­age high of 29°C in the sum­mer months. A to­tal of 87km of the coast­line falls within the Hérault de­part­ment, which was one of our fastest­grow­ing of all the French depart­ments in terms of num­ber of trans­ac­tions this year.

In­ter­est­ingly, most of our buy­ers weren’t pur­chas­ing prop­erty in the larger sea­side re­sorts of Sète and Grande Motte, nor in the ma­jor ur­ban area of Mont­pel­lier. In­stead, they have ven­tured in­land, to the foothills of the Black Moun­tains where they have found beau­ti­ful towns and vil­lages such as Or­largues (voted one of France’s most beau­ti­ful vil­lages), Ro­que­brun and St-geniès-de-fonte­dit.

In terms of prop­erty prices, the most re­cent re­port from the No­taires de France shows that prices in Mont­pel­lier and its sur­round­ing ar­eas have risen by 4.8% over the past year to an av­er­age of €313,500. In­ter­est­ingly, our av­er­age pur­chase price for this re­gion is €350,000, which is prob­a­bly ex­plained by the fact that pur­chas­ing with a French mort­gage can in­crease your bud­get, es­pe­cially when there are banks will­ing to lend up to 85% (or more in some cases) of the pur­chase price.

What re­mains clear, when look­ing at all the pop­u­lar ar­eas, is that France truly does have some­thing for ev­ery­one. What are you wait­ing for?

Paraglid­ing at St-jean-d’aulps

The vil­lage of Ro­que­brun on the River Orb in Hérault

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