Mar­ket re­port

AL­MOST 22 MIL­LION NON-EU CIT­I­ZENS LIVE IN EUROPE Agents and lawyers have had a bumper year but buy­ers are wor­ried, finds Ruth Wood

French Property News - - Contents -

In­sight from agents, buy­ers and prop­erty ex­perts help­ing Brits buy in France

An­glo­phone es­tate agents who spe­cialise in help­ing Brits buy in France are cel­e­brat­ing a record year – but are also urg­ing peo­ple not to panic over Brexit.

With buy­ers rac­ing to get a foothold in France be­fore the UK’S ex­pected exit from the Euro­pean Union, it has been an ex­cep­tion­ally busy 12 months for agents, as well as ex­perts in cross-bor­der law, mortgage bro­kers and cur­rency ex­change spe­cial­ists.

Allez Français, an agency cov­er­ing south-west France, has had its most suc­cess­ful year since it was founded 16 years ago. Clé Rouge had their busiest ever French prop­erty exhibition at Olympia Lon­don in Septem­ber. Fore­most Prop­erty Group has seen un­prece­dented num­bers of prop­erty searches on its web­site over the past few months.

And 2018 has been an­other record year for Leggett Im­mo­bilier, founded more than two decades ago. “We have had around 13,000 en­quiries a month com­ing in to our sales sup­port team,” says Trevor Leggett, chair­man of the na­tion­wide agency. “All of our re­search shows that the driv­ing fac­tors for UK buy­ers are cli­mate and life­style, nei­ther of which can be messed up by the politi­cians!” But he added: “A lot of peo­ple are feel­ing they want to buy some­thing in France for fear they may no longer be able to. I think it’s a lit­tle mis­guided, but some peo­ple seem to think the door is go­ing to go ‘Bang! Closed’ and that’s it; you can’t come in any­more. So it’s a lit­tle bit of panic.”

Wor­ried and hur­ried

In­deed FPN read­ers on so­cial me­dia tell us they feel wor­ried about Brexit, and those in a po­si­tion to re­lo­cate across the Chan­nel feel un­der pres­sure to move fast (see our Face­book com­ments, right).

Their anx­i­ety is un­der­stand­able. As we go to press, the UK-EU divorce ar­range­ment hangs in the bal­ance and Bri­tish na­tion­als have no guar­an­tees about the rights they will have af­ter the timetabled exit date of March 29. In prin­ci­ple, it has been agreed that Bri­tons will re­tain most of their EU cit­i­zen rights dur­ing a tran­si­tion pe­riod last­ing un­til 31 De­cem­ber 2020. This means that peo­ple who move to France and can prove they are le­gally res­i­dent be­fore this dead­line will have the au­to­matic right to stay and en­joy the same so­cial se­cu­rity, health­care, ed­u­ca­tion, train­ing and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties as French cit­i­zens – though not the right to move on to an­other EU coun­try and not nec­es­sar­ily the right to vote. How­ever, this of­fer is sub­ject to a fi­nal deal be­ing signed be­tween the UK and EU.

“For those who are look­ing to move per­ma­nently, there are of course con­cerns, in par­tic­u­lar re­lat­ing to res­i­dency rights, pen­sions, health­care and so on,” says Matthew Cameron, head of French le­gal ser­vices at Ash­tons Le­gal. “How­ever, there ap­pears to be a gen­eral con­sen­sus that, on the ba­sis of a fast-mov­ing me­dia story, there is very lit­tle guid­ance we can give on the over­all pic­ture.”

In the ab­sence of cer­tainty, many peo­ple are rac­ing to get es­tab­lished in France be­fore the of­fi­cial leav­ing date of 29 March. But mov­ing too hastily can lead to costly mis­takes, cau­tions Robert Kent, of Kent­ing­tons Tax & In­vest­ments, a com­pany reg­u­lated by the French fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tor.

“We see so many peo­ple mak­ing a mess of their move to France be­fore they have even moved,” he said. “It’s of­ten how they set up the pur­chase, us­ing the wrong clauses; ar­rang­ing money for pur­chase af­ter they ar­rive, do­ing mar­riage con­tracts that cause prob­lems. The list is long.

“The main is­sue is that few peo­ple take ad­vice and then won­der why it all went wrong.”

Wor­ried but not hur­ried Many of our read­ers tell us they are wor­ried about Brexit but are not hur­ried, sim­ply be­cause they are not in a po­si­tion to move to France in the near fu­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to Char­ente Im­mo­bilier, oth­ers are bid­ing their time, wait­ing to see what hap­pens. “From our dis­cus­sions with them, the main con­cerns about Brexit lie around the ex­change rate and ac­cess to health­care,” says Charles Miller. “Their in­ten­tion is to buy, but only when they know what their funds/ rev­enue will af­ford.”

Of course, the tran­si­tion pe­riod may well ul­ti­mately be ex­tended, giv­ing peo­ple ex­tra time to move and se­cure the au­to­matic right to stay and en­joy the full ben­e­fits.

But even in a worst case sce­nario, Bri­tons will not be barred from re­lo­cat­ing to France if they so wish. Blevins Franks, in­ter­na­tional tax and wealth management ad­vis­ers, points out that there are al­most 22 mil­lion non-eu cit­i­zens liv­ing in the EU – more than 4% of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion. “Just as UK na­tion­als lived in Europe be­fore the UK joined the EU in 1973, they will con­tinue to en­joy liv­ing in the EU af­ter Brexit,” said busi­ness de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor Ja­son Porter. “While liv­ing in the EU is cer­tainly eas­ier for Bri­tons with to­day’s au­to­matic free­dom of move­ment, there have al­ways been ways to re­side in Europe with­out EU mem­ber­ship.”

Old favourites and new hotspots Peren­nial favourite Dor­dogne is still the most pop­u­lar depart­ment with house­hunters search­ing on our mar­ket-lead­ing web­site Fran­ce­prop­er­tyshop.com, and Char­ente has jumped in pop­u­lar­ity to over­take Mor­bi­han as the sec­ond favourite des­ti­na­tion.

It’s a pic­ture re­flected by es­tate agents, who re­port that many of their buy­ers are seek­ing a home in south-west France or Brit­tany.

“The ev­er­green de­part­ments of Char­ente, Char­ente-mar­itime and Dor­dogne see con­tin­u­ing de­mand but are be­ing chal­lenged by the ris­ing stars of Vi­enne and Lot-etGaronne,” says Julie Sav­ill, of Beaux Vil­lages.

Fore­most Prop­erty Group has also no­ticed a grow­ing in­ter­est in the Li­mousin, a ru­ral cen­tral area of France en­com­pass­ing the de­part­ments of Creuse, Cor­rèze and HauteVi­enne and of­fer­ing some of the cheap­est prop­erty in the coun­try.

The av­er­age home in Creuse is just €55,000 while in Cor­rèze (which boasts no less than five Plus Beaux Vil­lages) it’s €110,000, mak­ing it slightly more af­ford­able than neigh­bour­ing Dor­dogne and Lot.

Clé Rouge Im­mo­bilier ad­mits to “ag­gres­sively and suc­cess­fully” pro­mot­ing its patch of Nou­velle-aquitaine, be­tween Berg­erac and Bordeaux, where for­mer Chang­ing Rooms pre­sen­ter Anna Ry­der Richard­son has bought a ruin to trans­form into her dream home.

“We try to fo­cus buy­ers on choos­ing the right area be­fore they look for prop­er­ties,” says Jerry Green. “We have an amaz­ing amount of sun­shine here but not un­bear­able heat; the scenery is beau­ti­ful and var­ied, and there’s a healthy French/ex­pat ra­tio – there are English-speak­ing peo­ple around but it’s not ‘Lit­tle Bri­tain’.”

Cus­tomers who take out mort­gages are more likely to be buy­ing prime prop­erty on the Riviera or Alps. The Au­vergne-rhône-alpes is by far the most pop­u­lar re­gion for cus­tomers of bro­ker In­ter­na­tional Pri­vate Fi­nance, while lux­ury buy­ing agent Home Hunts has had a busy year on the Côte d’azur, Paris and Provence as well as Cha­monix, Megève, An­necy and the French side of Lake Geneva.

Buy­ers and bud­gets Young cou­ples and pen­sion­ers are among them, but the typ­i­cal Bri­tish buy­ers of prop­erty in France are still pre-re­tire­ment cou­ples look­ing to buy a hol­i­day home with a view to mov­ing per­ma­nently in a few years’ time.

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