“It’s now or never” say Brits buying property on the French property market.
Are Brits still buying property in France?
Find out how Brexit is affecting British buyers and the real estate market in France:
The UK is now in a Brexit transition period, which should last at least until 31 December 2020. But how is this impacting the French property market and the British love affair with France?
According to Migration Watch UK there are around 185,000 Britons living in France. It’s also the second most popular destination for holidays for Brits welcoming 8.5 million UK visitors a year (half of the 15.6 million who visit Spain).
Before the referendum, 85% of Home Hunts’ British clients were buying holiday homes with 15% looking for permanent residences. After the vote for Brexit these numbers changed to 75% and 25% respectively.
Since the transition period started on 31 January 2020, those percentages are still accurate, although the number of British buyers has decreased slightly. With this part of the process expected to last for less than a year (the average time it takes to sell a property in France), time is now of the essence. This is because most British buyers now are keen to find, negotiate and officially own their properties before the UK leaves the EU and different rules come into play.
In this Q&A with Tim Swannie, Director of Home Hunts, we find out more about how Brexit is affecting the French property market and why a buyer’s agent service like Home Hunts can help British buyers find their dream properties in France before the looming deadline.
Question: Why is it so challenging to find the right property and seal the deal in less than a year in France?
Tim Swannie: When you are buying prime property from afar, understanding where to buy in popular places and where to search for an off-the-beaten-track hidden gem, is problematic. Holidays and downtime dedicated to location research can be inconvenient, and understanding the local market is a bewildering task if you don’t have the time to make connections and carry out in-depth research.
It is far better and quicker to seek the advice of experts living in the region, such as Home Hunts. We are officially registered real estate agents and offer a buyer’s agent service that is independent, knowledgeable and tailor-made to our client’s exact requirements. During this transition period many clients tell us we offer the best shot they’ve got at finding their dream home and becoming the official owners before the transition deadline expires.
Q: What areas of Southern France are most popular with British buyers?
TS: The French Riviera remains a firm favourite and the main coastal towns such as Cannes, Antibes and Nice are among the most popular. But property in some of the back-country villages, such as Mougins, Valbonne, Grasse and Saint Paul de Vence, is also coveted by the Brits.
Moving slightly further west, the Var has seen an increase too because it is close to the Riviera but offers a more laid back “Provence style” way of life and offers good value for money. Villages such as Fayence, Lorgues and Cotignac are very popular, too.
The Luberon and the Alpilles in Provence have been a real hit with the Brits for several decades but we saw a decline in enquiries following the 2016 referendum. This has changed in 2019, however, and Brits are now our biggest buyers in these areas for the first time in four years.
Q: Is the property market still fairly robust in France, and who is buying?
TS: The property market is still really buoyant in France, even with the ongoing Brexit issues. We have fewer British enquiries, but the ones we are getting are serious, and we saw a resurgence of British buyers in 2019.
We have many more European clients such as German, Dutch and Scandinavians, and we are also seeing an increase of non-EU clients buying in the South, and in Paris too. These clients include Russians, Chinese and buyers from the Middle East who once would perhaps have focused on London but are now investigating other options.
Q: Has the number of British buyers dropped as a result of Brexit?
TS: The number of British enquiries has dropped since the referendum, but the quality of the enquiries has improved, particularly in 2019.
We did see a resurgence of British buyers in 2019, particularly in the second half of the year. Pre-referendum, British buyers made up more than 60% of our buying clients, this dropped to around 30% in 2017 and 2018. While enquiries have dropped, the quality has certainly increased, and we have helped a larger number of Brits to buy this year in many areas, particularly on the Riviera. Overall, British clients made up 50% of our buyers in 2019.
Q: Have you noticed a rush of buyers moving to France for good?
TS: There has been an increase in the number of UK families looking to move to France permanently. Our top six prime territories are always the French Riviera, Provence, Paris, the Alps, Languedoc (now part of Occitanie) and South West France (Nouvelle Aquitaine), but rural locations are also seeing more demand.
Q: Are prices increasing yet?
TS: Prices are rising across France generally, major cities have seen some great increases in 2019. Paris property prices have increased by around 5%. Property in Bordeaux has also risen by nearly 8%, there has been a 7% rise in neighbouring Occitanie capital Toulouse. In the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, Marseille and Aix-en-Provence property prices have increased by 6.8% and Montpellier by 4.2%.
Q: How has the decreasing value of the pound affected British buyers?
TS: Many buyers have not allowed the weak pound to delay their decision, so they have opted to take a mortgage rather than pay in cash. This allows them to keep the majority of their sterling and take out a Euro mortgage. They can opt to pay this off in the future once the pound has regained some strength.
Clients definitely have a “it’s now or never” feeling towards purchasing in France at the moment.
If you are looking to buy a property in France, visit Home Hunts’ online portfolio at www.home-hunts.net, but to speak to a consultant about your specific needs, call +33 (0)970 44 66 43.