Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Buying your second home in France

If you decide to buy a second home in France, you will be joining some 3 million French who own a second home in addition to their 'résidence principale'. The main home may be owned or often rented, especially in cities where prices are probibitive, and the alternative is to invest at the same time in a second home as a form of investment and security in later life.

Three-quarters of second homes are located in rural area areas, where four-fifths of these are houses; whereas on the coast the preference (80%) is for an apartment in a co-ownership building. Prices are generally highest on the coast, due to the restricted amount of land available for development, reducing the further you travel inland. In selecting their second home, 40% admit that they chose a region first, then decided on the property. Most popular choices are three hours travel time from the main home. Many second homes are of course inherited and may have been in the family for several generations.

Despite the large number of second homes, they are occupied relatively infrequently, an average of just six weeks per year. However, closer to Paris and other major cities, some owners are reversing the trend and making their country home their principal residence, and only visiting the metropolis a few days a week for work. Although commuting - mainly by TGV - can reduce journey times between home and work, the French are following the worldwide trend towards working at home at least part of the time.

Second homes offer a lively sales and rental market. Over 90% of second homes are owned, but half are sold by their owners within 10 years. As families grow up and children become independent, holidays may be taken abroad or in another part of France. Over a third (1.4 million) second homes are rented out, either long term or more often as holiday lets, making the market extremely competitive. Nearly half are managed professionally, for a commission by local agents, or through longer term contracts with organisations such as Clé-Vacances.

Properties offered on long-term rental comprise mainly studios and small two-room apartments (34%), 51% are medium sized (3 - 4 rooms), and the remaining 15% have 5 or more rooms. As a general rule, the smaller the property the higher the turnover of tenants, and the corresponding wear and tear on fabric and furnishings. Larger apartments are often let unfurnished and typical tenants are longer term and comprise families with working parents and children in local schools.

(Principal source 'Tout l'Immobilier' by Nicolas Tarnaud, Marabout 2003, 2005).