Saturday, February 20, 2010

The British are back! Daily Telegraph

According to the Daily Telegraph, British buyers, who have become increasingly wary of investing in "emerging hotspots" (nonetheless heavily promoted by the British media at the time!) are now returning to the tried and tested French property market, with particular interest in Gascony, the Dordogne, the Loire Valley and the Mediterranean. This comes just months after an 80% drop in purchases by British buyers overseas during 2009, who own an estimated 430,000 holiday homes outside Britain, according to a report published by Savill's estate agency.

"The big news is the Brits are back" according to Knight Frank's French department. "It's a good time to buy. French property prices have fallen (not unversally true!) and there is a nice supply of good-quality properties at the right price on the market". More than 70% of the firm's enquiries so far this year have been from Britons with greatest interest in the south, the south west and the Alps.

As well as France's traditional attractions, potenial buyers are now citing proximity, including the option to drive or take the train, in addition to using low-coast flights and regional airports (80% of holiday homes are sited within easy driving distance of a regional airport). The warm southern weather, after a particularly severe British winter, is another plus, with the Mediterranean attracting the highest number of short break visitors to France, Spain and Italy. The survey estimates that 25% of holiday homes are located in France, 25% in Spain and a further 25% elsewhere in Europe.

Although some overseas owners felt their properties had lost some of their value, this was compensated for by the increase in rentals, some owners letting out their properties for the first time. Three and four bedroom houses proved particularly popular with seasonal renters during 2009. The report also notes that period properties are increasing in popularity, provided they are ready to move into and do not require renovations; in contrast to recent trends for purpose-built resorts. Three-quarters of holiday homes cost less than £300,000 and just under half less than £200,000 - easily achievable in my region of Languedoc-Roussillon.

Here we have escaped the worst of the winter weather, with the Pyrénées-Orientales Mediterranean region particularly well protected by its sourrounding hills - the Albères to the north, Mont Canigou to the west and the Pyrenees to the south, in line with the traditional boast of 300 days of sunshine a year. And remember, we are less than two hours drive across the Spanish border to the Costa Brava!

Property prices have generally remained stable in contrast to the 10 to 30 per cent drop in some areas, particularly inland Spain, where some owners who purchased on a 75% mortgage are now in negative equity, according to the survey.

My local estate agency colleagues report an increase in enquiries from both British and French clients in the first two months of 2010 and I am currently advising a number of clients who are in the process of buying property in the region.

Sources: Zoe Dare Hall, Daily Telegraph, Friday 19 February 2010; Graham Norwood, Daily Telegraph, Friday 26 February 2010; Rebecca Gill, Savill's estate agency, UK, author of the Report.