Monday, December 31, 2012

French Property News, January 2013

In the January issue of French Property News I offer a few tips on how to sell your French property in what is currently a slow market - up to 20% fewer sales than in 2011. My main advice is not to be panicked into reducing the asking price, as all the evidence shows that this does not guarantee a sale. Much depends on the type of property and its location, with the sale and purchase of second homes (which represent 70% of the housing stock in ly locality) particularly difficult. As a discretionary purchase, buying a second home is generally not what people do in times of crisis and the general uncertainty about the new fiscal and social policies of the French socialist government.

Good marketing tactics include choosing the right type of agent - if your property is likely to appeal to British buyers, then use an agency that is exoperienced in this market. Sales details should be written in English, with good photographs of the property and its location. You can also market the property yourself using the many websites addressed to international buyers.

The good news is that in line with the rest of Europe, France has an aging population, with large numbers (30%) coming up to retirement in the next few years - those born in the 1950s onwards when France was at its most prosperous and who enjoyed 30 years of job security during the post-war reconstruction boom.. Many are already home owners and have the necessary ressources to move south in their retirement. They could be just what is needed to revive a flagging property market.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Expulsions, re-possessions, forced takeovers....

While most of Europe is in crisis, the property market is suffering from a number of problems, some of them preculiar to France.

Currently the new socialist government, and in particular its extreme left wing housing minister Cécile Duflot, are making the usual noises about France's 'housing crisis' - in a country where 10% (3 million properties) of the housing stock comprises second homes, and at any one time up to two million properties are vacant (between tenants, awaiting sale, awaiting planning permissions etc). In addition, there an inumerable redundant properties on the market - including some 600 former convents and other buildings owned by the Catholic church, some on offer for a token 1 euro - belonging to the government (former law courts, libraries, regional offices), public organisations (former railwway stations, warehouses owned by EDF), the army (former barracks), banks and insurance companies etc.

Many of these buildings have reached the end of their useful life and require considerabl investmnt to convert them into acceptable dwellings, conforming to current norms for safety and comfort. Many also are in locations where people do not want to live (typically army barracks or former Church properties, industrial buildings), for lack of work opportunities and public transport and other facilities.

Surprising therefore that the housing minister has announced that the government is preparing to take over a number of redundant buildings belonging to 'personnes morales' (institutional as opposed to private owners), reportedly 'within a matter of days' in an effort to house the homeless. Certain key cities are to be targetted and also the affluent Côte d'Azur! Mme Duflot insists that everything will be done legally but given the cost of, say, converting a former office block into housing, questions must arise as to who will pay and how long the process will take.

More sensiblse for the French government to free up the existing traditional housing market, which is currently stagnating, with 20% fewer sales recorded in 2012 compared with 2011. Potential buyers are holding back, due to concerns about their job security and the lack of available credit - interest rates are low but conditions are more stringent, including the need for a substantial deposit. Owners who wish to sell, particularly in the case of second homes, are confused about possible favourable or unfavourable tax changes hinted at by the government, while prices remain generally stable as potential vendors are reluctant to reduce their asking price, even if a buyer can be found.