Tuesday, May 28, 2013

French estate agents

Reading the various French property discussion forums, it seems that many (British) contributors have a veritable fear and loathing of estate agents, who are invariably blamed when their property fails to get sold!

To put the issue in perspective, whether you like them or hate them, French estate agents are still responsible for over 70% of property transactions, the remainder being transactions between private sellers and buyers, and the remaining few handled by some Notaires,  who are also licensed to act as estate agents (not all choose to do this). Overall property sales have declined by under 20% in 2012-13 so far, but prices have not declined dramatically, and there is not an over-supply of properties.

Various commentators argue that France needs a further 500 000 properties every year, to replace older properties reuiring updating but no-one wishes to take them because of cost, and to house a growing propulation. The collapse of an estimated one in three French marriages has also fuelled a demand for larger properties (3 or 4 bedrooms) to accommodate 're-composed' familes, where the partners may each bring children into a newly formed household.

Not surprisingly in a time of economic uncertainty - over jobs, taxes, spending power - the market for second homes has stagnated, with a lack of buyers in coastal and country areas, and owners trying to offload a second property they use less often, as children grow up and holiday habits change. In some areas, second homes can represent 70% of the local housing stock, so the decline in sales is particularly noticeable.

The decline in sales of first-time properties results as much from general economic uncertainty as the difficulties young would-be owners face when trying to secure a mortgage, particularly after the ending of the PTZ (no-interest government guaranteed loan) in January 2012. As a result many are stuck in rented properties, when they could be paying the equivalent amount in loan repayments as they do in monthly rentals.

Although bank interest rates are at their lowest for decades, lenders are increasingly reluctant to lend to employees in 'unsecure' jobs, which translates into any job that is not in the public sector!

As I have so often said on this blog, the French market is huge and complex, with many regional variations. Depending on what type of property you own and where it is located, you may have to wait for a general upturn in the French economy and/or a radical change of direction by president Hollande, before the market recovers.

Friday, May 17, 2013

French Property News, June 2013

In this special 'house hunting' issue, I have discussed some of the points to watch when house hunting that are sometimes overlooked by buyers. I have had to concentrate on some of the boring details such as planning permissions, regulations that may apply once planning consent has been given in the case of a new-build or extension, and some tips about buying land for building. Other points to note are flood-risks and how the degree of risk is classified and what are the consequences of living in an area liable to flooding (some 10% of all land in France).

I take another look at the often misunderstood workings of the system known as co-ownership, and its benefits and occasional restraints.

French Property News is available on subscription or on sale in newsagents.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

French Property News, May 2013

Under the title 'Spanish connection' my article in this month's issue of French Property News focuses on the effects of the new fast TGV train service that will shortly connect Perpignan with Barcelona in just 50 minutes.  Since writing the piece, the projected date of 1 May has been put back again to some time in the autumn, due to technical difficulties still to be resolved (while the French trains take their electric power from overhead cables, the Spanish trains use the track).

Services from inside France and from the UK and other European countries currently reach Figueras, just over the border in Spain, and passengers have to switch to a Spanish AVE train to complete their journey to Barcelona and beyond.

The new service will be of particular interest to travellers who prefer the train, with a return fare from London to Barcelona already available at 203 pounds sterling, and an SNCF special one-way ticket from Paris to Figueras (via Perpignan) for 49 euros.

On both sides of the border hopes have been raised regarding increased cultural, tourist and commercial links resulting from the new services, and with Barcelona (eventually) just 50 minutes away, it is easy to imagine taking a shopping or business trip by train, as opposed to using the frequently congested A7/E15 motorway (2 to 3 hours depending on the time of year).

Barcelona and Spanish Catalonia are Europe's richest regions, with a GDP some 20% higher than the rest of Europe, due to well established manufacturing industries, culture and tourism - including the Costa Brava.

French Property News is available on subscription and fom newsagents.