Friday, April 25, 2014

French Property News, May 2014

In this month's issue - which is a 'special' dedicated to setting up and running a successful business in France, I have written a piece taking stock of where France is in May 2014, just having voted in the local elections and with European élections due at the end of May. It is also signals the end of François Hollande's second year as President (with another three years to run).

Now that the piece has appeared we know the result of the local elections - significant losses for the socialists, gains for the UMP (Mr Sarkozy's party) and for the National Front. The most striking effect has been the sacking of the prime minister (Mr Ayrault) by Mr Hollande and the appontment of Manuel Vals, former interior minister, in his place. There have been some resignations, including the former ecologist housing minister Cécile Duflot.

The most striking changes are a reduction in the number of ministers to about half of the previous government, and greater reliance on 'ministers of state'. The intention is to have a smaller inner working cabinet headed by Valls. It is probably too early to comment but critics suggest that the new government is largely re-hashing older policies, when what is required, they argue, are significant reductions in public expenditure, urgent action to reduce unemployment and concrete measures to increase productivity.

For the property sector, no significant new policies have yet been announced though the country's demographic profile may be enough to get the market moving again. With some three million pensioners expected to enter retirment in the next decade, it is predicted that many of them - already property owners - will want to dispose of their larger principal homes, usually located in the northern half of the country, and join the exodus South to the sun. As a result there is a growing market for new-build properties and for alternatives such as timber construction, and an emphasis on energy saving, with an eye on the future.

French Property News is available from newsagents or on subscription.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What buyers like and dislike - survey

According to a Survey published in the Daily Mail* abd conducted by a property website** among 2000 house-hunters, the following features are most frequently liked/disliked when viewing a property with the intention to buy:

Attractive features:

Fitted kitchen (36%)
Granite kitchen surfaces (31%)
Wooden floors (23%)
Wood burning stove (22%)
Concealed appliances (21ù°
Neutral colour scheme (20%)
American fridge-freezer (16%)
Aga range/cooker (18%)
Heated towel rails (16%)
Roll-top bath (15%)

Unattractive features

Woodchip wallpaper (39%)
Mirrored ceilings (36%)
Nude portraits (35%)
Avocado bathroom suites (31%)
Taxidermy (24%)
1880s DIY painte effects (rag olling etc) (20%)
Strip lighting (17%)
Artex ceilings (16%)
Themed rooms (12%)
Hot tub (11%)

What I found surprising about the results, and was confirmed by some of the reader comments, is that most of the features which are liked or disliked are primarily 'cosmetic' and could be changed or installed by the new owners (decoration, kitchen fitments etc) or might not even be left behind by the vendors (such as kitchen appliances). Also there is no reference to aspect, location, neighbours, state of the building fabric etc.

Some of the dislikes are regularly mentioned on French TV programmes such as Stephan Plaza's 'Recherche Apartment ou Maison' including stuffed animales, displays of fire-arms and virtually any extremes of decor, themes (Western, 1950s etc). The advice as always is to present a neutral, bland interior designed to appeal to the widest category of potential buyer.

On another note, I have just been reading a similar US Survey*** on what Americans like or dislike about (other people's bathrooms). There were over 170 reader comments, on burning issues such as when the loo seat should be left up or down or whether a (lidded or not) trash can should be installed.

Reading this article I think I learnt more about the American psyche than you could possibly learn from years of study.

Sources: *  **  ***