There are now strong signs that the French property market has finally bottomed out. There’s been a healthy increase in the volume of French property transactions over the past 12 months and a slower and far smaller decline in property prices over the past couple of years.
In fact according to the Federation Nationale d’Immobilier (FNAIM), the sale rate has increased quite considerably over the past year, with an estimated 800,000 property transactions in 2015 compared with just 675,000 in 2014. This represents a 15.6% year-on-year increase.
There’s not an even trend throughout the country however and in some areas its become very much a sellers market whilst in others its still a buyers market. There’s a real shortage of supply in the owner-occupier market, most especially with studio and one bedroom flats in Paris and certain dynamic larger towns around the country, where buyers have virtually no bargaining power whatsoever.
When did the changes start to happen and why?
As with most years, the property trends governing 2015 started in the spring. What appears to have kick started a mini surge in purchases around this time was a slight rise in interest rates. This probably focused buyers’ minds that maybe time was no longer on their side and there was a flurry of activity.
This sudden increase in transactions also meant that the market was left with less of certain types of properties available, which in turn meant property price rises in some areas, where demand began to outstrip supply. In fact we were surprised to see houses come on the market and sell in under 3 months. These houses, I hasten to add, were sensibly priced and ticked a lot of boxes for the average buyer but it was still a good sign that things were picking up.
The factors that point to a more dynamic property market are:
Buyers not putting off their purchase any longer. They have realistically decided that to wait for any further price cuts when they may not come and even if they do, the tiny reductions we’re now seeing are not worth further delays in their property purchase.
Low interest rates. These low rates will not always be around and buyers are becoming acutely aware of time not being so much on their side.
Shortage of properties. Some sellers have become disillusioned with the bargain hunters and have sensibly decided to wait until common sense returns to the market. Furthermore, some properties are coming onto the market and selling in a matter of weeks which has caused a shortage of certain types of properties, which in some areas now means its becoming a sellers market.
European economic recovery. This is a slow process but the signs are good and will bring renewed confidence for the property owner who wants, or needs to trade up, to finally consider moving home. These buyers have been in decline over the past few years, preferring to continue to live in a home that’s no longer appropriate for their needs, rather than taking the risk of moving. They’re the most important buyers in property chains, as they’re both buyers and sellers and are needed to keep property supply and demand fluid.
Investors transferring their money to property. Due to the recent collapse in stock markets, the high risk of capital loss and the low return on financial investments could mean that we’ll start to see investments being transferred to property.
Risks of buying a French Property
This cloud looms large and the forums are awash with worried British expats, however, no-one knows with any certainty that if the UK were to exit the EU, what impact this would have on British owners of French property. What we do know is that whist there’s an estimated 400,000 Brits living in France, there are also around 300,000 French living in the UK, with London often being described in the media as being the 6th largest French city!
So in my view it will be in the interest of both governments to ensure the wellbeing of their citizens abroad and a heavy handed approach by either government would almost certainly have a reciprocal effect on their own citizens, which I’m sure neither would want, despite what we might read in the tabloids.
The one thing we know with any certainty is that there will be uncertainty! And that’s the biggest risk. So what to do?
If you’re planning on buying or selling your home in France then you’re already well aware that the next few months leading up to the EU referendum will be dominated by currency volatility, so its now more important than ever to speak with a currency expert and find the best ways to safeguard the value of your money or property, by forward planning.
If you’re a retired person who’ll be living on your pension, or employed but will be earning a salary in one country and living in another, then speak with a tax planner who specialises in UK and French tax planning, so they can help you understand the impact on your income should the UK exit the European Union.
When is a good time to buy a French Property?
Only you will know when the best time to buy your French property will be and whilst Brexit shouldn’t put you off, you should still consider its potential impact on you personally. However, its worth remembering that there are also many other nationalities successfully living in France who are from countries outside of the EU and also that Brits were moving to France long before 1973 when Britain joined the European community and in 1993 when the European Union was formed.
When buying a French property there are normally high up-front costs, so buying a home in France should almost always be for the long term, which in turn means that all that all the pros and cons of whether to or not to buy at any given time will even out in the end anyway. So our advice as always, is do your homework and plan your purchase carefully but don’t try to second guess the market – the experts get it wrong all the time and you could end up turning yourself inside out if you try!
Buying your Languedoc home – Where to start
We’re here to help you find your dream home in the Languedoc. We can provide you with a fabulous choice of properties from both private sellers and our network of agencies from across the region, making it easier for you to find the best Languedoc properties all under one roof.
So either take a look at our Languedoc properties now and let us know any you’d like to view, or just tell us what you’re looking for and because we only advertise a small percentage of the properties we have available to us, we’ll do the shopping around for you by speaking with our private owners and agence immobiliers. We’ll then pull together a shortlist of properties specifically for you and will continue to work with you to help you find your perfect home.
If required, we can also put you in touch with specialist companies who you might find helpful with either your planned move to France or the day to day living when you arrive. We only recommend companies we’ve either used ourselves and that we particularly like for their excellent service levels, or companies who come highly recommended to us. Our list of useful companies includes, an award winning currency exchange company, a fabulous holiday rental company based in the Languedoc and even a left hand drive car company who gave us brilliant service when we used them a couple of years ago.
Please either give us a call or complete the form below, briefly telling us what help you’re looking for.
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