With the Brexit deadline looming, the last thing people looking to settle in France needed was the arrival of coronavirus. But don’t panic, you can still rent or buy a home there. See how the French property market has coped so far and how it is meeting the challenge.
The France property market at the start of the year
At the start of this year the France property market was very strong, possibly the strongest it had been in some time. Low interest rates provided desirable mortgages attracting first time buyers, local buyers and overseas buyers alike. The market was generally very buoyant.
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In April, following quarantine rules and total lockdown in France, figures of physical house sales dropped. Despite this, estate agents started recording increased traffic to their websites. The French looking for property prior to lockdown may have not been able to travel, but they certainly had more time and space to research and redefine their priorities.
Estate agencies in France responded to the crisis and adapted quickly to a virtual/digital means of working, which included virtual tours. The once necessary face to face sales process in the “Notaires” office was adapted to include zoom meetings and digital signatures. Really, the industry never stopped. In fact, there was a rise of property purchases without a single real life viewing – but clearly that approach is not for everyone!
Surprisingly, despite initial fears for the industry, the result of problems caused by restrictions seems to have had quite the opposite effect. Interest from both the local and international property hunters, having been restricted during this time, seems to have created a “pent up” demand.
France property market changes of note during this year
Prices in France do not seem to have changed much and have remained stable. The most notable change is that properties do seem to have been selling more quickly than they have historically.
Another change is the driver behind the areas that people are looking to buy, both from the local and international markets.
The local market
Within the local French market, people who had lived through total lockdown in big cities saw the attraction of a more rural setting. They also questioned their essential needs, in terms of where they were currently living and working.
Searches around less populated and rural areas increased by over 80%, in particular around the South East and South West of the country. It is possible though that for French city dwellers, this interest is more focused on purchasing holiday homes rather than primary residences. However, another reason for buying property at this time is for investment purposes. It it used as a way to safe-guard savings whilst financial markets remain in flux.
For buyers from the UK, transport links have clearly become an even more important consideration.
Buyers from the UK
For buyers from the UK, transport links have clearly become an even more important consideration. This, along with the future of work looking to be based around home working, has prompted many people to think differently. With travel worries and a general concern over the future of air travel, the ability to drive to France easily has become of paramount importance. Areas from the North to the West of France, as far down to the Charente, have risen in popularity. These are ideal locations for those wishing to return frequently to the UK.
On the day lockdown was eased in the UK, some agencies broke all records for property enquiries. Once again, people prepared to visit France to look for their dream home. And, of course, the rise in popularity of a certain type of residence – the Chateau – has risen dramatically! This is presumably due to the popularity of the television programme, “Escape to the Chateau”. The programme has fuelled creativity and interest in finding your very own French castle.
Whilst location has become a clear priority, the type of property that UK buyers are looking for has not really changed. The attraction and opportunity of more outside space in France at affordable prices has remained the same as ever. As has the potential benefit in the change in lifestyle.
The Brexit effect
With the Brexit transition period ending on December 31 this year, the race was already on for many who had decided to become permanent residents in France. Then came the added complication of a worldwide pandemic.
From the end of this year, buyers from the UK will be Third Country Nationals (like Australians, South Africans etc) rather than Europeans. The resulting impact on residency applications will be higher income requirements and more administrative hoops to jump through. The window of opportunity to apply for residency before this is fast closing. The general time frame from offer to completion in France is around three months, so offers must be made now in order to secure your permanent home prior to that date.
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Holiday home-owners also seem to have rethought their strategies. If not becoming permanent residents in France, they will be subject to the constraint, from that date forwards, of only being able to stay 90 days within 180. As a result, many have decided to make that leap and change the status of their homes here to permanent residences.
The rush to beat the deadline, in spite of the restrictions for a large part of this year, has partly aided the recovery of the property market.
The current situation in France
France is continuing to suffer a second wave of coronavirus, but currently has an infection rate smaller than the UK or Spain. There is still no legal quarantine when travelling from the UK and the flights, trains and ferries continue.
Moreover, people everywhere are living with the new restrictions, which have largely been introduced by local area Prefectures. President Macron has argued against a second complete lockdown.