Written by Richard Way,
22nd November 2021

Recorded at Your Overseas Home Virtual on 13 November 2021, overseas property writer Richard Way spoke to two leading experts in buying property in France. We hope you find the information helpful. Please contact our team on 020 7898 0549.

You can see the webinar at www.youroverseashome.com/on-demand.

Participants

Find homes in France via our property portal.

Richard Way, Your Overseas Home Richard Way

Antony Bryan, Beaux Villages Immobilier

Trevor Charnley, Smart Currency Exchange

Richard Way

Good morning ladies and gentleman. Welcome to Your Overseas Home virtual event, this is out autumn event. Thank you for joining us and for taking part in the virtual version of our previously live events. Hopefully it’s all straightforward for you and you’ve got to grips on how the platform works and you’ve had a little browse around our virtual exhibition hall and worked out how you can visit the booths etc.

A little bit of background first. My name is Richard Way and I’m part of the Property Guides Your Overseas content team. I’ve got with us here today two specialists who work in overseas property, specifically to do with France today, Anthony Bryan who is from one our longest established and closest partners in France, Beaux Villages Immobilier, BVI as we call them. Hello Anthony, you’re in France, aren’t you?

Antony Bryan

Good morning, yes I’m in France. I was going to say I’ll show you what the weather’s doing but, because it’s not sunny today but I don’t want to disappoint everyone. The sun doesn’t always shine, let’s say.

Richard Way

Thanks, we’ll come back to you in a minute. Hi Trevor, I think you’re in London, are you?

Trevor Charnley

Yes, I’m in sunny London, or not so sunny this morning, unfortunately.

Richard Way

And you’re from Smart Currency Exchange.

Trevor Charnley

That’s right, I’m the Managing Director here at Smart Currency Exchange. I’ve worked in this particular industry for about 12 years and we’ve obviously helped lots of customers, including those from BVI, to make their dreams come true and to help them with the currency part of their overseas property purchase.

Richard Way

Thank you very much. This event, what’s it all about? Well, you’ll probably know our Property Guides website and resources, that’s a free to use resource for getting information and helping us to put you in touch with all the specialists that you need when you buy your property in France, whether that’s an agent, currency through Trevor and Smart Currency Exchange, or a law firm, tax advice. We can provide all that through the Guides, and then the next step, or the complementary service, if you like, are these events.

So hopefully you’ve read about everything and you’ve been getting our newsletters, and now you can come and actually meet people like Antony and Trevor without having to go to France in the first instance. You can pick their brains about everything you need to know, all those niggling questions you might have about the buying process, currency, whereabouts in France you might want to buy, prices, whatever it is.

Then, ideally, the next step from this event from today is that you’ll book flights to go and do a viewing trip, and you’ll meet someone like Antony who will show you a great selection of properties and make your life difficult in trying to choose one because they’re all fantastic.

That’s what we aim to achieve for you today and, obviously, feel comfortable throughout the whole process. An important tool at this event are the booths where you can go and talk to people like Antony and Trevor in real time. You can go to their booth and there’s a chat function, and you can type your messages in and you’ll speak directly to people, and you can do that privately, and then you can take your questions beyond the event if you need to.

That’s enough from me. Let’s just start. Antony, you’ve lived in France for a number of years now, you’ve run your own estate agency before you were with BVI, you are as good as it gets when we want to talk to a weathered and ingrained expat in South West France. Whereabouts are you in France and just tell us about your town, the area, what first attracted you there, and is it still as good as it was when you first arrived?

Antony Bryan

I would like to think of myself as seasoned, Richard, rather than weathered! I’ve been here for 22 years, not always in the same town. I’ve moved around the South West but nearly always around the Dordogne rivers. So I’ve been over Bordeaux way and then moved eastwards, inland. I’ve lived in Lot et Garonne, the Giron department, and the Dordogne department, and I’m now in the Dordogne, and I’ve been here for six years in the town of Eymet. It is a small town with about 2,500 / 2,700 people, a lovely little village – it’s still got that village feel – and we’re about 20 minutes south of Bergerac and the airport there, so we’re pretty well served in terms of transport links.

 

Richard Way

Have you got family there?

 

Antony Bryan

Yes, my wife, two kids, both at school, both born here, both born in Bordeaux, two girls. There’s probably no better place, I would say, in Europe to bring them up. It’s just fabulous. The lifestyle, the kids don’t know they’re born really, how lucky they are.

 

Richard Way

And, obviously, they’re all fluent in French?

 

Antony Bryan

Yes, and if they speak to people without understanding, then they’ll switch to banter in French.

 

Richard Way

How’s your French?

 

Antony Bryan

Pretty good. When I first moved over I joined a football team, having played rugby and too ruined in terms of my joints. I joined a football team, played at the local village, and then went on to play for the veterans, so it was sort of changing room French I picked up. And then working in the business since, I think 2003 we joined the estate agency, it’s sort of led me into the business side of French. Once you’re immersed you just pick it up. You’ve got no option really, you have to get on. I haven’t had lessons. My school French was reasonable and so that gave me a really good grounding, and then it’s just a question of integration, getting a few friends, I guess, and getting chatting.

 

Richard Way

Brilliant, thank you very much. You’ve told us about where you are, but can you just outline the areas in South West France that Beaux Villages cover and what are the parameters of where you’ll go and look for properties for people? And then also – I know you’ve got agents dotted around and you all work closely to make sure you find the right property and look after your clients – how do you work as a business, in terms of matching clients?

 

Antony Bryan

If you think of the South West of France as an area as big as Wales, it’s geographically pretty huge and the population densities, I suppose, are not dissimilar to Wales. The villages are fairly spread out, the traffic is fairly light and then you’ve got areas of absolutely outstanding beauty. We cover most of it in terms of our business. We’ve got about 15 high street offices, although it’s not really high street in the sense that you’d probably all understand. So the agents and our clients have got a base to go to when they come over, which gives you a central focus really.

 

Generally, we like to think of ourselves as a big family. So if we, for instance, in my area don’t have what clients are searching for, we can refer people on to somebody else in another area who might have exactly what they’re looking for, and it goes on and on until we find the right property and make that match for the buyer. Somebody could be with us for two / three / four years sometimes until they find the right house in the right area or, conversely, they might know their area and they might come over and find their correct or right house on the first viewing.

 

Richard Way

I don’t think I mentioned at the start, but please do ask us questions during the session. There is a function on your zoom platform, the Q&A box. If you open that and type your questions in there and then I can feed them directly to Antony and Trevor, and hopefully we can all learn from everyone’s questions and share the knowledge. Currently, where are most of your clients looking? There must be some popular areas, or areas that are always popular, and then new areas that are becoming increasingly in favour and starting to attract more people. If I said where are the areas you’re hearing the most about at the moment, where would they be?

 

Antony Bryan

The market has been really strange and I can’t actually put my finger on where the hotspots are because it’s pretty much all over. The French market, I wouldn’t say it’s gone mad but the country market, or rural market, has been increasing commensurately since Covid started. There’s a lot of French buying, there’s a lot of pent up demand with the Brits who weren’t able to get out and now can. Obviously Brexit has had a big impact. So all of that impacts on people and what they’re looking for and how they go about looking.

 

What I will say is that there’s always popular areas. So the Dordogne is an ever popular area, the Charente and areas of the Charente, Maritime, ever popular areas. Going further north you get more for your money, so you can buy bigger property, you can kind of fit more and tailor your search more, and it’s easier to find what you’re looking for. And going south into the Lot and the Tarn, very, very popular areas again with internationals and expats.

 

Villages, Dordogne villages, they’re all looked for. I’m in Eymet and it’s very, very popular, and there are villages, what we call Bastides villages, which are the ones that are architecturally beautiful, are still ever popular, and buying a village house in a Bastides village is what a lot of people want to do if they want to become part of a community.

 

Richard Way

We’ve got a first question in and this is something I can put to both of you, Antony first. It’s from Lorente, how does your agency help Americans buy property in France? I guess much the same

 

Antony Bryan

Yes, the same as we’d help anybody else internationally. We have buyers from all over the world and the expat market for us is a very important one. We put in the same amount of effort. In terms of the American market and travel, it’s not been easy, and so we’ve been conducting a lot of virtual viewings and tours for people if they haven’t been able to travel. So if you find a property of interest, then arrange for your agent to do a virtual tour for you so that you don’t have to move, basically, from where you are. It’s become a key tool for us, the video viewings.

 

Richard Way

I bet that’s something you’ve really had to embrace in the last 18 months and has been a huge help, I guess, yes.

 

Antony Bryan

Yes, the market has changed and we’ve adapted to what’s happened and for the most part, it has worked very well. It saves a lot of time for the buyers at the end of the day.

 

Richard Way

Trevor, for an American moving to France, you can move money across from the US to France just like from the UK, the same sort of process?

 

Trevor Charnley

Absolutely. Again, similar to Antony, we have customers who reside all over the world. It’s really important with, I would suggest, non-UK type transactions to engage a currency specialist, and the US is a good example. There are some complexities around the US Patriot Act. So there’s a few bits and pieces to learn in order to get money out of the county and so it’s important to engage with somebody like ourselves who will be able to help you through some of those challenges.

 

Richard Way

For someone who is from the US looking at buying in France, it’s worth talking to you or one of your colleagues now really, just so they understand the process and get everything in place. It’s not something you want to be thinking about when you do get to France and start looking for your property, so would you advise them to get that all sorted as soon as?

 

Trevor Charnley

Absolutely, engage with a currency specialist really early doors. Most customers, in this particular instance, will have a dollar budget, or have an amount of money they’re expecting to spend on their French property and, of course, currency rates move hundreds of times every second. Something like Euro / Dollar, which would be the conversion you would be making in this particular instance, in a typical year you would expect a fluctuation between the best and the worst rate to be somewhere in the region of 10%.

 

So if you imagine you’ve got a $500,000 budget, for example, from the time that you’re initially engaging with somebody like Antony and going to find that initial property, doing your viewing, or your virtual viewing, and understanding what your $500,000 is going to buy you in Euros, by the time you actually complete on that property you could be looking at three months, six months, nine months, whatever your buying cycle is, at which point suddenly your $500,000, where you’ve agreed your property purchase at whatever the Euro price is, if you’ve got a 10% movement between the time you’ve initially negotiated on price compared to when you actually complete, suddenly you might need $550,000 to actually complete on the Euro price you’ve already agreed.

 

So it’s really important to engage with somebody like ourselves really early. We’ll help you to understand what your dollar figure is going to buy you in Euros, give you some feel for tolerance and variance, which you should consider over the period of time, but we can also start to talk to you about some of the currency tools or currency products that are available to fix and secure your exchange rate, so that you aren’t stung, from the back-end, when you actually come to complete.

 

Richard Way

Thank you. I guess, certainly for British buyers in France, especially in rural France, we consider it good value what you can buy, you can buy your home with a plot and there’s space, but for Americans is it a similar thing, Antony, do they see France as good value? In terms of a large country with space and a lot of space to build, I’m guessing it’s not a huge difference, or not quite like someone moving from a congested city in the UK and seeing what they can buy in rural France.

 

Antony Bryan

No, but we do have buyers from the cities in the US. In a typical year obviously we won’t have as many US clients as we will have Brits but we have a handful, and typically they will come from a city and will be moving for a lifestyle reason. They’re looking for traditional, historic properties mainly and that French dream, much like the British buyer, but it might be on a grander scale. They might be looking for a business lifestyle reason, for instance hotels or retreats, things like that.

 

Richard Way

We’ve got some questions coming in. Philip Wilkinson has read that you should apply for a long stay visa about three months before you need it. If you’re trying to buy a house though and you’re negotiating a deal, then you should conclude that before you apply for your visa? I guess it’s about timings and when you start different processes. Are you seeing this, Antony? I’m guessing Philip wants to move to France and is thinking about his visa options now because obviously now we’re third party nationals, and need to apply for some sort of visa to come and live in France, when do you actually do that in relation to the buying process and finding your property, do they go alongside each other?

 

Antony Bryan

As I understand it, you can come and stay for 90 days and then you’ve got to leave, basically. Following on from that, you can apply for a yearly visa, which will give you an ability or an option to stay, and I think you’ve got to show that you can financially support yourself to stay for a year. I’ve heard that you weren’t allowed to apply for residency while you have that yearly visa, although they are looking at changing that. This is an ever moving thing, and I think you’ve just got to look at the government website and take your lead off there, basically. I wouldn’t want to give advice that might be changed next week, so do look at the government websites for guidelines.

 

Richard Way

It’s also fair to say that your entitlement to buy property and own property is completely independent of your right to live there anyway. So you can buy a property at any time, resident or non-resident in France, you just have to work out when you want to move into it and how you coincide the two processes. We were talking about the 90 day rule in the previous seminar – it was about Spain but it applies across the whole of the Schengen area and EU – you can go to France for 90 days within a 180 day period. So you can go to France for 90 days, you can look for your property while you’re there, you can start the buying process while you’re there, you might want to appoint a power of attorney to someone in case you have to come back and you need to continue the buying process, but you can start that whole process. You’ve got 90 days within 180 days. Once you complete, then you can either wait before you’re allowed to go back within the 90 / 180 day rule to France, and then start your residency process, or you can start it from the UK through a French consul perhaps.

 

Antony Bryan

You can, absolutely, and there are people set up in France who can help you and hand hold you through the process of applying for residency in any local area, I know two or three around where I live. But the 90 day thing, the usage that somebody will get from a property has changed, unless you’re going to live in it full-time and, obviously, to live in it full-time you need to have your residency. The fact of how people, historically, would have bought a second home and spent maybe from April to September there, now obviously they can’t, so it has meant that the kind of criteria or profile of your buyer has changed a little bit as well. Your second home usage will not be what it used to be. That doesn’t stop you buying and it hasn’t stopped people buying. Obviously, there is no change in the ability to purchase and want to live in France either.

 

Richard Way

You have to just plan your year a bit more, I suppose, the six months coming forward, and work out when you’re going to want to be there within the rules.

 

Antony Bryan

Yes, and I think that comes back to where you buy as well, because a lot of people who want to use their property might say, I’m going to come down weekends, or I’ll do a week or two weeks on and then two weeks off. You’ve got to look at transport links as well, so proximity to airports or rail links and ferry links, those types of things. You don’t want to be stuck necessarily, if that’s what you’re going to do, in the middle of nowhere with a two and a half hour journey to get to an airport.

 

Richard Way

Another question for you, Antony, and this is about how you help people look for property. It’s from Claire Hadfield, how do we link up with an agent in our chosen area and prepare a list of properties for a planned viewing trip? I’m guessing this is from the UK before they go out, how do they find the right agent in their area, and put together a list of properties? Talk to you today.

 

Antony Bryan

Come and talk to us, Claire, there are plenty of people on the stand waiting to have a chat with you. As an agency we cover generally the South West, so if you know where you want to be, you send an enquiry into our enquiries team and you will be dealt with by the enquiries team, initially, and they will pass you on to somebody who is in your target area. Once you link up with them, you establish an online chat, you can have a Zoom call, which is what we’re all used to doing these days, and basically build up a rapport, which is what you have to do with your agent.

 

So get across what you’re looking for, make your agent listen to you, and they will then go off and find property for you and send you possibilities and potentials for you to view. Do your homework prior to coming and reduce your time, so get virtual viewings organised and things like that, so you’re narrowing the time spent on the ground here and you’re making better use of it. But generally, and certainly through Beaux Villages, you send into the enquiries team what you’re looking for, where you’re looking for, and you will passed over to somebody capable and able on the ground to deal with it.

 

Richard Way

Steve has asked about buying costs, and we will come to that because I want to talk about the actual buying process towards the end of this session, so we’ll talk about the costs when we do that. But the next step for someone like Claire when she does get in touch with an agent like you would probably be a viewing trip. It might be useful just to outline how a typical viewing trip works, how long they are, how many properties might people see in a day, what’s a sensible amount, and what can people expect to achieve in a viewing trip? Do people typically find a property in their first one and make an offer, or do they come back a couple of times; what is the usual process?

 

Antony Bryan

The first thing to say about doing a viewing trip is, like I said before, you’ve got to try and reduce your time and reduce your wasted time. So do your duty beforehand, build and establish a rapport with an agent, get your finances sorted, know how much you’ve got to spend, speak to the currency specialists, your financing, how you’re going to finance it, if you’ve got a mortgage, speak to a broker and know what your budget is. You focus and target your area. If you know your area, you can fine tune the list of properties you’re coming to view. Most people don’t always buy what they set out to buy, so keep an open mind.

 

Typically, a first viewing trip is three or four days in an area and if the person or buyer isn’t area specific, they go off and spend three or four days in another area. A buyer will then focus and narrow down a specific region. If you’re set on an area, if you’re set on a village, or you want to be close to a village or town, then one viewing trip might suffice. The property might not be on the market on your first viewing trip, so you might be coming back in two / three / four months down the line.

 

On average, I would say for most people it takes them two trips. They focus in the first trip and then they come back with a bigger idea of exactly what they’re looking for. They’ve built up a rapport with the agents personally and the agent might find the right property for them and say, right, you’ve got to fly out and see this, and they come and buy. That’s often what happens.

 

Richard Way

I suppose a viewing trip is just as valuable in that you build a relationship with an agent, you get to know an area and know you want to be in that area, and then you’re ready when the right property does come up and, as long as it ticks all the boxes, you pretty much know you’re going to want it.

 

Antony Bryan

That’s right, it’s building personal relationships and you, as a buyer, have to feel comfortable with who you’re buying through, what you’re buying, and the area you’re buying in, and that comes only by having first-hand experience and knowledge of being on the ground here.

 

Richard Way

An interesting question here about rentals and I should think a lot of people consider this. John Bagshaw, they’ve sold their house in the UK, and maybe other people might be about to, and they think that’s going to happen in January, the completion of their UK sale, and then they want to move over to France and rent. Probably in February move over until they find a home, so start looking while in France and renting in the meantime. Is that something people do and is it something you can help with?

 

 

Antony Bryan

Locally I could help, certainly. It’s a bit dependent on which area you’re looking in. We don’t as an agency deal with rentals, but a lot of us within the business will know of rental properties, or people that do. Dependent upon who you are dealing with within our company, they might be able to point you in the right direction in the area you’re looking in. It’s certainly what a lot of people do, come and rent a place for a few months to give them time to find both an area and a property to buy and to start the process.

 

Richard Way

And renting a property is just as valid as owning a property in terms of getting residence. I guess you just need to have a contract, you’ve got proof of a long-term contract and somewhere to live – you need an address, obviously?

 

Antony Bryan

Yes, I think you’ve got to differentiate between a working residency and a non-working, so non-active. So if you want to go for the non-active route, retirement, semi-retirement, that type of thing, you’ve got to prove you can support yourself, and to get into the process of being able to register, you need to have a rental contract or, obviously, a title deed of ownership of a property.

 

Richard Way

A quick one here about visas again from Philip Wilkinson, I’ll ask you Antony. He’s asking, if you obtain a long stay visa and you move to France and buy a house and obviously you start living there, is there a risk that you won’t get your visa renewed, in which case you’ve got to move and have to leave France and, obviously, your home?

 

Antony Bryan

It’s a good question and one I can’t answer because it’s too short a window since it happened. I haven’t heard of it happen. I know a couple of people that are here on long stay visas but they’re people contracted to companies working abroad, so they can prove they’ve got an income stream.

 

Richard Way

I suppose the worst case scenario is you then have to come back to the UK and visit it as a second home owner, within 90 days, until you can get a visa again.

 

Antony Bryan

I guess so but, like I said, I haven’t come across it yet. I think I’ve only heard about this long stay visa thing in the last four or five months, so it’s really recent and too early to say.

 

Richard Way

We’ve had lots of questions about the actual process and the stages and how long it takes, so let’s tackle that now. Anthony, the different stages of buying in France, people want to know how long it takes and what those steps are. So from the moment somebody finds a property, and I’m guessing you’ll help them negotiate a purchase price, the offer’s accepted and what happens after that, and how long should you expect to wait until you get handed the keys at the Notaire’s?

 

Antony Bryan

I would say from offer accepted through to becoming the owner of the property, on average we’re looking at about four and a half months now. Previously we were looking at about three / three and a half months but because of the volume of sales going through the Notaires’ offices at the moment, it’s just taking a month longer on average. So you get your offer accepted, you sign what’s called a letter of intention, which sets out the price and secures the property off market for you. We’re looking at a four week window after signing the letter of intention, counter-signed by the vendors, within which the legal process can take over, so there are searches to do and surveys to do and things like that.

 

Once all that paperwork is completed that then goes to the Notaire. You will then be signing the first contract, the compromise de vente, probably about four weeks, thereabouts, after signing your letter of intention. Once you’ve signed the compromise de vente, you’ve got a ten day cooling off period, within which you pay your 10% deposit, and the legal process starts with the Notaire in terms of conveyancing.

 

It takes from that point on around 60 to 90 days, on average, to achieve a completion date. The completion date is set at the outset usually three months from signing the compromise date. You could complete within a shorter timeframe but, generally, if you plan on four to four and a half months, that’s when you’re going to be taking ownership of your house.

 

Richard Way

We’ve got a couple of questions about opening bank accounts, so Trevor if you’re happy to take this. Most people are asking us when is the right time to open a French bank account? So if you could answer that but then also if you wouldn’t mind just going through the options of when you’re actually going to physically transfer money across to France for your deposit and then completion. What do most clients do when it comes to buying in France, do they take forward contracts, can you tell us what normally happens?

 

Trevor Charnley

I’ll address both separately. So the bank account piece has become more interesting since Brexit. It was previously easier to be able to open an account if you were non-resi, whereby you could share the intention of moving or, indeed, emigrating. That’s become slightly more difficult now and in order to open a French bank account, you’ll typically require a French address, so a rental contract or your deeds, etc. So opening a French account in France  ahead of actually being there is not something that’s particularly commonplace these days, but that’s doesn’t necessarily mean that that prevents anything that you’re doing.

 

There is no requirement to send your money to France to pay for your property, so that’s where companies like ourselves obviously come in. So when you’re paying your deposit, or indeed paying your completion, you can utilise Smart Currency to do that for you. So in the instance where it’s a UK buyer, we will organise the exchange of money for you into Euros. The Sterling comes into Smart Currency, we will send that money on for your deposit without you having any requirement to have the money physically in France in a French account in your name; we will pay it directly to the Notaire for you.

 

In terms of the deposit conversation and a forward contract conversation, yes you’re absolutely right, Richard, so a huge proportion of customers will utilise something called a forward contract when they’re going through the overseas buying process. The main reason for doing that is to remove any risk of currency fluctuation. As Antony mentioned earlier, you have your CDV and you pay your deposit on day one. At this point, you may have that four and a half month window whereby you’ve got currency fluctuation happening between the time that you’ve agreed your price and the time that you actually have to complete and physically send the money over to the Notaire to complete on the property. During that time period, currency rates are moving each and every second of every single day, at which point a huge proportion of customers will utilise a forward contract.

 

What that allows you to do is to agree today’s price for delivery in the future. So in the instance that Antony suggested, you can agree your price on Sterling: Euro, or Dollar: Euro, as per the customer earlier. You agree that exchange rate at that point, so that’s never going to move, so that £400,000 is going to buy you €500,000, for example, that will not move between now and your completion date. What that means for you is that your €500,000 property is going to cost you exactly the same in Sterling today as it would do in four and a half months’ time. You’ve agreed that exchange rate, you’ve agreed that contract, at the point that comes when you’re ready to complete, you send over the Sterling to Smart Currency and we will send the Euros out to your Notaire, at which point they will receive the monies and you will be completed on your overseas property.

 

Richard Way

And the actual process of opening an account with Smart Currency is fairly comprehensive, isn’t it? So you’d speak to one of the team and they’d go through the thing and it’s done within 24 hours or something?

 

Trevor Charnley

Absolutely. We have experts at the end of a telephone that will help you through the account opening journey. For most customers it’s a very simple process. So if you’re a UK resident, for example, it can take merely a couple of minutes. There’s some address checking that goes on, proof of identity and all that kind of good stuff, so there are requirements from time to time for some documents which may need to be provided, but that’s real basic stuff, such as a proof of ID and proof of address, etc. Our experts will take you through that process and they’ll also talk you through the forward contracts and really get to grips with understanding who you are, how you’re going about the buying process, how you’re funding it and, therefore, what the best currency product is that’s going to help you get to that completion.

 

Richard Way

I’ve just noticed some questions on the other chat box – if you could keep your questions to the Q&A one rather than the chat, just to keep it clearer. There’s is a lot of stuff about prices going on, Antony. You hinted at this when we chatted yesterday, the effect of lockdown, pent up demand and you’re saying there’s an unprecedent activity level in the market at the moment, because obviously there are more people finally able to get out, so pent up demand.

 

Someone said they started looking in 2019 and they’re now going back and noticing that prices have gone up, that the best properties that there are fewer of them on the market, so the stock has actually fallen. I guess that’s because there was a rush back to buy stuff. So what is happening? Someone else has asked when is the best time to buy a property – whether it’s relevant or not – if you want to run a gite business? I’m guessing they’re thinking do they buy before the summer or in the winter. Just give us an overview of the market at the moment and how you see it from your experience.

 

Antony Bryan

It’s not just the Covid thing in terms of the increased activity in the French property market and not necessarily a Brexit thing. As a global domestic market, the last three years have seen an increase in the number of transactions across the board throughout the whole of France. For three years running – and this has never happened before in France – they’ve hit over a million transactions in property sales, and it’s increased year on year.

 

In terms of the effect of Covid, it has meant that number of over a million has continued to rise, because people are selling and buying much more quickly than they have in previous years. So a lot of sales within cities, people moving out to the country, probably similar to what’s happened in the UK and other parts of the world I imagine. There has been a big rush, domestically, for the French to find somewhere with, let’s say, more open with more open space around them rather than living in an apartment. I’m sure it’s happening in the other major European countries and possibly globally. So that has increased the number of sales happening.

 

In terms of the international markets, obviously through lockdown, it was nigh on impossible to buy anything because you couldn’t travel. Once the gates were open in terms of travelling across into Europe for UK buyers, there was a mad rush around for two reasons – 1) the end of the year and Brexit coming and 2) because they hadn’t been able to get out and satisfy their demand to go and look for property. There were a few months where things went absolutely crazy and lots of property got snapped up and sold, which has had the knock-on effect this year of us, as agents on the ground, rurally in France, having less property on the market than we’ve had in previous years.

 

So the Brexit thing, the Covid thing, and people moving out of cities has meant there is less property rurally for sale than there has been. So inevitably, with the amount of demand that there is and has been, and the lack of property, the prices have gone up. I don’t know specific figures, but I would imagine somewhere between a 5% and 10% increase within a year we’ll see this year.

 

Richard Way

Which is a lot for France, isn’t it, for rural France?

 

Antony Bryan

Which is a lot for France. You’re not getting the spikes and troughs that you get in the UK, it’s more of a gradual increment over time rather than a steep rise in prices and then maybe a drop off. It’s historically a good market to invest in because the value of your property will go up over a long period. You won’t be able to earn £100,000 from one year to the next, because it just doesn’t happen like that. Although, that said, where you’ve seen property on the market for a long time, as has historically been the case in France, the average length of time for a property on the market now is a lot less, and property that has been on the market for a long time is now coming off market because it’s selling, and there’s obviously people trying the market and wanting to get more for the property, sometimes it’s working and sometimes it’s not.

 

Richard Way

Just give us an idea of prices at the moment then. Tell us what the most common price range is that you find properties for British buyers are and what do they get for that? What is the typical property and price range that you’re looking for? And then just give us an idea of the whole spectrum of what is available at the moment.

 

Antony Bryan

Obviously we cover a massive area, where you’ve got price discrepancy between one region to another. People come with, let’s say, £120,000 to buy either something rurally or something within a village, and it can buy you and get you a property. In the more expensive areas you’ll get far less for your money and you probably won’t be able to get much for £120,000.

 

Richard Way

What type of property will that be, a village townhouse type?

 

Antony Bryan

Near the coast with outside space. That’s generally if you’re buying in a village and you want something with some outside space, so it might be a little garden, it might be a courtyard. In the more well priced, rural areas, you’ll get something with a bigger garden and maybe an outbuilding as well for that. It’s horses for courses.

 

Richard Way

So we’re talking detached, small country properties with a little plot?

 

Antony Bryan

In some areas you’ll get that, yes. You might have to do a bit of work to it, but that’s what a lot of people want, something they can add their own touch to over time.

 

Richard Way

If you want the typical picture you see of the French dream, your farmhouse with maybe a couple of outbuildings, one might be extra accommodation, and perhaps five acres of land and a paddock, that sort of property, what are we looking at in a medium priced area?

 

Antony Bryan

In a medium priced area, within the €280,000 to €350,000 might get you that. In the more expensive areas, you’re looking at certainly €450,000 and above. I’m talking Euros now not Sterling, so if you make the conversion back – Trevor is probably quicker than I am at things like that – that’s what you’ll need to spend.

 

Richard Way

Do you sell many doer-uppers as well, is that something you’re seeing much of?

 

Antony Bryan

Yes and no. I’ve been here a long time and the number of doer-uppers on the market has dwindled. There are areas where you can find ones that have just started to increase in popularity. In my area there aren’t that many around and they go for a premium, if they’re in a really nice spot.

 

Richard Way

I’m thinking of Dick Strawbridge here, of course, and the chateau. You don’t have any adventurous types buying huge, rundown chateaux and spending five or ten years of their life slowly…

 

Antony Bryan

We get quite a few enquiries of the type.

 

Richard Way

It’s something for a few people to try.

 

Antony Bryan

It’s the dream. And obviously it makes good TV.

 

Richard Way

I know mortgage rates are very low in Europe at the moment, but do you get many clients who are buying with finance, and is that something you can help with?

 

Antony Bryan

Yes, we can put people in touch with people who can offer them finance. Obviously they have to meet the financial criteria, which are becoming stricter I might point out in France, things are tightening a little, but I think that’s inevitable after the amount of spend there has been during the pandemic. Rates are still historically low, fixed for 20 years and you can get 2.5% to 3% fixed, so you’re beating what you can get anywhere in the UK. Fixed for that amount of time is just fantastic. So, yes, there’s a bit of demand for finance, but it’s becoming more and more difficult and you’ve got to have solid work and income flow behind you.

Richard Way

I’ve just noticed the time and we’ve hit the end of our window. There are more questions, quite a few about visas and how you can stay in France more than 90 days, etc., so please do go and find Antony and Trevor on their booths within the exhibition hall, and you can use the chat function there to ask questions to them or their colleagues. We’ve also got some enquiries about getting in touch for job opportunities in France with you, Antony, there’s all sorts. So they’re there and waiting on their booths.

Sorry I can’t answer all of the questions in this 45 minute slot, but hopefully what we have answered and covered has been useful. Thank you very much Antony for your time and Trevor. Thanks to everyone who has tuned in and listened and asked questions. All I can say is good luck with the rest of your buying journey, and I hope that today proves a valuable step in helping you achieve your dream of moving or buying in France. Thank you very much.

 

Buying a House in France Guide.

Buying a property in France is extremely exciting, but it can be nerve-wracking: in what ways is the process different to the UK, how do you cope with the language difference, what fees should you expect and just who is the notaire? That’s why we’ve put together our France Buying Guide, to help you through the process, step by step.

Written by experts, it covers every stage of buying, from viewing to contracts and fees. Get your copy of the French Property Guide by simply filling in the form below.


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