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French fancy! How the Macron Effect is luring British buyers back to France - but would you be tempted?

  • Transactions in France are returning to the levels before the banking crisis
  • Prices are also rising suggesting now is the time to buy before a full recovery
  • The average house price rose 1.7 per cent in 2016, but more in some areas

Maybe it’s because we’re frustrated by Brexit, fed-up with Westminster infighting, or bored of the unpredictable British weather, but the tide has turned. Britons are buying abroad again.

After years of economic uncertainty and with the demise of the pound, which saw a widespread collapse of the market for British buyers abroad, there is now a return to classic locations which are easy to reach, offer good weather, and are family-friendly.

Many estate agents say the 3 per cent Stamp Duty surcharge, introduced on holiday homes in this country last year, balances out unfavourable shifts in the exchange rate and makes the idea of a Continental bolthole more attractive.

A slice of French life: In regions such as Provence, sales of holiday homes are on the increase

A slice of French life: In regions such as Provence, sales of holiday homes are on the increase

Spanish property website Kyero says that since the June 2016 Brexit referendum there has been a rise of more than 90 per cent in sales in tourist areas of the Almeria region. 

Meanwhile, the Spanish land registry reports 15,595 homes across the country were sold to foreigners in the second quarter of 2017 (up 7 per cent on 2016). Of those, 2,328 went to Britons. 

Now the British account for 15 per cent of all overseas sales in Spain, making them the single largest overseas nationality purchasing holiday homes.

However, even this long-awaited Spanish recovery is eclipsed by the market across the border in France where there’s a new pull for second-home buyers, triggered by the election of President Emmanuel Macron.

Tim Swannie, of estate agency Home Hunts, says the Macron Effect has encouraged interest from UK, European, U.S. and Middle Eastern buyers.

‘Macron’s committed to reducing taxes for property owners and simplifying the fiscal framework,’ he says.

In France there¿s a new pull for second-home buyers, triggered by the election of President Emmanuel Macron

In France there’s a new pull for second-home buyers, triggered by the election of President Emmanuel Macron

Statistics show that transactions in France are returning to the levels achieved before the banking crisis.

Prices are rising gently for the first time, suggesting now is the time to buy before the market recovers fully. 

The average house price across France rose 1.7 per cent in 2016, but more in some areas: up 11 per cent in Bordeaux and 8 per cent in parts of Provence, claims Swannie. In Paris, apartment prices are up 4 per cent, he says.

Macron’s victory brings with it cautious optimism. It’s hoped his pro-business stance will reinvigorate the property market  Kate Everett-Allen, from Knight Frank

Estate agency Knight Frank identifies the south-western region of Gascony as a potential bargain hotspot. It has historic towns such as Lourdes and Pau at its heart, and house prices are about 30 per cent lower than in 2008.

‘The new pricing levels make Gascony highly competitive compared with other French second-home markets. It attracts those seeking both a holiday retreat and those wanting a semi-permanent base,’ says Kate Everett-Allen, at Knight Frank.

More generally, Everett-Allen says the new president has given the holiday home landscape a kick-start.

‘Macron’s victory brings with it cautious optimism. It’s hoped his pro-business stance will reinvigorate the property market,’ she says.

Rebecca Russell, who lives on the Riviera and runs the Cote Abode service helping foreign buyers to find a home, says there is now a substantial volume of property on the market because Britons are selling to take advantage of a weak pound

Rebecca Russell, who lives on the Riviera and runs the Cote Abode service helping foreign buyers to find a home, says there is now a substantial volume of property on the market because Britons are selling to take advantage of a weak pound

There is enormous choice across France, but the most popular location for holiday home-buyers remains the French Riviera, the 70-mile strip of southern coast.

Rebecca Russell, who lives on the Riviera and runs the Cote Abode service helping foreign buyers to find a home, says there is now a substantial volume of property on the market because Britons are selling to take advantage of a weak pound.

‘I’m now seeing more demand among younger professionals looking for investment or holiday purchases. There are a lot of Londoners cashing in and buying a pied-a-terre in Nice,’ says Russell, who recommends the city’s Old Town and port areas.

Elsewhere on the Cote d’Azur, she says high-value addresses such as Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Villefranche – two charming ports near Nice – are favourites among British buyers. Further west, Russell recommends the town of Vence – ‘it’s beautiful, close to the coast and the airport’.

Wherever you buy, it will pay to plan because of the exchange rate. If you’re using sterling, you can fix a rate using a ‘forward contract’. This keeps the rate stable for six or 12 months, meaning you won’t lose if the pound weakens further.

Alternatively, you could open an account with a bank in France and apply for a mortgage in euros. However you buy, a pad in France will offer a perfect view of the Macron Effect.

‘He seems determined to bring France into the 21st century,’ says Tim Swannie — it’s going to be an exciting few years.

Tags Property

ABOUT THE AUTHOR celebrityrave

Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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