The British are back 'in force'

Brokers and estate agents see signs of recovery due to weakness of the euro

1 January 2011

BRITONS are “coming back in force” to France and buying properties again after a two-year retreat, mortgage brokers and estate agents claim.

Property experts say the relatively weak euro and low interest rates have resurrected interest among expatriate buyers, an area that shows “strong potential” for the coming year.

Cafpi, the biggest mortgage broker in France having negotiated 22,000 loans in 2010, said more than half of its international customers looking to buy in France were from the UK.

Deputy managing director Philippe Taboret said: “The British are coming back in force after two years in exile, thanks to favourable exchange rates.

“We’ve noticed an increase in demand since the start of 2010 and the banks we work with have confirmed the trend. Good transport links have helped. A lot of the interest comes from Britons who move with their family to France, but work in the UK for a few days a week.”

The most popular regions for foreign buyers, outside Paris, remain the south-west, Normandy, Brittany, Paca and the Rhône-Alpes.

Estate agents in Normandy and the Dordogne have confirmed the trend and say they are cautiously optimistic for 2011.

Charles Gillooley, head of estate agents’ body Fnaim in the Dordogne, said: “As far as the British are concerned, there were more buyers in 2010 than in 2009. This is because of the general economic situation in the UK much more than what is happening in France at the moment.”

Eric Maurice, the Fnaim president in Basse-Normandie, said there was a “definite revival” in the market. British buyers remain interested in the region, but are looking for cheaper properties.

“Bank rates remain low and employment has gone up, so we are seeing signs of a recovery,” he said. “2010 has allowed us to start afresh. We think that 2011 will allow us to continue.”

However, Fnaim, which represents 11,500 estate agents around France, says the British comeback is less noticeable nationally.

The group’s national president, René Pallincourt, told The Connexion: “We are seeing a comeback from some Americans, but British buyers are still very withdrawn. The Italians are present, the Belgians, too, and the Russians are starting to enter the market.”

He said the British slowdown in recent years had had a noticeable impact on the demand in certain areas, but Paris and Paca continued to attract foreign clientele. Prices in the capital have soared by 20 per cent in a year to a record
high of €7,500 per square metre.

The euro’s relative weakness against the pound is a boost for British buyers with funds in sterling.

In mid-December, £1 bought €1.17, compared with just €1.02 in December 2008. This represents a saving of €25,000 on a €200,000 home.

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