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Buying a property in Brittany

Pierre Bourgin, a chasseur immobilier (property finder) with the Coté Acheteur group in Rennes explains

Pierre Bourgin, a chasseur immobilier (property finder) with the Coté Acheteur group in Rennes, on the latest trends in the Breton property market

What is the market in Brittany like today?

We are seeing the market picking up in the towns, such as Rennes, Saint-Brieuc, Lorient and Vannes, though the upturn is limited.

In Rennes, for example, properties at €200,000 or €300,000 are selling well; there is even a certain shortage to meet the demand.

However, in the top-end properties, in excess of €500,000 in Rennes and above €400,000 elsewhere, it's fair to say it has not picked up. In that category there are properties on sale that people are finding it very hard to sell.

Can you find properties at affordable prices for people with limited means in the countryside, not just the towns?

Yes, there are properties in the country and sales are picking up, especially for quite utilitarian properties. For families who need to find housing, it's moving.

In the second-home market, there is less activity. In the past, there was a time when British people had bought a lot. Now some of them have sold up, certainly not all of them, but we can't say it's the euphoria that we had in 2005-07.

How has the market been in the past two years?

In early 2009, there was very little activity in the market. Now we see things picking up, as I said, in certain sectors, but not all of them.

We are seeing more investors, people looking to buy to rent. It's noticeable. I imagine people have been disappointed by the stock market or other investments, and are looking at property, which is more stable.

During the crisis, we saw prices go down on average, but not for all properties. It is the more luxury ones that were more affected, and those that are selling are going at a lower price.

In some cases people had speculated on prices continuing to go up, but a couple of years later have been forced to sell lower.

For typical properties, prices have stagnated, but not really gone down.

What type of property sells the best?

Homes for main residences, that are close to towns, two- or three-bedroom houses or city apartments with one or two bedrooms, quite standard homes. One thing that is typical of Brittany, that we see not far outside Rennes, for example, and all over the region is longères, that's to say old farms, that have been done up and can make beautiful houses in peaceful countryside locations. They are very popular.

How important are foreign buyers to the area?

There are typically a lot of British buyers, especially in the Morbihan, Côte d'Armor and Finistère. They often want to have a quiet life in the country. Some sold up because of the crisis, but there have been some new sales to British people again and we still see plenty of them in the area.

There are even British estate agents who deal only with British customers. Some Britons have holiday homes, but there are also a lot with their main home here; generally, they are people who work in France and go back to the UK from time to time.

Some have retired here, but there are also families, with children in local schools.

What advice would you give to potential buyers in Brittany now?

It depends on what you are buying for. If it's a main residence or a second home, if you want to be in the countryside or the town or by the sea, Brittany offers a lot of possibilities.

For example, you can be in the middle of the countryside but only 30km from the sea, and you can spend part of the day at the seaside and then come home to your haven of peace in a valley in the heart of Brittany in the evening.

As for good buys, at the moment it is quite a good time to look at properties that are a bit further out of town, a bit too far for someone who has to go to work in the cities, because most French buyers want to be at the most 30km from a large town.

There's less demand and you can find lower prices the further out you are willing to go. As it happens, that often appeals to British people anyway. You can find an old house with lots of character, with a chimney etc.

And what would you say to sellers?

It depends what you are selling, but if you have a property that's under €400,000, maybe €300,000, and providing you have priced it competitively, then you should have a very good chance of selling it.

It's when sellers are a bit too greedy that we find properties are taking a long time to sell.

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