Budgets are tight, but the bleak winter in the UK seems to have sparked renewed interest in relocating to France.
That at least seems the conclusion from a survey we carried out of a handful of estate agents around the country, all of whom report that inquiries have inc-reased significantly over last year.
“The dream of a new life abroad remains, but buyers are approaching it with a far greater degree of caution than was the case 10 years ago,” says Carolyn Daniels of Arros Immobilier in Gascony.
In addition, as buyers from the UK now have to take account of the reduction in the value of the pound against the euro, it is mainly properties at the lower end of the market that are attracting interest.
“Whereas a few years ago British buyers came willing to spend around €250,000, the average budget is now more likely to be between €100,000 and €150,000 says Antony Bryan at Guyenne Immobilier in Lot-et-Garonne.
Connexion browses the market to see what is on offer in this price bracket.
Jean Barnard, of JB French Houses, has properties in eight popular regions of France and considers that, on such budget, you can probably rule out nice country properties in the Mediterranean, but most other areas of France were suitable.
“The best place to start for properties at the cheaper end continues to be Brittany, Normandy and Limousin.
“Your money goes a long way in these regions. There are plenty of properties on the market at under and around this price, although there are inevitably compromises to be made, either on the condition or the setting.'
One property he has on his books that might fit the “bargain” tag is a detached fully renovated property in Keraden, Finistere, which is on the market for €92,000. The downside is that it has a garden of only 400m², which may be too small for some buyers.
Nevertheless, the property offers ample space as a second or retirement home, including an attic space which could be converted into two rooms giving four bedrooms in total.
In Basse-Normandie, Maurice Lazarus at Domus Abroad considers most buyers are now much more aware of the costs and difficulty of renovation and fewer are willing to take on a complete wreck, preferring instead something that is at least habitable.
He is offering a three bedroom stone house set in more than 2,000m2 of land for €120,000. It needs some upgrading, but is in a quiet location, and also has a separate derelict cottage adjoining that could be converted for use as a gite.
The Dordogne continues to attract strong interest from British buyers, where Vesone Estate Agency are offering for sale an old farm house that is habitable but in need of renovation, situated in a quiet location and on land of 7,460m².
The property is on the market for €118,700.
Further south, in the Lot-et-Garonne, you can get better value for your money, as properties in this department are around 20% less expensive than its more prestigious neighbour.
Here, Antony Bryan at Guyenne Immobilier has a former single storey farmhouse in need of some updating for €128,000, reduced from €150,000. The property also comes with a stone barn ripe for conversion and sits on a plot of 2,000m².
For him, in the current economic climate the misfortunes of some present opportunities for others. “We have sold a number of repossessed properties over the past year, for prices well under what I would consider to be their true market potential.
“They go quickly, as the main priority of the lender is to ensure that the loan is repaid, not to sell at the highest price.”
The Haute-Pyrenées also offers excellent value for money, and Edward Landau of Le Bonheur estate agents has a two-bedroom country cottage for sale, with enclosed garden and barn. The property needs modernisation and is on the market for €129,000.
Buyers looking at the lower end of the market will find the scope for negotiation on the price is not as great as is available on higher priced properties.
Moreover, with French banks continuing their cautious lending policies, to snap up one of these bargains on the best terms, you really need to be a cash buyer.
In Charente, an abandoned town house has been put on the market for just €13,000. The mairie in Verteuil is asking for sealed bids on the property which has not been lived in since the owner died 35 years ago. It needs major work however in the €50,000 region. The house is in a conservation area and the mairie is pushing ahead with the sale using a procedure where the owner’s successors do not come forward and the property has lain empty for 30 years.