The number of Britons owning a second home in France has tumbled by more than 30,000 over the past decade, new figures reveal.
There were 93,000 households in England with a second home in France in 2012-13, according to the English Housing Survey.
The latest poll, published by the UK government, shows the number of households concerned dropped to 60,000 in 2021-22.
Estate agents have blamed Brexit and in particular the subsequent restrictions on free movement that mean Britons can only spend 90 days in any 180 in France.
However, the figures show the downward trend of English households owning property in France began before Brexit.
After peaking in 2012-13 at 93,000 it fell to 70,000 in 2013-14. It continued falling in the aftermath of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. There were 68,000 households with a second home in France by 2018-19, dropping to 60,000 in 2021-22.
Where do the figures come from?
The English Housing Survey is an ongoing survey exercise by the UK government's Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Each year it interviews people from over 13,000 households in England from addresses drawn at random, and a surveyor also carries out an inspection of the home in around half of cases.
They extrapolate the bigger picture based on their findings, which cover other issues related to housing as well as ownership of second homes. The survey defines second homes as properties used by family/friends for holidays or when working away from home, or let out for short-term holiday lets.
What are the reasons for the fall?
Mathieu Monfort, who owns Brittany-based estate agents Littoral Ouest Immobilier, in coastal town Bénodet, told The Connexion: “I am not surprised by these figures.”
He said British people used to make up about 5% of his clientele, but over the past two years, he has not seen a single Briton buying in the area via his agency.
“About ten years ago, there was a demand for British people to settle in the region,” he said. “But we’ve seen a lot more reluctance. Covid disrupted the whole country but then Brexit accentuated this effect with regard to the UK. I don't see Britons anymore.”
However, he said other agencies are reporting some interest from Britons buying inland, as opposed to in coastal areas such as his.
Serge Cajna, owner of estate agency Istra Immobilier in Nice, who also typically had around 5% of British clients over his 30 years in the business, said the new survey figures tally with his experience that British buyers have been declining in recent years.
More are now selling than buying, in his agency, and many of the sellers are older people, selling for health reasons.
“Many were already retirees when they bought them and 15 years later, they have mobility issues and have to come to terms with putting their properties on sale to be closer to their relatives in the UK.
“Brexit has also had an impact, with many owners looking to take funds back to their country, although I am also seeing this with other nationalities such as Russians and Italians who also bought properties in the 1980s or 1990s and are selling them now."
Inflation also plays a part, he said. “Back in the 1980s, the Côte d’Azur was tremendously appealing to investors because it was cheaper than many international cities but that gap shrunk with the implementation of the euro.”
He noted, however, a positive trend of more American clients.
“For whatever reason, Americans have been reluctant to buy properties outside of Paris. They only came to Nice to visit. But they seem to have moved from that behaviour now.”
French fall tallies with a drop in wider Europe
The fall in the number of English households with a second home in France tallies with a general trend of fewer second homes in mainland Europe generally, over the same period.
It also corresponded with a trend of English households owning more second homes in the UK itself as opposed to abroad, a reversal of the picture a decade ago.
As we reported above, France has seen a fall from 93,000 in 2012-13 to 60,000 in 2021-22.
In Europe as a whole, that figure was 307,000 in 2012-13, falling to 259,000 in 2021-22.
However, Spain bucked the trend, with the number of English households with properties there rising from 85,000 to 93,000 over the same period.
In contrast to the fall in Europe, the number of UK-based second homes rose from 373,000 in 2012-13 to 520,000 in 2021-22.
What do you think? Do these figures reflect reality? If so, what has caused the drop, in your opinion?
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