On Monday (July 24) we published an article on the declining number of Britons with second homes in France.
It revealed there were 93,000 households in England with a second home in France in 2012-13, but this had fallen to 60,000 by 2021-22.
Estate agents we spoke to cited Brexit and Covid as being among the reasons for the drop.
We asked Connexion readers for their insights and whether the figures reflected reality.
We received a wide range of responses both agreeing – and disagreeing – with Brexit being a key factor.
Shorter visits are a factor – but so is travel
One Brexit effect highlighted by readers was the ending of free movement.
Those without a residency permit, visa or EU citizenship can only stay 90 days out of any 180-day period in the bloc. This severely limits the time Britons can spend at their second homes in France.
G.S. said he believed “it’s the restrictions on time allowed… nothing more,” that is causing the numbers to drop.
“I can stay only 12 weeks in summer, less if I holiday or visit another European country,” said D.M.
“And only perhaps four weeks in spring and autumn so I am now paying over €1,000 a week tax [for the time spent in France],” he added.
Others cite the increased cost of travel – due to the increased bureaucracy since Brexit – that is discouraging many people from keeping their second home.
“Current August price [for the Eurotunnel] is about four times the frequent traveller ticket pre-covid & they ask for an SUV premium now,” said B.H.
“The huge increase in the cost of Eurotunnel (and the removal of the frequent traveller option), the motorway tolls and the cost of fuel,” were also factors for C.V.
Cost of living issues
A majority of responses did not directly cite Brexit, but the increased financial strain of owning a second home in France.
“When we came from the US to France in the year 2000, the Brits living here enjoyed the benefits of a strong GB Pound vs the Euro. So British people on fixed retirement incomes could get more for their GB Pounds in terms of quality of life,” said S.S.
“Brits have lost about 30 percent of that exchange rate benefit from the falling GB Pound and the strengthening Euro over the last two decades,” he added, calling it a “game changer”’ for remaining in the country.
“France is no longer cheap. Property is still generally cheaper, but everything else has gone up significantly,” said M.S.
“When I first came to work in France about 20 years ago I reckon most things were cheaper in France than the UK. Not now. I now joke that the only thing cheaper in France than in the UK is wine. But it's not far from the truth!” he added.
“Some people in the UK of a certain age who retired 20/25 years ago did so with a good lump sum and a final year’s salary pension which enabled them to buy,” said W.M.
“Retiring to another country can be idyllic but what becomes very evident is that the longer you live the more money you need and not all of us are that fortunate,” he added.
“However, in recent years there hasn’t been a second wave of people who were so lucky,” he added, pointing to the economic situation not in France, but in the UK.
Second-home taxes a dealbreaker
Perhaps the most common point raised outside of Brexit factors was the increase in taxes levied on second homes.
Reader C.V. said second home taxes are “the straw that breaks the camel's back.”
“Being singled out for paying the taxe d'habitation with the threat of a further 60% being added (on a whim) is enough to make me up sticks. I can afford it, it’s just not fair,” said B.H.
The taxe d’habitation is now only levied on second-home owners (of any kind), which alongside taxe foncière has seen tax bills increase rapidly for a number of second-home owners.
“My taxes are now €14,000 for taxe foncière and taxe d’habitation together, rising apparently shortly with the new second home increase,” said D.M.
On top of the taxe d’habitation, new rules set to be introduced in 2024 will allow mayors in communes with housing shortages to levy a 60% taxe d’habitation surcharge.
Some readers questioned if the data itself was telling the whole truth, and not taking into account second-home owners who made the switch to live in France full-time due to Brexit.
T.G. said this is what he did, and he knows of at least “one other couple” who did the same.
“What of the French second-home owners like ourselves… but have now obtained a carte de séjour and made France our permanent residence?” asked W.E.
For others, the reason they believe people are packing up is simply because life sometimes gets in the way of previous plans.
P.B. said the people he knows who left France “sold for reasons other than Brexit.”
“To be close to their families in the UK, look after newly arrived grandchildren, young families who found that rural France did not provide a sufficient social scene,” were all non-Brexit, or non-fiscal reasons for people leaving France.