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Dordogne popularity, winter heating woes: Four French property updates

We look at the most popular departments for rural second homes and how you can potentially get a free composting bin

In this week’s roundup we look at gas bills in apartment blocks, composting bins, an unstable building and why the Dordogne town of Saint-Cyprien is proving popular Pic: IURII BURIAK, Electric Egg, graja, Firn / Shutterstock

Dordogne: Champion of the rural second home

Dordogne is the most popular department in France for people currently looking for a second home in the countryside, a study by property listings site SeLoger shows. 

A few weeks ago we looked at the most popular department for people looking for a second home by the sea, which was revealed to be Var (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), in southern France. You can read more about that in our article here.

Now we look at the most popular departments for countryside retreats. The data is based on places that people have expressed interest in buying in, according to SeLoger’s own data

Dordogne in Nouvelle-Aquitaine tops the list, followed by Yonne (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté) and Var rounds out the top three. 

Se Loger states that Dordogne’s favourable climate and affordable properties play a big part in making it a popular spot. 

Within the department itself, the town of Saint-Cyprien is particularly popular. It is an old mediaeval town perched on a hill and surrounded by forests. The town attracts many visitors to its gourmet markets during the summer months, it also has a rail connection to Bordeaux.  

An aerial view of Saint-Cyprien. Credit: Iurii Buriak / Shutterstock

The data shows that city dwellers tend to buy second homes relatively close to their main residence. 

For example, Yonne is the most popular department among Parisiens, Var is most popular among people from Marseille and Dordogne is the most popular spot for people living in Bordeaux. 

Read more: Historic Dordogne streets too small for new card-swipe rubbish bins

Read more: Property watch: Hérault - good value houses away from Montpellier

Copropriétés face winter heating woes

Owners of flats with a collective heating system have complained that their gas bills are going up by hundreds of euros each month and that the government’s price hike protection initiative is insufficient. 

Olivier Safar, head of the Union des Syndicats de l'Immobilier in Ile-de-France, said that the bouclier tarifaire will only cover just over half of the price increases, which for a whole building could be up to over €30,000. 

When it comes to apartment blocks, or copropriétés in French, the bouclier tarifaire acts as a reimbursement for soaring gas prices. It is calculated based on the difference between the regulated gas price rate that was frozen in October 2021 and the current non-frozen regulated tariff. Other factors, such as monthly consumption, or the price of gas as set out in the contract, are also taken into consideration. 

But landlords and syndicats have said that this measure is not enough. 

Nicole, who rents a 60-square-metre flat in the department of Val-d'Oise and who did not wish to give her full name, told Le Figaro that her building fees, which go towards heating the building, have more than doubled.

“I used to pay €990 per quarter and will now pay almost €2,200,” she said. 

A more concerning question is what will happen this winter, said Géraud Delvolvé, general delegate of the national Union des syndicats de l'immobilier. 

“Will we have enough gas to heat all the homes?” He asked.

Read more: France is at risk of energy shortages and rationing, says minister

He told Le Figaro that there have been calls from copropriétés with collective heating systems for extra funds of a significant amount almost everywhere in France. 

“The treasuries are dry. We have been caught off guard because the 2022 budgets were voted in the first half of 2021, well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” he said. 

Read more: France approves €230m aid for households that heat homes with oil

The French government has extended the bouclier tarifaire to the end of this year, but there are so far no plans in place for it to be extended further. The measure has already cost the state around €20billion. 

Nicole said that she understands the government asking people to make small changes to cut down on energy consumption, but not everyone is in a position to do so. 

“We don’t all live in south-facing flats,” she said. 

Read more: Rent prices in France frozen for least energy efficient properties

How to get a free composting bin

It is to be mandatory in France for all individuals and households to have access to a bio waste or composting bin from the beginning of 2024. 

In some cities, towns and villages around France, it is possible to order a composting bin for yourself – sometimes for free or at a very small cost. 

This is the case for people living in Marseille, for example, where you can get an individual composteur for €10. See more information here

The easiest way to find out if your commune offers this is to ask at the mairie. 

Other communes are starting to set up more public composting bins, that are located in parks or elsewhere. 

The website biodechets.org has started to map out all these bins on its website. However, not all bins will be marked. 

Around four million people in France today have a composting bin. 

Unstable neighbouring building forces family out of home

A family of six living in Saint-Étienne (Loire) have been waiting for 17 months to move back into their 300-square-metre loft apartment but are unable to do so because the neighbouring building has been deemed “unstable and dangerous”. 

A court order (arrêté de péril imminent) has forced the family and other residents of nearby buildings out of their homes. 

This includes Antoine and Élodie Lavignotte and their four children. 

The couple took legal action against the syndic that manages the building – the real estate company Foncia – and the insurance company, Swiss Life. 

The Saint-Étienne court ruled in their favour and ordered the two companies to compensate the family for damage and to immediately carry out renovations on the unstable building. 

However, Foncia and Swiss Life appealed and the Lyon Court of Appeal overturned the decision, ruling that the Saint-Étienne court was “not competent to judge this case”.

Mr Lavignotte told Le Progrès he found the decision “absurd”.  

Mrs Lavignotte said that they want to return to their home to fix their boiler, which they worry is close to breaking down. 

They also ordered a new kitchen just before being forced to move out. 

“It is now finished and has been due to be put in for several months, but we are being forced to pay more for the designer to hold it,” she said. 

The Saint-Étienne mairie has more recently ordered that the necessary renovation work on the building be carried out. 

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