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French property news round-up: price trends and cork for insulation

We also report on mortgage issues and five places where prices are set to be boosted by new transport links

This week’s round-up looks at price trends, a mayor’s plea for colour houses, using cork to insulate a home and how new or improved transport links can boost prices Pic: Leonid Andronov / 135pixels / Pascale Gueret / Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock

1: Couple plan to insulate home with 400,000 corks 

Two homeowners in the north of France plan to use cork as an eco-friendly alternative to re-insulate a barn during a reconversion project.

Around 400,000 corks are needed for the floor of the 100m² building so as to make a floor screed (chape au sol). 

Alongside its insulating properties, cork is also a suitable alternative to concrete-based screeds as it prevents the growth of fungus or excess humidity without giving off toxic fumes. 

The corks are set to be crushed then mixed with lime (chaux).

The only problem for the couple, however, is acquiring enough cork. 

“Cork is expensive. At the same time, it's a material that isn't always recovered or recycled,” they said, and so they decided to launch a donation campaign for people to send old corktops in. 

After just a few days, 120,000 corks had been donated from residents in the surrounding areas. 

The couple has asked anyone wishing to donate cork to email them at to arrange a collection. 

Although unusual, this is far from a completely new method – a couple in Alsace recently insulated part of their home using cork collected from nearby restaurants.

A building project in the Hauts-de-France region last year used industrial hemp to insulate around 50 buildings. 

Read more: New map lets you find energy ranking of nearly 5 million French homes

2: Number of mortgages taken out halves in a year 

The number of buyers taking out a mortgage to purchase a property has almost halved in the last 12 months.

The data comes from the Housing Credit Observatory (Observatoire crédit logement) and shows sharp drops in loans for general buyers, buy-to-let properties and for property refurbishments. 

The reasons for the drop are numerous but include high levels of interest on mortgage loans, making the loans unobtainable, the impact of inflation on the cost of living and uncertainty over housing prices that could fall further in the coming months. 

Some renters have come under fire, however, for not making the switch and buying a property.

“[Renters with enough money for a mortgage] are blocking housing, which increases the number of people living in substandard housing,” said Bérengère Dubus, General Secretary of the Union des intermédiaires en crédit

The Banque de France, however, believes that the fall in the number of home purchases is simply the market “returning to a level regularly seen before 2015” and that France “has left the exuberance of recent years.” 

An increase in the number of mortgages is expected to come in due time, according to the government, which believes the fall in prices will encourage buyers to dip their toes into the market again. However it is unsure when this will occur. 

Although many non-French people buy their properties outright when moving to France, a lack of mortgages on offer (and the reluctance of banks to lend) can cause difficulty for those who need them and for those looking to sell. 

The Connexion recently reported hundreds of readers were looking to sell their properties in France but these may now be marred by the reduced number of potential buyers able to gain a mortgage.

Read more: New data highlights six key trends in France’s property market

3: Town asks residents to repaint walls with ‘colour’

The Paris suburb town of Montrouge is inviting residents to repaint the outside of their homes in (almost) any colours they choose in a bid to make the town “more attractive.”

“We consider that each building, each house, is like a subtle touch under an artist's brush, painting the urban landscape,” said mayor Étienne Lengereau in a post on the town’s website. 

“And your renovation is not an isolated act. It's part of the collective work, part of the beauty of your town. Colourful facades bring cheerfulness, they make the place more beautiful,” he added. 

He is asking residents undertaking any outside renovation “to dare to use colour” because “it's nicer to see coloured facades than grey or uniform ones,” he told Le Figaro

“In Montrouge, people get around a lot on foot, especially when shopping. The idea is to embellish the area with beautiful houses and buildings - and it doesn't cost any more to use colour than grey,” he added. 

There is no monetary incentive to paint buildings in the commune which is situated just south of Paris (it borders the 14th arrondissement), and the mayor says it is entirely “voluntary.”

Despite the encouragement, however, the proposed colour must still be approved by the local urban planning commission. 

“To date, no colour has been refused, but if the proposed one was too garish, we would refuse. Bright orange wouldn't do, for example,” the mayor said.

In 2018, the mayor of Brest in Brittany offered residents €700 to repaint homes (or €1,400 for buildings which contained more than two dwellings).

Read also: Where some of world’s best-known artists found inspiration in France

4: Paris prices expected to drop to be over 5% in year

Property prices in Paris – the leader when it comes to the overall trend of falling prices – are expected to continue to drop, predict French notaires. 

A year-on-year decrease of 5.5% is being forecast by the end of the third quarter of 2023. This would mean flat prices dropping below €10,000 per m² for the first time since 2019. 

Sales have also dried up in the capital – in the second quarter of 2023, sales volumes dropped by 23% compared to the previous quarter. 

It is not just Paris though that is affected – sales volumes fell by 27% in the wider Île-de-France region in the same time frame, and the Hauts-de-Seine department has seen price drops of 6%. 

Both the price and number of sales are falling twice as quickly as notaires initially anticipated in the capital and, as of now, there is no indication how long this will continue.

Some believe the drop will eventually spur buyers on, although prices in Paris itself are far and away the most expensive in France. 

The Île-de-France region is also the most expensive region to buy property in, largely due to its proximity and links to the capital. 

Read more: See how property prices have changed in your corner of France

5: Towns set to see property price boom due to transport links 

A number of towns are bucking the trend of the property price slump, thanks to new and improved transport links coming to their area. 

A list of five towns set to see strong property price rises has been compiled by the French media Ouest France.

The towns are all suburbs of larger population areas which are set to benefit from infrastructure projects in their larger neighbours. They include:

Saint-Grégoire, a suburb of Rennes with only 10,000 people, which is set to receive two ‘trambus’ lines in 2025 and 2027, and where prices have already risen 35.5% in the last five years. Prices are, however, still over €300 per m² less than in Rennes. 

Champs-sur-Marne, a Parisian suburb. It already has an RER A station, but is set to be a key stop for the Grand Paris Express expansion to the Paris metro, with a station on line 15, 16, and possibly on line 11 if it is expanded eastwards.

Prices are currently under €4,000 per m² in the commune but could shoot up after the arrival of the metro. The suburb of Saint-Ouen to the north of Paris saw prices skyrocket over 70% in ten years due to the arrival of a Metro Line 14 stop. 

Aubagne, a suburb of Marseille has seen prices rise by 12% since 2018, due to the imminent arrival of a tram stop on the Val’Tram line. 

The two smaller suburbs of Loos (Nord, close to Lille) and La Riche (Indre-et-Loire, near Tours) are also expected to see rapid growth thanks to the arrival of tram stops on route expansions. In the latter, 1,300 housing units are already under construction before the tramway’s arrival in 2028. 

Read more: A tale of progress: 2024 Olympics drive work on Paris Métro

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