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Wait to buy warning, squatting crackdown: 5 French property updates

Plus government defends eco home renovation scheme and unique French fishing huts for sale

From fishing huts to an alleged scam involving beetles, this week’s property round-up covers a range of topics Pic: pattara puttiwong / RVillalon / pixinoo / FrankHH / Shutterstock

1. Wait to buy property because prices will fall in 2023, says estate agent federation

An estate agent federation has recorded a fall in house prices between March and June of this year – but is predicting them to fall much further.

The National Federation of Estate Agents (Fédération Nationale de l’Immobilier, or FNAIM) which brings together most professionals in the sector, said prices had fallen by 1% over the three-month period.

Whilst its estimates for year-on-year property price rises in June were still 2.9%, this figure was around 6% in February.

The definitive drop in prices in the previous three months shows that prices have peaked, says the federation.

It predicts prices could fall as much as 5% by the end of the year, according to FNAIM chairman Loïc Cantin.

In tandem with the fall in inflation, however, that could represent a “real fall of almost 10%,” he added.

The call for buyers to wait comes with certain caveats, however – mortgage interest rates are rising, and predicted to hit 4% across the board by the end of the year, although this should be partly offset by the Banque de France keeping usury rates the same throughout the year.

The FNAIM also predicts the number of houses sold will fall below one million over the course of 2023, with figures pointing towards a “drastic” fall according to Mr Cantin.

A year-on-year drop in sales of almost 15% is predicted - the second-highest fall in 50 years.

Information for the first quarter of 2023, compiled by the Notaires de France – which covers all sale data for old houses in France – will be available in the coming months, and help paint a more concrete picture of property market trends for the year.

Read also: French property watch: Why buy in Loire-Atlantique and average prices 

2. Unique fishing huts for sale in western France

Almost a dozen carrelets – stilted fishing huts famous in the west of France – have been put up for sale in the Charente-Maritime department.

The prefecture issued a notice that nine of the unique huts were to be made vacant and available for purchase, alongside plots where two more are to be built.

They are situated between the island of Oléron and the village of Yves.

Current inhabitants of the properties own only the timber of the carrelets, as the rest of the construction remains in the public domain and owned by the French state, in particular the nets (known specifically as carrelet and where the huts get their name from) that are lowered into the water to fish with.

Anybody purchasing one of the huts would only own the structure itself, and not the nets that surround the property.

Most properties include a footbridge to reach the hut (which is usually around 15 - 20 metres in length) as well as the platform the property is on, on top of the hut. 

The huts themselves are usually around 20m² in size but can be smaller. 

Those who live in the properties can use the nets for fishing however, but only for personal consumption – fish that are caught in a carrelet net cannot be sold commercially.

Since 2021, carrelet nets have been considered a part of France’s intangible cultural heritage (patrimoine culturel immatériel).

The plots can cost up to €80,000, with potential buyers striking a deal with the individual current owners to purchase the plots.

More information on purchasing the huts can be found on the official Charente-Maritime department website

Read also: Jellyfish back on French beaches: where are they, what to do if stung?

3. Beetle scam accused could be fined €4.7 million

A case brought against nine scammers in Dijon is seeking to fine them a record €4.7 million, after years of allegedly tricking residents into purchasing unnecessary and overpriced carpentry work for their homes.

The prosecution is also seeking to ban the scam’s ringleader from operating a business, as well as imprisoning him for up to five years.

The individuals are charged with a number of offences, including deceit in the provision of a service, organised gang fraud, aggressive commercial practices and abuse of weakness, with three of them also charged with money laundering.

The alleged scam involved tricking homeowners – mainly elderly residents in the Haute-Marne department – into renovating their property due to the belief that longhorn beetles had infected the property and risked causing damage unless work was carried out.

Longhorn beetles are seen as a pest that can cause damage to a house’s wooden structure, and if present, work is required to keep properties safe and beetle-free in the future.

But this work was not required for the properties in question and it was overcharged for, say prosecutors. 

More than 450 homeowners fell victim to the scam and were cheated out of more than €6 million in total, it is alleged.

Fines of this amount “are never requested in court,” but this time are "proportionate to the enrichment received,” said prosecutor Claire Durand.

“Turnover (came) before the interest of what was being sold,” she added.

She also requested proceeds of the sale of assets seized from the defendants (including houses and a plane) be transferred to the French state to help pay compensation.

Some people were making up to €50,000 per month in relation to the scam.

Lawyers defending the accused scammers criticised the case as “empty”, saying fewer than half of those arrested in relation to the activities were being put on trial in the case.

“Out of 18,000 work sites carried out over six years, only 170 complaints have been lodged,” said defence lawyer Christian Benoit.

A ruling for the case will be given on September 18.

Read also: There is now a new way of reporting scams and fraud in France

4. France’s housing minister defends eco home renovation scheme

France’s housing minister has defended the record of the controversial MaPrimeRénov’ scheme, after it was granted an extra €300 million earlier this week.

The scheme – which sees households given state aid to partially or fully pay for ecological home renovations – was given the funding to help reach the target of renovating 200,000 homes by 2024.

Currently, only around 90,000 homes have benefitted, with the scheme being marred by problems and complaints over its lack of effectiveness.

But Housing Minister Olivier Klein defended the “positive results” of the scheme.

“As far as the results are concerned, I am defending loud and clear the historic dynamic initiated under the [previous Macron administration],” the minister said in front of a Senate committee debating public ecological policies.

He added that around €5.6 billion had been spent by the scheme, with 1.5 million French people benefitting.

Despite Mr Klein’s assessments of the scheme, a number of criticisms have been levied against it in recent months.

Most notably, criticisms over payments from the scheme being late or unduly rescinded led to a court case involving hundreds of angry individuals suing the Agence nationale de l'habitat (ANAH), who run the scheme.

Other complaints include a lack of available tradespeople certified to work on MaPrimeRénov’ schemes.

The €300 million bonus for the scheme is set to come into force during 2024 and be angled towards helping those of “modest, and the most modest” income levels in conducting renovations.

5. Anti-squat law adopted in France

A new law that could see squatters slapped with a €45,000 fine and up to three years in prison has been adopted after a vote in the French Senate. 

The changes were described as “balanced” by Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti.

“It strengthens the rights of landlords without calling into question the protection of bona fide occupants,” he added.

The law triples the current punishments for squatting, as well as criminalising propaganda that is in favour of, or encourages, home invasions and squatting with a €3,750 fine.

It also speeds up procedures in cases of unpaid rent, as well as prevents judges from granting delays to squatters ordered to evict. 

The Senate voted in favour of the law by 248 votes to 91, with left-wing groups attacking the bill as unjust. 

“It is a criminalisation of poverty,” said Communist Party senator Pascal Savoldelli.

Socialist senator Denis Bouad said the law "seems symbolic of a certain blindness to the housing crisis.”

Others against the law say it could “double” the number of homeless people in France, which stands at around 330,000, according to the charity Fondation Abbé Pierre. 

Read also: France’s nicest squat? Illegal home with sea view closed down in Nice

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