The market for second homes in France is continuing to boom after parts of France saw double-digit price rises in a year (January - December 2021) as people seek out green refuges after the Covid lockdowns.
Britons not put off by Covid or visas
Despite fears over Brexit changes, British buyers remain a significant part, often with the mission of finding a property they can drive to easily in a day.
Joanna Leggett, of Leggett Immobilier estate agents, which has a network of offices across France, said: “We were worried that the 90-day rule would have an effect, but with the extended-stay visa, people who want six months in France and six months in the UK are happy.
“Then came Covid, and we thought that would put people off because of the trouble crossing borders, but instead it made people want to buy second homes, and France, which is nearest to Britain, is very attractive.”
Importance of broadband speed
She said post-Covid buyers are much more concerned about having high-speed broadband than before so they can work remotely.
“This is often first on a buyer’s list, even before ‘walking distance to a bar’,” she joked.
[Editor's note: French residents with a second French home may work remotely in many situations, however Britons coming over to France on a visa should take care that working while in France is allowed by the provisions of their visa.]
Calvados market is booming
The Calvados department in Normandy, which is convenient for ferry terminals at Cherbourg, Le Havre and Caen, is on the list of eight departments identified by the SeLoger online estate agency platform as having a booming second-home market in 2021 and the first half of 2022.
The agency has published a list of the departments and their communes where there have been the highest percentage price rises in second homes.
It shows prices across Calvados up 8.4% from January 2021 - January 2022 to an average €2,964/m², with the three seaside communes of Villers-sur-Mer, Cabourg and Trouville-sur-Mer seeing the largest increases.
Prices in Villers-sur-Mer rose 17.5% to €3,708/m², in Cabourg by 15.1% to €4,237/m², and in Trouville-sur-Mer by 14% to €5,169/m².
Second-home owners willing to drive further
Ms Leggett said the limit for British and other northern European buyers who want to drive in a day to their holiday homes has moved south.
“The cut-off line used to be the Loire Valley but now many are coming down as far as Charente and Charente-Maritime, and some even to Dordogne.”
Average second-home prices in Dordogne, a long-time favourite of British residents and second home owners, rose 7.1% last year to €1,533/m², with the commune of Saint-Cyprien seeing the largest increase.
French are snapping up second-homes
Agents there have reported for a while that there are more French buyers of second homes than before.
“Dordogne is just as popular with Brits and other nationalities as it ever has been,” Ms Leggett said. “But locals are snapping up properties as soon as they come on the market.
“International buyers need to have financing in place and be ready to move quickly.”
Richard Dannreuther of Euro Immobilier and Town and Country Property France, based in Chalais (Charente), said the post-Covid rush for second homes was extraordinary.
“French people from Paris and Bordeaux rushed out and bought just about everything.
“We had houses which had been sitting in the books for eight years, and they went. Now we are out looking for properties.”
South coast retains its appeal
Elsewhere in France, the Mediterranean playgrounds of the south east retain their attraction for most second-home buyers despite the high prices, according to SeLoger.
Average prices in Var department have risen 16% in a year to 3,961/m², while in the Alpes-Maritimes they rose 12.2% to €5,088/m².
Cannes (Alpes-Maritimes) was the commune with the second-highest percentage price rise for second homes in France, at 26.1%, meaning houses sell for €5,493/m² in the former fishing village, which is now a second home to many high-profile French stars.
The commune with the highest percentage price rise, however, is to be found at the other end of the Mediterranean coast, in Pyrénées-Orientales.
Argelès-sur-Mer saw a 26.6% rise in a year to average prices of €3,034/m². Its more famous neighbours Collioure and Banyuls-sur-Mer saw 9% and 8.8% rises for prices of €4,747 and €3,306/m².
Ski country sees highest price per square metre
Away from the coast, the ski resort-rich departments of Haute-Savoie and Savoie remain popular choices, with a 16% rise in prices to €4,333/m² and a 7.8% increase to €2,313/m² respectively.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in Haute-Savoie, the scene of James Bond’s skiing and gambling exploits, is highest-priced of all for holiday homes, with an average price of €8,300/m².
Another survey by Mercure estate agency, which specialises in upmarket second homes, painted a similar picture.
It said overall sales of second homes were up 7% in 2021, bringing the number in France to around 3.6 million, with the trend continuing in the first half of 2022.
“We can expect a slowdown in the second half of this year in the context of the war in Ukraine and the rise in inflation but, in general, people who have the money are still prepared to spend it on property,” said Olivier de Chabot, managing director of Mercure.