Is it a good time to buy a holiday home in France?

Online searches show that interest in French property is high, with many people looking at French holiday home possibilities

19 June 2020
By Brian McCulloch

Part of this might, of course, just be wishful thinking from people stuck in lockdown conditions but there are undoubtedly also many people seriously thinking about taking the plunge.

France lifting travel restrictions

France itself has progressively come out of lockdown, so that by July 1 the only remaining restrictions will be a ban on large gatherings and obligatory masks in certain situations such as public transport and, if the UK does not lift quarantine restrictions on arrivals from France, a request that all visitors from the UK go into voluntary quarantine for 14 days.

Read more: Do I have to quarantine if I go to France?

Before lockdown, the French property market was dominated by high and rising prices of at least 9% a year for flats in Paris and other cities, and a slightly less dynamic rise in the suburbs around cities for houses with a garden.

Initial reports after lockdown are that many people are contacting agencies to see about a move from a flat to a house with a garden.

“We have had lots of visits from Parisians, now able to travel, who want to buy, some for holiday homes, and others to move out of the city,” said Terrie Simpson of Eleonor estate agency, based in Eymet in the Dordogne which has offices covering the Dordogne, Lot et Garonne and Gironde departments.

 “Some, who do not drive, have the idea that you can live in rural areas without a car, so it has been a bit of a shock when they realise how few shops there are. I am confident some will actually buy.”

Most of the visits have been to places like Bergerac, with good rail, road or air links with Paris.

More Brits looking to buy property in France 

British people are still under lockdown restrictions with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only advising essential foreign travel but Ms Simpson says some have been making appointments to view in July in the expectation that restrictions will be lifted by then.

“But from the enquiries we have had, it is still mainly people wanting to move here to live, rather than people looking for holiday homes,” she said.

“The holiday home market for Brits is still as it always has been as far as we can tell, with the main factor being the exchange rate. Of course, that might change if the economy takes a dip and all the furloughed people find their jobs do not come back.”

She said some people might wait to see the outcome of the ongoing Brexit talks but said she expected holiday home-owners to be able to adapt to whatever visa situation came from it.

Related: Brexit and Britons in France Help Guide (Updated Feb 2020) 

Residents of many countries outside the EU can only stay without a visa for three months, while some others, like Australians, are able to stay for six months under special arrangements.

“The attractions of a holiday home in France are not going to go away,” she said.

Rural properties were hard hit in the last financial crash, with prices falling by as much as 25%, and staying at that same level, with only a bit of growth, in the order of 2%, last year.

“There are bargains to be had,” estate agent Trevor Leggett, based in the Charente told The Connexion during the lockdown.

Too soon to predict what will happen to the French property market 

As always, places near the sea have held their prices.

Brittany, sometimes seen as the poor cousin to Normandy when it comes to second homes for Parisians, saw a boom before the lockdown which has seen average prices in some seaside communes, both on the north and south coasts reach the €440,000 mark.

Most of the demand seems to be from Parisians taking or planning early retirement, but some is from holiday home seekers.

Property experts say it is too soon to know what direction the market will go in after the post-lockdown rush has subsided.

Worries include the economic outlook, and financing, with banks being ordered by French regulators to tighten property lending but these are balanced by the strong demand before lockdown.

Read more: Rural French property prices to rise post-lockdown?

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Owning a second home in France - Brexit and Beyond Help Guide 

Looking to move to France or already own property here? Take a look at our 'Owning a Second Home in France: Brexit and Beyond Help Guide.' The 132-page guide gives an overview of everything you need to know if you own a second home in France, including what changes to be aware of post-Brexit, information on property taxes, rules for renting and reader FAQs.

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