Row as French house on sale for five times more than buyer paid in 2018

Locals want to stop purchase by an American saying property speculation means they can no longer afford to buy

Traditional farmhouse in Basque country with, inset, estate agent image of renovated farmhouse
After significant renovation work, the farmhouse that cost €250,000 in 2018 is on sale for €1.49m in 2024 (inset)
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Locals in the south-west of France are trying to prevent the sale of a farmhouse, saying the price agreed with an American buyer is too high and skews the housing market. 

The American buyer, who is looking for a second home, has already been urged away from purchasing another property in the area.

The farmhouse she wants is near the village of Ayherre (Pyrénées-Atlantiques). It was sold in 2018 for €250,000 but is now on the market for €1.495m. Estate agent Architectures Biarritz is reportedly considering her bid of €1.39m.

“It’s an exorbitant price,” the mayor of Ayherre, Arño Gastambide, told Le Figaro. “We couldn’t believe it when we saw the house go on the market at that price, and we communicated our stupor to the seller.

“Around here, houses sell for between €300,000 and €500,000, no more, even if they have some style. But this price is more like the sort you see on the coast - it’s inexplicable,” said Mr Gastambide.

On December 30, 2023, dozens of protesters marched to the house. Since that date, the property has been a regular sticking point for local politicians - and anyone bidding for the house is drawn into the debate.

Worth more than €1 million more than in 2018?

The house has undergone significant renovation work since it was purchased for €250,000 in 2018, as can be seen from the view of the property on Google Maps. 


The views of the property on sale in 2024 show a far less rustic aspect in the estate agent photos here (click to scroll):

Second homes in the Basque country

The Pays Basque in south-west France has a long history of stubborn resistance to outside influences. 

This has manifested as a movement against second-home owners, spurred on by the local EH Bai political party, which in 2023 helped end an advertising campaign for tourism properties in the area. 

In addition, the popular Herrian Bizi movement has organised protests against second homes throughout the region. 

“We are going to fight this with all the non-violent means possible,” said group member Jean-Noël Etcheverry.

Communes along the coast are also subject to housing pressure due to the popularity of second homes, which make up to 50% of properties in several areas.

Such is the problem - and local unpopularity - of second homes that over 100 communes in the Pays-Basque voted to levy tax on vacant homes in 2024.

Skewing the property market

However, according to Xabi Thicoipe from the Arberoa Lurra eta Etxebizitza housing collective, the problem of property price speculation is just as pressing.

“When you sell a home at this sort of price it becomes a reference point. This is then used when you have an inheritance, and inheritors might not be able to pay the taxes,” Mr Thicoipe told France 3

In addition, in France, property worth over €1.3m on January 1 of a given year is subject to a property wealth tax after a 30% reduction for first homes.

“We are taking this house as an example to call out market speculation, the free market and rising prices, which are making property inaccessible for people on modest incomes.”

The American who bid for the house has yet to comment.