Five French property updates: second homes surtax, noisy neighbours

Plus: how to get a Paris apartment from €30,000, and why air conditioning is becoming increasingly desirable among house hunters in France

Our weekly round-up of property news in France
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1. PM promises faster roll-out of renovation advice centres

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne has promised to triple the number of centres offering renovation advice in France by 2025.

There are currently 450 France Rénov' counters, but the government is aiming for at least one per intercommunalité.

Ms Borne’s promise came during a recent speech unveiling the government’s roadmap for the next 100 days, including ways it would speed up the ecological transition.

A press release accompanying the announcements said renovation would be a key focus.

"Renovating housing makes it possible to respond to a triple challenge: combating climate change, supporting purchasing power and improving the quality of life of people in France,” it said.

As well as the advice centres, Ms Borne gave general assurances that the MaPrimeRénov' scheme of means-tested grants would continue, although no details of budget allocation were given.

Read more: Hundreds sue over French energy renovation grant delays

She also encouraged private service providers to apply to become an accredited accompagnateur rénov through the MonAccompagnateurRénov' scheme.

The initiative was set up to give homeowners guidance on energy audits, defining work that needs to be done, choosing trustworthy professionals and completing the necessary paperwork.

From January this year, those applying to MaPrimeRénov’ have been required to use the services of an accompagnateur if they receive grants worth more than €5,000. From September 1, you must also have one for work involving two or more actions for which a MaPrimeRénov' application exceeds €10,000.

Read more: Homeowners applying for French renovation grants will need consultant

This support can be free if the local authority has set up dedicated funding for it. If not, the Agence nationale de l’habitat (Anah) promises to contribute towards some of the cost (up to €875 depending on the project and the household’s resources). Find more information here.

An accompagnateur must be accredited by Anah after proving they are acting independently and not in favour of certain businesses.

2. Government challenged over ramifications of second homes surtax

Six associations representing local councillors, including the Association of French Mayors (AMF), have expressed concern about loss of revenue linked to the increase in the surtax on second homes.

In a letter to the government last month, they said that extending the number of towns eligible for the increase would have a knock-on effect on revenue from another property tax – the one on empty homes.

Second-home owners in France still pay taxe d’habitation in full, and some areas classed as zones tendues (experiencing a housing shortage) can choose to increase the basic rate by up to 60%.

Read more: Second home tax increase: Where in France may be affected by new law?

However, communes that opt for the change of status can no longer vote to levy taxe d’habitation on vacant properties.

They are eligible to levy a different tax, taxe sur les logements vacants (TLV), but this is charged at rates fixed nationally, as opposed to taxe d’habitation sur les logements vacants (THLV) where councils are free to set their own rates. In addition, the (maximum) 60% surcharge does not apply to TLV.

It is this loss of revenue, reports Le Figaro, that local authorities are upset about. As some communes have few second homes but a large number of vacant homes, they stand to get little benefit from the change and may even lose out.

"For example, Fort-de-France or Lamentin in Martinique have a lot of vacant housing because it is unfit for habitation. The local taxes on these vacant homes are significant. But these municipalities can no longer collect this tax,” Pierre Breteau, mayor of Saint-Grégoire in Ille-et-Vilaine and co-chair of the AMF's finance commission, told the newspaper.

“Even if they increase the local tax on second homes, this does not compensate for the local tax on vacant accommodation. The impact study has been poorly done.”

He said the loss equates to “about €25million per year”.

The list of new towns in France that will be able to increase taxe d’habitation on second homes was due to be released in February but has been delayed.

Read more: Delay to plan to increase local tax for more second homes in France

Around 4,000 additional communes, especially those in popular coastal areas, are expected to feature.

3. Five-year limit on noise complaints, courts rule

France’s highest court has reminded people that noise complaints must be taken to court within five years of the first disturbance – or they will be thrown out.

Read more: Noisy neighbours in France: How can I stop a dog barking incessantly?

It comes after a recent case surrounding noise emissions from a nearby factory, which a neighbour brought to a court in Grenoble almost 10 years after first hearing the noise in 2004.

The official complaint was not lodged until October 2013.

Read more: New French law will tackle ‘phoney’ rural noise complaints

The plaintiff argued that they needed better proof before bringing the case to court – and thus waited for confirmation of the noise levels from an expert, whose recordings with a decibel metre were included as evidence in the complaint.

The Cour de cassation, however, said it is not necessary to wait for such evidence, and complaints should be filed as soon as disturbances begin – or within five years of noticing them.

Official establishment of noise levels can be verified later in the proceedings.

4. €30,000 starting price for Paris apartment – but most buyers still need an average salary of €100,000

House hunters in Paris have the chance to bag a rare bargain next week as an apartment goes under the hammer with a starting price of just €30,000.

It is one of a number of flats being auctioned by the Paris judicial court on Thursday (May 11) and comprises an entrance hall, living room, bedroom, kitchen, shower room and a cellar in the basement, all covering a surface area of 26.3 m² on rue Mouraud in the 20th arrondissement, reports More details can be found here.

Equating to €1,141/m², the starting price is well below the average for Paris where, despite a fall in recent months, the average price per square metre is still over €10,000.

Read more: MAP: See where apartment prices have risen the most in France

A recent study by the start-up Virgil, which offers solutions to help people buy property, found that a first-time buyer in the city needs an average gross annual salary of €97,490, not including the 10% deposit, to buy a 40m² home in the centre of Paris.

In the inner suburbs, the average gross annual salary required is €50,743.

Read more: Seven property trends highlighted by latest French notaire data

Other properties up for auction next week include a fifth-floor, 33.54m² flat on Rue Riquet in the 19th arrondissement for €175,000. It has an entrance hall, kitchen, bedroom with adjoining bathroom, another room, a toilet and a cellar.

Meanwhile on rue de Poitou, in the 3rd arrondissement, buyers can start bidding on a 133m² triplex flat from €670,000.

5. Buyers change ‘wish list’ as hot summers look set to stay

Air conditioning and swimming pools are becoming increasingly desirable among house hunters as hot summers look set to stay.

Read more: Maximum alert: Drought crisis declared in parts of southern France

Among other features being prioritised after a spate of droughts and heatwaves in France in recent years are fans, better insulation, large shaded areas and white roofs, according to estate agent Olivier Hustin from Velvet-Concept in Biot, Alpes-Maritimes.

Read more: ‘Cool roofing’ white roof trend grows in popularity in France

His claim, as reported in Le Figaro, is backed up by Léonard Cesari, associate director of the Mobilis group, which specialises in upmarket property.

"For 80% of flats, I am asked if the property is equipped with air conditioning, but this is not a deal-breaker. It's a cherry on the cake,” he told the newspaper.

Rising temperatures have also had the effect of making ‘sun-traps’, such as south-facing gardens or top floors under the roof, less requested.

“Buyers are looking for light and brightness rather than excessive heat, especially since the recent heatwave summers in Paris, and they are also looking for a home with no energy loss," Alexis Capron, estate agent at Keller Williams Partners, added.

According to the Agency for Ecological Transition, Ademe, the number of households with air conditioning equipment in France has risen from 14% in 2016 to 25% in 2020.

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