British Nationals Race to Buy in France
Wednesday 03 June 2020
Estate agents in France are reporting substantial interest from British buyers, but with the lockdown having been eased, French nationals are also flooding into the market.
With the Brexit deadline fast approaching, in recent months there has been a surge in interest from British nationals eager to buy property in France.
Last month we broke all previous records on the number of searches and enquiries on our property portal.
There were over 900,000 property searches in May, an increase of 169% over the same period in 2019.
Whilst a lot of the interest might have been dismissed as casual activity during the lockdown, in fact enquiries to sellers rose by 88%, to nearly 7,000, also a record.
The highest daily count occurred at on the last day of the month, following the announcement of easing of the lockdown in the UK, when there were nearly 400 enquiries for property for sale.
Pat Monk, Managing Director at French-Property.com, considers that after years of twists and turns about Brexit, many potential buyers have concluded that they need to make the move this year.
She comments that, "Nearly 90% of the enquiries have been from potential buyers who are proposing to buy within the next six months, substantially higher than we normally observe."
"The most popular area with buyers continues to be Western France, with budgets generally between €150,000-€250,000. There is also strong interest in buying a chateau, the result, no doubt, of the television programme 'Escape to the Chateau'."
Joan Jenkins of Actous Immobilier based in the Charente department comments that, "We worked solidly through the lockdown answering enquiries and whilst we were aware that some people may just be dreaming, we have waves of people wanting to make a visit as soon as possible. Most are saying they want to buy before the end of the year, with many british clients also proposing to set up a business in France. Properties are moving fast so people are eager to buy."
However, Richard Dannreuther of estate agents Town and Country Property France, states that British buyers wanting to buy before the end of the year need to get their skates on: "As a result of the lockdown, most notaires now have a backlog of work and waiting times to deal with the legal formalities are often substantial."
He also reports a high demand for rural properties from French nationals living in Paris and Bordeaux: "It does seem that, post Covid-19, many city dwellers who are able to do so have decided they would prefer to live in the countryside."
His comments are confirmed by a study carried out by a French property portal (PAP) who found that "the rush for spacious, airy, country homes and properties is here".
According to their study, in the past two weeks, searches to less populated areas and rural departments exploded. Three regions in particular attracted potential buyers. The first is in the south-east of the country, between Nice, Lyon and Switzerland. Searches in the department of Ain swelled by 117%.
The departments of Drôme, Savoie and Haute-Savoie have also aroused interest, with increases in searches of 84%, 82% and 79% respectively.
Searches were also significantly up for properties on the southern Atlantic coast, in the departments of Landes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Dordogne, which may be linked to a interest in buying a holiday home.
Beyond the desire for a second home, the study confirmed potential buyers are moving away from the big cities. In Île-de-France, there has been a large increase in searches in all departments of the region except Paris, where they fell by 12%. Even if the capital remains the most sought-after area, a "rebalancing" has been observed. Searches exploded in the Seine-et-Marne (+112%), in Yvelines with an increase of 74% and in Essonne (+64%). There is also interest in the surrounding departments of Yonne, Pas-de-Calais and Nord.
Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU, until the end of this year existing rules on travel to and residence in France continue to apply.
If there is no extension to the transition period, then from next year anyone seeking to relocate to France will need to apply for a visa, and ultimately a residence permit.
That should not create too many obstacles for most buyers, although there will be an income test and a need to produce evidence of medical cover.
We considered the future legal and other requirements of visiting and living in France post-Brexit in our article Moving to France after Brexit.