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Q&A: what property for my lifestyle?

PUBLISHED: 16:21 09 March 2017 | UPDATED: 17:08 09 March 2017

What property for my lifestyle? © Mrallen / Dreamstime

What property for my lifestyle? © Mrallen / Dreamstime

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French property expert and CEO of Leggett Immobilier, Graham Downie, answered your questions on 'what property for my lifestyle' in a live Twitter Q&A - if you missed it then you can catch up here

Q1. We’re a professional couple with two young children looking to move to rural France. What should we be looking for?

The best advice I can give is to find an agent with knowledge of the best local schools. Pick their brains on class sizes, reputation/results and bus routes if it’s rural. I moved to France in 2003 so that my children could grow up here and their needs far outweighed the size, shape and look of the house!

Q2. Roughly how big a gîte business would support a mortgage free couple? In the Charente/Dordogne areas.

You need to concentrate on income and demand not size. Go for a prime area with strong rental demand (Cognac is a good example in the Charente where I live). Above all research your potential competition, the rates they charge and their occupancy rates throughout the year. Look at the potential returns, be cautious and buy with your head not your heart.

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Q3. I want to buy in the Pyrénées for around €155,000. What deposit do I need including notaire fees? What other buying costs should I budget for?

The deposit is usually 5-10% and the notaires fees will be around 7%. We always include agency fees in price so there will be no hidden costs. You will need to allow for taxe d’habitation and taxe foncière of course (see below) but no other hidden costs, it may be Napoleonic and quite long winded but it’s a transparent process here in France.

Q4. Has Brexit really affected the housing market for expat UK vendors and for UK buyers?

No. We have more UK enquiries than this period 12 months ago and our sales pipeline is 18% up. Despite our fears in the aftermath of the referendum, demand has not been hit. Expat vendors are more affected by the strength of the domestic market which has turned and is no longer in the doldrums. There were around 900,000 transactions here last year.

Q5. Is it a bad time to buy French property with Brexit/expat rights unclear or do you sense confidence in the market?

Definite confidence. Let’s face it, the UK & France have been best mates since junior school and Emmanuel Macron was in London recently comforting 3,000 of the many French expats there, so we don’t think there will be material change. There are plenty of international buyers here from outside the EU (USA, Australia and the Far East in particular) and I think most people understand this.

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Q6. Is there a market for longer term winter lets for (heated) gîtes that are not near skiing areas?

My advice is don’t factor it into your sums but treat it as bonus/rainy day money. Again, make sure you choose a trusted agent that lives and works locally and will be able to advise you on year round demand and prices.

Q7. How are property taxes determined in France?

Taxe foncière = ownership tax, taxe d’habitation = residence tax (both based on Jan 1st). Calculations are based on size using a system that’s unfathomable to me – you can find the formulas online but the good news is that they are usually far lower than the equivalent UK taxes.

Q8. Our budget is €400,000, can we afford the south of France?

Yes! We have over 1,000 listings in Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur for under €400,000 and sell plenty of property at this level. You’ll obviously pay a premium to be on the coast but you’ll be able to choose between sea views or something bigger inland.

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Q9. I’ve got £50,000 for a ‘doer upper’ with another £50,000 for the renovation and need to house family of five. Is this possible?

For sure – try looking in rural departments like Corrèze, Creuse and Haute-Vienne. There are plenty of areas that will have what you want but make sure you do your sums and add in contingencies for unexpected costs.

Q10. I’m looking for somewhere with an authentic French culture – where should I be looking?

There are so many areas to choose from but you could try Gascony or Perigord Noir – they are not ‘official’ regions but both have bags of history, a traditional food culture and plenty of lovely scenery.

Q11. We always holiday by the beach and would love a coastal property but our budget is limited – any ideas?

There are some superb beaches on the west coast with plenty of sunshine. Try Vendée or Charente-Maritime for family beaches (my favourite beach is hidden Meschers in Charente-Maritime) or Brittany and Normandy for a superb mix of rugged coastline with dramatic inlets and sandy beaches.

Keep an eye on the French Property News Twitter account for the next live Q&A!

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