Exclusive: Brexiting Brits spent nearly €300m on the good life in rural France last year
PUBLISHED: 08:33 01 July 2021 | UPDATED: 08:33 01 July 2021
Pandemics and Brexit aside, UK nationals snapped up almost 1,700 old farmhouses, cottages and other rural properties in the French countryside in 2020
Brits spent hundreds of millions of euros on old farmhouses and country cottages in France last year, despite (or because of) the pandemic and Brexit, new figures reveal.
UK nationals bought 1,669 homes in the French countryside in 2020 and snapped up more than 1,200 hectares of land, according to France’s rural land agency SAFER. The body defines a ‘maison à campagne’ as any main residence or second home that is not owned or rented by a farming professional but comes with agricultural or natural land of up to five hectares.
Although Brits bought only 1.4% of the 112,000 maisons à campagne that changed hands last year, it still amounted to just shy of €294m-worth of property at an average pricetag of €176,000 per dwelling.
“The British love affair with rural France appears to go from strength to strength, despite (or because of) recent disruptions like Brexit and the pandemic,” says Charles Miller, of Charente Immobilier. His agency covers the departments of Poitou-Charentes and parts of Dordogne, Gironde and Haute-Vienne. The vast majority of properties on his books are maisons à campagne, and the average British spend in the agency was €240,000 last year. “The dream of owning a pretty stone country house within walking distance of the village boulangerie is as strong as ever and, in rural France, can be achieved on an extremely modest budget when compared to the UK,” added Charles. “Over the past 12 months we have experienced a huge increase in enquiries and an uplift in sales of 35% over the previous 12 months (including domestic buyers).”
SAFER (Société d’aménagement foncier et d’établissement rural) is a government agency set up to develop and protect agriculture, the environment, landscapes and natural resources. It can gather property statistics because it has the right to intervene in the sales of most rural property and step in to buy it at the same price as an accepted offer if this is deemed in the interest of the local agricultural community.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 was a surprisingly busy year for the rural property market, according to SAFER’s report Les Marchés Fonciers Ruraux 2020. A record 111,930 maisons à campagne were sold, up 6.6% on the year before. The average cost of a rural home also jumped by more than 6% to €182,000, while the €23.5bn spent overall was a whopping 12% increase on 2019.
The SAFER report also covered the sale of farmland, vineyards and forest as well as the slowing, but continuing, loss of green land for new housing. Emmanuel Hyest, President of the SAFER federation, said previous examples of good practice showed it was possible to build pleasant new housing without excessively using up natural land. “We must think about our children’s future,” he said.