Dreaming of a home by the seaside? France’s varied coastlines offer plenty of choice but don’t forget to think about these 7 important considerations before you buy a coastal property in France
The impact of tourism on the coast – and the subsequent attractiveness of those areas for buyers and investors – tend to bump up property prices. You’ll have to adjust your budget accordingly: views of the sea, closeness to beaches etc will heavily influence prices. But this also means a house will sell well when the time comes for you to move since there is always high demand for coastal properties. You could for example consider a house which may not have a view of the sea but is within walking distance to beaches or the marina.
You’ve established you want to be on the French coast but do you want a buzzing city location or a quiet rural town or village by the sea? A larger coastal town will often also be a busy port so will be dynamic, culturally rich and have all the amenities you need, including schools (sometimes even universities). It will also be easy to access either by train or road. But, like most large towns, it can also be noisy, polluted and slightly more expensive. With large ports come vast, unattractive commercial and industrial areas too. A seaside village might have a traditional fishing port or a small leisure marina with a few sail boats moored up. Fishing villages are quiet, offer beautiful character properties and have tightly knit communities of fishermen and passionate locals. However, they can sometimes be a little isolated and lack amenities. Their location on the coast can make them difficult to access: winding coastal roads are slower to travel so you might take longer to drive a relatively short distance. They are also more prone to being very busy with tourists in the summer and ‘ghost villages’ in the winter.
If you’ve gone on holiday in on the French coast, you’ve probably enjoyed vibrant sea fronts and marinas, gone to restaurants busy with happy crowds and basked in the hot sunshine while cooling on sandy beaches. For residents, however, seasons come and go and so do the crowds. In high season, tourists flocking to a town on the coast often entail pollution (noise, dirty streets and waters) and over-crowded roads and car parks. Shops can close very early or completely in the winter and the town can sometimes feel very empty when the last tourists leave. However, this does mean you can enjoy a quiet location most of the year, beautiful surroundings and an attractive lifestyle.
As with any location when house hunting, it’s important to think about who your neighbours will be. Generally, coastal towns will attract retirees looking for clement weather year-round – particularly in the south – and a good quality of life (after all, the coast means healthy maritime air, fresh fish and sea food, sunshine and easy-going outdoor activities like walking, swimming and cycling). You’ll also find foreigners buying second homes and pied-à-terres and staying only a few weeks a year, or even families, whose working members might commute to nearby larger towns inland. Unless you are considering booming coastal cities, you probably won’t find many young people who continue to head to larger towns to find jobs.
Properties on the coast tend to be more affected by the elements, particularly by erosion because of the humidity of the sea air. Thoroughly examine the properties you view by looking for the quality of insulation, humidity, ventilation and cracks both inside and out. This also means you’ll have to factor in higher maintenance costs than some inland properties. If buying in a copropriété (co-ownership property), ask to see the last annual meeting reports and inform yourself on any works that are needed and whether they are planned ahead or not.
6. New-build or old character?
You can find traditional Breton longères, Provençal mas or pretty Charentaises full of character but, as mentioned above, keep in mind that maintaining these older properties on the coast will demand more effort and money. In seaside resorts, you’ll find mostly new-build or recently built apartments but you can also come across some charming village houses. It really depends on what you are looking for: an easily maintainable pied à terre to visit regularly and let out the rest of the year? Or a comfortable permanent home where you can enjoy the delights of the French coast?
This leads us to the option of investing and purchasing a buy-to-let property. As mentioned above, properties on the coast come at a certain price so investing in a buy-to-let could help offset the expenses of the original purchase while enabling you to make the most of a pied-à-terre in a seaside location whenever you want to go there yourself. This is a good way to see whether you like the location enough before moving permanently for example. There are some financial incentives too as laws like the Pinel law help buyers purchase properties, particularly new-builds, they intend to let out.