Hit the high note
With its celebrity pedigree and magical Mediterranean location, Cannes has an enduring popularity, writes Carolyn Reynier
I suppose for most folk, Cannes means the film festival which takes place at the Palais des Festivals in May. To me though, it means the Quai Laubeuf, where a boat sails several times daily to my most favourite place, the small Cistercian island of St-Honorat, one of the L�rins islands lying in the sparkling blue bay – only a 20-minute boat ride away.
Monks have lived on St-Honorat for 16 centuries. The remains of the fortified monastery stand on the seashore and today, nearby, the abbey of Notre Dame de L�rins is home to 18 white-cowled monks. It is a special place.
The Agence du Palais estate agency has been around since 1953 and covers primarily Cannes town centre and its periphery. “The Cannois property market is a rather special one given the town’s popularity for major events,” says Patrick Layet.
The local residential market offers all types of property: from the most modest – “There aren’t just rich people in Cannes,” says Layet – to more budget-straining ones. Prices vary substantially depending on the quartier and the standing of the apartment building.
They start from €3,000/m� but can triple for new-builds or top-end apartments. Most purchases, says Layet, come in around the €4,000/m� mark. “We’re also seeing recently retired folk coming from other regions of France, and sometimes from abroad,” he continues. These buyers tend to orientate towards more recent builds, in quiet locations but still close to the shops.
The second-home market is split roughly between French and foreign buyers.
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Non-French purchasers, whether selling or buying, are proportionally more important actors on the property stage in Cannes than elsewhere, says Layet. Given the proximity of the border, the Italians come in first, but other nationalities are also present.
However, over the past couple of years, sellers have outnumbered buyers among foreign clients, the international economic crisis having led to sales either due to necessity or prudence, explains Layet.
The market for principal residences has been less affected than elsewhere by la crise. “There have been fewer transactions, certainly, but prices on average have only fallen by 10 to 15%,” he says.
The probable explanation lies in the reduced ability of the local working population to buy being partially compensated for by new retirees sallying south to settle in the sun.
Quality properties remain sought after and have therefore held their price. There is a reprise in the air but mainly for the smaller product – studios, and one- and two-bedroom apartments. The second-home market, however, has suffered more so that, while quality properties with sea views remain popular and are holding their price well, the same cannot be said for middle market apartments – les biens interm�diaires.
“They stay on the market a long time,” says Layet, “with, in the end, a disappointing price for the seller.” The situation, he feels, should improve, but it may well take several years because the progressive upturn in the market for main homes only partially compensates the declining second-home market.
“Certain areas, removed from the centre but very pleasant for summer living, and generally expensive, are not necessarily sought after by the local working population who live here all year round,” he explains.
In Cannes itself, the most popular area with buyers lies between the railway line and La Croisette, the elegantly attractive seafront promenade. “It’s known as la banane due to its shape,” he says. Close to the sea and the Palais des Festivals, it’s the touristic heart of Cannes, with lots of old buildings; stylish, certainly, but with a standing sometimes out of keeping with the sale price.
On the outskirts, the two quartiers to head for are, to the east, La Californie, and, to the west, the Croix des Gardes. The hillside of La Californie overlooks the bay of Cannes and the town and it is here that you’ll find de luxe residences, “especially since the urbanisation of this zone has virtually stopped,” says Layet.
Cannes’ other green lung’, the Croix des Gardes hillside, also dominates the town and the sea. Most of the property in both sectors benefit from sea views.
In old buildings in a poor state of repair, you can find studios from €80,000 and two-bedroom apartments from €200,000 (plus, of course, les co�ts des travaux). You can find houses from €400,000, but, again, be prepared to carry out some gros travaux. Do note the difference between travaux � pr�voir and gros travaux � pr�voir – this tiny adjective, gros, can add several zeros to what you thought you’d have to pay for the necessary works. That said, according to Layet, you’ll generally get a better deal buying a property to renovate, where prices have remained reasonable, than one in excellent condition, which will obviously be more expensive.
“The cost of a big renovation rarely exceeds 20% of the value of the purchase price of an apartment,” says Layet. But, he adds, pay attention to the overall aspect of the building – an important factor in achieving a good sale price in the future.
The seasonal rental market has seen a sharp downturn in recent years due to the construction of a number of r�sidences h�teli�res, says Layet. So, unless your property is very close to the sea or the Palais des Festivals, don’t expect any serious rental income.
On the other hand, the unfurnished annual rental market is holding up well, particularly for studios and one-bedroom apartments. “The recent state-backed insurance concerning the risks of
renting, should from now on reassure owners worried about unpaid rent,” explains Layet.
As an example, the monthly rent for a reasonably located studio in good repair is around €500 plus the share of general apartment building charges – les charges de copropri�t�. You can expect an annual rental income in excess of 5%, says Layet, which, when added to the probable capital gain, means that putting your pennies into property still remains one of the best and most reliable investments.
“And the time to buy is during an economic crisis because prices are falling,” Layet advises. That said, although the crisis has reduced the number of transactions, the Cannes property market has only experienced a moderate price drop. “There hasn’t been a collapse, unlike other regions,” he continues, adding, “its performance in times of economic crisis proves that property in Cannes is a sound asset.”
The market seems to be picking up this year, confirms J�r�me Renaud, who took over from his parents at Agence Croisette Californie in 1997. La crise has bypassed La Croisette, where prices have remained stable and even increased over the past couple of years thanks to that splendid law of supply and demand.
“I’ve never seen a single client lose money’ with an apartment on la Croisette, regardless of when they bought it, regardless of when they sold it,” he says.
In general, around 80% of sales are to French buyers with the majority from within the Alpes-Maritimes department and the rest from Paris and other regions of France. On La Croisette, Renaud reckons the proportion is reversed with possibly around 70% of owners coming from overseas, including Italians, Russians and Scandinavians.
“We don’t see many English or Irish anymore although they are beginning to return timidement. Turks, Lebanese, the entire world is present on La Croisette. We’ve seen Indians, and one or two Chinese, from Singapore in particular.”
Cannes is a small town. There aren’t any areas en d�samour, says Renaud. What a delightful word! I can’t find it in the dictionary but it obviously has the sense of unloved’. There’s a real diversity of ambiance depending on whether you’re on La Croisette, on La Californie hillside, in the old town of Le Suquet or at the Pointe Croisette at Palm Beach, says Renaud. Everyone can feel at ease, whatever their style de vie.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: La Croisette is the address par excellence, followed by the Avenue du Roi Albert in the Californie quarter. The Palm Beach area is also tr�s pris� thanks to its village atmosphere and family beaches.
The lively centre-ville is popular, particularly for its excellent covered March� Forville, and shops and restaurants along the narrow Rue Meynadier. Property up on the hill in the old town, Le Suquet, is more popular with foreign buyers, captivated by its charms, than with the French, says Renaud.
Other areas worth checking out include the lower reaches of La Californie hillside, and the quartier of Oxford/Montrose for the parks. For more affordable property, have a look at Les Vallergues and le Petit Juas, suggests Renaud.
Prices? Well, for a studio with a sea view on La Croisette expect to pay a minimum of €350,000 – yes, I did say studio. There is a large variation in price depending on location – the central section of La Croisette is generally more expensive than Palm Beach – what floor you’re on, the appearance of the building and the state of the apartment, but prices will be between €15,000 to €25,000/m�.
There’s a 60m� two-bedroom, second floor apartment on the market opposite Bijou Plage. If the superb view of the bay doesn’t take your breath away, the price will – €780,000 – and you’ll need to fork out €1.3 million to €2 million for a two-bedroom apartment in the central section.
Property values are guaranteed by the restricted market. “There’s little opportunity for new construction in the most popular areas,” confirms Renaud. Constant demand, the exceptional quality of life and desirability of the location are also deciding factors. Cannes is the foremost French venue after Paris for congresses and conventions, says Renaud, providing lucrative property rental income. Mais attention, you’ll need to buy near
the Palais des Festivals. For long-term lets, you can expect around €14 to €20 per square metre per month.
Take the bus north up the Boulevard Carnot and you’ll come to the delightfully small and leafy Le Cannet, only 2km from the sea. It’s also known as the French Madeira, explains Marie-H�l�ne Grandmaire at local family agency Gambetta Immobilier, so named by Dr?Pietra Santa, who came across the town in 1862 on his return from the island of Madeira. Being further up the hill, the 42,000 Cannettans benefit from panoramic views – from the L�rins islands to the Est�rel massif.
Le Cannet’s pedestrian centre historique adds to its charm. The current administration is actively encouraging various creative artisans to set up ateliers in and around the Place Bellevue and Rue St-Sauveur, reports Grandmaire, with the objective of making this quartier, together with its restaurants and caf�s under the plane trees, a lively focal point and cultural landmark for the commune.
Properties between €180,000 and €300,000 have seen a drop in value varying from 5% to 7%, reports Grandmaire, rising to 10% for higher priced real estate. Purchasers, essentially French, are buying both for main residences and as a rental investment. “The 2009 crisis didn’t pass us by – we have virtually no British and Italian clients any more,” she says.
Sought-after sectors are Le Cannet Mairie, Gambetta, St-Sauveur and Cannet Europe – all areas close to the shops yet in comparatively tranquil and touristic settings, helpful for any future resale.
To give an idea of price, a 24m� studio in Le Cannet Mairie with no parking currently costs between €4,500 and €5,500 per square metre with or without a terrace. If you do need a garage or parking space, two bedrooms and a terrace, you’ll pay anywhere between €4,500 and €8,000/m� depending on the quality of the building, the outlook and its location.
A well-located detached villa in Le Cannet, with some land, costs around €8,000 to €10,000/m� while a townhouse, generally with no parking or exterior space, comes in at between €4,500 and €5,000/m�. Check out, too, hillside residential apartment buildings, some with magnificent sea views. For lower prices per square metre, head for Le Cannet-Rocheville, “more working class but not in a pejorative sense,” says Grandmaire. And from an investment viewpoint, we’re really looking here at unfurnished annual rentals. The average rental income, exclusive of charges, is €500 per month for a studio rising to €1,000-€1,500/month for a two-bedroom apartment.
Shopping in the famous Rue d’Antibes, tucking into delicious pizzas at Vesuvio on La Croisette, climbing the steps to the old town – whether you settle for Le Suquet, centre-ville, La Californie or Le Cannet, can it possibly get much better?