Well-kept secrets

Don’t dash through C�tes d’Armor. Linger awhile and you’ll fall under the spell of this much-overlooked department, says David Walton

 

While the property market in Brittany is slowly picking up, there are still a lot of properties on the market and this is an attractive situation for buyers.

The Notaires de France say that house prices in C�tes d’Armor fell by 8.5% in 2008/9 but rallied by 4% in 2009/10. While some owners have been forced to lower prices (from unachievable levels) to sell their property, there is also evidence of vendors who have been realistic with their pricing selling within weeks.

Demand from local Bretons has held up well. Typically, they don’t want to refurbish or renovate but tend to prefer the newer style neo-Breton’ property, usually rendered with exposed stone lintels on the windows and doors, and all mod cons.

The new house market is buoyant here with land on lotissements selling for between €15 and €30 per square metre. Plot sizes are normally 800m� to 1,100m�. This means that you can buy a new-build three-bed house for around €55,000. It will be cosy (but liveable) and on top of this you will need to put in a staircase and kitchen and finish it to your own taste.

This is an increasingly popular option with international buyers as they look for the benefits of underfloor and solar heating, manageable gardens and eco-friendly features. There are also some interesting tax breaks available.

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At the other end of the scale, there are plots available overlooking the Golfe du Morbihan with wonderful sea views for €350,000 – many buyers pay a further €500,000 to build an architect-designed villa. These can prove an excellent investment as they can be worth well in excess of €1 million afterwards.

 

king of the castle

As property finders, we have been attracting an increasing number of clients from the United States and Australia due to the current beneficial exchange rate.

Just like our traditional British clients, those at the top end instruct us to find them a typically French ch�teau. There are a few around and there does seem to be a steady demand from overseas buyers.

However, with an average property price of just €147,300 in C�tes-d’Armor, those buyers with a more reasonable budget are equally able to find excellent properties – even if they don’t come with a tower and moat.

We have also have noticed a big jump in foreign visitors to our g�te rental website. We have had clients from Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia already this year, adding a cosmopolitan feel.

Having said that, the 2011 g�te rental market is looking pretty mixed. We are fortunate that we have been established for eight years and get many repeat customers. When we set up in business we were careful to establish a unique selling point. For us it’s having hot tubs in each garden alongside a pool, but many others are suffering as the market in Brittany has become saturated.

In one of my earlier articles for FPN, I wrote about the possibility of purchasing a mobile home on an established holiday site. This is a less expensive way of getting a foothold into the Breton holiday market and I put my money where my mouth is afterwards by buying a new three-bed mobile home on a site in Finist�re. It is already booked throughout the summer and looking like a decent investment.

 

it’s a kind of magic

On our travels around Brittany, we are always amazed at the diversity of the different regions. From the rugged coastline of Finist�re and the Mediterranean feel of the Golfe du Morbihan to the mystery of the Forest du Broceliande, with its stories of King Arthur and Merlin – druids abound everywhere.

Brittany is a lively place throughout the year. The Semaine du Golfe sailing regatta attracts in excess of 200 ships sailing into different ports throughout Brittany, mooring up overnight and hosting sea shanty festivals into the early hours with everyone enjoying the regional wine and food. We also recently came across a F�te du Motard (motorbike festival) with more than 6,000 motorbikes – every single one blessed by a priest. The procession took hours to pass.

 

The St-Malo triangle

One excellent example of the diversity of Brittany is the St-Malo, Dinard and Dinan triangle, with its many delights.

St-Malo is the port into which Brittany Ferries sales from Portsmouth. Because of this, it tends to get forgotten as people drive off the ferry keen to get going to their holiday destination.

However, if you take time to visit the walled city of St-Malo you will find a wonderful mix of properties, restaurants and shops. The beaches around the ramparts are lovely and the saltwater swimming pool a must on a hot day.

St-Malo has lots of quality hotels which are perfect places to break your journey. Why not stay overnight on your return and get the 10.30am ferry in the morning? Property, as you may imagine, is at a premium here, but you can still buy a decent flat in the heart of the walled city for around €225,000.

Dinard is a spa town regularly frequented by the Parisian elite. It was popular with British buyers in the early 20th century, being the place to see and be seen. It hosts a very popular British film exhibition every year which always attracts stars from across the Channel.

I know of some off-market’ properties changing hands in the town for in excess of €5 million and one Russian buyer paid €14 million for a villa on its own island last year. The top end of the property market here is not for the inexperienced or fainthearted!

Dinard had a resurgence in the early 1990s after the Darling Buds of May featured a two-part special filmed there. Incredibly, the town was really busy afterwards; such is the power of television.

The medieval jewel of C�tes d’Armor is undoubtedly Dinan. It has numerous colombage (timber-framed) buildings, painted in lots of striking colours, and boasts a beautiful and famous ch�teau and a sensational weekly market every Thursday morning.

It also has some of the highest-quality restaurants in Brittany. Situated as it is on the River Rance, you can walk downhill to the river from the centre of town and take your pick from the many restaurants situated at the water’s edge.

You can buy a renovated one-bed apartment in the outskirts of Dinan for €90,000 to €120,000, while a two-bed apartment in the medieval quarter will set you back €150,000 to €200,000. On the market at the moment, situated right in the very popular port area, is a four-bed townhouse in need of modernisation, with a large elevated garden, and small studio apartment also needing finishing, priced at €360,000.

So there you have the St-Malo, Dinard, Dinan triangle. Next time, don’t just drive past them to the ferries, try to make it part of your holiday or property-hunting trip. Spend a day or two here, or why not even buy here? You won’t be disappointed.

David Walton is a property finder based in Brittany. www.brittanypropertyfinders.com www.gites-josselin.com