Almost half of British expats choose France

France has secured its biggest ever share of British enquiries about overseas property with an increase in the last four years from 15% to 45%

France is the number one destination for Britons looking to buy overseas. These are the findings of the of the latest overseas property hotspots report compiled by overseas mortgage specialist, Conti, which reports that France is top of the list for the fourth year in a row.

The report states that, in grabbing a massive 45% of all enquiries made by Brits about buying property overseas, France has secured its biggest share to date. Indeed, France’s record in the chart over recent years shows a continuous rise in Brits favouring it as their foreign destination of choice when it comes to investing in bricks and mortar. The country topped the poll with 39% last year, and, back in 2008, scooped just 15%.

BRITS INVEST IN FRANCE

We recently reported the findings of real estate research company, DTZ, which stated that property investors are focusing on safe investment markets, and went on to point out that France recorded the biggest increase in real estate transactions in the second quarter of 2012, with sales up 114% (including commercial property) to €4.2 billion.

The idea of British investors favouring secure markets is supported by Clare Nessling of Conti, who says: “Buyers have increasingly been sticking to locations they know and trust. The eurozone crisis continues, but the growing strength of the pound against the euro is boosting the budgets of people in the UK who are looking to buy property in locations such as France. This, together with some bargain property prices and low interest rates, is making it even more affordable. It also helps that these countries offer easy access from the UK, and rental opportunities are good too.”

Talking specifically about France, Clare says: “Against the volatility of the British market, French property is seen as an increasingly solid investment option over the long term. It’s also affordable, with rates currently starting from just 2.79%, and mortgage availability is still generally very good.

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And while French property hasn’t been reduced to bargain basement prices, it generally remains well under UK averages, with plenty to choose from within a budget and the current strength of the pound allowing buyers to get more bang for their buck. As it’s in a relatively secure situation, loan-to-value ratios are still high and it’s quite normal for clients to borrow up to 70% of the value of a property with an interest-only mortgage and up to 85% with a repayment mortgage.“

BANKING ON THE BENEFITS

On the subject of mortgages, John Busby, of French Private Finance, points out that: “New life has been brought to the French property market as many banks have now cut margins and rates in response to dramatic falls in the main benchmark rates. Non-residents can now benefit from a 25-year fixed rate at 3.75% or a variable rate for the same period from 2.70%. We have seen an increase in the number of applications sent to the bank looking for these new conditions, which is bringing renewed vigour and confidence to the property market in France.

“Many of our property partners are also reporting increasing numbers of enquiries as buyers embrace the extremely low interest rates and stability brought about by the unlimited bond buying scheme announced by Mario Draghi, the new president of the European Central Bank. “

Of recent changes introduced by President Hollande’s regime, Busby says: “The newly confirmed capital gains taxes and income taxes do not seem to have affected the market at all, as in fact, they are an improvement on the previous changes made under the Sarkozy regime. The net effect is that capital gains will taper to 0% after 22 years and the new income taxes are only really applicable on unfurnished lets.

“The low interest rates are going to sustain the property market in France are the next few years, with prices likely to remain stable. There certainly are bargains to be had in the current climate where a lack of domestic buyers is opening up opportunities for overseas buyers to snap up desirable properties.”

Specialist French mortgage broker, Offshoreonline.org, has also added its voice to this outlook, pointing to data from BNP Paribas figures that show that the number of UK buyers in the Paris region has remained stable at around 2% of all transactions. The company’s managing director, Tim Harvey, says: “In Paris, as in London, we can see the importance of the international buyer who has certainly contributed to the overall buoyancy of the market.”

www.mortgageoverseas.com

www.frenchprivatefinance.com

www.offshoreonline.org