Surge in Australian interest highlights global appeal of France
According to reports, more Australians are buying property in France than ever before. This trend is attributed to a number of factors, including the strong Australian dollar, the abundance and availability of information and the fact that French mortgage rates are between 2.95 and 4.4%. In a recent article by Claire Chaffey in French Living Magazine, Michael Bula, of Michael Bula Solicitors, International Lawyers and Notaries in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, says that he “hasn’t ever had as many conveyancing files as [he has] right now. This year, they would have doubled or tripled.”
He goes on to report that the trend of where Australians buy in France has also changed, saying that Australians are heading for more rural areas of France, having traditionally favoured major cities such as Paris. He singles out affordability and sunshine as the two key factors, with regions such as Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence proving popular.
Speaking to French Property News, Michael Bula says of the enduring love affair between Australians and France: “Over the past two years, with the rising Australian dollar as against the euro and the flat French property market, my work has more than doubled in terms of international legal, notarial and French translation services for Australian purchasers. The connection with France for most Australians is historical (participation in World War 1 on French soil) and also cultural where many Australians still learn French, study in France and/or have a fascination for French culture, language, cuisine, sport and the arts. Then, there are the books on France and TV shows on French property acquisition and renovation – from the UK mainly – magazines and websites, to name just a few reasons. Greater mobility, and travel and work patterns have also contributed to the major increase in Australians investing in France for myriad reasons – lifestyle, rental investment, children’s education, geographical location in Europe – access to other European countries etc.”
Australian subscriber to French Property News, Kim Ngo, who lives in Sydney, is currently looking to buy an apartment in Antibes. She says: “It is a particularly good time to buy for Australians, as the exchange rate is excellent – AUS$1 AU will buy you almost €0.85 whereas in 2009, it was around €0.50! I must say, compared with Australian housing prices currently, France seems like a much more affordable alternative.“ (Kim is this month’s France Property Shopper – see page 18 for more.)
And the appeal of France is still going strong among the British. The latest report from Rightmove Overseas shows that France is holding on firmly to second place in the list of top destinations for Brits looking to buy property overseas – hogging 18.15% of all the enquiries for all countries.
Shameem Golamy, Rightmove’s head of Overseas, says of France’s continuing popularity on the site: “France remains one of the most popular places to purchase for Brits. It is lifestyle over investment motives that drives buyers. With France, the property-buying process is extremely safe so potential buyers feel secure when it comes to spending their life savings on a second home or retirement property. Cheap and easy access makes the move significantly less stressful as they feel they are not leaving friends and family behind because it is so easy to jump back to the UK at any point for a visit, or invite them over for a long weekend.”
On the subject of retirement, according to MGM Advantage, France is the second most popular place for Britons to retire. Again, proximity and a sense of security (in this instance born of familiarity) are the key issues, says Andrew Tully, pensions technical director at the retirement income specialist: “Recent ONS data showed France as the most popular holiday destination for Brits outside the UK in 2011. There is no doubt we feel more comfortable retiring where we have enjoyed holidaying. Many of us have been to France and we get to know and favour certain regions/towns so we’re comfortable going to retire there as we know the amenities and attractions. So it isn’t a step into the unknown.
“France is obviously close to the UK geographically with great transport links making it easy for retirees to return to see family and friends. Conversely friends and family can easily visit France, so retirees still feel close to ‘home’.
“What’s more, French is often one of the languages learnt at school so picking up the language later in life is easier for many.
“Many of the same reasons people enjoy holidaying in France – lifestyle, weather, food, comparative cost of living – are also the factors that influence people viewing the country as a retirement destination.”