Buyers return to the French property market

With the real estate market in France now rebounding, British buyers are becoming more inclined to realise their dream and purchase their ideal French property...

The French property market has been a buyer’s market for some time now - the only problem has been the lack of buyers! They haven’t disappeared entirely, of course, people have still been purchasing property across the Channel, whether for holiday homes or permanent moves. But undeniably the market has cooled off over the last couple of years, a victim of the global recession and poor sterling/euro exchange rates. Many potential buyers have simply put their dreams on hold for a while, waiting to see which way the property wind would blow, while others have struck out regardless, securing properties at knockdown prices not seen for years. Fortune favours the brave!

It hasn’t just been the buyers hovering on the start line either – many vendors who weren’t in a hurry to sell their property have taken them off the market, in the hope of achieving a higher sale price later on. However, it seems that both buyers and sellers have decided to wait no longer and that now is the time to take the plunge.

In March, leading French property website www.francepropertyshop.com recorded the highest ever number of properties advertised for sale, having broken the 6,000 properties mark. Of course, there’s not much point in putting all these charming properties in the shop window if no-one walks by to see them – no problem there though as in February, unique visitors to the site were up by 30% and page impressions had risen by 65% year on year. All great signs for the French property market – but what do those on the coalface, the agents and financial advisers, think?

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in viewings for April,” comments Chris Bishop of Latitudes French Property Agents. “In fact, they’ve doubled for this month and enquiries have definitely increased. People are realising that now is a good time to buy due to the availability of euro mortgages and because, when the exchange rate improves and they pay back the mortgage, they will ultimately reduce the price they paid for the property. So now it is a question of looking at better financing packages for the purchase and not looking to the exchange rate to give them the bargain they were looking for.”

Mortgage advisor Jo Cowling of International Private Finance has also noticed a rise in interest from British buyers. “We’ve seen a marked increase in enquiries this year,” she says. “On average, during the first quarter we’ve seen a 79% increase (compared to the first quarter 2009) in people searching for property in France who are considering what their mortgage payments would be. When uncertainties such as the UK election result are out of the way, we would expect this increase in interest to develop into an increase in people purchasing property in France.”

“The French market has certainly improved over the last few months,” agrees Trevor Leggett of Leggett Immobilier. “Although the number of buyers is low, the quality is high; buyers seem to know exactly what they want. Prices are the cheapest for several years so this is a fantastic time to buy. During the recession, high-end vendors held of putting their properties on the market, so there was a shortage of quality homes - these vendors have now decided now is the right time to sell and there are buyers in good positions ready to purchase them. We’ve seen a rise in activity to the level of June 2007. Clients hoping the euro exchange rate would drop have now found that property prices have fallen in line with the exchange rate, in some areas by 20 -30%, making this the perfect time to buy."

"With the real estate market in France now rebounding, British buyers are becoming more inclined to realise their dream and purchase their ideal French property,” adds Matthieu Cany of Sextant. “While bargains remain, prices have started to increase, although at a much slower rate than in 2008. French property is still a prime target for buyers seeking a residence in France and an enriched lifestyle, and a sound investment can now be acquired at a fair price. Properties we have sold this year are with buyers who cannot wait to move to France, regardless of the results of the general election. The majority of those sitting on the fence will wait for the election results - even if they won’t have an impact on French property prices."

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“I’m delighted to hear that the property market is moving in the right direction again,” says Karen Tait, editor of French Property News. “Many agents have struggled over the past couple of years, but the interest in French property has certainly not disappeared. I understand why people have hesitated to commit to a purchase but while they wait for improving market conditions and exchange rates, the bargains are slowly disappearing off the shelf. There’s no doubt that property prices will start moving upwards again, along with demand, so my advice to would-be purchasers is not to wait too long before making your move!”