Joan Jenkins of Actous Immobilier shares her view of the property market in Poitou-Charentes
What part of France do you cover?
We cover the Poitou-Charentes region, with properties throughout Charente, south Deux-Sèvres, Vienne and east Charente-Maritime. The area is extremely well serviced by airports; La Rochelle, Poitiers, Limoges, Nantes and Bordeaux are all within one to two hours’ drive and all are served by low-cost airlines.
What kinds of properties are currently proving popular with your British buyers?
With the drop in property prices, our clients are less inclined to take on a full renovation project as there are so many good-value habitable properties around. Many first-time buyers are concerned at being isolated and so search for an edge-of-village property. This often gives the added bonus of using the village facilities such as a bar or boulangerie.
There has been increased demand for country properties with a large garden, as the chance to live a healthier, self-sufficient lifestyle is foremost in many people’s minds. Many of these properties get fresh bread, meat and groceries delivered to their doorstep.
How is the French property market looking to you at the moment?
In my estimation, the market has bottomed – prices are low which is great for buyers. It is an ideal time for British clients to buy, with the exchange rate being better than it has been for many years. The UK economy is growing quite strongly whereas the eurozone is relatively flat, and the currency strengths are reflecting this, making purchases in euros very attractive. However, it is still possible to purchase in sterling, if the seller is planning to return to England or has English assets.
If you are serious about buying a property, I would suggest buying as soon as possible. Remember you have seven days – after all parties sign the initial sales contract – in which to change your mind with no penalty.
What are the cheapest and most expensive properties on your books?
At €23,000, our cheapest habitable property is situated in the centre of the medieval town of Confolens, connected to mains water, electricity and drainage. It has a living room with corner kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and workshop, and is an ideal property to escape to while not breaking the bank.
Our most expensive property, definitely one for a discerning buyer, is a magnificent château not far from the historic town of Angoulême. The current owner has had the château restored and there are two additional houses, extensive outbuildings, stables and 46 acres of land including a lake. The property could be used for a multitude of purposes, from a conference centre to an equestrian centre or a wedding venue, and the price is €2,600,000.
What is your dream property pick?
The property I have chosen is full of character and you can feel the atmosphere the minute you walk though its gates. It is situated in a village but tucked away down a driveway. The courtyard to the front is walled and there is a nice selection of barns/outbuildings. The back garden is equally private with a large swimming pool and enough space to create a vegetable patch. The property’s flagstoned entrance hall leads to a well-proportioned living room, formal dining room, kitchen and cinema room, and there are six bedrooms in all.
Competitively priced at €273,000, this property could be put to lots of uses, although I see it used as a large family home. You can nip down to the local bar on foot and the towns of Villefagnan, Chef-Boutonne, Ruffec and Sauzé-Vaussais are all a short drive away.
Do you have an inside secret about your area that people might not know?
If you don’t want to go to the beach but fancy a swim on a hot summer’s day, you can just aim for your local plan d’eau, a multi-purpose, man-made lake with a wide selection of water-based facilities. Our plan d’eau in Villefagnan has a sandy beach with areas for swimming, fishing and children’s play, manned in summer by a lifeguard. There is a restaurant on site but the plan itself is entirely free to use.
What would be your top piece of advice for a French property buyer?
Be aware that some houses are advertised with multiple agencies, often at different prices. Price differences can be down to the agency fee structure or the agency simply not acknowledging changes to the seller’s asking price. Pick your agencies well; if you feel a lack of professionalism or quality from the agency you are dealing with, don’t be afraid to cancel the rest of your visits and go on to another.