Buying property in France
• 12 Dec 2016
Fancy a change of pace in France?
France is a popular overseas destination for Brits to buy property due to its proximity and the great value for money you can achieve compared to similar properties in the UK. But has Brexit dented our enthusiasm? Trevor Leggett (Leggett Immobilier) is quoted as saying that enquiry levels have held up since the referendum. There is an argument that the Brexit vote has encouraged a different demographic of people looking to move to France - people seeking to live and work IN the European Union.
British TV viewers have been entertained and inspired by the Channel 4 documentary which followed Dick Strawbridge and his wife Angel in their quest to move from south east London to France. They soon discovered that their £300k budget stretched a lot further than they imagined and after 6 visits to France they bought the vast, moated, Chateau-de-la-Motte Husson with numerous outbuildings and 10 acres for £280,000. It is well worth watching on the Channel 4 catch-up service to follow their adventure.
A photo of the Chateau de la Motte Husson from their Vintage Weddings in France website
They had a pretty major restoration project on their hands and the TV show highlighted a few interesting things: France is expensive for the DIY builder and suppliers can be very "relaxed" with their efficiency. Customer service is "direct" but that's why we love the French! Dick, a retired Army officer and engineer (as well as 'Scrap Heap Challenge' TV host) has devoted a section of the website detailing all the work that he undertook to install water, power, heat and sewerage. No mean feat, and useful for the budding overseas renovator. It is wideley acknowledged that unless you are stretching your funds to buy that 'castle' which requires years of slow renovation, it is usually cheaper to buy a property which has been restored already (because land prices are so much lower, the renovation costs may not add an equal amount to your asset). It also explains why the French leave rural renovations to the crazy Brits!
So how do you set about finding that dream home? There are numerous magazines such as French Property News and several big property listing websites but a good place to start would be to pay a visit to an overseas property exhibition such as The France Show; the next event is to be held on 27-29th January at London’s Olympia.
The advantage of this is that you can actually chat to the agents to get a feel for their service and expertise, listen to seminars about finance, tax, currency and removals and discover more about the various regions which interest you. Quite apart from the various food and wine tastings on offer!
Other popular exhibitions are organised by A Place in the Sun magazine with shows in London, Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester (next event is at Olympia between 5-7 May 2017). Watch A Place In the Sun's Amanda Lamb take you on a tour of the exhibition in this video. If you attend an exhibition you are likely to see the TV presenters on stage at certain times.
Property listing websites
There are a vast number of overseas property websites as well as numerous agents who have their own listings:
Rightmove Overseas carries 44,000 French listings.
A Place In The Sun has 23,000
France Property Shop has 18,000
So, what's out there?
Beaux Villages has an architect renovated 5 bed house in Cognac for EUR 170,000 (approx £142,000)
Leggett Immobilier has a 3 bed Brittany Farmhouse, 1 bed Gite, heated pool and barn for EUR 246,100 (approx £208,000)
Groupe Mercure has a 12 bed chateau in 15 acres for sale at EUR 1,060,000 (approx £891,000) which is 45 minutes from Carcassonne:
As a SWAPX article we should mention currency - it is our business.
Since the Brexit vote the value of the pound has fallen and property in France is now more expensive. So Dick and Angel Strawbridge, who paid £280,000 for their chateau in January 2015 would have to pay £294,000 today (the cheapest price in the past 12 months would have been £244,000 in July 2015).
These alarming price differences can be mitigated using a currency broker who can fix an exchange rate now for a future date (using a forward currency contract) or indeed they can simply monitor the market for you. Equally you can place orders to buy at specific rates. There is a golden rule: don't gamble; if you can afford it now, fix it!
Having a SWAPX card in your pocket means that on your property viewing expeditions you will get the best rate for hotels and restaurants when in France. You can now pre-register for a new card below. Don't leave it until you are at the ferry terminal - you will pay considerably more for your Euros.