Buyers looking to France as a safe haven

According to the 5th edition of the BNP Paribas international buyers research report ‘Investing & Living Abroad, buyers are most influenced by three factors – quality of life, climate and gastronomy – which bodes well for France which excels in all three.

Trevor Leggett, chief executive of French estate agency Leggett Immobilier, said: “This may explain why international buyers tended to head towards the south and south west of the country in search of both sunshine and a more relaxed way of life. Indeed 67% of respondents to the questionnaire said that they were buying a property in France to prepare for future retirement.”

Disappointingly, there was a fall of 29% in the number of transactions by international buyers in 2012, but Leggett says that this was not really unexpected given the widespread economic uncertainty. And with vendors and agents now beginning to price realistically, he believes that we’ll now see transaction numbers gradually rising again, both for international and domestic buyers, The average transaction amount, however, did rise by five per cent to €384,000, which is encouraging news and this increase in budget suggests that many ‘middle class’ buyers are looking to France as a safe haven.

Britons continue to be the main investors in French property, accounting for just under 20% of all transactions. They’re closely followed by Belgians at 16%, Italians at 13%, and the Swiss at 11%.  Russia has seen a jump in buyers and now represents just under 5%  five per cent of the market. The most popular destinations for investors are the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (33%), Rhone Alps (15%) and Paris/Ile de France (12%).

Clare Nessling, Director at Conti, says:”When it comes to a sound overseas property investment, it could be said that France provides all the fundamentals. Borrowing costs have tumbled over recent months and mortgage rates are at their lowest in more than 60 years. Affordability has also been boosted by a slower property market which has been pushing prices down. And, of course, there’s the enduring appeal of easy access from the UK, better weather, and good rental yields. France also represents relative stability amid the global downturn.

“When it comes to finance, although France has been weathering the global financial storm pretty well, French lenders have understandably become slightly stricter about whom they lend to, and they’re no longer relying on set criteria. It’s much more about the individual case and what/where you want to buy. But they’re still willing to lend, particularly if you can prove that you’ve got a sound financial profile and a healthy deposit to put down.

“France currently offers UK buyers the widest range of finance options in Europe for overseas property and the lowest available mortgage rates. At the time of writing, rates start at just 2.1 per cent for a variable deal, 2.6 per cent for a 10-year fixed deal and 3.5 per cent for a 25-year fixed deal.”

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