Agents predict a good year for French property sales to overseas buyers

Having seen prices fall in recent year, the residential property market in France is set for stability in 2016 with agents predicting that it will be a good year for overseas buyers.

In particular agents believe that low interest rates for mortgages in France and a better currency exchange rate for British buyers will entice many into buying a home in the country in the coming year.

It is still a buyers' market but properties are definitely selling much better than previous years. When owners are keen to sell and are willing to be realistic with their prices, a buyer is usually found quickly.

Among those predicting a strong year for sales in France is Tim Swannie, director of Home Hunts. The firm is seeing interest from UK based clients as well as buyers from across mainland Europe, particularly Scandinavian countries, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland, and also from the Middle East, China, South Africa and the United States.

He pointed out that the French Riviera property market has remained relatively buoyant throughout the economic crisis but really took off in 2015 and he believes that it will continue in the same direction in 2016.

‘I think prices will remain stable and we may even see a small increase. Other areas which are proving very popular are Provence, Languedoc Roussillon and the Dordogne as well as vineyard properties around the Bordeaux area,’ he explained.

Trevor Leggett, chairman of Leggett Immobilier, describes the current market as offering buyers a ‘once in a decade’ opportunities.  ‘British buyers have benefited from a weak euro, cheap borrowing and the lowest French property prices in years. Subsequently they have been snapping up bargains all over France. In 2014 sales to UK buyers made up 70% of our business, last year this rose to 77%,’ he said.

The average age of people buying was 53 and the bulk of buyers were people approaching, or at, retirement age. ‘We know that France always comes out on top of the quality of life surveys and it has one of the world's best healthcare systems so it's no surprise many people want to spend their golden years here,’ said Leggett.

‘However, we also saw a significant number of young professionals and families snapping up bargains, we saw a rise in the 40 to 50 age group with many families looking to take advantage of the excellent education system and a less stressful way of life,’ he added.

The firm found that south west France was exceptionally popular with data showing increased sales in all regions. The biggest increase in buyer numbers was along the south coast in Languedoc Roussillon and PACA.

The firm didn't see any significant changes in average spend but did see quite a big jump, around 25%, in buyers seeking a mortgage for their purchase. ‘This leads us to believe that buyers have confidence in the French market and the prospects of long term capital growth with fixed rate French mortgages starting from 2.15% buyers see an opportunity to purchase property that they couldn't afford in the UK,’ Leggett explained.

He believes that prices have now bottomed out in France and he expects them to be flat in 2016 and then rising again in 2017 while experts predict that the pound will remain strong and that mortgage rates will stay at record low levels.

He also found that certain types of property are being sold as soon as they come onto the market and that's something not seen since 2007.  ‘We're seeing a shortage in supply of well-located property that is sensibly priced and we're aware that the stock of really good property coming onto the market is dwindling,’ he pointed out.

The firm also revealed that while the average British buyer spends €263,000 the average US buyers spends €615,000. ‘The Americans too are taking advantage of the strong dollar and are back. We know they like prime property in PACA, the Alps and Paris,’ Leggett added.