- Posted by Rebecca Russell
- On April 23, 2017
- 0 Comments
As much as we may wish it to be different, the old cliché ‘location, location, location’ is still a guide to follow no matter in which country you are eyeing up property. France is no an exception. Geographically big and diverse, l’Hexagone (as France is known colloquially) has its fair share of property hotspots as well as areas that dip during the economic down times.
But although France is just as susceptible to the ebb and flow of global economics as anywhere, nonetheless the property market across the country has remained popular with foreign buyers with an eye to long-term investment in a stable European country. The fact that property prices were down in France by an average of 1.4% in 2013 (currently a continuing year on year trend) is balanced by the statistic that transactions were up from 2012 by 2.7%.
LIVING THE DREAM
One significant reason why people buy in France is that they have a dream, be it a dream of a pied dans l’eau apartment, a rooftop studio or a rambling stone mas. For foreign buyers in France, it is often as much about the heart as it is about the head. This is when guidance from an independent local-based expert is essential when choosing where to buy in an area, whether it is a hotspot or not.
In my experience, which is specifically Nice and the Côte d’Azur the ‘next big place to buy’ rarely happens and buyers easily can be led astray. Unless you have a real passion for a specific town or village, the established prime property areas (and in cities like Nice, this translates to neighbourhoods) should be your first port of call.
This is not to pour scorn on those who like to take a risk. However, there is a lot to be said for caution when investing abroad. For instance, choosing size over quality of location is an often made mistake. Buyers can be swayed by the prospect of ‘more’ for their money. More rooms, more garden, simply ‘more’. But less is often more as they say. In real estate on the Côte d’Azur, for instance, a one-bedroom apartment with a grand sea view usually will be preferable to a three bedroom place tucked back from the sea.
However, just to confuse things, some neighbourhoods in Nice with sea views are really not that interesting or valuable and buyers would be better off concentrating elsewhere. But only someone who lives here can offer this insider scoop.
So what does one look for? The first thing is do your research. Study the prices of areas and see how they fluctuate between one village, town or neighbourhood. Certain factors always tip the balance. These include coastal property and pretty historic villages. Never underestimate the charm factor when it comes to desirability. Other deal-breakers include proximity to good transport links and schools.
It is important to see a place in different seasons. A lively village in summer might be as dead as a do-do in winter whereas for no good reason the neighbouring village has more going on all year round. One city neighbourhood will shine out over another (look around at the restaurant-café and art gallery quota to gauge a popular area). Why some places thrive and others don’t is often a very ephemeral thing but it will have a long-term impact on the value of your property.
Reading the subtle cultural signs in a foreign country is not as easy as on your own home turf, especially when you only know it as a holiday destination. This is when an instinctive feel needs to be backed up with hard information. In the end, the same rules that apply at home should apply in France. By all means listen to your heart, but keep your wits about you.