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Second homes, price rises: Four updates for property owners in France

We look at how Brexit has affected the British market and big increase in property prices in the west of the country

Property prices in western cities such as Bordeaux, pictured above in the bottom left corner, have risen steeply in the past few years Pic: Ivoha, saiko3p, Gilles Paire, Oleg Elkov / Shutterstock

1. Why the British are abandoning second-home purchases in France

The rate of British residents buying a second home in France has declined rapidly since 2015, a newly published notaires’ study shows. 

In 2015, British buyers who were not residents in France made up more than a third (34%) of the total market of foreign non-resident property buyers. 

This proportion fell to 22% in 2020. The proportion of non-French-resident Belgian buyers in the market increased in the meantime from 14% to 20%, leaving them on course to overtake the British. 

“Among non-resident foreign buyers of homes in mainland France, the British remained the most represented in 2020,” the notaires’ study states.

“However, a sharp decline has been recorded since the [Brexit] referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union in 2016.”

Pic: Source: Notaires de France - Conseil supérieur du notariat

In general, foreigners are buying fewer properties in France. In 2020, 5.4% of all property transactions were attributed to non-French buyers, compared to 5.8% in 2019. 

“The gilets jaunes’ strikes (from 2018) have impacted the desire of foreigners to settle in France,” said Thierry Delesalle, head of the Statistics Commission of the Chamber of Notaries of Paris and Ile-de-France. 

“This is not to mention Covid, which has prevented non-residents from visiting properties,” he told Figaro Immobilier

He said that along with Brexit, financial uncertainty has affected the number of British people looking to buy in France. 

“The British are very pragmatic: if the context is too uncertain and the prices too high, they change their destination,” he said. 

Spain is the main destination for British people looking to buy a second home abroad, ahead of France.

This impact can be seen across regions of France where the British and other foreigners typically buy second homes. 

For example, in Creuse (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), the British represented 64% of the total number of non-resident foreign buyers in 2010. This had dropped to 52% in 2020. 

Pic: Source: Notaires de France - Conseil supérieur du notariat

Where are foreigners still buying second homes in France?

The departments represented in the graph above, despite seeing a drop off in British second home buyers, are still the most popular in France among non-resident foreign buyers. 

In Creuse, 7% of all property transactions came from non-resident foreign buyers in the first quarter of 2021 

In Lot (Occitanie), they made up 5%, and in Dordogne (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), 3%. 

Read more: Property watch: Discover the peace and charm of rural Creuse

2. Rising property prices in Brittany, Normandy, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

In Normandy and Brittany, and in certain other cities along the Atlantic coast, such as Bordeaux or Biarritz, property prices are increasing as supply drops. This is leading to more and more people moving further from main cities, a study from the property search platform SeLoger shows. 

“This is a situation that could become more and more problematic with the increase in fuel prices, which is considerably affecting the purchasing power of households around France,” Séverine Amate, spokesperson for SeLoger, said. 

Read more: How do I find out the estimated value of property online in France?

Read more: Latest notaire data: Where are property prices rising most in France?

Normandy

Average property price increases from 2019 to 2021 by department:

  • Calvados: 17.3% (€2,861 per square metre on average)
  • Orne: 9.1% (€1,429 per square metre on average)
  • Seine-Maritime: 13.5% (€2,242 per square metre on average)
  • Manche: 14.2% (€1,795 per square metre on average)
  • Eure: 11.5% (€2,062 per square metre on average)

Brittany

Average property price increases from 2019 to 2021 by department:

  • Côtes d’Armor: 11.9% (€2,015 per square metre on average)
  • Finistère: 18.9% (€2,223 per square metre on average)
  • Morbihan: 25.6% (€2,748 per square metre on average)
  • Ille-et-Vilaine: 27.1% (€2,769 per square metre on average)

Bordeaux

In Bordeaux (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), property prices have increased greatly since the high-speed train to Paris came into service in 2017, making the journey just two hours. 

The number of properties being put on the market in the city fell 19.3% between 2019 and 2021. Meanwhile, property prices increased by 15.7% in the same period. 

Biarritz

The 204,804 properties in the area are not sufficient to “comfortably house” the 312,278 inhabitants, BFM Immo states. 

The number of properties being put on the market fell 27.3% between 2019 and 2021, while the average prices increased by 20.1%. 

Read more: MAPS: How rent prices vary between France’s major cities

3. More than half of professionals in construction sector not complying with laws, inspection finds

An investigation by France’s competition and fraud agency has revealed that 55% of the construction companies it surveyed were not in full compliance of the law. 

It looked at 285 companies, and found that 158 were not fully in line with regulations. This is slightly less than last year (2021), when 57% of companies were found not to be fully complying with regulations. 

“The number of companies not fully complying with regulations, although declining, is still too high,” the Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) stated. 

The DGCCRF said that a common issue was with contracts made by construction companies. 

It found that some contracts illegally prohibited project managers from visiting sites before agreeing to take on projects, while others illegally made the handover of keys conditional on the client(s) paying the full cost of the work. 

The inquiry also found some companies using misleading commercial practices, such as one who in an advertisement included the reference of an insurance company that had already gone bankrupt. 

In another case, a company that constructs wooden houses accepted a deposit of 35% of the total cost of the work, but did not then start the project. 

The head of French construction union Pôle Habitat FFB, Grégory Monod, criticised “the unfair competition created by these scam-builders”, who he said “put buyers at risk and damage the reputation of an entire profession".

Of the 158 companies that DGCCRF found to be in breach of regulations, 49% were given a simple warning, 32% were asked to correct practices, and 19% faced criminal prosecution. 

In most cases, companies’ practices have been brought back into line in a satisfactory manner, the DGCCRF said. 

4. Titre de propriété: What is it and how do I replace it if lost?

A key document when purchasing a property in France is the titre de propriété. 

A titre de propriété is an official paper drawn up, authenticated and signed by a notaire, formalising a transfer of property ownership. This transfer may result from a sale, a donation, a death, etc. 

This document, similar to the property deeds, is not issued immediately after signing the acte de vente. Instead, the buyer has to wait until the sale of the property has been confirmed by the Service de la Publicité Foncière and registered with the tax authorities. 

Once this is done - it can take several months - an authenticated copy of the titre de propriété is sent to the buyer in paper or digital format. 

It is relatively easy to get a new copy of this if you lose it. The first option is to ask the notaire who handled the purchase of the property. They are obliged to keep the original version of the document. 

Getting a new copy usually involves a fee - this varies depending on the notaire. 

Another solution is to contact your local Service de la Publicité Foncière to request a copy. This can be done in person at the local office or by filling out the necessary forms online, which you can find at this link

There is usually a charge of between €6 to €30 for copies of documents (depending on the document). 

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