Brits Extend Foray into French Real EstateBritish buyers are flocking back to France, attracted by the favourable exchange rate, reduced house prices and the availability of cheap long-term mortgages.
Despite concerns about the poor performance and uncertain future of the euro, the British appetite for French real estate has become even heartier in 2015.
According to Lloyd Hughes of property investment firm Athena Advisors, British buyers can save up to 40% on the overall cost of buying French property compared with 18 months ago. "Best-buy mortgage rates have fallen by 28% over that period, from 3.75% to 2.7% today. Rates have risen slightly in recent weeks from their lows of 2.55% but they are still extremely competitive," he said.
"The pound has also strengthened against the euro and is buying ?1.40 compared with ?1.20 just 18 months ago. Add to that the fact that property prices are soft in many areas of France and it's a real buyers' market."
Source: French Private Finance
Given the turbulence in the Eurozone, financial advisers are encouraging potential buyers to raise the finance in France rather than the UK. International manager at mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, Miranda John, suggests doing so reduces the risk of currency-related losses:
"By borrowing in euros, buyers can protect themselves from currency falls. If the euro does fall, the level of debt owed also falls in sterling terms. The opposite is true if you raise the money in the UK through a mortgage or equity release however. In the worst-case scenario you could end up selling the property and be unable to repay the loan. Of course if you borrow in euros and the euro was to strengthen, you would have to pay more in sterling terms but the consensus is, that's unlikely to happen in the short term," Miranda said.
Other benefits of French mortgages include long-term rate fixes of 15-20 years, meaning no nasty surprises during the term of the borrowing. "There are a lot of newbuilds going up, particularly in the Alps which has a lot of new high-spec chalets that are proving popular. Buying a newbuild is cheaper in France than buying an older property because the legal fees are lower. You pay around 8% on existing properties as opposed to around 3% on a newbuild," she said.
And there is no shortage of newbuild opportunities available in popular regions of France as developers increase activity to meet rising demand from foreign buyers. There remain concerns that property prices could fall further, particularly in rural areas of France but homes in popular areas are expected to better retain their value.
France remains one of the most popular investment destinations for British property buyers although demand has weakened at the top end of the market this year. Roddy Aris of Knight Frank International said: "We expect to see 'super-prime' property prices continue to come down in 2015 after a 7% price drop across the French Alps, but the core market will remain buoyant."
The Auvergne in the Massif Central, Finistère in Brittany and Olonzac in the winemaking region of Languedoc-Roussillon are listed as the top three areas for British property investors by The Telegraph.