Your chance to buy iconic French ‘bubble houses’ – but hurry!

If you've ever wanted to own a French national monument, a set of space-age “bubble houses” can be yours if you can raise more than €120,000 within the next few days.

Your chance to buy iconic French 'bubble houses' - but hurry!
The "bubble houses" designed by Swiss architect Pascal Hausermann (1936-2011). Photo: AFP

That was the price that the cluster of strange-looking white houses designed in the 1960s by Swiss architect Pascal Hausermann went for at auction last weekend in Epinal, the main town in the eastern Vosges reign where the buildings are located.

But under French law other bidders have ten days to come forward with a higher offer before the sale is confirmed.

The interiors are entirely free of sharp angles. Photo: AFP

Hausermann built the structures as a country hotel near Raon-l'Etape in 1966, using a then new technique of pouring concrete to create “bubbles.”

The eleven buildings with circular windows and interiors that are entirely free of sharp angles gradually fell into disrepair as they changed ownership over the years.

But they were revamped in 2003 by a new owner who changed the complex into a private residence before later selling it again, after which it returned to its function as a hotel.

The complex began life as a hotel. Photo: AFP


But that venture didn’t work out either and its current owners decided to part with the building that was officially classed as a French national monument in 2015, which led to last Saturday’s auction in Epinal.

Joël Morel, one of the owners, said that the current highest bid of €120,000 would not even cover the bank loans he and fellow owners took out to finance their investment.

“We’re hoping that there will be a better outcome at the end of the ten days,” he told France Info.



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Tenants in France: How to make your home more energy efficient

Insulation, ventilation, heating - given the cost-of-living crisis that’s affecting France as much as many other countries, it’s understandable that there is a lot of talk right now about improving energy efficiency in homes.

Tenants in France: How to make your home more energy efficient

In France many people rent and although you would hope that your landlord would do improvements like this, if they are unable or unwilling than you have the right to do these works yourself.

It means the work is at your own expense, but if you’re a long-term tenant you may make the money back in savings on your energy bills.

Here’s how to go about it:

Inform your landlord

The first thing to do is inform your landlord you intend to carry out the work, at your expense. Do this by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt. 

The letter must describe the transformations envisaged, the conditions under which these works will be carried out, and the name of the company undertaking the work.

If you have not received a written response in two months, you can assume you have the tacit agreement of your landlord to carry out the work.

Work you can carry out

A decree published in France’s Journal Officiel on July 21st defines the list of works a tenant can carry out at their own expense on the property they rent.

  • insulation of lower floors;
  • Attic and upper floor insulation;
  • replacement of exterior joinery;
  • solar protection of glazed or opaque walls;
  • installation or replacement of ventilation systems;
  • installation or replacement of heating and domestic hot water production systems and associated interfaces.

The work cannot affect communal areas of a shared property, and must “respect the expected energy performance”. 

Work cannot affect the building structure, its external appearance, require a permit, or change the purpose of the building.

What happens afterwards

Within two months after the completion of the work, the tenant must inform the landlord that the work has been carried out by the chosen company and that it corresponds to what was announced in the pre-work letter.

Other work tenants can undertake on a property they rent

In 1989, a law was passed that allowed tenants to undertake certain work on a property – painting and decorating, adding or changing floor covering – without the permission of the landlord and at their own expense.

Any other works require the written agreement of the landlord – otherwise the tenant may be obliged to return the property to its original condition. 

The landlord can also keep the benefit of the work done without the tenant being able to claim compensation for the costs incurred.

Landlord’s responsibilities

Landlords must provide decent housing, which implies, in particular, heating in good working order, and compliance with a minimum energy performance criterion. Under current rules, doors, windows and walls must be airtight. 

A tenant can only require work from his landlord on these elements, if they are deficient.

From January 1st, 2023, properties advertised for rent in France must have a Diagnostic de performance énergétique rating of G or better.