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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What second-home owners need to know about 2023 French property taxes

Autumn in France is property tax season - and for second-home owners there are some important changes to know about this year.

What second-home owners need to know about 2023 French property taxes

Every year in September and October, households in France receive their property tax bills – which have historically included three things; taxe foncière, taxe d’habitation and the redevance audiovisuelle (TV licence).

For main properties, two of these taxes have all-but disappeared, but for second home-owners the situation is a little different.

Taxe d’habitation

This is the tax paid by the householder and it is being gradually phased out in France and most households no longer need to pay it – the exception to this, however, is maisons sécondaire (second homes).

Local councils set the rate for this tax, and in some areas this can include an additional surcharge on taxe d’habitation on second homes.

This usually applies in areas that have a housing shortage, and although the surcharge has existed for several years it has recently been expanded to include new areas.

Taxe foncière

This is the tax paid by the property owner and this remains in place, and in some areas has increased. Some local authorities, faced with the shortfall in overall taxe d’hab funds, have increased surcharges on the tax for second homes, while most local authorities are also increasing taxe foncière charges to offset the drop in revenues.

This tax is calculated based partly on the size and value of the property you own (which is why if you do any major renovations or add a swimming pool you need to tell the tax office) and partly on the tax level decided by your local authority. 

This means that the actual rate varies quite widely between different parts of France, but in some areas it has gone up by 20 percent.

Redevance audiovisuelle

This is the TV licence and this has been scrapped this year – including for second homes – so your bill will no longer have the €138 per household TV charge. 

Waste collection taxes

Some communes, especially in rural areas, also charge a taxe d’enlèvement des ordures ménagères (TEOM) or la redevance d’enlèvement des ordures ménagères (REOM) to cover rubbish collection. These are also payable in the autumn, although dates and amounts vary from commune to commune.

Renovation projects

If your property is what real estate agents refer to as an ‘opportunity for renovation’ you may be exempt from taxe d’habitation if your property is uninhabitable.

This is this is strictly defined in France as meaning a property is unfurnished, is not connected to utility services, and/or needs work costing at least 25 percent of the value of the property to make it habitable.

Other information

The amount of both taxe foncière and taxe d’habitation varies across France, but you should be informed in the sale details of the amount of the taxe foncière, and you can also request to know the amount of the taxe d’habitation when you buy a property. 

READ ALSO Why French homeowners face higher property taxes in 2023

Second homeowners are not eligible for most reductions or exemptions available on taxe foncière, with the exception of over 75s who are on low incomes. Be aware this is not automatic for second homeowners and must be specifically requested by those who are eligible.

Be aware, too, that authorities can charge an additional 10 percent for late payment without good reason – though you may get this removed if you write a polite formal letter asking for a remise gracieuse de la majoration. You can search for model letters on the internet.