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The post Brexit Day property boom in France

It may not have been quite what he intended, but it seems that French president Emmanuel Macron's warm words to British people on Brexit day have sparked something of a property boom.

The post Brexit Day property boom in France
Photo: AFP

On January 31st as the UK, after several delays, finally left the European Union, the French president had this message for British people: “I am thinking of the hundreds of thousands of British citizens in France who are wondering about their rights and their future: I assure them that we will protect them.”

While his words were largely aimed at British people already living in France who have suffered three long years of uncertainty about their future, it seems they were also heard across the Channel.

With the result the real estate agents say they have seen a marked upturn in enquiries from British people looking to move to France.

Although the UK has now formally left the EU, the next 11 months are a transition period during which the majority of the rules remain the same.

READ ALSO What does the Brexit transition period mean for Brits in France?

Thinking of selling up and moving to France? Now might be a good time to do it. Photo: AFP

The current end date of the transition period is December 31st 2020 – and anyone who is a permanent resident of France before that date is covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, which offers enhanced protections in terms of residency, healthcare, pensions and other rights.

What the rules will be for people who want to move to France after that date we don't know – that's one of the things still to be addressed during the transition period.

But it's highly likely that the rules will be much stricter and will may involve getting visas for longer stays.

So with that uncertainty in mind, many people who had long-term plans to move to France seem to be bringing their schedules forward.

Trevor Leggett, president of real estate agency Leggett Immobilier, which specialises in international purchases, said: “We took over 8,000 enquiries from British buyers in January – 55 percent up on the previous month – with people wanting to buy before the transition period finishes at the end of the year. 

“We have just come back from The France Show in London, where people were literally queuing to visit the Leggett stand and speak with our agents. 

“We usually see a balanced mixture, of those looking to buy a holiday home and those looking to move to France full time.  This year though, the vast majority of enquiries were from people looking to move across the Channel permanently.”

Julie Savill, marketing director of the Beaux Villages Immobilier agency, said: “If we look at enquiry levels and buyer intentions, then the desire to move to France hasn’t dimmed at all since the referendum.

“There have been temporary dips in transaction volumes around the key dates in the process so far, that one might categorise as a ‘wait and see’ factor.
“There is a new imperative amongst some buyers to get in before the end of 2020. As the sale process can take four months, now is the time to be viewing and securing a property deal.
“What has changed is ability to make the move. Many buyers are dependent on a UK property sale to fund their onward purchase in France, and the UK property market has been somewhat stuck. But it now seems to be on the move!”
She added that the départements of Charente, Charente-Maritime, Dordogne, Gironde and Lot et Garonne remain popular with British buyers.
“France remains welcoming to Brits and other nationalities, notwithstanding the politics.”

If you're thinking of making the move to France it's certainly true that the rights offered under the Withdrawal Agreement are likely to be more generous than what comes after.

But it's still a big step and requires some thought.

If you're of working age you need to look at what work you might do. The year 2020 is set to be a good one for job-hunters in France – here's a quick roundup of who is recruiting – with unemployment falling and many firms creating new jobs, but a lot will depend on your level of French.

READ ALSO The jobs you can do in France without speaking French

If you're retired you might be more focused on where to live. These maps show where the biggest communities of British people in France are so you can seek out (or avoid) your compatriots.

If you're serious about making the move before December 31st head to our Preparing for Brexit section where you will find all the practical information about residency, healthcare, driving licences and pensions.

And we also asked some of our readers who have been living in France for a while for their top tips to make a successful move – Keep all paperwork and learn patience: What you need to know about moving to France.


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MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

While French cities such as Paris are notoriously expensive, there are many areas outside the cities where it is still possible to buy spacious homes for less than €100,000 - particularly if you don't mind a bit of renovation.

MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

We decided to look at where in France you could afford a property on a budget of €100,000, and it turns out there are some bargains to be had.

There are a lot of caveats while searching for property, and many local variables in place, but our search does show some of the areas to concentrate on if you have a limited budget.

We used the Notaires de France immobilier website in August 2022, and we specified that the property should have at least five rooms (including kitchen and bathroom) and a floor space of at least 100 square metres.

We also discounted any property that was for sale under the viager system – a complicated purchase method which allows the resident to release equity on their property gradually, as the buyer puts down a lump sum in advance and then pays what is effectively a rent for the rest of the seller’s lifetime, while allowing them to remain in the property.

READ ALSO Viager: The French property system that can lead to a bargain

For a five-room, 100 square metre property at under €100,000, you won’t find anywhere in the Île-de-France region, where the proximity of Paris pushes up property prices. The city itself is famously expensive, but much of the greater Paris region is within commuting distance, which means pricier property. 

Equally the island of Corsica – where prices are pushed up by its popularity as a tourist destination – showed no properties for sale while the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – which includes the French Riviera – showed only 1 property under €100,000.

The very presence of Bordeaux, meanwhile, takes the entire département of Gironde out of this equation – but that doesn’t mean that the southwest is completely out of the running. A total of 25 properties came up in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. One property was on the market for a mere €20,000 – but it was, as the Notaires’ brochure noted, in need of “complete renovation”.

Neighbouring Occitanie, meanwhile, showed 12 further properties in the bracket.

By far the most properties on the day of our search – 67 – were to be found in the Grand Est region of eastern France. The eastern part of France overall comes out best for property bargains, with the north-east region of Hauts-de-France showing 38 properties and and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté displaying 25.

Further south, however, the presence of the Alps – another popular tourist destination – pushed up prices in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region which showed just three results.

The below map shows our search results, with darker colours indicating more cheap properties.

Property buying tips 

In order to make a comparison, we focused our search on properties advertised online, but if you have a specific area in mind it's well worth making friends with a few local real estate agents and perhaps also the mayor, since it's common for properties not to be advertised online.

Most of the truly 'bargain' properties are described as being "in need of renovation" - which is real estate speak for a complete wreck.

If you don't mind doing a bit of work you can often pick up property for low prices, but you need to do a clear-eyed assessment of exactly how much work you are willing and able to do, and what the cost is likely to be - there's no point getting a "cheap" house and then spending three times the purchase price on renovations.

READ ALSO 'Double your budget and make friends with the mayor' - tips for French property renovation

That said, there were plenty of properties at or near the €100,000 mark that were perfectly liveable or needed only relatively minor renovations.

You also need to pay attention to the location, as the sub-€100,000 properties are often in remote areas or very small villages with limited access to amenities. While this lifestyle suits many people, bear in mind that owning a car is a requirement and you may end up paying extra for certain services.

Finally remember that government help, in the form of loans and grants, is available for environmentally friendly improvements, such as insulation or glazing.