French real estate agents report rush of British buyers ahead of Brexit

Real estate agents have reported a rush of British buyers looking to snap up properties in France ahead of the Brexit deadline of December 31st.

French real estate agents report rush of British buyers ahead of Brexit
Many British people want to move to France before the end of the year. Photo: AFP

For British people wanting to make their dream of moving to France a reality there is now a deadline looming – December 31st, 2020.

This is the end of the Brexit transition period and marks the last day that British people can benefit from European freedom of movement to start a new life in another country.

After several months of lockdown and travel bans, real estate agents in France say they are seeing a surge of enquiries as buyers look to make the move before the end of the year.

Trevor Leggett, boss of France-based agency Leggett Immobilier, is predicting the company's busiest period in 21 years of trading.

A company spokesman said: “Travel restrictions, due to Covid-19, have meant that there is a huge, pent up demand – Leggett Immobilier has a database of 50,000 buyers eager to move, with 100s of viewings lined up for visitors from the UK.”

And for British buyers, Brexit is an additional factor.

“The Brexit transition period ends on December 31st 2020 and there is a rush to purchase in France before then. 
“In reality, this means finding a property and having an offer accepted before September, to give time for the paperwork to be signed and the Acte de Vente completed.
“British buyers looking to move to France know that if they get in before the year end they will enjoy the same rights and benefits as those British nationals already living here.
“However, once the window is closed these rights are not guaranteed. It is likely that they will need to apply for a long term visa, pass “proof of income” tests, take out additional insurances and not see their pensions uprated.”
Rob Longeley of Beaux Villages agency concurred, saying: “Enquiries from Brits barely dipped during lock-down – interest has accelerated as we get ever closer to the end of free movement.
“And the 'imperative' of a likely hard Brexit at the end of the year has certainly focused the minds of UK-based buyers.
“A property transaction generally takes between 12 and 20 weeks, and so in that sense, to have keys in hand this year, the clock is ticking.”
And for people looking for rural property there is now added competition as French real estate agents report a surge in interest from French people looking to move out of the city and into the countryside.
The country's strict two-month lockdown perhaps focused people's minds on the joys of having a garden, while the huge increase in home and remote working during the pandemic has made it possible for people to contemplate moving to the country without switching jobs.
Home and remote working was also a factor for Leggett's clients.
“The main demand is for country property, with good broadband and plenty of outside space. The Covid-19 lockdown has shown that people can work remotely so barns that can be converted into a home office are also high on the buyers' wish list,” the company spokesman said, adding:  “We are also seeing a surge in demand for homes that are easily accessible from the UK.
“Brittany, Normandy and the départments down to the Charente and Dordogne have always been holiday home favourites and faster TGV routes mean that British buyers have good access by both road and rail – leaving less reliance on flights.”
But before you rush to buy, you need to make sure you meet the criteria for legal residence in France, as well as checking out the paperwork demands.
Rob added: “Of course whatever happens, people will continue to buy property in France in 2021 and beyond.
“And for owners of holiday homes, there will be some extra paperwork, but we expect the formalities to be straightforward.
“There is no need to panic and make a rushed decision.”


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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

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The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.