Are Parisians really fleeing to the countryside since lockdown?

Are Parisians really fleeing to the countryside since lockdown?
Photo: AFP
While the pandemic has shaken the entire world, lockdown was an opportunity for some to reflect on their way of life and to decide they wanted a new one out of the capital.

The nationwide lockdown in the spring meant two months confined at home – and for many people in Paris that meant small apartments with no outdoor space.

An exceptional situation that led many to reconsider their lives and even some to conclude they wanted to leave the French capital.

Leaving Paris as soon as lockdown ended is what Félicitée and her husband Maxime decided to do – after being confined with their three boys in their 67 square metres appartement in the 10th arrondissement.

“It was the quickest but also the best decision we have ever taken,” 36-year-old Félicitée told The Local.

In less than four weeks, the couple had told their landlord they were leaving, and found a house in Dieppe (Normandy), for almost the same rent.

“It’s where we are both from, our families are there as well,” says Félicitée whose desire to live closer to her loved ones was not new but has been “exacerbated” by Covid-19.

A feeling that is shared by 17 percent of French people, according to an IFOP (French Institute of Public Opinion) survey issued last June.

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READ ALSO: 'People have been waiting for this moment': Weary Parisians try to return to normal after lockdown

Looking for bigger and greener

“Our cue was being locked up in our tiny Parisian apartment, we wanted a better life and moving out to Pau really brought us an undeniable quality of life,” Léon told The Local.

He and his family decided to leave the capital for the commune of Pau in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département (south west France).

Photo: AFP

“Life is beautiful here, we’re close to the sea, the ocean and the mountain but also quite close to several big cities,” Léon said.

Indeed, according to Paris je te quitte (Paris I'm leaving you) after the end of lockdown, 59 percent of Île-de-France inhabitants said they wanted to live in a less stressful environment while the same percentage wished to get closer to nature.

But other than the fresh air, the cost of life in provincial cities is also more interesting for these newly installed families.

“In Pau, rents are lower than in Paris and even though we earn less, we also tend to consume less here,” said Leon.

A rise in house prices in provincial cities

But if smaller towns are taken by storm by Parisians, won’t this new phenomenon, if it becomes a trend, impact the prices of these – usually – less expensive places to settle?

According to what Aveyron-based real estate agent Jean-Stéphane Villain told France 3, since the end of lockdown, the houses in his southern French département get sold very quickly, targeted by former big city inhabitants seduced by the idea of a quiet télétravail environnement.

Indeed, 23 percent of the French said télétravail (working from home) could influence them to move, according to a survey published in June by French opinion poll institute Ifop and housing network Optimhome on the Covid-19 crisis’ impact on the French and on their view of the housing market.

This new clientele could even replaces Brits, who before the pandemic were the ones to frequently invest in in the region, Jean-Stephane Villain said.

READ ALSO: Ten things you need to think about before buying a house in France. 

But as the demand rises, so do the prices.

“The arrival of all these people made the market rise significantly. Today, housing costs €1,000 per square metre more,” told France Info Tours-based real estate agent Helianthe Patte.

READ ALSO: What is happening to house prices in France amid the coronavirus crisis? 

Is Paris really deserted?

But though it seems like many decided to ditch their Parisian life to go quieter, is Paris really getting emptier and so, cheaper ?

“Lockdown made me rethink my professional choices but not my life in Paris, it’s indispensable for me to be here in order to find a job,” told 27-year-old publicist Anaïs.

A placard reading “furnished apartment for rent” on an appartment building in Paris. Photo: AFP

Apart from its other effects, the pandemic also shattered the French economy.

“With the economic crisis looming and business failures piling up, employment is going to concentrate around big cities, especially for young people looking for their first job,” Franck Vignaud, President of Le Laboratoire de l’immobilier (a body of experts studying the market of newly built properties) told The Local.

And though some decided to head to the countryside, others tried to find greener places near Paris and this could contribute to an increase of prices in the capital's inner and outer suburbs.

Property prices in the inner suburbs (Petite Couronne) are set to increase by 9 percent, while the outer suburbs (Grande Couronne) could see increases of 6.1 percent for flats and 7.6 percent for houses respectively, according to numbers in the analysis by Les Grands Notaires de Paris.

“The ‘going back to the country’ myth collides with the reality of the job market,” said Vignaud.

And indeed, cities in general don’t seem to be less popular than before lockdown.

Between May 11th (the end of official lockdown in France) and August 31st 2020 and compared to the same period in 2019, cities continued to occupy an important place in real estate searches (for buying and renting) on website Se Loger.

By Gwendoline Gaudicheau


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