Record numbers of rural property sales as French flee to the countryside

French estate agents brokered record numbers of country homes sales in 2020 as city dwellers chafing under Covid-19 restrictions fled cramped apartments in Paris and other cities for the countryside, statistics showed on Thursday.

Record numbers of rural property sales as French flee to the countryside
Photo: Patrick Herzog/AFP

The FNSafer association, which is in charge of managing the rural property market, recorded 111,930 house purchases by people from outside the farming community in 2020, up 6.6 percent in a year.

The transactions, which covered homes with at least five hectares of land attached, amounted to a total of €23.5 billion, a 12.1-percent increase over 2019.

FNSafer said the flight to the countryside was driven by a quest for more space during successive lockdowns as well as a mass shift to remote working, which has made it possible to keep down a Paris-based job while living a day’s train ride or less from the capital.

In a further sign that metropolitans are on the move, separate statistics published Thursday showed the Paris property market starting to cool, with the number of transactions for previously-owned homes falling 14 percent in the first quarter.

Average property prices in the capital, meanwhile, have stagnated, rising by only 1.7 percent to €10,600 per square metre between January and March, figures compiled by the association of Paris solicitors showed.

The real estate market in the rest of France was booming by contrast, with the number of previously-owned homes sold nationwide between March 2020 and March 2021 hitting a record of 1.08 million.

FNSafer president Emmanuel Hyest predicted that the “reverse exodus” of people to parts of rural France that had been hemorrhaging inhabitants in recent decades would be a “lasting” phenomenon.

“It’s less of a tsunami than a groundswell. The desire to move is likely to continue for several years,” Paris-based solicitor Thierry Delesalle said.

Not everyone is cheering the scramble for a home in the countryside or by the coast.

The facades of several estate agents and homes with “for sale” signs in the southwestern Basque region have been smeared with slogans denouncing spiralling property prices.

The slogans declare “Euskal Herria ez da salgai” — “the Basque Country is not for sale.”

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Property taxes: How much will it cost to extend your French home?

Installing a swimming pool, building a garden shed, or adding a conservatory to your French home has become more expensive in 2023.

Property taxes: How much will it cost to extend your French home?

If you are planning a renovation project in 2023 you’re likely looking at rising cost for materials and labour due to inflation – but there is one other cost to consider; taxes. 

In France there is a one-off tax that has to be paid on certain building works, and the government has raised the rate for this.

The taxe d’aménagement, sometimes referred to as the garden shed tax, applies to all property development – construction, reconstruction and extension – of buildings that require planning permission or a building permit.

Garden sheds, swimming pools or extensions with a surface area of more than 5 square metres are subject to the development tax – although a 50 percent reduction is applied to the flat-rate values of certain buildings, particularly the first 100 square metres of main residences.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about installing a swimming pool at your French property

The tax is collected by local councils, who set their own percentage rates for the tax, working off the base rate set by the government.

A decree published in the Journal Officiel set the base figures for 2023 at the following rates: 

  • €1,004 per square metre in Île-de-France (up from €929 per square metre in 2022);
  • €886 per square metre outside Île-de-France (€820 per square metre in 2022).

The flat-rate values per square metre of building space, which constitute the basis for the development tax, are revised on January 1st of each year according to the latest construction cost index published by national statistics body Insee. 

Additionally, specific rates are set for:

  • €250 per square metre  for a swimming pool (up from €200 in 2022);
  • €12 per square metre of ground-fixed solar panels (up from €10 in 2022);
  • €3,000 per wind turbine more than 12 metres high;
  • €3,000 per pitch for tents, caravans and mobile leisure homes;
  • €10,000 per pitch for a holiday chalet or bungalow.

The amount of the tax is calculated according to the following formula: 

(Taxable area multiplied by the government-set base figure) multiplied by the percentage tax rate set by the local authorities. This gives the total to be paid in cents. Bills are rounded down.

So, the tax for a 30 square metre extension in an area where the combined local and departmental tax rates total 6.25 percent would be calculated like this:

30 (the size of the development) x 886 (the base tax rate outside Ile-de-France) = 26,580

6.25 (local and departmental tax) x 26,580 = 166,125 cents, more usually expressed as €1,661. 

If the total payable is less than €1,500, you will receive a bill in the six months after planning permission was granted, with details of how to pay.

Otherwise, it is paid in two instalments, 12 months and 24 months after authorisation, with a 10 percent surcharge applied in cases of late payments.

READ ALSO The hidden costs of owning property in France