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French property hotspots: The coastal areas that buyers are flocking to

The French property market is the busiest it has been for decades, with coastal properties particularly in demand. France-based real estate agent Joanna Leggett shared three of the biggest hotspots for buyers.

French property hotspots: The coastal areas that buyers are flocking to
Royan, on France's west coast. Photo by XAVIER LEOTY / AFP
We haven’t seen anything like it in well over 20 years of selling French property. Our agents are working flat out to field enquiries from both domestic buyers and those from the UK and beyond.

It’s not just us though – the Notaires de France tell us that there have been almost 1.2 m sales across the country in the last 12 months. To put this into context we’d normally expect this figure to be around the 900,000 mark. 

READ ALSO 5 of the most affordable places to buy property in France

So why is French property so popular? 

Well, obviously the sunshine, food and drink, stunning landscapes, and quality of life play a big part. But these are ever-present. What’s really different at the moment is: 

  • a post-pandemic urge to buy country property that is light and airy, with access to outside space and fresh air. 

  • cheap finance – mortgage rates have been at historically low levels (although rising now).  

  • value for money – property prices in Paris, London and other European cities have risen steadily, whilst country property in France has lagged behind. This means it is great value by comparison. 

There has been plenty of research, undertaken since the Covid lockdowns, that shows a clear shift in buyer need.

One report (undertaken by UBS Wealth Management) said that 75 percent of people polled anticipated permanent lifestyle shifts, including less time spent in the office.

READ ALSO How to get rid of squatters from your French property

This anticipation is turning into reality as buyers look for second homes that have a good-sized home office – the most sought-after properties have high speed internet (preferably fibre) and a home office with a view.

Hotspots 

Pretty much all properties on both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts are in great demand. However, we have identified three hot-spots where buyers, from both France and overseas, are fighting over the few properties that are coming on to the market. 

Bay de Morlaix in Brittany is the perfect location for a holiday home and is particularly popular with buyers from Paris and the UK. The sandy beaches and sheltered coastline make it perfect for family holidays. 

Morlaix itself is famous for its unique architecture, with pretty, timbered, houses that were built for the wealthy linen traders. Carantec is another popular location, and you will pay an average of €2,500 euros per square metre there, which makes it great value as a holiday-home retreat. 

Second home owners: What can you bring to your French property?

Royan and surrounding resorts in Charente-Maritime are also hugely popular at the moment.

They are close to the airport in La Rochelle which has flights from European cities including London, Manchester, Bristol, and Dublin. The microclimate in this area makes it the second sunniest part of France and the beaches are sandy and safe, with a choice of wonderful seafood restaurants on hand.

The average cost of an apartment in Royan is €3,490 per square metre, move inland to neighbouring Charente and prices are even lower. 

Cote d’Azur – the Mediterranean cost is ever popular, but the Leggett office in Nice is seeing a daily influx of both local and international buyers.

It is best summed up by Dan Norris, who runs our team in the area: “The market is on fire at every price level. It is dominated by local buyers and you need to move quickly. Properties are selling within hours of coming on the market, this is the craziest I have ever seen it“.

Prices are higher of course, with an apartment in Nice costing an average of €4,240 per square metre. Head up into the hills and you get views out over the Mediterranean, but fewer crowds and lower prices. 

Joanna Leggett is Marketing Director of Leggett Immobilier, the leading international estate agency in France, www.leggettfrance.com 

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PROPERTY

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.

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