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Second homes For Members

MAPS: Where in France has the largest number of second-homes

The Local France
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MAPS: Where in France has the largest number of second-homes
Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP

France is a country of second homes - almost 1 in 10 properties is a holiday home, with buyers - both French and foreign - living their dream of a home by the sea or in the mountains. Here are some of the most popular areas.

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Owning a second-home in France is a dream for many - both French and foreign alike. Some imagine a life on the Breton coastline enjoying fresh seafood and cidre, while others aspire to a chalet in the Alps or head down to the Riviera to soak up the sun. 

Properties that do not function as a primary residence (maisons secondaires in French) are common in France, in fact according to a 2021 study by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), they make up approximately one in ten properties in France overall.

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Using data from 2017, INSEE found that second-homes account for 3.2 million properties in France - of which around 90 percent have French owners and the remaining 320,000 are owned by people living in another country.

The largest single group of foreign second-home owners are Brits, followed by Belgians, Italians and Swiss. 

They are also more likely to be located in some parts of the country than others. Over a third (33 percent) are in mountainous areas, while about 18 percent are on the coast, particularly the west coast and around the Mediterranean.

When broken down by département, the preference to be near the water and the ski resorts becomes particularly visible, as shown on the map below:

When broken down by municipalities - or EPCI's (Public establishment of inter-municipal cooperation), a designation used by INSEE - it is easier to zoom in on the smaller localities within the départements shown in the map above that have the highest proportions of second home owners.

The five communes in France with the highest portion of second-homes are all in the mountains.

The area with the most second homes proportional to total properties, as of 2019, was Germ in the Haut-Pyrénées département - a ski resort where 96.97 percent of the properties are classified as second-homes.

As for the other top four communes, three are located in the Alps and the fourth is located in the Pyrenees mountains. All of these areas have over 92 percent of their local properties reported as second-homes.

The relatively cheap property prices in some parts of France, especially rural France, means that having a second home is not only the preserve of the super rich.

Due to the combination of strict inheritance laws and state-funded social care that means older people are less likely to have to sell their home to pay for care, it's fairly common for French people to inherit family properties. Many of these are used as second homes, and this plays a part in the French preference for taking summer holidays within France. 

However, being a second-home owner in France is becoming an increasingly expensive reality, as several areas that qualify as "zones tendues" - urban areas of more than 50,000 inhabitants with a housing shortage. In those areas, local authorities have the ability to impose a surcharge of up to 60 percent on property taxes for second-home owners. 

READ MORE: Why some French cities are increasing taxes for second-home owners

In total around 200 communes have voted to increase the residence tax, including Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Nice, Biarritz, Arles, Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Marseille.

From 2025, this measure will be extended to communes with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants. 

You can check whether your town is in a zone tendue here.

Towns that choose to impose the tax surcharge use the money to create affordable housing for locals - in areas with high numbers of second homes there is increasing anger that locals are being priced out of the market or simply cannot find anywhere to live.

 

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