Brits still buying in France despite post-Brexit fall in property sales

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James Harrington - [email protected]
Brits still buying in France despite post-Brexit fall in property sales
British buyers are still a big part of the French property market. Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

New data on property sales revealed a post-Brexit fall in the number of Brits buying second homes in France - but estate agents say that UK buyers are still a big force, but now they're more likely to move to France than buy a holiday home here.


The number of Britons buying second homes in France has been falling over the past few years, according to a report from Notaires de France.

While second homes in France remain popular purchases and a significant number of buyers are foreign, the number of Britons buying property in France has fallen steadily and continuously in recent years, according to the Notaires de France report.

Revealed: Where foreigners are buying second homes in France

The data showed that Brits have fallen to fewer than 20 percent of all foreign non-resident purchasers in 2022.

But real estate agents who specialise in helping Brits find properties in France say that the market remains buoyant - but these days people are more likely to make the move permanently.


Joanna Leggett, marketing director at Leggett Immobilier, told The Local: "Where we used to be 50-50 second homes and main residences, it seems to be more like 75 percent to 25 percent now towards permanent homes."

Brexit has complicated life for British second-home owners in France, who must now either limit their visits to 90 days in every 180 or go through the time-consuming process of getting a short-stay visitor visa. 

But Chloe Williams, sales director with Beaux Villages Immobilier, said that France was still proving a popular market with Britons. 

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“Comparing the number of enquiries in the first four months of 2024 with 2023, we haven’t seen any reduction in the number of British buyers wanting to know more about buying a property in France,” she said. “In fact, the number of enquiries via our website is higher than this time last year.

“We are still seeing lots of Brits looking to buy a second home to enjoy for holidays and then move permanently for retirement.”

Joanna Leggett, agreed. “There was a massive peak in 2020 where [website hits] went right up. That was the Covid time. But then it dropped right down in 2021. In 2022 it went right back up again. And in 2023, it’s gone back to what the average was [prior to the pandemic]. We’re expecting it to be the same again [in 2024].”

Leggett said that the biggest shift in the market was that Britons were moving away from second homes in favour of moving to France permanently, thanks in part to the rise in remote working.

And Britons entering the second homes market tended to be younger. “We find that the people buying holiday homes through us aren’t retirees that can spend six months in any one go in France,” she said.

“When we look at the average age of our clients, the biggest bulk of them is between 41 and 60. 

“That age group doesn’t get three-month holidays. They probably get five weeks, whenever they can, unless they can work from anywhere – which a lot of people can do, now.”

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And post-Brexit bureaucracy is not as off-putting as it could be. Williams explained: “The change in the visa rules post-Brexit has made some buyers hesitate and we have found it helpful to be able to point people towards professional services who can advise on visas.  


“In our experience, the French government is very helpful and welcoming to people wanting to move to France. We also have an expert adviser to whom we can direct people for full support and assistance.”

Leggett, meanwhile, sees hope in efforts to convince the UK and EU parliaments to move ahead with proposals that would allow British second homeowners to stay for longer periods visa-free.

“We’ve seen a huge drop since 2020 … but it’s levelled out again and [interest in French property] doesn’t seem to be going down. If anything, it’s probably going up.”

Both Leggett and Williams agreed that the south-western Nouvelle Aquitaine region was the popular choice among Britons moving to France. 

“Brittany is always popular, but it does seem to have gone down a little bit. And Nouvelle-Aquitaine is definitely the highest. I'm not sure if that’s the influence of TV programmes in the UK though. A Place in the Sun is on every day at different times, and I'm wondering if it's because they tend to concentrate on those areas that they're pushing more people there.


“We’ve done quite a few TV shows and we noticed the increase. Even when the Chateau DIY programme came out, it increased the hits to our website by 800 percent. 

“They didn’t all buy chateaux. The increase on looking at chateaux and then looking at something else. It's just the power of TV.”

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Williams, too, said that her experience was that Britons were particularly interested in properties in the warm southwest of the country – tallying with the Notaires’ report which revealed that Britons accounted for 45 percent of all non-French non-resident purchases in Nouvelle Aquitaine region.

“The Dordogne continues to be a very sought after area,” she said, “only a day’s drive from the northern ports and tunnel, it is perfect for a second home in France.   However many people are attracted to value-for-money property in the Haute Vienne and Charente.”

Leggett added: “I would have thought that the Cote d'Azur would have been higher, you know? But it's too expensive, and Brits don’t have the highest funds. The Americans are actually the highest spend. Their average spend is nearer €600,000, whereas the Brits are coming in at just over €200,000 on average.”

Notaires de France said American buyers tended to focus their French property search on Paris, she said. But they also loved chateaux. “They just love the history which they don't have in the States,” she said.

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