Unlike that other great favourite with Britons, Spain, France has always offered a more stable and steady proposition for home hunters. It may never have experienced the great peaks and troughs of the Costas, yet it’s currently enjoying something of a “Macron bounce” after a few years of price falls or static values.
Some recent figures prove that the new French President really has motivated the domestic market, and also that Brexit has not deterred British buyers. Firstly, the Notaires de France’ latest research shows 867,000 sales in the last 12 months, compared to 805,000 in the previous year. This is a jump of 7.7%. House prices have increased by around 1.5% over the last 12 months.
But what about British buyers? Research from BNP Paribas International shows that whilst the 5,492 non-resident British buyers in France in 2016 was a drop of 9.5% from 2015 it was still a huge increase on the 4,198 who bought in 2014.
Their figures show that British buyers are still the number one source of sales to overseas buyers in France, making up 32% of this market and spending an average of €256,463. What’s interesting is that there were also 2,804 sales to British buyers who were already resident in France, showing that many of those there wish to stay there, but are upsizing, downsizing or changing location!
The three most popular places for British buyers in 2016 were the Alps (14.8% of buyers), Aquitaine (11.6%) & Poitou Charentes (10.9%). They paid an average price of €627,000 in the Ile de France, €592,000 in PACA and €446,000 in the Alps.
Another reason for the current attractiveness of France is the record low borrowing rates. Not only does France offer the biggest and best choice of mortgages for overseas buyers than any of our favourite locations - and nearly everyone leverages for tax reasons - but also the tax regime for British residents is relatively benign.
So where do you go? Access, climate and budget are three big deciding factors. The top tranche of the country is within a practical drive so is popular with families seeking beach or activity breaks, with the bikes or the paddle boards on the roof rack. Normandy and Brittany both offer fabulous beaches and plenty of properties near them for under £150,000. Half-timbered village houses and granite farmhouses are the local vernacular, respectively.
Still within a reasonable drive are the Loire, Centre and Poitou-Charentes regions, and the latter has been especially popular with the British in recent years, as the figures above show. After the Ile-de-France (Paris), it is the French region with the highest number of British residents (around 16,193 in 2012), followed by Aquitaine (Dordogne/Bordeaux/Lot et Garonne), the Midi-Pyrenees (the hugely popular Toulouse area) and Rhone-Alps (ski properties).
The Poitou-Charentes has proved popular for its mix of charming chocolate-box villages, vineyards and also stunning coastline - the seaside stretch includes La Rochelle and the chic Ile de Re. An average property price of around €138,000 will get you a village house with small garden. Your money will go even further in the large rural regions of central France.
For guaranteed sunshine, the south if of course the top choice and the Languedoc is an affordable alternative to the sought-after Provence/Cote D’Azur region. Up in the Alps, the traditional Savoyard chalet is the dream for many, although there are plenty of new stylish lock-and-go ski apartments.
The Alps is perhaps the most vibrant markets in France right now, with buyers from emerging nations joining the Brits, Russians and Middle Eastern owners in French resorts, the liveliest markets being the Three Valleys and Chamonix. Prices have begun to move upwards in some resorts when the general picture across France is a flat market that is still rich with opportunities.