The buyers are there but they have high demands, the sellers will still be able to benefit from the tax system for a few months and the interest rates are very low. These are all elements that stimulate the transactions at the French coast. The good news for the summer of 2014 is that the buyers are returning to the coast: the prices are decreasing and the interest rates are at a historic low. Although the ‘phoney war’ between sellers who stubbornly hold on to their asking price and fickle buyers is definitely not over, a truce is in sight. In some segments “the owners are still stuck in a logic of three years ago,” according to an insider, but in others the buyers can profit from the housing surplus and successfully make a bid of 10 to 20 percent below the asking price. In what follows you can find an overview of the possibilities in the coastal areas that are most popular with the Belgians.
Lower Normandy: up to 20 percent cheaper
Eric Maurice, the chairman of the association Fédération Nationale de l’Immobilier (Fnaim) in the department of Calvados, describes the situation of the real estate market at the Lower Normandy coast as “very mediocre, with in general a decrease of the prices of around 20 percent, which started about six months ago”. However, the prices in Deauville, Trouville and Granville have not changed, he adds. Paul Courbonnois of thereal estate agency Orpi in Trouville however is seeing a “minor increase of the number of transactions”. “Trouville has a lot of old buildings that were sold between 2004-2008 at a price that was far too high. Since then, the prices have clearly dropped. “Especially in the neighbourhood of the train station a lot of interesting residences are present. The value of the real estate will definitely increase there.” As an example Paul Courbonnois mentions a “two bedroom apartment of 35 square metres with limited costs (69 euros per month), a terrace oriented towards the west with a view of the sea and the casino, which is for sale for 140,000 euros. “In two years’ time it can definitely be sold at a higher price,” he guarantees. “The market of Trouville consists of apartments and studios, due to which the presence and the orientation of the terrace are of high importance.” The more you move to the interior parts of the country, the more the prices seem to drop. In Toucques, a neighbouring city of Trouville at less than two kilometres of the sea, a decent apartment of 33 square metres was recently sold for 89,000 euros, without the buyers having to negotiate about the price.
Upper Normandy, North Sea: plenty of bargains
Around the most northern part of the French coast there is plenty of real estate on sale. Apart from the fashionable seaside cities such as Le Touquet, which remain expensive, there is room for negotiation. According to Virginie Petit of the agency Laforêt in Boulogne-sur-Mer the real estate market at the east coast of Normandy “suffered from the bad weather in the first six months of 2013. However, things are improving at the moment: the sellers are starting to realise that they will have to lower their prices.” Marc El-Horich of the real estate agency ERA in Boulogne-sur-Mer shares Virginie Petit’s optimism: “In the past fourteen years there have never been so many houses on sale.” Wimereux, merely four kilometres from Boulogne and famous for its dike and picturesque beach, is one of the most interesting places. Outreau and Bréquerecque are a bit more urbanised, “but they are also on the way up. Le Portel on the other hand is doing less well, as the property tax scares a lot of people.” At the end of May Petit sold a house of 53 square metres with a garden in Bréquerecque for only 70,000 euros. This shows that there is room for negotiation. In the middle of the city a completely renovated three bedroom apartment of 95 square metres on the third floor was bought by a bachelor for 120,000 euros. “In the past these kinds of apartments were not sold for less than 130,000 euros,” El-Horich says. A view of the sea has a significant influence on the price. A small luxury apartment with a view of the sea, an elevator and a terrace, was sold to a couple from Lille that wanted to turn it into a pied-à-terre for no less than 100,000 euros.
Mediterranean Sea: safe investments
The French Riviera is undergoing a controlled price correction. Fantastic bargains cannot be found, but safe investments that are sure to rise in value can. Jacques Agid, chairman of Orpi Côte d’Azur, has observed “a price correction of 3 to 5 percent over the past year”. Julien Savelli, the chairman of the Fnaim chamber of the department of Var, draws the same conclusion. He is also seeing a decrease of the prices, but he says that they are “under control”. This however, has not stimulated the sale of real estate in the French Riviera: “in 2012 20 percent of the transactions consisted of second residences, nowadays that is only 6 percent,” Savelli emphasises. Nicolas Powilewicz is at the head of the agency Laforêt in Menton. He says that the prices amount to 4,000 to 5,000 euros per square metre in the city centre and 6,000 to 8,000 euros on the boulevard. “The railway line forms an important border: behind it, the prices are up to 3,000 euros lower,” he states. In the Gorbio valley a five-year-old two bedroom apartment of 45 square metres was sold for 178,000 euros by Italians, who had paid 260,000 euros for it themselves. This loss of profit was offset however by the fiscal amnesty that was introduced under the reign of Italian President Berlusconi in 2009, which states that capital that is returned to Italy is exempted from taxation. The hasty sale of houses by Italians is a phenomenon that many real estate agencies see. “This leads to a lot of properties entering the market, especially three bedroom apartments,” Powilewicz concludes.