Britons have always been the most prominent buyers of overseas. The global recession of 2008 changed that, as British buyers laid low for a while as the overseas property market was taken over by Russian, Chinese and Middle Eastern buyers. But the situation has changed in 2015, and if you have villas for sale in France, you are more likely to get a bid from British buyers than from Russian or Chinese buyers.
The Sterling is stronger than ever and the Euro weaker than ever. At the time of this writing the Sterling was at a 12-month high and was worth 1.43 EUR. Clearly, the British have tremendous buying power in the European property market, especially in France.
Pippa Maile of Currencies Direct explains why France is so popular with British homebuyers: “It’s a buyers’ market due to the recent crises, house prices are at an all-time low and there are some attractive offerings. Also, British buyers in France are very resilient and also very financially savvy. They wait until the waters settle and then they continue with their plans as before. The love that the Brits have for France will last for years to come!”
As Mark Bodega, of HiFX says, France has always been popular with British property buyers because it ticks all the right boxes. Mr. Bodega adds, “Borrowing costs have tumbled in recent months; mortgage rates are at their lowest in years, and affordability has been boosted by a slower property market as worries remain that France may well be lagging behind the rest of the Eurozone in terms of economic growth. Of course, there’s also the added appeal of easy access from the UK, better weather and the way of life so adored by British Francophiles.”
In fact, what we are seeing right now is being described as a “once in a decade” situation. Leggett Immobilier are one of the biggest real estate agencies in France and they say that have sold 40 percent more properties in 2015 than a year earlier, most of them to British buyers.
The return of the business friendly Conservative government led by Prime Minister David Cameron is one of the reasons attributed to this rise in confidence. This has resulted in rising economic activity in Britain and has a direct impact on overseas properties as well. There is an obvious optimism in the air and a higher amount of equity available to buyers planning to sell property in the UK before moving overseas.
As Trevor Leggett of Leggett Immobilier says, half in jest, "It was a timely photo opportunity between David Cameron & Francois Hollande in Paris yesterday. One could almost imagine the British premier asking M Hollande whether yields are better in the 8th Arondissement or on the Cote d'Azur."
Most real estate specialists have reported an unprecedented interest in French property in international property shows and exhibitions held in the UK, such as the Sun Live exhibition. Elaine Ferguson of the OverseasGuidesCompany.com says, "The exchange rate was a key topic of conversation at the exhibition, especially given how the rate had moved on the Friday, and shows a growing awareness amongst buyers to send funds overseas in the most efficient way.”
Indeed, France is the most popular country among British homebuyers after Spain – which is an eternal favourite. Simon Smallwood of International Private Finance (IPF), says, “There is a definite pick-up in interest with the Alps, obviously, but also south-west and Dordogne, the Côte d’Azur; all over, really. Over the past two years there has been continued activity in properties €250,000 and below, but the middle market was missing. Now we have clients committed to buying – who have seen a house and had an offer accepted – and this for a range of properties.”
The demand for French properties is expected to remain strong in 2016 as well, as the general economic situation in Britain looks positive and the Sterling’s advantage over the Euro looks set to continue. So, we should see more UK investors looking to buy a second home in France.