Tuesday, March 29, 2011

House prices: Ireland slumps, France booms - what on earth!

House prices: Ireland slumps, France booms

This ridiculous headline sits atop a story on todays This is Money site, you can see the full article here.

"....there was better news for those who have bought second homes in France, with house prices in the country actually rising by 9.5% during 2010.

The more conservative French mortgage market means that house prices have been hit less hard by the credit crunch than in some other countries".

As someone who lives & breathes the French property market the thought that the UK press are calling it "booming" seems too stupid for words.  Yes, it may well be picking up but to call it a boom is simply unreal.

Hype like this may well be great fodder for the London dinner party circuit but it does nothing to help us poor souls who make our living in France.  The local agents have enough trouble getting vendors to put houses on at a sensible price as it is.  Over priced houses will lead to lower transaction numbers and a stalling market....no thanks.

You can see the Knight Frank press release here.  I have no idea where they got the 9.5% rise figure from but it's surely skewed by the central Paris market and isn't indicative of the other 94 departments in the country.

If you want to see some useful stats on the market then look at the Notaires figures and "drill down" to the department you're interested in.

Any sensible commentator will tell you that France is a series of hundreds of different markets and that the totality may well see some small growth in house prices this year but it's likely to be at or below inflation levels.

So please all you sub-editors and headline writers out there.....don't hype our market.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

French holiday homes - is it "le recovery"....The Guardian 26/3/11

There's a nice story in The Guardian this morning which I'm delighted to say features a couple of quotes from yours truly.

Written by respected journalist Graham Norwood the sub-head is "Britons who own a French holiday home have had to weather a much gentler downturn than in Spain – and house prices may now be on the up".

You can read the full story here.

I'm not convinced that we are going to see substantial changes in price (in either direction) anytime soon over here but I definitely stand by my quotes that transaction numbers of international buyers are on the increase again. 

I think that we may see a small, single digit, increase in prices reported for 2011 but as I have said so many times before stats like this are pretty meaningless.

France is a series of hundreds (if not thousands) of micro markets and scientific valuation techniques are non existent.  The owner says how much they want and the agents add their fees on.

If you're thinking of buying in France then for goodness sake take the advice of someone who lives, works and breathes in their local market.

Meanwhile I'm waiting for a few of the 1,130,000 Guardian readers to get on the phone and brief me to find them a holiday home in the Charente!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Looking at houses for sale in Cognac? Don't miss the boat....

This entry is inspired by an article I'm writing for the excellent French Magazine (available in all good newsagents price £3.99).

In my last article for them (March/April edition) I was giving some general tips on buying & selling property in France.  This next piece though will be a more specific "call to arms".

You see I'm writing this on the back of having helped clients find, and have offers accepted on, two absolutely spectacular properties in the last couple of weeks.

Both houses had been on the market for a fair while and I feel that we have bought both at an excellent price.  On one of them I know that the owner has since had agents knocking on their door saying that they have clients lined up should the sale fall through.

I know that I'm a small "one man band" and not a particularly useful reference point for how busy the market is but I have plenty of searches to do over the coming months.

I also talk to plenty of local notaires and agents and the general consensus seems to be that I'm not alone in my thinking.

The upshot is that if you've been thinking of buying a property in France then there are many indicators showing that now is a good time to be doing so.  The Notaires de France seem to think so, the FNAIM definitely thinks so and if I lick my finger and stick it in the air I'm inclined to agree with them.

He who hesitates misses the boat and gets stuck at Dover....


Monday, March 14, 2011

Gareth Bale animation

I don't often put posts in about my beloved Tottenham Hotspur as I'm aware that it could well put off potential clients who follow any other teams.

This animation was simply too magical not to be shared though.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.....


Top 10 things I love about our life in the Charente

I've just finished reading the Chris Evans book "Memoirs of a fruitcake".  I happen to think that he's a broadcasting genius who pretty much invented the format that all breakfast shows now seem to take.

He starts each chapter with a top 10 listing and it got me to thinking about the aspects of my life here in rural SW France that I most enjoy.  Some of them would be possible in the UK too.....just sadly not if you happen to be commuting up to the West End with the senior partner of a leading property consultancy demanding his pound of flesh each day.

So here goes:

10. The weather.  It's the 2nd sunniest part of France and that little yellow ball in the sky tends to make me happy.

9. The landscape.  What's not to like about rolling hills full to bursting with vines & sunflowers.

8. Reading L'Equipe each morning in my local café...and teasing the owner about the rugby when England win.

7. The schooling.  So far so good - sadly the girls are saddled with my DNA (and subsequent lack of academic ability) but the schooling is excellent and they're thriving.

6. The dinner parties.  Beef from the Limousin, wine from Bordeaux and the company of some of the friendliest people on earth.  It helps that a few of them own their own vineyards!

5. My job.  Driving through the vines and coming across houses that have stood proudly for hundreds of years.  What's not to like?

4. Being able to eat a sandwich outside in my garden that costs a few centimes to make, rather than raiding "pret a manger" and paying fifteen quid to eat lunch while reading two page memos.

3. Cognac town itself.  Blues festival, lunch at Chez Claude, walking along the river, going to the cinema on a rainy Saturday in winter, taking the kids ice skating....it's a charming town and I love it more each day I live here.

2. That we eat together "en famille".....every single night of the week.

1. The fact that I know the names of all the children in my youngest daughters class and most of them in my eldest daughters too.  I've even been known to take the odd hooky day to go on day trips out with the school.

Sorry if this comes across as "smug" at all....it's not meant to.  Without the experience & money I gained over those 20 years in London then the move wouldn't have been possible.

I just wanted to share some of the best bits about life out here and say that if you're at all tempted to quit the ratrace and do the same thing then it truly can work.