Thursday, April 12, 2012

Can we stop hyping French property prices please

Just read this very positive article about people moving to France in the Daily Telegraph.

Entitled "Vintage investments: buy a house in France" it's the kind of feature that brings clients to my door and I echo many of the sentiments expressed in the article.

You might then say that it's a bit churlish to complain about it....but I'm going to anyway.

"France remains the foreign property dream: sunshine, scenery and, mais oui, the food. What’s more, the beating that the euro has taken of late means that now is a great time to buy. On the one hand, France isn’t about to go bankrupt, but on the other, the situation in Greece, Spain and Italy is dragging down French property prices.  

All of which explains why British interest in French real estate is on the up. “Between June and September last year, we saw an increase of 192 per cent in requests for our guide to France,” says Richard Way from the Overseas Guides Company".

Hmmm - we know British interest is on the up because Mr Way has sold more guides.  Is this really the best indicator that The Telegraph can come up with?  His guide may be truly brilliant but if he sold 23 this year and 12 last year then that's a 192% increase.

"Overall prices in France rose by 4.3 per cent in 2011, and look set to rise this year".

Hmmm again - that's a pretty broad brush statement (and didn't they say in the first para that French property prices had been dragged down).  If overall prices in France rose last year it was only on the back of a red hot Paris market which saw double digit growth.

Believe me, prices in most parts of France didn't rise anything like 4.3% last year and I'd love to know on what grounds The Telegraph are confident enough to say that they will rise even further this year.  We have an election coming up, no-one knows who will get in or what changes they will bring about.

Don't get me wrong.

I firmly believe that the French property market is more stable than just about any other in Europe.  I believe that there are some great deals to be had whether buying as a home or an investment.  I believe that there is a rock solid underlying demand from international purchasers who love France and want to buy here. 50 million tourists come here every year (it's the most visited country on the planet) and they do so because it's a great place to holiday, live and work.

But hyping the prices here is a bad long term thing to do - the market is trundling along pretty well on the back of sensible pricing and realistic expectations (from vendors and agents alike), let's not stall it.

If a publication as well known and well respected as The Daily Telegraph is going to write an article like this then it should be on the back of some proper research (BNP Paribas do a great bi-annual study on this subject or try the FNAIM or Notaires de France) and not because Mr Way has increased his sales and is brilliant at PR.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tom Jones and Sting headline the Cognac Blues festival 2012

Following on from my last post about the town of Cognac punching above its weight how's this for a musical line up?

Sir Tom Jones (younger readers will know him as a judge from The Voice on BBC1), Sting (older readers will know him as the Ace Face from Quadrophenia), Hugh Laurie and The Cranberries.

These, and many more, acts will be gracing the annual Cognac Blues Passions festival which takes place between 3-8th July.  You can see full details, or buy tickets, here.

All of that is really exciting of course but not quite as exciting as the headline act for the annual Fete du Cognac which runs for three days later that month (26-28th July).  For just €5 (yes that's five euros) you can get admission to the quayside and see......The Stranglers.  Full details here.

Now, Sir Tom may well have sung with Elvis and The Beatles but he didn't supply the soundtrack to my youth (unless you count track 67A in The Grotto, Weybridge circa 1980 - "what's new pussycat" is a jukebox classic).

I'm pretty excited about all the concerts but suspect that it will be my €5 tickets that offer greatest pleasure for money.

You have to admit though that for a town of under 20,000 inhabitants Cognac really does pack a wallop. To paraphrase a certain lager ad:

 "If Carling made towns to live in...."

Harlem Globetrotters roar into Cognac

 I know that it's only a small town in unfashionable, rural, Charente but Cognac really does punch above its weight.

Last night the world famous Harlem Globetrotters swept into town and beguiled a capacity audience of 2,000 in our local gym.

I have been a fan of the Globetrotters since I was a little boy, mesmerised by the tricks of Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal and gang.  We had ringside seats for the show and our youngest was rewarded by being dragged onto court and becoming part of the evenings entertainment.  The fact that all the players were American and needed someone to translate probably did no harm.

A big part of the evening is in the hyperbolic announcements provided by the American courtside commentator - all excitement was lost though by the French guy who was paid (although goodness knows why) to translate. 

"PERLEEEEEASE WELCOME THE WORLD FAMOUS HAAAAAARRRRRLEEEEM GLOOOOBETROTTERS" was followed by a two minute translation in a dull monotone, by which time all excitement had dissipated and we were flicking through the programme.

It was a great evening though.  Terrific entertainment, some great basketball skills and the team went out of their way to interact with the audience.  They stayed behind for photos and autographs and weren't at all in a hurry to get away.

I guess this was probably the smallest and cosiest venue they play on their tour and it's a testament to Cognac that they can attract entertainers/sportsmen of this calibre.

What more can one ask of a town - vineyards, sunflowers, sunshine, great food, wonderful houses and best seats in the house for "the greatest show on earth"!

Monday, April 02, 2012

The wealth report 2012 - Knight Frank

 Leading international agent Knight Frank has just published its 2012 edition of "The Wealth Report" and it's more than worthwhile grabbing a coffee and reading through it when you have time.

You can download the report from here.

The report highlights locations that are important to the "super rich" as well as talking about prime residential and commercial hotspots.  My favourite section is where experts predict the world's leading city in 2050 (although rather predictably most go for Shanghai).

It comes on the back of a BBC story with the headline "Chinese buy their favourite Bordeaux by the vineyard", a story about Chinese investors buying the Chateau Latour-Laguens vineyard in 2009: 

"Chateau Latour-Laguens was the first estate in Bordeaux to be bought by Chinese investors three years ago, but at least five others are now also Chinese-owned" says the author.

Last year I too was mandated to find a chateau and vineyard around Bordeaux and a couple of years ago I helped a local agent find a buyer for a big chateau on the edge of Cognac.

Such transactions are definitely not "the norm" in the Charente but we have our fair share of luxury chateaux, vineyards and glorious estates and it seems that despite the global recession the super rich are still ready and eager to buy premium estates in prime locations.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Sarkozy offers 50% subsidy on all French property

In a controversial move to attract international investment into France President Sarkozy today announced a subsidy for all international buyers of French property.

Find your dream home in France and if, for example, the cost is €300,000 in the estate agents window then you will receive a €150,000 grant towards it from the French government.

The scheme runs from today, April 1st 2012, for exactly one year.

Spokeswoman, Mme Avril Poisson (pictured above with President Sarkozy), says:

"We are fed up seeing Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) boasting about the number of international buyers that are attracted to the UK.  We aim to redress the balance by offering this subsidy which will be granted in vouchers that can be redeemed in any E Leclerc, Auchan or IntermarchĂ©".

It will be interesting to see what effect this has on the French property market and whether Mme Poisson can indeed make a fool out of Mr Johnson.