View from the Foothills of France

Some personal views on living, working,
bringing up family and making the dream happen in the most beautiful region of France. View from the Foothills of France also includes some personal and professional thoughts and tips on finding and buying the perfect property in the Ariège and Haute Garonne regions.

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Summer in the Foothills 2017

Summer in the foothills – I am not sure there is anywhere better at this time of year.

Sunshine, blue skies, cooling breezes, mountain walks, picnics by the river or mountain lakes, cycling to favourite cafés, markets teeming with local produce, restaurant terraces full to bursting and a holiday atmosphere everywhere.

In addition, the property market here is very busy with some excellent value properties for sale. International buyers are out in force looking to snap up the chance of buying their home in France while the exchange rate and mortgage rates are still in their favour and house prices are bumping along the bottom.

Who knows what will happen in the next few years post Brexit (does anyone?) but my guess is that life will go on. If you are looking to buy a property in France for quality of life reasons then I am still very confident that you could do a lot worse than invest in what is definitely one of the most beautiful regions of France with just about everything you could want on your doorstep and a wide range of property at fantastic value.

Have a great summer wherever you are.

Latest French Property Price Report

The Notaires de France have recently released the latest review of the French property market and house prices in France over the last three years. In many parts of France, prices have remained fairly static but, in the Occitanie region, there has been a gradual but, nevertheless, upward trend in house prices, most significantly in the Ariège and the Gers.

Overall in the last year, the Notaires’ report shows that, overall in France, house prices rose on average by 1.4%. In the Ariege it was 11.8% and the Gers 10.2%. The Haute Garonne, in contrast, fell slightly, by 1.3%. The figures of course hide all sorts of regional variations and reflect a certain re-balancing of the market in this region, where there was a former disparity in prices. The Haute Garonne also saw large house price rises in the last decade fueled by the demand for property in Toulouse, hence the Haute Garonne index is skewed by these figures. Details in the table below.

  2014 2015 2016
Ariège  -4.7% +4.1% +11.8%
Aude  -5.5% +1.4% +10.2%
Aveyron  -2.1% +1.6% +0.8%
Gard  -2.8% -0.4% +2.1%
Gers  -2.1% +1.5% +10.2%
Haute-Garonne  -2.2% +0.8% -1.3%
Hautes-Pyrénées  -4.4% +3.1% -2.1%
Hérault  -4.5% +1.3% +3.9%
Lot -2.2% +1.5% +2.2%
Lozère  -4.4% -0.7% -12.1%
Pyrénées-Orientales -6.0% +0.9% +3.0%
Tarn  -0.8% +1.9% -4.7%
Tarn-et-Garonne  -0.3% +1.3% -0.2%

There are also indications that the upward movement of prices has continued so far in 2017, with the report showing that, in the first quarter of the year, house prices outside of Paris rose by 1.9%, compared to 0.3% in the same period in 2016.

What does this mean for foreign house buyers in France? Well it is still a buyer’s market in this region, especially with the uncertainty of Brexit hanging over us but the Euro economy is finally showing positive results and the French economy looks to be hugely boosted by the election of Macron and his subsequent strong majority following the legislative elections. All of which suggests that French house prices are likely to continue their upward trajectory and French property may not, in the future, be the bargain it once was so, if buying a house in France is your dream, now might be the time to make your mov

France is one of the safest property investments in the world

I find myself in a strange position this week – I am feeling sorry for French estate agents. Having just done a two-day course on French law and ethics as it applies to French property transactions, I realize that I have, in the past, underestimated the huge legal responsibility that estate agents have in France and the legal liability if they get anything wrong.

Estate agents get a very hard time from all sides and it must be one of the only areas of business where someone is trying to work both for the buyer and seller at the same time. This is clearly not logical and the reason why buyers should bear in mind that, while an agent is there to propose and show you properties they have for sale, they are actually contracted to work for the seller so this is where their legal obligations lie. (Hence the need for a property finder working solely for the buyer but I have written about that many times in the past; see here)

My two-day course, more than anything, reinforced what I already knew; that France is surely one of the safest places in the world to buy a property. French law is designed to always protect the consumer and hence there are so many safety nets for buyers in order to ensure that they have all the information they need at every stage and also the right to pull out at different points. The seller does not have the same rights and hence, a buyer can be sure that, once both parties have signed the initial Compromis de Vente, the purchase is secure from their point of view. The buyer also has the right to ‘get-out clauses’ known as a ‘clause suspensive’ for various reasons to ensure that, for example, should you not secure a mortgage, then you can still pull out. The seller does not have the right to get-out clauses.

I would always advise having someone to help you through the buying process but, in France, buyers can be sure that they are protected at every step of the purchase and have the law on their side from start to finish. There are many other uncertainties of course when buying a house abroad but there is no uncertainty when it comes to the buyer’s rights in a French property purchase.

If you need any help with your property search, get in touch:

What are the next ‘marches’ for Macron?

There is clearly a lot of relief this week both here in France and around the world following the French election result. There is a real sense of renewed energy and optimism amongst both the French population and those of us who have made France our home.

Certainly there are plenty of people who would not have voted for Macron if there had been a clear alternative but there is also the large majority of the population, particularly the younger generation, who hope that he heralds the start of a much brighter future for them and their country. His party, now called En Marche la Republique, is neither left nor right and he says he wants to renew the French political system from a centrist position.

The French have always had a great deal of pride in their country and a sense of superiority in just being born French. As outsiders, we often laugh at this but right now I admire it and I particularly admire the way that the French have fought against right wing extremism and the politics of isolationism to embrace Europe and the world with the aim of being right at the centre of a force for good rather than to cut ties, turn their backs on the rest of the world and think only about themselves.

So what comes next? Well Macron will appoint a Prime Minister which he has said he will do by the end of the week and, in theory, it is he/she (we live in hope) who has to form a government. In practice, they work together to do this and the President must approve the appointment of government ministers, known as the Conseil des Ministres consisting of around 15-16 individuals although the total size of the ministerial team is typically 30-40 ministers and it is they who determine policy and put new legislation before parliament in the form of bills (projets de loi).

Once the Conseil des Ministres has been decided and six weeks on from the presidential election it is the Elections Législatives, the public elections to vote for the members of the French parliament. This is made up of two houses or chambers; the lower and principal house of parliament known as the Assemblée Nationale and the members, known as députés and these will be elected by the public in legislative elections in the middle of June. There are currently 577 députés and Macron says he will contest every seat – he needs 290 seats for a majority.  As yet, his party has no elected Ministers so this is no small task. He has pledged that at least 50% of his candidates will have no political affiliation and half will be women. Currently the Socialists have a majority in the National Assembly. The upcoming legislative elections involve two rounds; a candidate can be elected in the first round by obtaining an absolute majority of votes or, in the second round, with votes totaling at least 12.5 per cent.

After this, Macron has to deal with the upper chamber of parliament known as the Sénat. Senators are chosen by “grands électeurs” who are the mayors and other locally elected representatives. They are elected for six years and half of seats come up for election every three years. There are currently 348 senators and the Republicans currently have a majority.

So there is no time for Macron to sit back and enjoy his victory; he has a huge task ahead. For the Europeans amongst us, the good news is that Macron is very pro-European and pro- open borders and tolerance which can only be good news for everyone.