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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The latest from Brexit Negotiations

News from the latest round of Brexit negotiations is that “some concrete progress” has been made and that negotiators had “engaged in detail” on the core matters of citizens’ and healthcare rights and on economic rights.

One of the most important agreements is on the right to healthcare; David Davis confirmed this week that negotiators have agreed to maintain reciprocal healthcare for British and EU retirees affected by Brexit. British pensioners who have retired to other EU countries will continue to have their healthcare paid for by the NHS post-Brexit: “Both sides have agreed to protect the rights of frontier workers, to cover future social security contributions, to protect existing healthcare rights and arrangements for EU27 citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU – the Ehic arrangements. This is good news for British pensioners in the EU who can have their healthcare arrangements protected where they live and have an Ehic when they travel to other member states.

Also agreed in principle was that professional qualifications will be recognized across the bloc after Brexit, allowing lawyers, doctors, accountants, seafarers, train drivers and others who have moved to or from the UK to another EU country to work under their existing credentials.

There is however still disagreement on “further movement rights”. The EU says that Britons in the EU should only retain the right to live and work in the country where they are living on exit day; the UK says any Britons living in EU27 countries on exit day should maintain all the same rights if they later move to another EU country; the UK also says the same should apply if they want to undertake any ‘cross-border activity’ (such as living in France and working in Italy) after exit day.

Discussions are inevitably proving to be long and complex but both sides seem to be in agreement that citizens’ rights (Britons in Europe and Europeans in Britain) are a priority and hopefully there will be further progress soon.

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: