Gold or french property?

During a search, it usually takes me around eight weeks to draw up a short-list of perfect properties for my clients. That usually means I will have visited around 80 to 100 properties, most of which I will have eliminated as not matching all the important criteria. The short-list builds up slowly until there are about eight to ten properties by the time my clients come out to view them with me.

Sometimes however, people are happy for me to take a bit longer with the search, particularly over the summer months when they don’t really want to come out to look at properties in the height of the holidays when accommodation is often booked up and the cafe and restaurant terraces are crowded. Plus many estate agents close down for two or three weeks in August anyway so as to avoid what they call ‘property tourism’ which involves bored tourists deciding to get a free tour of the area with the local estate agent even though they have absolutely no intention of buying anything.

Usually a longer search is no problem – houses don’t generally sell that quickly in France and many of the places I find are new to the market anyway or sometimes have yet to actually reach the open market. However there has been a bit of a shift lately and a slightly surprising one considering all the doom and gloom surrounding the property market in many parts of the world. Here there are certain price brackets where property seems to sell almost as soon as it reaches the market. Whether this is just here in the Midi-Pyrenees or all over France, I don’t know but here, the last few searches I have done between the 150-200,000 Euro price range and above 500,000 price range, I have seen houses new to the market, actually sell in the few weeks between making it to the short-list and my client’s viewing trip.

I am no economist and can only hazard a guess at why this is; so here is my theory. Within the 150-200,000 Euro price bracket, there is a great deal of buyer competition and not a huge number of properties available. This is the bracket in which many of the French find themselves as well as many foreigners looking for holiday properties so it is just simply a case of too many buyers after too few houses and hence, the minute a good one comes onto the market and it is priced correctly, it will sell. The second category; property above 500,000 Euros, is perhaps harder to explain in the current economic climate but my guess would be that there are people all over the world who do still have money and are looking for somewhere safe to invest it. Gold is now looking like a bubble, the dollar and the Euro are both basket cases, the Swiss Franc is on a run and many property markets have collapsed. French stone property however still looks like very good value – prices have stayed relatively steady, the government and the economy of France are also more stable than most – and, in the very worst case scenario, if everything else collapses around you, you still have a very nice, comfortable, well-built and usually rather lovely house to live in and escape the troubles of the world.

Certainly if I had money to spend, I know where I would be putting it and it wouldn’t be gold bars – nor would I hang around too long!

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