Happy New Year and Bonne Année – is 2012 the year to make your dreams come true?

Despite the current financial climate, 2011 was a busy year for me. One significant change I noticed in the last 12 months was an increase in clients from far-flung parts of the world including Australia, America, the Middle East and South Africa with fewer from the UK and European countries. I have also noticed an increasing number of clients of British origin but who have been living overseas and want to move back to Europe but would rather move back to France than return to Britain.

I imagine that one of the main reasons for the drop in buyers from the UK is the weak pound which also helps to explain the increase in Australian clients who have been enthusing about how cheap property is in France thanks to the strength of the Australian dollar. Of course foreign buyers are also more used to employing buying agents; certainly in Australia, America and South Africa it is normal to employ a professional to assist in what is usually the biggest purchase you will ever make, whereas in the UK, only millionaires seem to employ property finders. Plus, there are even more organizational difficulties of buying a home from a distance – and the further the distance, the more difficult it can seem with a combination of time zones, the language barrier, an unfamiliar legal system and the very different customs and way the French have of doing business in general. For example, some of the agents I deal with here don’t even have websites and a large majority of people in France also sell their property privately by putting up a sign outside and perhaps a notice in the local post office.

Combine this with the fact that most of my buyers are time-strapped and cannot afford to be hopping on a plane every few weeks to look at properties that turn out not to meet their requirements, and it makes sense to hire a professional to take the strain and to negotiate the very best deal. All of my clients tell me that I have saved them money by doing all the time-consuming ground work and eliminating all the unsuitable properties so that they can come over for just one viewing trip knowing that all the properties I show them will meet the criteria they have given me and they will simply have to choose the one they prefer. What’s more, I aim to take all the stress and hassle out of the procedure so that it becomes an enjoyable experience and they end up with exactly what they want because I am working for them and not the seller.

Of course, another reason for increasing world-wide interest in property here is that France and particularly South West France is seen as an investment safe-haven, perhaps because the buying process in France is so well regulated, meaning that international buyers feel secure investing in property here. In addition, mortgage interest rates in France are at their lowest level since the Second World War and there is a reassuring long-standing stability in the French property market provided by the dominance of fixed rate mortgages (over 80%) which means that the housing market seems less prone to sharp ups and downturns.

Perhaps more importantly, despite the global financial crisis, people from all over the world still want to buy in this part of France; at the end of the day, it is not just about market stability, return on investment or sensible bank lending in France, it is because many of us just love the country, the culture and the quality of life here (and the weather of course) and are happy to invest in a beautiful, well built and well priced French home.  A safe haven doesn’t come much more secure or enjoyable than South West France.

And some great news to start off 2012; the Euro is at the lowest it has been for 15 months which is great for anyone transferring money from other currencies to invest in French property. So it looks like 2012 might be a good year for everyone and anyone dreaming of a home in France. I look forward to finding lots more fabulous  properties for my clients, wherever they come from, in the coming year. Bonne année, bonne santé et bonheur à tous.

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