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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How will the French property market change post Coronavirus?

The property market in France got off to a flying start this year; all the agents were busy, lots of buyers were arranging viewings and new properties had started to appear for sale. That was, however, before the sudden arrival of Covid19 when life ground to a complete halt overnight and the property market to a standstill.

Viewings are now impossible in person (some agencies are doing virtual tours but in this region there are very few agents who are this advanced in their marketing), estate agent offices are closed and many sellers have withdrawn their properties from the market; certainly no new properties are coming up for sale. For people who have already signed the Compromis de Vente, the buying process is proceeding normally (albeit with Notaires working from home) and the French government have issued a temporary ‘Ordonnance’ to allow buyers and sellers to sign the Acte de Vente at completion remotely in order to stop the housing market grinding to a complete halt. Normally the signing has to be done in person or via Power of Attorney but the Ordonnance allows the use of electronic signatures via verified web portals just while the lockdown is in place. Some completion dates might be pushed back but this is not usually a problem as completion dates in France are a target, not a deadline and there is no penalty for delaying completion if necessary.

In terms of how Covid19 will impact the French property market longer term, it seems likely that the market will be slow initially while sellers and buyers wait for life to return to normal before either putting their properties up for sale or resuming their property search. For buyers with finance in place or secure jobs, they are going to be in a very strong position once the lockdown finishes as buyers are likely to be keener to accept offers and there will be fewer houses on the market and probably fewer buyers chasing those houses.

I also think that there might be a change longer term as to the type of property that buyers are looking for. Pre-coronavirus there was definitely a move towards smaller, renovated, turn-key properties in villages or edge of towns with manageable gardens but I wonder now if this trend will reverse and buyers will ask me to find more isolated, countryside properties with land that could be self-sufficient. I don’t really think that everyone is going to start living the Good Life but I do think that, subconsciously at least, buyers might be more attracted to those sorts of properties now.

I must admit that, yet again, I am certainly very glad to be hidden away in our rather disconnected and old-fashioned part of the world right now. This part of rural France is already very self-sufficient and pretty hardy too. We may not have Deliveroo, Indian takeaways or supermarket home delivery but most people here produce some of their own food and the French are famously expert at foraging. I’m sure it must be very different for those living in towns and cities but here, at least, we look out over fields and woods and we can still get outside and enjoy the start of Spring. And of course, the French health service is one of the best funded and most efficient in the world.

Without in any way taking away from those people who have been infected or at high risk from this virus and those putting their lives on hold to care for them, we perhaps still need to hold on to the positives; energy consumption has been hugely reduced worldwide as have emissions and pollution and nature and wildlife are thriving. Everyone is shopping less, cooking more, spending more time en famille and connecting more often with friends and neighbours and appreciating the simpler things and what is important in life. And nobody is talking about Brexit for the first time in over three years! So I guess the good thing we can take from this situation is that we have demonstrated that it is possible to change behaviour and fast so maybe there is hope still for dealing with climate change and for focusing our collective energies on what matters rather than against each other for what doesn’t.

In the short-term, I hope you all stay safe and well and, in the longer-term, I hope you don’t give up your dreams of having a home of your own in this beautiful part of France. As ever, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

 

 

The rush to move to France before the end of 2020

The first few weeks of this year have seen a huge surge of potential British buyers looking to purchase a house and move to France before the end of the Brexit transition phase. Thanks to the withdrawal agreement, as long as you are living full time in France before the end of the year, all your residency rights will be protected. In practice, this means that you need to have bought a property and moved in by the end of September at the latest in order to have three months’ worth of documentation proving residence in France before the transition phase ends.

This is causing a slight air of panic as buyers realize that they now really only have six months not only to find their dream house but to complete and move in. This is tight even for me as I usually take around eight weeks for a thorough property search before starting the negotiation process and Compromis stage which is another two to three weeks and it is then usually around a three-month process until completion.

On a more encouraging note, you can find a very reassuring open letter from President Macron on the Elysee website. I have copied it below for anyone interested.

As always, if you need help with your property search, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

 

Open letter from President Macron

Dear British friends,

Your country has just left the European Union, after 47 years of life together.

It is the result of the sovereign decision the British people expressed in the referendum of June 2016, a democratic choice France has always respected.

Yet I must also tell you, as an ally and, even more, as a friend and true European, how deeply sad I am at this departure. And I am thinking, today, of the millions of Britons – from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – who still feel deeply attached to the European Union. I am thinking of the hundreds of thousands of French citizens in the UK and British citizens in France who are wondering about their rights and their future: I assure them that we will protect them.

I must tell you, too, that this departure is a shock for Europeans. It is the first time a country has left the European community. The UK was not there when it took its first steps in 1950, but we owe it so much – Winston Churchill’s historic foresight, for a start. And since 1973, while our European relationships may at times have been turbulent, the UK has been a central player in the European project – particularly in building the single market –, a more influential player than the British have often themselves imagined.

This departure has to be a shock, because there is nothing trivial about it. We must understand the reasons for it and learn lessons from it. The rejection of a Europe which political leaders, in the UK and elsewhere, have too often blamed for all evils, to avoid having to deal with their own failures – that’s one reason. Another is, let’s acknowledge this, the consequence of a Europe seen as not effective enough, not protective enough, distant from the realities of daily life.

I am convinced therefore that Europe needs new momentum, in a world where the need for control, security and protection is stronger than ever. Perhaps you’ll tell me it is no longer your problem? I do not believe that for a minute, because the UK has no interest in a weak European Union. I fight every day, and will continue to do so, for this united, sovereign and democratic Europe, whose strength will make our continent strong.

In this respect, I know the feeling – however you voted in 2016 – that France was “tough” from the start of the Brexit negotiation. I wanted to defend the existential principles of the way the European Union functions: compliance with our rules within the single market, European unity, and stability in Ireland. These are not bureaucratic inflexibilities but the very foundations of the European edifice. But never has France or the French people – or, I think it is fair to say, any European people – been driven by a desire for revenge or punishment.

It is in this spirit of mutual respect and commitment to the European Union and with such powerful ties between our two countries that we must look to the future and build our new relationship. 

The British government wishes to move swiftly forward; we are ready for this. It is in our common interest to define as close and deep a partnership as possible in defence and security, and in police, judicial, environmental, scientific and cultural cooperation. At the same time let me be honest, as I have always been: ease of access to the European market will depend on the degree to which the European Union’s rules are accepted, because we cannot allow any harmful competition to develop between us.

More directly, I would like to begin a new chapter between our two countries, based on the strength of our unrivalled ties. This year we will celebrate the 80th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s 18 June Appeal: the French know what they owe the British, who allowed our Republic to live. I am coming to London in June to award the city the Légion d’Honneur, in tribute to the immense courage of a whole country and people. Ten years on from the Lancaster House Agreement, we must deepen our defence, security and intelligence cooperation. I would also like Prime Minister Boris Johnson and I to draw on history to boldly build new, ambitious projects, as when the Channel Tunnel finally – physically – connected our two countries.

Dear British friends, you are leaving the European Union but you are not leaving Europe. Nor are you becoming detached from France or the friendship of its people. The Channel has never managed to separate our destinies; Brexit will not do so, either. 

 

 

 

New ‘waste not want not’ legislation introduced in France

France has approved new laws which came into force on February 11th to reduce waste and plastic and to increase recycling. These will gradually be introduced over the next three years. You can read the detail in French here: Loi relative à la lutte contre le gaspillage et à l’économie circulaire (law on the anti-waste and to a circular economy)

The new laws and deadlines are as follows (thanks to https://www.thelocal.fr for the detail)

January 1st, 2021

  • Throwing away non-hazardous waste that can be recycled (eg plastics, cardboard, green waste) will be gradually prohibited
  • Aggressive advertising will be prohibited outside of sales in an attempt to cut consumption
  • New single-use plastic products will be banned. This includes straws, stirrers, lids for takeaway cups, expanded polystyrene boxes (such as kebab boxes), steak sticks, balloon rods, plastic confetti and all objects made of oxodegradable plastic
  • Distributing free plastic bottles in companies will be prohibited
  • Drinks served in a reusable cup presented by the customer must be sold at a cheaper price
  • Large businesses of more than 400 m2 will have to provide reusable containers (free or paying)
  • Bulk retailers will have to accept containers brought in by consumers
  • Distributing promotional gifts in mailboxes will be prohibited
  • A network of drinking water fountains will be created in an attempt to cut the use of plastic bottles

July 1st, 2021

  • Bringing your own reusable containers will be possible in restaurants and takeaways

January 1st, 2022

  • Plastic tea bags, plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables weighing less than 1.5 kg and plastic toys distributed free of charge in fast-food restaurants will be banned
  • Establishments that are open to the public will have to provide a water fountain
  • Plastic-wrapped newspapers or magazines will be prohibited
  • Labels on fruit and vegetables will be prohibited

January 1st, 2023

  • Disposable dishes in fast-food restaurants will be forbidden for meals served on site.
  • Printing and distributing receipts and credit card slips, unless specifically requested by the customer, will be prohibited

There will also be measures introduce to improve information for consumers about the environmental impact of their purchases. These include;

  • Improving information on the qualities and environmental characteristics of products that generate waste;
  • Providing information on the reparability of certain electrical and electronic equipment (such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners or lawnmowers);
  • Providing information on the availability or unavailability of spare parts needed to repair electrical and electronic equipment and furniture
  • Destroying (either by incineration or sending to landfill) unsold new non-food items (clothing, shoes, cosmetics) will be prohibited in order to encourage their reuse or recycling
  • Instructions for reuse and re-use (especially of plastic bottles) will be put in place

Although it’s not included in the legislation, environmental activists have been campaigning to have events such as ‘Black Friday’ banned in France, arguing that it encourages needless consumerism and contributes to environmental damage.

 

Buying a house in France post-Brexit

We are still none the wiser as to the situation and exact details for Brits (and British passport holders) moving to France post Brexit. All we know is that, with the transition agreement, our rights as EU citizens will still be in place until 31st December 2020 and, if you move over to France permanently before this date, you will be entitled to apply for a residents’ permit.

After that, for the moment at least, the UK is talking about a points style immigration system for immigrants to the UK so it is feasible that European countries will introduce a similar system for British immigrants. This is likely to mean that Brits and people with a British passport planning to move to France to live and work permanently will have to show that their income is at least the same as the minimum wage in France which is currently €18,250 per year per person. It is probable that applications to live in France will have to be made to the French embassy in the UK.

If you are planning to buy a holiday house in France, regulations will be the same as for any non-EU national which means that you will be allowed to spend 90 days maximum in France in any 180-day time period.

So, for those of you planning a permanent move to France, if your timing allows, it would make sense to make the move before the end of the transition period, 31st December this year because, thanks to the withdrawal agreement, your rights as EU citizens will still be in place. After this time, everything is still to be agreed.

For more information, take a look at: https://brexit.gouv.fr/sites/brexit/accueil/vous-etes-britannique-en/droit-au-sejour-en.html

If you need help finding your home in France, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com