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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A property buyer’s strategy for 2021

The property market in South West France is currently experiencing huge pent-up demand from buyers combined with a lack of supply of houses for sale. This has mainly been caused by the restrictions and lifestyle changes since the Covid pandemic (leading to a change in criteria for many people looking for property) combined with the historically low mortgage interest rates. If you are looking to buy a French property in 2021, it is therefore important to have a strategy in place in order to get ahead of other buyers and be ready to move quickly to snap up the perfect property.

1. Do not wait in the hope that prices will fall; that is looking very unlikely despite the pandemic. Prices have increased slowly but continually in much of France since 1995 when prices per square metre were €1,056 compared to €2,807 per square metre in 2020 and this looks set to continue according to SeLoger, the French property experts. See the report here

2. Limited availability means that good properties are selling fast so keep a close eye on the market. There has been an increasing demand for rural properties since the start of the pandemic while many potential sellers have also decided to stay put thanks to the uncertainty of the times. Together this has led to a huge dearth of good properties for sale. Plus, once France re-opens its borders to foreign buyers, it is likely that quality, country properties will become even more in demand.

3. Find out the situation of the seller; if an owner is forced to sell for family or professional reasons, they are more likely to negotiate so do not hesitate to make an offer. I am not advocating taking advantage of someone’s situation but there could be a way of agreeing a deal that is right for both seller and buyer.

4. Always bear in mind the most important three criteria when it comes to French property: location-quality-condition

5. Before beginning your search, get your finance in place so you are ready to move quickly if you find the right property. This is particularly important for foreign buyers

And most importantly, be patient and you will find the right house for you. If you would like help with your search, please get in touch:

The Outlook for the French property market in 2021

What an extraordinary year this has been and like most sectors, the French property market was hit very hard by Covid with activity virtually at zero during the first lockdown in the Spring. The official French statistics body, INSEE, has reported that in the middle of ‘confinement’, there was a complete slump in French property transactions with virtually no sales being recorded between March and May 2020, mainly because most estate agencies and Notaire’s offices were closed.

This was in sharp contrast to the beginning of 2020 when the market had been growing steadily year on year for five years straight. According to the Notaires of France latest French property market analysis (link below) from 2015, the number of house sales transactions rose for 20 quarters at an average pace of between +3.5% and +5%. And in the 12-month period to April this year, the number of house sales topped one million for the first time ever (1,068,000 house sales).

Since the lifting of the lockdown in France in mid-May 2020 however, the property market has been very busy. According to the same report, from 2019 to 2020 the average selling price across France increased by +5.8%. The report goes on to say that ‘there has been a strong rebound in terms of post-confinement signings of pre-contracts, and notaries witnessed strong activity through to mid-August 2020′. The report continues: ‘ . . . the data clearly shows the resilience of the property market in France, despite the threats posed to the job market by the health crisis in the short term . . . notaries in most regions of France currently confirm the public’s very strong appetite for property purchases . . .’
INSEE Q2 2020 Housing Market France

The difference however in the current market as compared to the previous five years is that, post lockdown, the trend has seen a clear shift away from urban living to more rural areas. This is likely driven both by the wish for more space following confinement and the shift to working from home. Many people have discovered that they can just as easily work remotely and have now decided that they would like to continue doing so. This opens up a much larger geographical area of choice which is driving property decisions and it is very clear that space, natural environment and quality of life are being prioritised over the convenience of living in a city or town.

Whether this trend will continue in 2021 is hard to predict but certainly it looks as if there has been the kind of step change in the French property market that happens only once every few decades and it feels as if this one might be a permanent shift.

Whatever happens here in France and in other parts of the world, I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2021.



Happy Christmas from the Foothills

Christmas is always seen as a deadline for the French property market but this year it feels even more pronounced. This is mainly because it has been a very difficult year for most people thanks to Covid and hence most buyers and sellers are looking forward to a new start in 2021, either moving on to pastures new or into their new home. In addition, the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st has put pressure on any buyers with a British passport because they need to be settled in France by the end of the year to be granted the same rights as they would have had pre-Brexit

Usually Notaires and agents go into hibernation in December but not this year; the pent up demand from sellers and buyers following both lockdown periods has resulted in a rush to sell and buy property and a backlog of work for Notaires trying to get contracts completed.

The build up to Christmas here this year feels very different too, mainly because all restaurants, cafés and bars are closed until 20th January as are the ski lifts. This is particularly difficult in this part of France where Christmas revolves around eating and drinking, big family gatherings and skiing or adventures in the mountains. At least the food markets have been allowed to open and, thanks to our privileged location, we know that we will always have a white Christmas because on Christmas Eve and on Boxing Day we can drive up into the mountains for some sledging, snow-shoeing, picnics and mulled wine.

I hope that 2020 has not been too difficult and wish you a wonderful Christmas, bonnes fêtes and a very happy 2021; may all your property dreams come true.

Health Care in France

The French healthcare system is considered one of the best examples of universal care at affordable rates – but how does it work?

The French health care service is provided mainly by the state through various state funds accessed by a card called a carte vitale which is rather like a credit card given to everyone in the French healthcare system. However, part of the cost of treatment and drugs is covered by a form of private health insurance which will depend on your level of income. If you are earning the minimum wage, then the majority of the cost of your healthcare will be covered by the state but, over this level, the general coverage is approximately 70% of the cost with you making up the final 30%. Most people do this by having an annual health insurance policy known in France as a mutuelle.

There are numerous insurers to choose from and, as with all types of insurance, a wide range of policies with varying degrees of cover and premiums. Basic packages tend to cover hospital costs and medicine, but you can choose to add things like dental costs.

This complementary health insurance should not be confused with private health cover in the UK or the US. Although bought by the individual, it simply assists financing the personal contribution element of French healthcare. It is inexpensive, does not guarantee faster treatment times and is not affiliated to private practitioners or clinics.

In terms of payment, the individual pays for treatment and the relevant state fund is automatically alerted via the carte vitale system. The percentage refunded by the State is then indicated to the relevant mutuelle which calculates accordingly how much it will reimburse.

For those not in the French healthcare system, Europeans are covered by a reciprocal agreement and for anyone outside of Europe private healthcare is available.

If you are planning a move to France, please get in touch for help with your property search and I can also recommend you to my partners for other help and advice with moving to France: