10 December 2015
Looking to emigrate or relocate? Say oui to France
“In the closing month of 2015, we look back on a year bracketed, one might say, between Charlie Hebdo in January and the Paris attacks on 13 November. But, what does this all mean for those of us interested in property in France, traditionally one of the most stable locations to invest in the world?
“What do we know for sure? The French will go back to living their lives after a period of mourning, just the way they always did. It will take a little time, but life will go back to normal,” says Guy Watson-Smith, managing director and founder of Fine & Country France.
He adds, “What we also know is that 2015 has shown a marked turn around in the property market – Charlie Hebdo may have stalled interest for a few days or even weeks, and the same may apply after the Paris attacks which took place only a few weeks ago, but on the ground, what we can tell you is that sales are up, confidence is returning and the property market is turning that corner (perhaps faster than we all realise).”
There is no doubt that the attacks in Paris will contribute to short-term investor nervousness, but it is clear that the market is already bouncing back.
According to Guy Watson-Smith
• “In the past two months, Fine & Country France has sold four properties that had all been on the market for upwards of three years.
• As 2015 draws to a close, their sales are up 340% on 2014.
• In the past month, they have witnessed two “bidding wars” – a phenomenon well known in cities, such as London, New York and Paris but a long forgotten phenomenon on the Cote d’Azur. The last time they saw this kind of activity in the market was in 2007.
• Exchange rates have continued to be irresistible to those buying with GBP or USD. Recently, the GBP/EUR rate hit 1.43.”
With its close proximity to the UK and easy accessibility to the rest of Europe, France is a popular country to invest in. It holds a strong attraction because it is one of the most advanced nations in the world, with top class education and health care systems; it is also a distinctly clean and attractive country with world renowned cuisine, quality wine and gorgeous landscapes. As the fifth largest economy in the world, France’s citizens enjoy some of the highest living standards found anywhere. A growing interest in sustainable lifestyles, cheaper land and a less crowded countryside are increasingly given as reasons for setting up home, a second home or buying holiday homes in France.
For foreign investors, the most popular regions to buy property in France are Paris and the French Riviera. Apartments that are close to the sea, have nice views a terrace, and a private parking lot sell for a very good price.
Guy Watson-Smith, a South African with Zimbabwean roots, adds, “Timing is crucial in terms of getting a good return on investment. Prices remain low after 6 or 7 years of recession or near-recession in Europe, but they are picking up again, so to wait would be to miss this historic ‘low’ in the market cycle, which we may not see again for another 7 to 10 years. And then there’s the weak Euro. (Admittedly the Rand is weak too, but is there a risk it will get weaker?) With the Rand weakening, wealthy private investors and real estate professionals would agree that investing in property abroad is an excellent way for South Africans to earn capital growth in a foreign currency. Rental income from well-placed international properties will assist in generating a good cash flow in a foreign currency, which is always useful.
“Property buying trends indicate that just under 45 per cent of respondents were looking to base themselves in France for the majority of the year. Over 40 per cent are searching for a second home or holiday property. Foreign buyers can expect to pay in the region of € 400 000 (approx ZAR 6 million) for a two-bedroom townhouse or apartment in Cannes, for example, but a little less elsewhere on the coast, and still a little less inland. A detached, rural, three bedroom house in a desirable area might cost anything from € 600 000 (approx ZAR 9 million) depending on where it is and what it has to offer.”
How to go about investing overseas
The best way is to hire the services of the highly commended Fine & Country France, who have excellent business relationships with foreign investors and who are trusted by them. Fine & Country France offer South Africans a real family in France.
Guy Watson-Smith adds, ““We do everything possible to make life as easy and as stress-free for every South African (and every non-resident buyer and owner, of course, but South Africans are special). Many of our South African investors were family or friends long before buying property in France and others that we did not know before are close friends now. Our service is so complete that we have numerous owners who have bought, some years ago, and haven’t seen their property yet! Everything has been done in their absence and their investment is managed and rented for them to their complete satisfaction. This is not a recommendation not to come! On the contrary, we have other owners who come regularly and enjoy their French property for holidays and we even have some who have moved here.”
Fine & Country France broadly cover Provence and the French Riviera from the Italian border to St Tropez and the vast and ever popular areas inland. It includes the Departments of the Alpes Maritimes, the Var and Haute Provence (High Provence) principally, with parts of the Bouche du Rhone (Mouth of the Rhone) and Vaucluse. This combined is the best real-estate in the world, by almost anyone’s standards.
Here are answers to common questions by investors
Q. Isn’t it too complicated to own a property in France? I don’t speak French, I don’t have an EU passport, I can’t look after a property from miles away and how do I manage my taxes?
A. No, it is entirely possible and it is surprisingly easy and rewarding.
• We have heard the questions time and again and many people have missed terrific opportunities because of their fear of the unknown, but the truth is that those who have followed their dream are better off for it.
• Think about it! Tens of thousands of the most successful people in the world have done it already. They have already bought their dream property in France, because it works for them!
• The South of France is enduringly popular as a home or a second home for people who seek out quality in life.
Q. How would we manage our property in France?
A. Fair question. There are very effective ways of doing so.
• Some people with time or experience choose to manage their properties themselves.
• Others seek professional help to look after their day to day administration and there are well-established companies that do it.
• The best one we know is Azur-Accom, which is run by Vicky Watson-Smith and the management fee is 120€ per month including TVA (VAT).
• Care for the property, check it and attend to any problems (repairs, replacements, etc).
• Arrange payments to EDF (electricity), water, local taxes, insurance, levies, and monthly mortgage costs.
• Do clients’ banking and send a monthly reconciliation balanced to the client’s bank statement explaining all the costs.
• Collect and bank rental incomes and chase up amounts due.
• Deal with insurance companies for claims, assessments, quotes and repairs.
• File all documents and official correspondence.
• Provide additional services on request, such as
• Arranging furnishing and decoration
• Introduction to builders, obtaining quotes, overseeing work
• Arranging translation of documents, if required
• Submit clients’ annual French tax returns for them
Fine & Country France have a wealth of experience gained over the last 13 years and tried and trusted contacts in every field related to purchasing and owning property in France and are available to share their experience with South Africans and make their experience a happy and a profitable one.
Readers can contact Guy Watson-Smith on (021) 434 0554 or 084 434 0554 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.fineandcountry.com/fr He is also available on Skype at guy.watson-smith
Guy and Vicky will be in Cape Town until mid-January 2016 and are available to meet anyone who would like to put faces to the names or ask for more detail on what’s possible in France and what others have done already.
Rosemary Hare Public Relations
P O Box 12521
ON BEHALF OF
Fine & Country International Realty France Head Office
13 Rue Pasteur
Please contact Rosemary Hare on +27 82 459 6226 or +27 21 438 7013 for more information.