French Property Blog: Our Voice from France

Aix les Bains – the hidden gem of the Rhone Alpes

A few miles south of Annecy, in the heart of the Savoie sits a hidden gem that is quietly becoming popular with international buyers from all over the world.

Aix les Bains sits on the eastern end of the beautiful Lac du Bourget and hosts some of the most spectacular properties and views in the region. This is a spa town close to Chambery airport and less than an hour from both Lyon and Geneva. Perfect for sports enthusiasts it is brilliantly situated for some of the best ski resorts in the world as well as offering sailing and watersports on the largest natural lake in France.

Property prices are most reasonable when compared with other resorts in Savoie and Haute Savoie and yet this is a town that was a personal favourite of Queen Victoria.

As you can see, our local agent, Thierry Barry has a simply superb portfolio of properties for sale that you can see here and comments:

I call this area “Paradise” because of its natural beauty and great location. I love sports and have access to wonderful ski resorts, cycle routes, sailing activities and hiking in the mountains. My property portfolio stretches from a 3 bed house with mountain views for a little over €250,000 to one of the finest castles in the region for just under €10m – so you can see I have something for everyone.

Next time you come across to the Alps why not check out the town for yourself – with confidence returning to the European markets this is the perfect time to buy and if you can drag me off the slopes I’d be happy to show you why“!

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The French property market – how will it look in 2014?


We asked our Chairman, Trevor Leggett, to polish off his crystal ball and give us his forecast for the French property market over the coming 12 months.

Before putting my neck on the block and making some forecasts for 2014 it’s important that we understand where the market is today in terms of international buyers.

Ever since Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008 the European property market has been in the doldrums and last year was no different. BNP Paribas tell us that in 2012 just 10,663 non residents bought a property in France (itself a drop of 29% on 2011). Not surprisingly these buyers concentrated on the prime regions of France with PACA accounting for 33% of sales, Rhone Alpes 15% and Paris 12%. What was interesting though was that these buyers obviously thought that the market was at or near the bottom as their average spend increased by 5% to hit €384,000. We think that these are quite astute buyers who see an opportunity as confidence grows and that 2014 will see other “canny” investors entering the market.

It should also be noted that prices in these prime areas have not dropped as much as in the regions – for example the Notaires de France tell us that prices in the Alpes Maritimes dropped by just 1% in 2012. Quite clearly, “location, location, location” is just as important to international buyers.

So, what do we predict for 2014. Well firstly I would say that much depends upon vendors and agents pricing sensibly so that international demand actually converts into sales. We are cautiously optimistic and think that we will probably be seeing sales to “non residents” back up towards the 15,000 mark in 2014. These will probably be driven by an increased demand in PACA and the Rhone Alpes but should also spread out into the regions. We are seeing a steady demand in regions such as Languedoc Roussillon and Poitou Charentes and sales to international buyers in both areas should grow next year.

In terms of price we don’t foresee much movement either way – we certainly won’t be seeing the kind of explosive growth witnessed in London and the south east of England. The French property market is actually made up of hundreds of “micro markets” and some will see single digit falls while others see small price rises, nothing much for the headline writers to get their teeth into though“!

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Chinese investors looking for some good red and a little drop of Cognac


Leggett Immobilier has quietly become one of the leading names in the sale of French vineyards and is forecasting a strong international demand for 2014.

Heading the Bordeaux wine team is Leggett expert Chantal Nollet, based in their Saint-Emilion office, 45 minutes east of Bordeaux. She comments:

“Since 2013 Leggetts have been seeing a buoyant and dynamic vineyard market with considerable interest shown in Bordeaux, Cognac, Provence and Languedoc Roussillon regions. Vineyard prices are still attractive, with land in lesser known appellations around Bordeaux available for as little as 5,000 Euros per hectare, but in regions, such as Cognac, we are seeing property prices increase significantly”.

So what about Chinese interest? Chantal says:

“Demand is high and we have Chinese clients ready to purchase properties up to 50 million Euros. This Chinese investment in French vineyards was supported recently by statistics from SAFER (the French Land Agency), who said that during 2012, a total of 712 vineyards in the Gironde were sold, which equated to almost 3,500 hectares of vines, for a sum of €533 million euros. Chinese buyers were responsible for purchasing 27 of these properties, representing 15% of total sales and involving an estimated 525 hectares of vines. However, serious French investors remains focused on buying well-established vineyards in the more prestigious appellations”.

Currently, Leggetts are offering an a 20 hectare Château vineyard (60 hectares total) set in a beautiful location bordering Saint-Emilion; this superbly maintained estate producing award-winning wines, has a price tag of 6.36 million Euros.

According to Chantal, “the climate and lifestyle in Provence also attracts regular enquiries for vineyards in that region – we have for sale one of the largest and most beautiful wine estates in the Luberon; the property offers 73 hectares of vines, over 8 grape varieties and two registered appellations in full production. Together with its 8 bedroom Maison de Maître offering 1500m2 of accommodation, this would certainly be an opportunity to live the dream”!

For something on a smaller scale, the Right Bank of the Gironde Estuary produces extremely good wines and this beautiful estate is no exception: 8.7 hectares of vines (10 hectares land total) AOC Còtes-de-Bourg, with a traditional Girondine house, is new to the market this week at 1.028.000, Euros.

Chantal sums up by saying:

“Leggetts have always enjoyed an established reputation amongst international buyers for giving an unrivalled quality of service, but it’s their professionalism and attentiveness towards vendors too, that ensures they are recommended by word of mouth amongst the vines, keeping a constant supply of beautiful and commercially important vineyards coming to the market. Is it really any wonder they were awarded Best Estate Agency in France last year”?

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Selling your house in 2014? Here are a dozen top tips from the Leggett team….


With economic comfidence returning to many European countries we are forecasting that sales of French houses to international buyers will rise substantially in 2014. So if you are thinking of putting your house on the market here are a dozen tips to help you sell:

1. Price it sensibly – the market is coming back but buyers are still looking for a bargain. Your house needs to stand out on your agents website & on the property portals and you really should put your personal involvement to one side and listen to your agent.

2. Make sure that your agent takes great photos – if you can persuade them to make a virtual tour of your property so that international buyers can get a real feel for your home then all the better.

3. First impressions count – the first 30 seconds are vital. Take a look at your property through the eyes of a stranger and tidy your garden/entrance and add a splash of colour.

4. Don’t just tidy but clean too – we’ve all seen the TV experts talking about de-cluttering your house but go one step further and make sure it’s clean too. “One careful owner” works for houses too!

5. Your house should smell nice – lucky you if you have time to bake bread & put on a fresh pot of coffee but even if you don’t then make sure there are no noxious odours and add a few scented “plug ins” in discreet locations. Don’t go over the top though!

6. You might love your cat/dog but not everyone will – animals make a mess, particularly around their food bowls and litter trays. Clean it up and try and make your favourite pet scarce.

7. Kitchens are important – there’s no need to show dirty crockery in the sink and the remains of last night’s “Coq au Vin”, no matter how delightful. Keep your kitchen in pristine condition so that it feels welcoming.

8. Bathrooms are too – OK, it’s not going to be the most important room in the house but dirty towels on the floor or toilets that need flushing can undo a lot of hard work that has gone on before.

9. Bedrooms – as a minimum you should make the beds and tidy up. If your bedroom has a great view of the countryside then make sure visitors get to see it fully.

10. Add some colour – there’s a good reason that canny property developers fill their show homes with fresh flowers. They create a warm & friendly feel so if you have a chance the get in the garden and cut a few fresh flowers.

11. Fix all the little “niggly issues” before you put the house on the market – don’t give buyers the opportunity to beat you down on price because of dripping gutters, leaking taps or peeling wallpaper.

12. Let your agent do their job – OK they may not know every nook & cranny as well as you do but they will know their buyers and they will be able to focus on their “hot buttons”.

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Come and join us at The France Show, 17-19th January

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Once again, we invite all of our clients and friends to come and visit us at The France Show in Earls Court, London.

We will be taking two stands within the French property exhibition section so should be easy to find (look for stands 155 and 189 if you get lost). You should also mark our “property seminars” in your diary as they are always standing room only – you can hear our thoughts on the different regions of France at the foillowing times in the Living France Property Theatre:

Friday 17th, 14h15
Saturday 18th, 13h15
Sunday 19th, 11h15

The show is full of colour and brings a real flavour of France to the UK with the best of food, wine, property, travel tips and even a petanque arena.

We will have agents from all over France, ready and willing to share their individual experiences and local knowledge. We’re a friendly bunch so do come and say hello!

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