French Property Market

International buyers see France as a safe haven

The 2012 “Investing & living abroad” survey by BNP Paribas has been published and this year the report has been extended to look at the impact that the internet is having on the buying process.

Trevor Leggett, managing director of leading French estate agent Leggett Immobilier, has the following comments on the results of the survey:

“It was no surprise to see the headline figure that the number of overseas buyers in France fell by 7% last year (from 42,057 sales to 39,160). Before you start feeling too sorry for we estate agents though you should realise that the average purchase price saw a significant jump of 12% up to €265,000. Indeed last year Leggett Immobilier saw a 39% increase in transaction numbers which indicates a most pleasing growth in our own market share.

The BNP Paribas figures show that French expatriats are now the biggest “overseas buyers” and that the UK dropped from representing 11% of the market to 9% – there was, however, a marked increase in buyers coming from Switzerland and Russia. These statistics are borne out by our own figures with the Swiss playing a bigger role in the Alps market and the Russians on the Cote d’Azur.

There are no real changes in the most popular regions and departments within France but there is certainly a clear change in the attitude that investors have towards the French real estate market in comparison to other countries.

The research shows that 61% of respondents haven’t thought about investing in another country (compared to 54% in 2011) and 97% of respondents said that they saw the long term investment potential in France as very good (37%) or quite good (60%). Encouragingly 91% of respondents were happy with the level of service they received from their estate agents.

The internet has played a huge role in the growth of Leggett Immobilier over the last few years. We now list over 7,000 properties online, we have an easy to use mapping facility and many of our properties have virtual tours. BNP Paribas say that 80% of international buyers use the internet to find houses for sale and that 73% of them research comparative prices online. Buyers from the UK lead the way with 88% of people now starting their search online.

Again this is something that our own figures bear out – last year we saw the number of page views on our main website jump by 3 million to over 15 million, with visitors coming from 212 different countries.

What will be interesting to follow is the rise in popularity of “geo-localisation” – or in laymans terms the ability to see the exact address of a property. BNP Paribas say that 97% of buyers would like to see this so that they can view the house on satellite imagery such as Google Earth. Agents are sure to resist this and the culture of only giving approximate locations is deeply ingrained in France – this could well be a case of the immovable force meets the unstoppable object so expect fireworks in the coming years.

The research also shows that 78% of respondents own smartphones or tablets. We do disagree with the interpretation of the results in this section though. BNP Paribas say that “only” 10% of respondents use apps created for the property market and that 75% have no interest in apps when they are on the move. As apps are such a new & growing phenomenon we take the view that “already” 10% of respondents use apps with 25% showing an interest in apps when they are on the move – we believe these figures are bound to increase quickly. Indeed the UK Office of National Statistics recently said that 45% of web users now use their mobile to access the internet with this number set to explode.

Ultimately though, the most comforting line in the report comes towards the end – where BNP Paribas say “Le marché immobilier Francais reste une valeur sure” which needs no translation. The halfway mark of 2012 will show that our agency has seen a growth in transaction numbers of 9% (year on year) and that we are selling larger properties at higher prices. Both of these things seem proof that international buyers do indeed see France as a safe haven in these uncertain times”.

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