Property: Why le football is not the only reason France is in demand

A strong pound means property across The Channel has become affordable again, reports Ginetta Vedrickas

We're going to be hearing a lot about France this summer and not just about Le Football. For all the grotesque xenophobia we saw over ticket allocation, it still has to be said: the pound is three up at half time, while the franc is down to 10 men. Translated into property terms, it means the British are snapping up French homes with a vengeance.

Penny Zoldan, owner of Latitudes agency, which deals exclusively in French property, thinks the World Cup may cause a "blip" in sales: "Many people have said that they're too frightened to visit over that period and would rather wait until the end of July." Penny appears unworried about the temporary lack of sales as her office is the busiest it's been in the 10 years since opening. Why are people keen to buy now? "It's a combination. The pound is strong against the franc and people are feeling confident at last. Prices are still low as France hasn't fully emerged from its recession," says Penny.

The pound may be strong but why should this have negative effects on vendors? Luke Margrett has been trying to sell his Normandy farmhouse, bought nine years ago, since last April. "The strong pound brings out timewasters," says Luke. "With seven francs to the pound buyers were genuine but now I'm being pestered by all sorts of people who I can't believe are serious." Luke recounts incidences of people whose journey to Normandy would severely limit their opportunities to visit the farmhouse including a man from Dorset whose wife won't travel by boat.

Luke is selling his partly-renovated house because restoration funds have evaporated and, despite many happy holidays there, he cannot often visit which adds to the work when he does: "You have to spend a day hacking down the grass before you can relax." Luke finds French agents problematic: "The local agents are quite Mafia-like and won't even visit the house if the track is muddy." So far no-one has been prepared to value his house and Luke has received most interest from the Internet where he hopes to sell rather than pay pounds 1,5000-pounds 2,000 to agents.

France is inextricably linked with romance, conjuring up images of wine, leisurely gastronomic pursuits and rolling countryside. Peter Mayle has a lot to answer for. Flicking through properties on the Internet inspired a few idle daydreams. Perhaps I could scrape together the cash, buy a charming fermette, live on snails and earn une croute?

The fantasy was cruelly shattered by Liz Oliver, managing director of Francophiles. "You get the real dreamers at the lower end of the market. Don't expect to find a house for under pounds 20,000 that you can move straight into," warns Liz: "You might find somewhere in the middle of nowhere but it will be terribly, terribly, terribly rural and do you really want live in the middle of nowhere?"

Headmaster David Newton is not a dreamer. Together he and Swiss wife Ursi bought their house through Francophiles after firstly undertaking rigorous homework. "We thought about it for years and came to the conclusion that we either did it or never mentioned it again," says David. After eliminating various areas, the north because of its weather and the south because of its distance, they spent a week viewing sixteen properties which they narrowed down to three.

The Newtons finally bought a renovated, Charentaise farmhouse for pounds 57,000. The area is popular with tourists and they rent out the nineteenth century house producing a 20% return on their investment. This is not always the case. "For rental properties a pool is essential. Our phone rings non- stop but friends without a pool have struggled," says David who went on to buy the barn next door for pounds 7,500. Having spent pounds 40,000 on restoration, they are about to spend their first holiday there and are considering a third property in an area they love for its charmingly hospitable people. "I asked if they resent us British buying up their houses and they said they were pleased as otherwise they would lie in ruins. Apparently we're preferable to Germans and Parisians," laughs David.

All buyers I spoke to had complimentary stories about French builders with some going beyond the call of duty. Peter Haynes is 70 and feels it's time to sell his Normandy house but he has fond memories of French craftsmen. The local mayor of the next town organised builders for Peter who specified a traditional restoration: "I assumed they would use soft wood but was surprised to find oak doors and window frames."

Dick Schrader, publisher of French Property News, sees a stark difference between today's climate and the Eighties: "Money was burning holes in pockets and there was a lot of froth on the market." Many buyers undoubtedly came unstuck when they bought beautiful properties needing refurbishment but with a naive view of the potential cost.

Builder Bob Thompson bought a shell of a house in the Loire nine years ago but has never spent a night in his French home: "I was kidding myself that I'd do the work but now I realise I'm never going to have the time or the money," says Bob under the disapproving eye of wife Liz.

Today there's a proliferation of information in the form of books, exhibitions and websites. Many British agents have strong links and expertise in the French property market so there are no excuses. Dick Schrader says it comes down to one word: "realism". "You hope that people have taken advice, covered the area and concluded that it's right for them."

Do your research and narrow your chosen region to avoid driving huge distances each time you view.

Go through a British agent who is registered in France as it costs no more.

Check exactly what you are buying as there is no standard contract.

Don't pay money to anyone except the notaire, the French lawyer who acts on your transaction.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

    Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

    Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

    Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In my grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel