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.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Jonatahn Sexton scores a penalty
The dress can be seen in different colours
weird news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?