Why the Germans and French prefer to rent

View from the Continent

Englishmen may see themselves as king of their own castles, but the fact that Europe largely did away with its monarchies many years ago does not necessarily explain why those on the Continent are happier to rent, even if the situation is starting to change.

Property ownership in Europe: click here to download graphic (130k)

Germany has the greatest proportion of home-renters in Europe, and Germans still prefer to rent accommodation rather than own it. Only 39 per cent of the population own the homes that they live in compared with about 60 per cent in Britain. But that pattern is changing. Berlin is experiencing a boom in property buying: hundreds of recently renovated, turn-of-the-last-century apartments are being snapped up by wealthy Germans.

But as home ownership gradually increases, renting is still seen as a perfectly acceptable alternative, and is much more part of the fabric of German society. Rents controlled by local government and the reluctance of banks or housing associations to provide would-be home-owners with mortgages are among the main reasons for the Germans' preference for renting.

Unlike in Britain, Germany's more cautious banking system requires would-be home-owners to provide substantial guarantees of their ability to finance a loan before granting a mortgage. For many on low incomes or with little capital, owning a home has simply never been an option.

And even when the Germans buy, they often buy a plot of land and have a new home built from scratch rather than buying an old house. This is in part owing to lack of housing stock. Even in Britain, attitudes are changing, with more people buying up older housing and renovating it.

France likes to think of itself as a nation of owner-occupiers. But it is not. Only just over 50 per cent of French people live in their own properties. In Paris, the figure is less than one in three.

President Nicolas Sarkozy declared, Thatcher-like, four years ago that he intended to turn France into a nation of home-owners. He has failed. The proportion of owner-occupiers in France fell in the 1990s and crept up in the Noughties but has been pushed back by a boom in property prices in the past two years.

Even relatively well-off young couples now find it impossible to afford to buy a flat in Paris. The average asking price has just broken the €8,000-a-square-metre barrier for the first time. Unless you have a large lump sum of cash, you could never find a mortgage on a similar flat at a similar weekly price. Rents are also high – maybe €600 a week for 100 square metres in a reasonably good area – but annual increases have been held back by a change in the law since 2008.

As a result, renting a flat or house in France is still relatively respectable, even a normal state of affairs, especially in the big cities. There is no social disgrace to being a tenant in Paris or Lyon.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions