“But we buy houses that the French don’t want”
A connection The reader argued that second home owners bring more value to French villages and towns than one might think, following protests in Brittany against the alleged destabilization of the local housing market by outside buyers.
On November 20, marches were held in Guingamp, Saint-Malo, Morlaix, Roscoff, Huelgoat, Locmiquélic and Belle-Ile-en-Mer, with protesters calling for purchase restrictions on buyers of second homes and short term rentals.
They claim that demand makes it more difficult for Britons to buy a house or an apartment.
The protests were organized by groups including the Breton Democratic Union (UDB), which previously called for selling goods only to people who had already lived in the region for at least a year, especially as the pandemic has pushed the inhabitants of the city to seek new houses in the country or on the coast.
The UDB also approves an increase in the housing tax, which is still fully imposed on second homes, its leader Nil Caouissin specifying that 13% of Breton properties are second homes, a figure that rises to 20 % and even 80% in some regions.
He says this demand drives up prices, making it more difficult for locals to own property.
Read more: Protests against second homes in Brittany as the housing debate continues
“Young French buyers don’t want to bother buying older houses”
However, Report Reader Siobhán McCarthy argued that it is not second homes that affect the purchasing power of local residents.
Ms McCarthy said: “We have a second home in Brittany and spend as much time there as possible and hope to live there six months a year when we retire.
Mrs McCarthy’s house is located near the historic town of Josselin in Morbihan, known for its medieval castle and doll museum.
“We chose Brittany because we always went there on vacation, and near Josselin because my husband particularly liked the region.
Ms McCarthy, originally from Cork, Ireland and teaching at a higher education institution, bought her second home in 2015 with her husband.
“It had been on the market for three or four years and to our knowledge no French had looked at it,” she said.
“We looked at nine homes and bought the last one we saw! This is a village house with a side garden which is over 200 years old and was previously operated as a bed and breakfast by an English couple.
“It didn’t take a lot of work; just plumbing, electrical, painting and small construction jobs.
“[However], I think young French buyers don’t want to bother buying older homes. There are several vacant ones in our village that could be renovated but no one locally seems to want it.
A study carried out in October by OpinionWay for Selexium revealed that out of 1,004 French participants, 55% would prefer to buy a new construction, a figure which rises to 61% among those over 65.
The advice site Défiscalisation.immo suggests that the preference for newly built properties is partly explained by the fact that new houses and apartments come with lower notary fees on purchase, as well as an exemption from two-year property tax.
New properties also combine many of the qualities that buyers favor in today’s market: natural light, energy efficiency, soundproofing and good-sized rooms.
The real estate magazine ImmoNeuf adds that French buyers are attracted by the fact of not “having any work to do before moving in”.
Responding to the UDB’s idea of requiring one year of residence for the purchase of a property in Brittany, Ms McCarthy said: from an EU perspective.
The president of the Brittany region Loïg Chesnais-Girard also rejected the idea, believing that “beyond the feasibility [of a second-home law], which is largely doubtful in the current state of national and European law, this statute would be dangerous, ineffective and contrary to Brittany, to its interests and to its values.
Ms McCarthy continued: “I can understand the frustration of people in coastal areas where demand is high that they cannot afford properties, but all over Brittany there is a lot of vacant housing.
“These same problems of high prices in vacation places exist in most countries. Many UK and Irish buyers like us buy, renovate and keep old houses from falling into disrepair.
“Many owners of second homes end up staying longer in France during their retirement. Even in the shorter term, it brings money to the region and contributes to the local municipality’s funds.
The “Covid effect” causes an increase in housing prices in Brittany
The average property price in Brittany has increased by 29% over the past five years according to a report by the national real estate agency Meilleur Agents and the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies.
Housing prices have risen across France over the past year to reach a record € 5,195 / m² in cities of over 45,000 inhabitants.
This was blamed on a ‘Covid effect’, which resulted in a ‘structural lack of supply’ causing the cost of raw materials to skyrocket.
The highest average increase was recorded in Rennes, Brittany, where prices rose 9.7% in one year, reaching € 5,055 per m².
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