Thursday, May 10, 2012

Now is the right time to buy in France.

Well the good news for French property buyers is that the Euro is at a three year low against the UK Pound and the US Dollar.  With exchange rates of 1.245 Euros to the Pound and 0.775 Euros to the Dollar, buyers are in a position to get a lot more for their money.

With a £200,000 budget a UK buyer has an increased spending power of approximately €23,000 compared to the same time last year and with a $200,000 budget the same US buyer will have an additional €17,000 Euros to play with.  Those sorts of figures are certainly enough to cover agents and Notaires fees and if you have found your perfect property through a professional property finder who has scoured the private sales market and negotiated the ‘best local price’ on your behalf (private property sales rarely hit the internet, attract no agents fees and are still the most common form of property transaction in France) will certainly get you more property - maybe an extra bedroom or that elusive pool?

So if you are ready to buy – what sort of property will you look for?  Well if you are a little lost in the French property vocabulary (and it can be confusing) here is a brief glossary of terms widely used to describe house styles commonly found in Brittany ………..

Maison de Maitre.jpg
Maison de maitre – A Master’s house :
A luxury, spacious country house or townhouse often colonial properties, castles, luxury villas or large farmhouses, set in strategic and imposing locations. They often come with lots of land and several outbuildings.  Inside the house, the architecture often comprises high ceilings, ornate fireplaces, mouldings, wooden floors and panelling, as well as an imposing central staircase, which gives the maison de maître its singular presence and style. Outside, the walls are generally made of cut stone, with a garret overhead, and a bonnet roof or a roof having a single slope on each side of a central ridge. Windows are generally large and imposing.

Maison Bourgoise.jpg
Maison bourgeoise - Middle-class house:
Set in cities, towns or small villages these houses would have been the homes of wealthy shopkeepers, artisans, local dignitaries, or even small private hotels. The architecture is usually simple and functional and they are built with natural, locally sourced materials.  The final decoration of the house would reflect the status and fortune of the owner and would comprise two or three floors and attic space.  Maison bourgeoise would generally come with small gardens and one or two outbuildings.

Maison d'architecte.jpg
Maison d’architecte - Architect’s house:
This term is used to describe a house which has been “custom-built”, in comparison with houses which are already designed off-plan and converted according to the purchaser’s tastes. Therefore, there are no limits for size and eccentricity. The plans are drawn for one unique house - certainly the choice for individualists.

Neo Breton.jpg
Neo – Breton – Unique to Brittany:
Stone built houses which reflect the local Brittany style. First floor rooms are generally built into the roof space with ‘dormer’ style windows.  These houses often stand in fairly large gardens and are characterised by decorative turrets, chimneys dark slate tile rooves and symmetrical design.  Larger Neo-Breton style homes are often reminiscent of ‘fairy tale’ properties.

Maison a Colombages.jpg
Maison a Colombages - Half-timbered house:
A maison a colombages comprises 2 main features: a wooden structure, and a “hourdage”, forming the walls, used to fill and tighten them. The hourdage is made of bricks or light materials such as cob or plaster. This type of house is easily recognizable thanks to the typical exposed beams and is often the choice of purchasers who are looking for a house that has lots of history and charm.

Longere - Long house:
The longere is a typical country farmhouse in which all the rooms are set in a row on a single level.  Generally the house would have rooms built at each end to house livestock and store grain etc.  The longere is usually built from local materials with its back to the wind and windows only at the front.  This style of house is popular with buyers looking for a renovation project.

Pavilion - Detached house.
A pavilion is generally a single storey detached house set in its own garden.  In many cases these houses are grouped together with others of similar design and typical of lower cost housing commonly built in France in the mid to late 20th Century.

Gite – Guesthouse:
A Gite is a furnished quality holiday home with typical regional characteristics, which is rented (studio, apartment, house or part of a house) to customers passing through.  If attached to a main residence these properties are popular with overseas buyers as the ‘Gite’ offers income generation potential.

As we said it can be confusing and of course being France many properties don’t fit into a specific category at all. 

If you are looking to buy, what is important is that you make sure you have seen everything on offer and not to restrict yourself only to properties available on agents’ websites.  Your perfect property might be for sale privately (as so many of them are …..) and you might never know!  Using someone professional on the ground (working solely for you) to root out that hidden gem may be well worth while……. someone who  understands local markets,  negotiates the best ‘local’ price on your behalf and can make the most of that added buying power created by the weak Euro……….