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Too good to miss! Buy now! Amazing bargains available!

Stay away from France! The worst time to buy property in 25 years!

Both propositions are extravagant, and unlikely to impress or persuade. But is there any truth in either? It has been said that there is no such thing as truth, only different perspectives. So what perspectives are relevant in today’s market?

No-one can be unaware that France has a new government, formed by a President who has publicly stated he dislikes the rich and led by a Prime Minister whose socialist credentials are impeccable. Taxes on individuals have been raised by some twenty billion euros, and some of those euros will come from the pockets of foreigners owning, selling or bequeathing their French properties.

Can this really be the time to join the ranks of property owners when the certainty of today’s tax is bad enough but the uncertainty of the future may be even more unsettling? Avoiding taxes has become an obscure science. Over the years many talented lawyers and accountants have imagined skilled mechanisms, from offshore companies to elaborate Trusts, to allay, entirely legally, the pain of French taxes. Many of these now have been rendered less efficient by the French fisc.

Surely, if in doubt, don’t.

Waiting costs nothing, you may say. If nothing much is selling there’s no need for haste, stock will increase and prices will fall. Why rush to buy something you don’t really need? For a buyer, it can only get better.

In these exacting times we at Hindle & Baldock are concentrating more than ever on monitoring the market and nurturing our special relationships with owners and agents.

What does this tell us? Most importantly that the stock of very good properties has not increased. Most sellers are not financially distressed and it is unusual to find an owner who must sell. We were recently required to identify properties in Provence for two different North American clients with budgets from €8m to €25m. The total number we found with real merit did not exceed a dozen… In late summer we found a similar situation assisting an eastern European buyer with a budget of €5m looking for a very good apartment along the coast between Cannes and Saint Jean.

Why so little for sale?

Relaxed sellers have a different point of view from hesitant buyers: waiting costs little if you have no mortgage; nothing much is selling so there’s no need for haste, stock isn’t increasing so values will rise as soon as the crisis is over.

“If I sell now what shall I do with the money?”

We don’t sell property, however we do have very specific advice for buyers.

If you are seriously interested in acquiring a special property on the Riviera or in Provence, start looking now, but don’t accept any compromises. There’s a lot of rubbish out there, at silly prices, which you shouldn’t consider even if the prices weren’t silly. There are equally some very good properties which may also be offered at unrealistic prices but where the owners are nonetheless rational people. Even today there is often a point on the graph where the expectations of the rational seller will meet the objectives of the rational buyer – if each is willing. Even if you don’t find the perfect property for another six months or a year, by looking now you will perfect your education and market knowledge and be ready to move swiftly when the right property does come along, or when the market starts to move again, as it surely will, probably at the end of 2013 or spring 2014.

Both the headlines above have truth in them, it just depends on your perspective.


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