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Best Places to Buy Property in the South of FranceBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Best Places to Buy Property in the South of France
The best place to buy in the South of France is a hotly disputed subject.
Although often referred to as rather inaccurately as “The South of France”, for many discerning buyers this property area description really applies only to the Mediterranean coastal strip of South-Eastern France.
Its precise geographical boundaries are drawn differently depending upon the income level and property aspirations of potential buyers - plus the ambitions of some vendors.
For those seeking the most exclusive properties, a rough guide would be that the best place to buy in the South of France in this context runs from the Italian border at Menton to somewhere around St Tropez.
This area is commonly called the Cote d’Azur or French Riviera. It encompasses household name localities such as Cannes, St Tropez, Cap d’Antibes and St Paul de Vence.
Property market overview
Across all property price levels, unsurprisingly those properties that command a sea view will typically cost substantially more than those that do not – assuming all else is equal.
Property prices tend to fall significantly only a few kilometres inland unless there is a major feature, such as spectacular views, that can compensate for being a little further away from the sea.
Some of the best-known towns can become extremely busy in the tourist season and in some of the main centres there may be a relatively high proportion of holiday rental properties.
This culture may not suit buyers looking for a little more tranquillity and as a result, many of the most prestigious properties and exclusive areas tend to be just outside of the main centres – often in the hills behind the coastal strip.
Comparatively few top-end buyers regard the very centres of the larger locations to be the best place to buy in the south of France because of this potential congestion issue.
Virtually nowhere in this area can be considered ‘undesirable’ although some locations will tend to command higher prices than others.
This may vary over time. A ‘must have’ location one year may be seen as a little less chic a year or so later.
Locations such as Hyères, La Napoule, Mougins, Valbonne, Grasse, Biot, La Colle Sur Loup, Cap Martin, Le Lavendou or the Corniche d’Esterel are well known as being highly desirable.
Villefranche-sur-mer is a location reputed to have some of the most exclusive mansion and villa properties in the entire region though that may be disputed by St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
Prices in this area continue to be amongst some of the highest in France on a square metre basis.
Even so, in spite of predictions to the contrary at the start of the global financial perturbations, during 2008-9 the area suffered significant property price declines as the recession bit. This was particularly true for the top-end price brackets (€5m+) where buyers were reported to have virtually disappeared.
In 2009 and earlier 2010 this led to an increased reality amongst some vendors and some notable market price corrections towards more sensible levels. This though, has been partially offset by many vendors of exclusive properties deciding not to sell until “the market picks up” when they hope they may be able to achieve their asking price.
Some property types remain, therefore, in relatively short supply.
This also remains a topic of hot debate and much disagreement, with predictably, each locality claiming that it is the best place to buy in the South of France from an investment viewpoint.
Overall, in earlier 2010 the demand picture remains disputed with many property agents equally predictably publishing articles saying demand is returning as they attempt to ‘talk-up’ the market.
Some unbiased observers are indicating that demand is stabilising for lower-end properties (< €1m) but that higher-end buyers remain scarce. They also contend that some high-end prestige vendors have been unable to sell for up to two years and this means they are willing to offer substantial reductions on their asking prices.
There is some indication that some high-end purchasers are deliberately holding-back on purchasing as they try to identify the exact bottom of the market.
Few people seriously doubt the ongoing attractions of the area for high-end buyers. It seems intuitively unlikely that it will suffer continual long-term property price declines.
The position in early 2010 may therefore offer a comparatively unusual opportunity to secure an exclusive property in this area for what may be termed a ‘realistic price’.
However, the position in general remains unclear at this point and it may vary literally by the month.
Deciding when to enter a property market that’s undergoing price level correction is always difficult and specialist local knowledge and advice are often highly advisable – it may also be worth paying for independent local expertise rather than relying on property agents who may be advising under a conflict of interest.
Traditionally, prestige properties claiming to be in ‘the best place to buy in the South of France’ were never available in sufficient numbers to meet demand. This meant that many buyers looking for top-end properties often turned to specialist property-finders who searched for properties based upon the client’s specified requirements.
The events of 2008/9 have changed this somewhat. Today the buyer with substantial spending power may not be restricted to sitting around just hoping that their property agent will call them ‘sometime’.
Some property agencies specialise in advertising exclusive properties or in connecting via ‘knowledge’, a buyer and seller.
A selection (not prioritised) includes:
These offer initial web sites in English and discretion is guaranteed.
As is common globally with prestige properties, individual prices are rarely quoted initially and even when they are, they can often be regarded as exploratory only. The price is inevitably subject to discussion and negotiation.
Although comparatively rare by the standards of other regions of France, it is still possible to find and buy prestige properties in this area that are in need of freshening up and modernising. This may be reflected in the asking price.
It may also be that you just want a property to be personalised to your tastes.
There is therefore a range of interior designers (French – Architecte d’Intérieur) that specialise in helping prestige clients bring properties up-to-date or simply in changing the property’s image.
A selection includes (again, not prioritised):
http://www.chartwell.mc (Monaco based with a London office)
Some interior designers will also work on private aircraft or yacht interiors.
Although there is never a shortage of claimants for the title of ‘The Best Place To Buy In The South Of France’, in reality the position in earlier 2010 makes it perhaps harder than usual to come up with a shortlist. Many of the traditional hotspots retain their attractions and price re-alignments towards more realistic levels mean that there is more opportunity to find property and buy into this attractive area than has been the case for some decades previously.
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