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Alsace - Buying Property
The river Rhine runs along the east of the region creating a natural border between Alsace and Germany. It is a popular area for tourists who visit all year round, and although the summer season enjoys very hot days with only the smallest amount of rainfall, the winter season can be extremely cold and wet. However, this does not stop people from travelling to the area for Christmas breaks as Alsace is always full of festive cheer and traditional food.
The history of the area is defined by the disputes between France and Germany, and over the last few centuries Alsace has been controlled by each of them in turn. The language spoken by the older generation is Alsatian which is derived from the German language. Nowadays youngsters are taught this language in school to try to keep older traditions alive, and it is in fact France’s second native language.
In 2009 the average price of a home in Alsace was €2,544 per square metre and properties in good condition could be snapped up for around €120,000. In this region there are also plenty of properties to renovate and depending on the current state of the property and the size of the land it sits on; prices can start around €20,000. The area mainly has larger detached property and apartments, with townhouses or mews style properties very few and far between.
The Bas-Rhin department is located at the north of the Alsace region and is a popular place for expats to live. The prices here are comparable with the national average although the Bas-Rhin department is slightly more expensive than Haut-Rhin, the southern Alsace department. Strasbourg, the main city, has a strong economic standing, employment is high and is perfect for those relocating and needing work. This in turn helps to push house prices up slightly as there is more demand.
Bas-Rhin main towns are Strasbourg and Obernai and although both have many beautiful features they are individual in every way. Strasbourg is a larger city full of culture and history and Obernai is a smaller town nestled in vineyards. The property in the city is mainly apartments which accounts for approximately 90% of all property in the area. These sell for more than the regional average at around €2900 per square metre according to the 2009 figures. Homes with outside space inside the city area come at an even higher premium.
Like Strasbourg, Obernai has a large number of apartments, around 60% of all property are purpose built or converted apartment buildings. The prices in Obernai are much lower than Strasbourg and are a little less than the regional average at around €2500 per square metre, making the area very affordable for both expats and French nationals.
The Haut-Rhin department is the southern department in the Alsace region. Its 2 main towns are Mulhouse and Colmar. The area is popular with tourists as there are plenty of things to do in both the summer and winter season. During the summer horse riding and paragliding are popular, and there are many winter sports to take part in when it is colder such as cross country skiing. Properties in Haut-Rhin are much cheaper than in the northern part of the region, with average prices coming in at around €2000 per square metre at the beginning of 2009. More than half of the properties in the area are larger detached homes and the value makes them an ideal investment opportunity. The towns have more apartments than more rural areas.
Mulhouse can be dated back over 2000 years and obviously holds much history for locals and travellers alike. It is located only 14km from Germany and 30km from Switzerland and is the most important town of the Haut-Rhin department. The property prices here at the beginning of 2009 averaged €1750 per square metre making it one of the most affordable places to buy property in the whole region. This area is popular with students and there are good opportunities for renting out property for those who are interested in a buy to let.
Colmar is the third largest town in the region behind Strasbourg in the north and Mulhouse. The town has much fascinating architecture and its town centre is mostly pedestrian which helps to preserve the natural beauty of the area. The town attracts around 3 million people every year who pass by on their way to visit the lush vineyards in the area, of which Colmar has one of its own. At the start of 2009 the property prices in Colmar averaged around €2000 per square metre, which is slightly more than Mulhouse but still way below the national (and regional) average. Around 80% of homes are houses in comparison with other major towns that mostly have apartments.
Homes in Alsace are mainly half timbered farmhouses, most have courtyard areas and many have garden spaces. Country homes generally have many original features, whereas purpose built apartments in the larger towns are more modern and tend to have a less cosy feel about them. The area has a large number of properties which are suitable for renovation and farmhouses often have large parcels of land and outhouses included.
The Longère style house is also popular and many of these have already been renovated sympathetically, maintaining many of the original features which both expat and French nationals are looking for. This type of house is rectangular and has outhouses attached, which makes them ideal for converting to extend the house.
Stone built houses are also a familiar feature and are usually large houses which are ideal as family homes. They have a symmetrical design and usually come with a large garden.
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