House prices in France 2023 - best value places to buy
- Last updated on .
- Hits: 31602
Property prices in France have increased for the 24th consecutive Quarter, hitting an average of +5.9% in Q2 2021 (+5.0% for apartments and +6.4% for houses). House prices increases in France now stand at their highest levels since Q4 2011.
FNAIM, the professional body for real estate agents in France is forecasting house price increases of +3.5% in France during 2022.
The global coronavirus crisis doesn't appear to have had a dampening effect on property prices in France.
With mortgage interest rates in France continuing to remain at historically low levels (1.05% in August 2021), the total number of house sales for the 12 month period up until May 2021, came in at a staggering 1.3 million, the highest level since 2006. The Banque de France describes the market trend in mortgage lending since the end of the confinement as ". . . decidedly bullish . . .". In May 2021, the total amount of French housing loans rose sharply by +€7.2bn to stand at €21.1 billion in total. Following on from Q2 2021, home lending increased by +5.3% in the 3 months up to August 2021.
The French property market has experienced 6 years of solid growth, but this growth trend has hidden some wide discrepancies in the level of house price increases throughout France. As we highlight below, there have been areas of France - such as Angers, Amiens, Poitiers and Metz - where prices have increased rapidly during 2021, with double digit percentage increases year on year. In contrast, towns such as Toulouse, Nancy and Reims have experienced stagnant or even falling house prices.
Western France - covering Brittany, Normandy and Pays de la Loire - has experienced strong growth in property prices during the last few years. As the chart above shows, cities such as Nantes, Angers, Brest and Rennes all recorded +7.5% changes in house prices from 2020 to 2021. House prices have continued to grow across the South of France, with notable increases in cities such as Montpellier, Bordeaux and Montauban, but the city of Toulouse saw a -0.3% contraction during 2021 (although this was largely to do with a higher proprtion of smaller properties being sold in the 12 month period, which depressed the average sale price) [Source: Notaires.fr].
Here we highlight the historical trend in house prices in France over the last 10-15 years and explain why we think 2022 really is becoming the best time to buy property in France. We analyse some of the reasons for the strong increases in house prices in certain locations, as well as identifying some of the best places in France to still find good value property.
Historical trends: House prices in France 2008-2021
Since the worldwide crash of 2008, the French property market has been hit by fluctuations in house prices and the levels of property sales.
2007 is traditionally seen as the 'peak' of the French property market. House prices had been rising constantly for 10 years, with some spectacular increases being recorded in 2005 and 2006.
Immediately after the 2008 crash, house prices in France fell by an average of -4.0%, as the global slowdown hit mainland Europe. There was a quick rebound in house prices during 2010 to 2011. The +7.57% increase in 2010 alone, brought French house prices back to their pre-2008 levels - but the recovery was short lived.
Between 2012 to 2015, property prices in France fell back again as a result of low growth in the French economy, rising taxes and stagnant wages. By the summer of 2015, the price of property in some areas of France was 10 to 15% below the 2007 market rates. Virtually all the gains in house prices that occurred between 2010-2011 were wiped out.
But during 2015 something started to happen. Although prices were still falling, the number of house sale transactions in France started to climb. The price reductions in the previous 4 years, was stimulating greater buying activity. Throughout 2016, despite house prices barely moving, the number of sales went through the roof. The bottom of the housing market had been reached and what followed was an almost unprecedented 20 straight quarters of growth in both house sales and property price increases.
By 2019, the professional association of Notaires in France, reported that the number of house sale transactions had topped 950,000 for two years running. By April 2021, house sales in France surpassed the 1 million mark for the first time ever (1,068,000 properties were sold in France during the 12 months to April 2021).
During the last 5 years, house prices in France have grown at an average rate of +3.13%.
Even despite a second Covid confinement taking place in November 2020, the latest forecasts point to continued growth in the French property market during 2021-22. The French government is pumping over €100 billion into the French economy to stimulate a recovery from the pandemic crisis. The French economy is forecast to grow by +7.4% during 2021, enabling GDP to return to its pre-crisis level by the beginning of 2022.
Mortgage interest rates are forecast to remain very low during 2022. The EURIBOR (European Central Bank base rate) is still negative at -0.5%; and with the continuing effects of the Coronavirus on European countries, it is unlikely to reach a positive figure before the end of 2022.
The French government have taken measures to encourage the French banks to continue lending to consumers and businesses and the bank lending figures are being watched very closely by the French finance ministry as they dole out the stimulus support package. If it is suspected that the banks in France are holding back on supporting the economy, some difficult questions will undoubtedly be asked, especially as memories of the 2008 bank bail-outs are still fresh.
One clear impact of the Covid-19 health crisis on the French property market, has been reported by both the National bodies for French Real Estate agents (FNAIM) and French Notaires (Notaires.fr), as well as the French office for national statistics (INSEE). The experience of confinement has pushed increasing numbers of French homeowners to seek more rural properties, with gardens and greater interior space. This move from urban to sub-urban areas, is also driven by the increasing amounts of remote working. If your work can be based anywhere with a strong internet connection, then maybe a more sunnier climate in the South of the country or an area with much more open space and nature, is a better place to live than a small apartment in the centre of the city. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues during 2022.
According to the latest French Property Analysis published by the National Notaires body in France, the price rises of apartments in urban areas had slowed down in 2021, which was impacting the overall price of housing. But the report noted a strong uptick in the price of houses (with a significant +8.9% acceleration in the price of houses at the end of August 2021). This again shows clear evidence of the trend for French people moving away from smaller properties in the big cities to larger properties in (cheaper) small towns [Source: Notaires.fr].
What is also interesting is when you compare the rate of house prices increasing in France with the rest of the Eurozone. The Eurostat House Price Index showed that across the 27 country Eurozone, House prices increased by 26% between 2010 and 2020. The largest increases were observed in Estonia (+108 %), Hungary (+91 %), Luxembourg (+89 %), Latvia (+81 %) and Austria (+77 %). But the house price increases in France, especially since 2015, have not kept pace with the general trend across the European Union (+16% increase in France 2015-2020). Which is especially good news for house buyers in France, making it relativey more affordable to buy French property. [Source: Eurostat]
Future trends: French property prices 2022
So we have seen that the French property market is generally in good shape for 2022, but what will be the impact on French house prices over the next 12 months?
As we have stated above, FNAIM, which represents Real Estate agents in France, have predicted that house prices will continue to grow by +3.5% during 2022 and property transactions will continue at a level of around 1 million for the next 12 months at least.
I still don't believe that this growth will be fully uniform across the whole of France. We will still have hot spots where the property market will start to over-heat. There will also be areas of continued strong growth in house prices and then there will remain unfashionable towns and departments, where house prices will increase at marginal rates or even stagnate.
To understand where these areas might be, we need to look at some of the factors driving the local property market across France. We also highlight some interesting places in France for buying property - both in terms of reasonable house prices and general quality of life.
House prices France - comparison of regions (Price per m2)
We all know that property in Paris, Provence and Cote d'Azur is much more expensive than Northern and Central France. We also understand that if you move round the Mediterranean coastline by just 200kms into the Languedoc region, you can pick up the same property for virtually half the price. There are also some noted hot spots in France where property prices are accelerating fast - such as Bordeaux, Poitiers, Nantes, Lyon and Montpellier.
But, sometimes the comparison of house prices in France between different regions is susceptible to certain distortions. Thus for example, if in a particular location there was a high incidence of smaller properties and apartments being sold in the previous 12 months, then this will drag down the average sales prices in that area (which is what seems to have happened in Toulouse during 2021).
Areas where there is a high activity in new build construction or the development of social housing, will also be impacted negatively. Similarly, if there are a high number of Chateaux and big country estates being sold in a particular area, this will also inflate the average sales price.
One way of counteracting this is to look at the property price per square meter. The national body for the Notaires in France (Notaires.fr), have produced quite a handy analysis of the sales prices per square meter for property across France (excluding new build apartment developments). This reveals some quite interesting findings:
Most expensive areas to live in France
Central Paris is clearly the most expensive place to live in France. But what is interesting is the scale by which property prices in Paris exceed other expensive areas in France. The average price per m2 in Paris in Q1 2021 stood at €10,640. This was some 60% more expensive than property prices in Lyon (€5,000), Bordeaux (€4,440), Nice (€3,910) and Nantes (€3,720). Or to put it another way, if you purchase an apartment in Paris for €200,000, it is likely to be just a small studio apartment of 20m2. However, that same level of investment in say a city like Nantes, will get you a large one bedroom apartment or small 2 bed apartment of 58m2. If you go to the furthest extreme and purchase a property in Saint-Etienne, €200,000 will buy you a large 4 bedroom 210m2 apartment or two 2 bedroom apartments.
The other interesting thing to note is that compared to some of the very costly areas of France to live, the property prices in other desirable locations in France such as Montpellier and Toulon on the Mediterranean coast, Grenoble towards the Alps, Rennes in Brittany and Bayonne next to Biaritz on the South-West Atlantic coast; all appear quite reasonably priced and better value for money. All these cities recently featured in a survey by L'Express magazine in the Top 10 list of most-desirable cities to live in France (outside of Paris).
Cheapest areas to live in France
The cheapest place to buy property in France in 2021 is the industrial town of Saint-Etienne. Property prices here are just €1000 per m2 for an apartment in the town centre. Whilst property prices have been increasing in Saint Etienne over the last 12 months (rising by +4.8% in the rolling year up to Q2 2021), they are nothing like the house prices in the neighbouring city of Lyon, just 60 kms up the road. In Lyon, house prices are booming, increasing by over 10% during 2020 and 8.4% in 2021 (to reach €5,000 per m2 for an apartment in the city centre.
Mulhouse in the Alsace region of Eastern France, is another town with surprisingly cheap property prices. Mulhouse is a fairly large town with a population of around 280,000 people, including the sub-urban districts. It is also one of the 'youngest' towns in France, with over 40% of the inhabitants aged under 30. It is a fairly pleasant town, with strong links to nearby Germany and Switzerland. The local international airport close to Mulhouse (Bâle-Mulhouse-Friborg (EuroAirport)) serves travelers to each of the 3 countries. In terms of general earnings in France, the average wage rate in Mulhouse is high and the local inhabitants are able to enjoy low housing costs. The average price for apartments in Mulhouse in 2021 is just €1,120 per m2.
The city of Limoges in the Limousin region of Central France, did appear at #4 on the Top 10 list of best cities to live in France, but one of the key factors that made the Limoges so attractive, was the cheaper cost of living here (and the low property prices in Limoges make up a large part of the cheaper living costs).
With just 208,000 inhabitants, Limoges is a small city, the 28th largest in France. Limoges is home to some of France's largest companies, including Legrand (electrical component manufacturer), Renault Trucks, Valeo, Schneider Electric and Haviland (a manufacturer of luxury porcelain goods, which draws on the city's long association with the Porcelain & Ceramics industry). In 2021, apartments in Limoges cost an average of €1,380 per square meter and the average sale price for houses was only €156,000. Property prices in Limoges increased by 10.3% during 2021.
Finally, I would just like to highlight the small city of Nimes in the South of France. Nimes was a former Roman garrison town and it has some beautiful Roman monuments, including a fully intact amphitheatre and the old market forum. Nimes has its own local airport (served by Ryanair flights to UK and Brussels) a TGV train station and the A9 motorway runs right past the city. Nimes is also the gateway to Provence and the beautiful Cevennes region.
Nimes is just 50 kms north of Montpellier, but despite a similar transport infrastructure, old architecture and relaxed way of life; the two cities could not be more different. Property prices in Montpellier have powered ahead in recent years as more and more people look to move to the city. Montpellier has become the 7th largest city in France - it was the 23rd biggest urban area in France in 1977 and it has virtually doubled in size since 1960. In 2021, property prices in Montpellier increased by +7.6% and an average house will cost around €329,000. In comparison, a similar house in Nimes will only set you back €216,200. The Square meter price for apartments in Montpellier are currently running at €2,930 m2, whereas in central Nimes, you can buy an apartment for €1,900 per m2.
Areas with the fastest growing property prices in France
There are a clear number of property hot spots in France, where property prices are acellerating quickly.
The city of Rennes which is the capital of Britanny, reached #5 on the list of best French cities to live. Rennes bills itself as one of the greenest cities in France - both in terms of its gardens and parks, as well as its advanced network of electric public transport and cycle lanes.
During 2020, Rennes recorded a spectacular increase of +20.5% in property prices bringing the average square meter price of an apartment to €3,070. This speculative rise in house prices is driven by an excess demand for homes. House prices subsided a little during 2021, but they were still increasing at a rate of +8.7%.
According to INSEE, in the last 3 years, the population of Rennes has increased by an average of +7.6% new inhabitants each year, bringing the total population of the cities catchment area to 438,865 people. The city is also home to over 63,000 students.
L'Express described Rennes as:
" . . . a city that has been on the rise for several years. Its economic and cultural dynamism, young population and green urban projects and shared gardens are legion . . ."
In a similar fashion to Rennes, the neighbouring city of Nantes has also seen rapid increases in its population. The city has doubled in size since the 1960s and it is now the 6th biggest city in France. 45% of the population is under 30 years.
During 2021, house prices in Nantes increased by +9% to stand at an average sale price of €332,500, well above the average for Western France. Similarly, the average price of apartments in Nantes increased by +7.8% to €3,720 per m2.
According to the international Relocation company, Cadogen Tate, Nantes has a well-earned reputation for:
". . . offering an exceptionally high quality of life, a strong jobs market across a wide range of different fields and good salary prospects with a relatively low cost of living . . ."
The city of Lyon, the 3rd biggest city in France, has witnessed a real boom in property prices over the last 5 years. In 2021, property prices increased by between +8.4%. The average house price in Lyon has risen to €395,000 and the price of apartments is now topping €5,000 per m2.
The #1 place to live in France according to the by L'Express magazine survey, was the small city of Angers in Western France. Located on the edge of the Loire Valley, Angers is famed for its public parks and botanical gardens. Its popularity was summarised by L'Express:
. . . Angers provides the best quality of life in France based on a winning cocktail of academic and university excellence, a range of high-end care, sustainable development and reasonable house prices. This human-sized city has managed to preserve its natural spaces and its air quality . . .
Property prices have risen dramatically in Angers during 2021 and this trend looks to continue into 2022. Average house prices in Angers were a fairly modest €265,000 in Q2 2020. But this represents an +7.5% increase on 2020.
The popular university town of Poitiers in Central France, witnessed a dramatic increase in property prices during 2021. The average house in Poitiers was selling for +11.9% more during 2021, then 2020. But even with this large increase, the average cost of property to buy in Poitiers was only €179,000.
It seems that it is the demand for city apartments that is inflating the property prices in Poitiers. During 2021 the price per m2 for an apartment increased by a whopping +17.5% from €1,650 per m2 in Q2 2020 to €2,020 per m2 in Q2 2021. This may not be totally surprising when you consider that 1 in 6 people in the town is a student and over 30% of the population is under 30 years old.
Poitiers reached #2 in the list of the best cities in France to live and was described by L'Express magazine as:
". . . A paradise for young people who benefit from accommodation among the cheapest in France. With its theatres, its cinemas and its street festivals, the city offers a great quality of life and complete safety . . ."
In Northern France, the cities of Amiens and Caen have recorded large increases in house prices in 2021.
Amiens, is a large University city and business hub in the Somme department, 100 kms South-West of Lille. During 2021, the average house price in Amiens increased by a staggering +18.1%. But even with this dramatic increase, the average cost of houses in Amiens still only stood to stand at €179,500, well below the national average for France. In contrast, there was a modest increase in the price of apartments in Amiens to €2,060 (a +3.6% increase during 2021).
The port-city of Caen on the Normandy coast, saw quite fluctuating property prices in 2021. The prices of apartments in Caen increased massively during 2021, recording a +16.2% rise over 12 months. The average rice per m2 for an apartment in Caen now stands at €2,410. The average house prices in Caen increased by a healthy +6.8% to €235,000, making it one of the most expensive places to live along the Northern coast of France (with the odd exception of towns such as Deauville and Saint Malo).
Caen is quite a modern city, with a lot of its buildings being constructed after the Second World War. The nearby Normandy beach landings led to intense fighting in the city and much of the old town was destroyed. The city does provide a convenient base for exploring some of the more picturesque coastal towns of Deauville, Trouville and Honfleur.
Impact of urban house prices in France on sub-urban areas
As we have highlighted above, there is emerging evidence that French homeowners during 2021 are looking to relocate from urban city centres to the surrounding suburbs and rural locations. Assuming that this trend will continue during 2022 (after a further second confinement), what impact will the flight from the cities have on the house prices in sub-urban areas in France?
In 2021, 39% of the French population lived in urban areas, represented by 22 major cities. These 22 cities also accounted for 43% of all jobs in the French economy. The conventional wisdom is that these dynamic city centres, drive up the house prices in surrounding commuter zones as workers in the cities search for cheaper and quieter places to live to enhance their quality of life.
Recent research by the national body that represents the French property lawyers, Notaires.fr, has shown that whilst house prices in Bordeaux have grown strongly over the last decade (culminating in a +42% increase in house prices over a 10 year period), the growth rate in surrounding areas has only achieved half the level of price increase as the city centre (+21% growth).
Similarly, whilst property prices in the cities of Nantes, Toulouse and Lyon have all grown on average by +14% over the last 10 years, house prices in the surrounding commuter belts have not kept pace. House prices in the sub-urban area of Nantes have only grown by +5% in the same period. In Toulouse, property prices in the outer-lying villages and towns only increased by +2% in 10 years. In the rural areas surrounding Lyon, property values increased by only +1% in the corresponding period.
In Montpellier the contrast is even greater. During the period 2011 to 2021, house prices in Montpellier grew by an average annual rate of +4%. During the same period, house prices in the villages surrounding Montpellier remain -4% lower than they were in 2010.
Only the city of Clermont Ferrand, saw house prices in the periphery of the city, keep pace with the rate of increase in the city centre (+6% in the city centre and +5% in the surrounding villages & towns). All other cities in France saw a distinct difference between high price growth in the city centres and lower or even falling house prices in the commuter belts.
The report concludes by stating that
" . . . it appears that changes in house prices in the cities has had a limited influence on price changes in their outskirts . . . the dynamism of cities does not have a knock-on effect on the surrounding areas in the same proportions . . . the property markets are in this sense, separate, not connected . . ."
Conclusion: house prices in France in 2022
The French housing market is expected to strengthen further during 2022. The impact of the Pandemic does not appear to have had a long-lasting effect (at least not until now). 2022 is expected to be a positive year for the French economy. The impact of the massive Government stimulus package, continuing low interest rates and the strong demand for houses in France, the long term upward trend for the French property market looks set to continue. As the latest Property Market report from Notaires.fr concludes:
" . . . more than ever the French have a keen appetite for bricks and mortar and the security it affords them, both in terms of investment and of return. In this respect the confidence of households has clearly been restored, after an historic drop during the lockdown . . ."
From a long term investment perspective, the French property market is a fairly decent bet. The property market in France has proved over recent history that it is sufficiently robust and able to withstand temporary periods of decline. French property is also one of the most well-regulated markets in the world and the high incidence of repayment mortgages (over 85% of the loans issued) and a property taxation system which penalises fix-n-flip property speculation; helps to keep the property market relatively stable. So overall, the outlook for property investors in France for 2022 looks positive.
Buying property in France in 2022 . . . ?
Artaxa Immo, is a French real estate business that specialises in helping Foreign investors buy French property. The agency is based in the beautiful wine village of Roujan and provides a property sales teams across the Languedoc region. Artaxa is a genuinely International real estate firm, employing multi-lingual staff in the three regional offices. For further information about buying property in South France, please contact Jane Laverock on +33 6 95 50 19 21 or by email at Jane@artaxaimmo.
Alternatively, if you have any particular questions you would like to ask about living in the South of France, then contact Iain by Email. If you liked the article then please share it with others using the Facebook and Pinterest buttons below.