It’s a cliché, but like many clichés it contains an element of truth; the French in general really do prefer to buy new properties rather than older ones. Across France, in cities, towns and tiny villages, new homes are being built and immediately snapped up by French buyers.
However, they are no longer alone. Overseas buyers are increasingly choosing to purchase new build rather than older homes.
Partly this trend is linked to the growing number of people who are entering the French market as investors. New build homes are popular with investors because they are low on maintenance and ideal for tourism lets (for which many investment properties are used).
Increasingly, though, foreign buyers are choosing new homes either as second homes or as their main residence when they move to France.
For them the main advantages include the lack of maintenance and the lower running costs – for example on heating. There is also peace of mind; many new developments have security measures in place meaning that your property is at less risk while you are away than, say, an isolated rural cottage.
New developments often also have leisure facilities attached to them – for example swimming pools, gyms, restaurants and even golf courses – though these are often more restricted in city developments where space is more limited.
And there is also the attraction of having a ready made ‘community’ for you to join, often with people who speak the same language as you.
Remy Houtin, the chief executive officer of developers Alliance Labélisation, says from their long experience the chief attraction is certainly ‘less maintenance’.
Katie Edwards of French Property Consultants Attika International agrees. ‘Buying off-plan in France is simple and straightforward – and it comes with no DIY frustration or spiralling financial costs.’
But she also points to another reason for people choose new build – peace of mind over the quality of the home you are buying.
‘New property comes with various guarantees attached to it covering the structure of the building to the fixtures and fittings,’ she says.
These guarantees form part of the contract when buying new build – though it’s also important to make sure that the developer has proper insurance to cover any liability to meet the guarantees. If in doubt about this check with the notaire or hire your own lawyer to make sure.
Of course, just because a property is new does not guarantee it is right for you either as a home, holiday home or investment. There are bad developments as well as good ones.
It is important to check out the area where the new build is being (or perhaps already has been) built. Don’t simply accept the words in the developers’ brochure about how beautiful the area is or the wonderful facilities that are on hand. They are unlikely to tell you about plans for a new chemical dump down the road or the new factory that’s being built round the corner.
Also, if you are buying on a small development that is full of character you should make sure that the same or other developers are not planning to put up a row of new box-style homes next door in a few years once all the up market homes are sold. To find out more ask at the mairie and any existing neighbours, and also ask around local estate agents.
You should also be aware what the area is like in the off-season. Most places look good in the sunshine. But some new developments can feel empty and desolate places in the winter, especially if many of the facilities close down. In tourist areas, for example, you might find that your favourite restaurant doesn’t open for the winter months.
Remy Houtin says: ‘You need to consider the quality of the concept, the raw materials used and the quality of life of the residents.’
So as with any property purchase you need to weigh up carefully the pros and cons of a new build home – and certainly you should never feel pressurized into buying one.
However you can feel reassured by the fact that the French have been buying new build for years – and they seem to keep coming back for more.