Generating an income from a property in France has long been an aspiration of would-be buyers.
Some clients are looking to earn just enough from the property to cover some bills, the taxe foncière and a couple of nice bottles of wine a week; others are looking for it to become their primary income source.
The perennial favourite for overseas buyers is tourist accommodation of some kind. That might be a bed and breakfast/chambres d’hôtes business, or a gîte complex. The more ambitious projects look to create bespoke events or fairytale wedding venues. More radical ideas include smallholdings with yurts, yoga retreats and carbon-neutral cottages.
We wondered whether the confluence of Brexit (for British buyers) and the impact of COVID-19 had seen an increase in enquiries from buyers looking for income-generating properties, or properties where they can work from home. We quizzed some of our property experts…
Alistair Lockhart, Property Director, FrenchEntrée (Nationwide)
“We talk to buyers of all nationalities, looking in all parts of France. These enquiries can be a useful barometer for what is happening in the market at a macro level. Based on the conversations we have been having over the last few months, it certainly feels like the number of prospective buyers looking to make a living in France has increased. For British buyers, Brexit will be a factor, wanting to demonstrate to the French state that they have ‘sufficient resources’; so why not generate an additional income from the property they are buying – even if that income is just a ‘top-up’. Equally, for many employers and employees, the lockdown during COVID-19 has proven that individuals can work effectively from home. Zoom and Skype have demonstrated that you can have a face-to-face meeting, and make business decisions, without physically needing to be in the same room. I have spoken to a number of buyers who intend to buy in France, remain with their current employer, and commute back to the UK maybe a couple of times a month. Suddenly it seems doable – keeping the salary intact but living the good life in France!”
Suzanne Pearce, Suzanne in France (Normandy):
“It is noticeable that there are more potential buyers enquiring about a full-time move to France and business/work opportunities at the moment. Properties that can generate an income are popular, as is a suitable workspace to allow clients to either work from home or commute back to the UK. Several of my clients already do a weekly commute. The Coronavirus measures of people working from home has started to increase the homeworking possibility for some employers and their employees so long as clients have access to decent transport links and high-speed internet. Working from home (whether in the UK or nearby Normandy) has become an even more viable option.”
Adrian Lithgow, Agence Eleonor Issigeac (Dordogne):
“People looking for home working options from a rural environment are our main source of inquiry right now. These are both British and French as a lot of Parisians and Bordelaise are expressing an interest in this part of Dordogne.
Bergerac is a big draw for its airport and the upgrading of the rail line to Bordeaux, which itself connects to the TGV at Libourne for Paris and beyond.
Being able to leave Bergerac at lunchtime and make a London meeting at the end of the afternoon is very attractive for clients working for City firms and BA operates a service into London City Airport.”
Christophe Guay, TIC Ruffec (Charente/Vienne)
“We see continued demand from Brits looking for house and income (gîtes/B&B). Broadband has been a common factor already with the age of Netflix, Skype etc.
Several French buyers have been looking to move to the country since confinement. Working from home is now so easy and all around the Ruffec area of Charentre fibre-optic is gradually being installed.”
Charles Loftie Immobilier (Lot)
“Yes, there has been an increase in the number of people wanting to work from home. That said, our clients have been asking about broadband speeds for sometime before Coronavirus. It has been made a priority in the Lot department where fibre optic is currently being installed in our neighbourhood.”
Freddy Rueda, Real Estate Languedoc
“Income-generating properties with gîtes are still of interest for the UK clients and there is a lot of demand, but as yet no particular interest to work from home on a computer. In any event, you can have broadband everywhere in France, so this is not a problem. If fibre-optic broadband is not at the house, you can get high-speed internet via 4G.”