During December we catch up with a few of our FrenchEntrée Partners and ask them for their reflections on 2020 – one of the most topsy-turvy years any of us have experienced – and their thoughts on what 2021 will look like for French Property buyers.
This week we hear from our partners Benjamin Haas of Burgundy4U, Yolanda Robins of Paris Mac Immo and Alice Loftie from Charles Loftie Immobilier.
What were your highlights of 2020?
Benjamin: This year was our best year in turnover… even making up for our forced lockdown during March and April and again in November 2020.
Yolanda: The main highlight in 2020 was creating my podcast during the first lockdown, which I record, produce and distribute. The Paris Property Chronicles is all about property in Paris and France has a become a resource for many. It is intermixed with professional advice and personal experiences from my clients, which resonate the most.
Alice: On a personal basis – having the opportunity to spend an unusual amount of time at home and in our garden during the lockdowns!
What has been most difficult?
Benjamin: In March 2020, when the government announced that we needed to lock down, we didn’t know what the future held. We closed the hatches at the time for the storm that was to come…
Yolanda: The lockdowns . . . period!
Alice: Planning ahead – Covid restrictions made the scheduling and then re-scheduling of appointments and visits complicated. The travel plans of our international buyers were constantly evolving and changing depending on the rules of the countries from which our buyers/sellers were travelling.
How has your business had to adapt?
Benjamin: We did much more online, luckily we already had in place an electronic signature for listing contracts and sales contracts, but we had to deal as well with virtual exchange of deeds. We also introduced much more 360 degree pictures, so that people could have a better idea of the property before visiting. During visits we installed a very strict protocol, maximum 2 people to visit, hand sanitizing before visiting, masks wearing etc…
Yolanda: Seeing so many small businesses, such as myself, adapt to change the pandemic has brought on, by retooling their business model to create a more robust virtual presence. I now provide not only photos of new listings, but also virtual visits and video upon request. Necessity is the mother of invention.
Alice: We have had to adapt by offering virtual tours to buyers unable to travel to France or within France. It has been more complicated and time-consuming on the paperwork front to get sales signed up, due to Covid restirictions and employees working from home in the administrative offices and notaire’s offices.
What changes – if any – have you seen in buyer behaviour?
Benjamin: Our share of French buyers has doubled from 30% to 60%…they accept they have to offer the asking price, as they are afraid to miss out. This has led to a slight increase in prices in the countryside. As homeworking has become acceptable, second home buyers can enjoy their property longer. As the commuter run is replaced by a walk in the French countryside!
One of the main questions we have to answer now is about the speed and quality of the broadband.
We are also selling more property ready to live in, and very few people buying projects to renovate…
Yolanda: After the first lockdown in Paris many buyers were looking for outdoor space whether a balcony or terrace, but more often just outside of the city.
Alice: Still a very international clientele of buyers and of course plenty of French buyers too! An increase in interest from Americans or Europeans based in the States wanting to move permanently to Europe.
What has turned out better than you thought?
Benjamin: We sold much more than expected.
Yolanda: Solidarity in its most human form and unexpected support.
Alice: Despite all the complications, it has been a good year for sales! When we were allowed to show houses to potential buyers, we found them very focussed and keen to make a purchase.
Time for the Crystal Ball – what does 2021 hold for prospective buyers?
Benjamin: We have difficulty in sourcing property to sell, the property priced right goes fast… so you need to be here to act quickly. You also need to have your financing ready, 100% loans for French buyers will not be possible anymore, max 80%, but interest rates will remain low.
The market will remain strong for us as we sell character property in the French rural areas, and there is a massive installation of high speed fibre internet in our countryside.
The electronic handling of documents is here to stay, increasing the efficiency of conveyancing, but also the need for good guidance as more buyers will be doing things from at a distance.
Yolanda: 2021 will be a transformative year. Property in Paris has experienced a halt in its meteoric rise and a mild correction in pricing due the pandemic. So many businesses suffering due to lack of tourism and needs international borders to open, which it relies on to support its economy. When the vaccine is administered to a critical mass, I believe this will serve to stimulate confidence in travelling abroad, thereby stimulating the economy and improving consumer confidence. Pricing will begin modestly rising in the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2021 in anticipation of our new normal in 2022.
Alice: I think it will still be an active property market as there is plenty of demand.