Property Update: Reflecting on 2020 and what the Future Holds (Part 3)

 
Property Update: Reflecting on 2020 and what the Future Holds (Part 3)

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 Louise and Jamie from Immotech Beaulieu, Sophie Folley, and Christophe from TIC Ruffec.

What were your highlights of 2020?

Louise and Jamie: 2020 – a tough time but chance to stand back and re-assess.  A moment to enjoy the absolute quiet of the first confinement when animals, wildlife were king…

Sophie: The totally unexpected increase in demand from the domestic French market which started during the first lockdown increased rapidly following the raising of COVID restrictions, with a large number of city dwellers looking to move to the country and prioritise home working.

Christophe:  One thing we did not foresee when going into lockdown, was that we would end up having one of our best Summers, this has been an incredible highlight of 2020. It seems being confined made people truly revaluate their plans and decisions, especially when it came to buying a property in France. From the moment lockdown was lifted, up until late October, we have been incredibly busy with visits and a record number of property sales, including sales where the buyers had only seen the property virtually.

What has been most difficult?

Louise and Jamie: Family, music and social gatherings : missing our local weekly Marche du pays with it’s festive music on the Dordogne river quayside!!

Sophie: Heading into the initial lockdown with absolutely no idea how this would affect the market.  It’s still very worrying times as we see thousands of people losing their jobs and ultimately their buying power.  Banks are also being more scrupulous about who they will lend to.

Christophe: With Brexit having a severe impact on the property market, we initially felt this was going to be the low point of 2020. However, when it was announced that France would go into confinement back in March 2020, we found ourselves worrying about the business even more. Lockdown put a complete stop to visits, taking on new properties and generally seeing anyone. Our business, as so many others, therefore came to a halt, and we worried about what would happen at the end of confinement.

How has your business had to adapt?

Sophie: We very quickly realised during the initial lockdown that we had to turn to virtual viewings via Skype or WhatsApp to meet our clients’ demands.  We have also produced several videos of our properties to be able to send out to prospective buyers prior to them visiting in person. We even sold a property without the physical presence of either the purchasers or vendors!

Christophe:

  • Whilst lockdown has been lifted once again, we are having to continually adapt our way of working in order to keep up with health crisis and ever-changing legal requirements and regulations.
  • For visits at the present time, we need to seek prior written consent from every vendor to ensure they are happy for visits to take place in their property. Visits per home are limited to one per half day, and can only last 30 minutes.
  • We also need to supply clients with specific forms allowing them to travel for the visit.
  • We embraced electronic signatures a little while back and this has been absolutely vital in signing the various forms of paperwork between clients and ourselves.
  • We have also carried out a large number of virtual visits, making use of technology as much as we can, where potential buyers were unable to travel but keen to buy. We successfully completed numerous sales with buyers who didn’t get to see the property in person until completion, or even afterwards.

What changes – if any – have you seen in buyer behaviour?

Louise and Jamie: A year which has more than overturned our regular routines, 2020 has been an opportunity to re-think, re-assess and to break away from entrenched values. Parisiens and France’s city dwellers are flocking to rural France which has by them been long beheld as a unimportant backwater populated by country bumpkins with little culture.  A general « fonte » of long-held preconceptions!

Sophie: Heading into the initial lockdown with absolutely no idea how this would affect the market.  It’s still very worrying times as we see thousands of people losing their jobs and ultimately their buying power.  Banks are also being more scrupulous about who they will lend to.

Christophe: With Brexit having a severe impact on the property market, we initially felt this was going to be the low point of 2020. However, when it was announced that France would go into confinement back in March 2020, we found ourselves worrying about the business even more. Lockdown put a complete stop to visits, taking on new properties and generally seeing anyone. Our business, as so many others, therefore came to a halt, and we worried about what would happen at the end of confinement.

What has turned out better than you thought?

Louise and Jamie: A good year for business despite the long absences from work.  The Lot and Corrèze départements were desperately in need of a new population, this has been resolved and will bring interest and investment to the area.

Sophie: The year in general! The proof that people tend to look at “bricks and mortar” in troubled times.

Christophe: Despite everything, from Brexit to several lockdowns followed by strict requirements for visits, we are pleased with the overall amount of sales we’ve completed considering how up and down this year has been.

Time for the Crystal Ball – what does 2021 hold for prospective buyers?

Louise and Jamie: With a new pro-european president in the White House I can only hope that we will salvage a deal with the UK giving access to Europe for Britons wishing to buy in France. Otherwise some very cheap fishing trawlers for sale on the European Northern Coasts or a large number of zodiacs in Brighton.

Sophie:Happily the COVID vaccines are now on their way !!!  However, I don’t expect the boom to last forever.  I think there are some very difficult times ahead, and this is inevitably going to have an effect on the market.  With regards to our British buyers we also have the knock-on effects of Brexit to deal with! It is also clear that Brexit will be a “continuing” process for years to come and that there won’t simply be a temporary short, sharp shock to the system lasting just 3 / 6 months before everything then returns to “normal”.

Christophe: We expect demand from our British buyers to slow down as they are having to adapt to the UK leaving the UK, with all the new rules that will apply in light of this. We expect that the French and International market will remain the same. 

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FrenchEntrée's Digital Editor, Zoë is also a freelance journalist who has written for the Telegraph, HuffPost, and CNN, and a guidebook updater for the Rough Guide to France and Rough Guide to Dordogne & Lot. She lives in the French countryside just outside of Nantes.

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