This week we hear from FrenchEntrée Partner Sophie Folley, based in the Pyrénées Atlantiques in South West France. Sophie explains how the pandemic and lockdown affected the market and the way they do business, and what the future might hold.
“On 17th March 2020, as with the rest of France, our region La Nouvelle Aquitaine, and our department the Pyrénées Atlantiques (64), together with the whole of France, went into strict lockdown or “confinement”. Up until that moment the market had been steadily improving over a number of years from the deep global crisis at the end of the first decade of the century. The improvement was solid, but unremarkable.
The day before confinement our agency signed a completion act which was to be the last until 14/05/2020, the week when the deconfinement process started. However, confinement, virus location and development, seem to have profoundly changed the property situation in this part of France as demand here has shot up with domestic clients as well as international buyers from Europe and all over the world seeking areas that have been relatively untouched by the virus.
The present government statistics indicate that there have been just 27 deaths due to the Covid-19 infection here and now, for a number of weeks no one in ventilation and just one case in hospital. The principal city of the region, Bordeaux, has also been spared the worst compared with the other great cities of France.
The other great event initiated by the crisis is the question of “télétravail” or “homeworking”. The use of computers had largely to replace the physical presence of clients and vendors in the property sector and other commercial service sectors as well. Thus sparking the questions “Do I need to live in the city where I work, or even within relatively short commuting distance from it ?” and “How many days per week do I really need physically to go to the office ?”
France’s departments have been split into three regions Red, Orange, and Green, Red being those departments that have been very badly affected by the virus (mainly in the industrial northern areas, Grand Est, and the Paris area), Orange (the “inbetween” area), and Green those departments, like ours, where the virus has been least active.
International news media mean that the entire world understands where to go if you wish a calmer, more natural lifestyle and the Pyrénées Atlantiques department provides this completely. Indeed it is very difficult to imagine any outdoor activity that is not immediately available “on the doorstep”.
Our agency has now successfully used modern computerised technology such as WhatsApp visits and property videos and is using this in collaboration with a number of our vendors in a far more generalised way than before the crisis. Both clients and vendors have greatly appreciated this move.
The future ?? That really is the $64 million question !! The global economy is likely heading towards a slump of quite awesome proportions. However rural France, and particularly the Pyrénées Atlantiques, offers something that few regions around the world can provide: calm, space, lack of pollution, respect, outdoor activities, mountains, ocean and minimal criminality. No bad thing when you are seriously considering lifestyle changes!”