Friday, 30 December 2011

Move to France 2012 - your New Year's Resolution

The choice to retire abroad is one being made by an ever increasing number of Britons, and thanks to globalisation and the internet, it is now easier than ever to plan and finalise your dream of retiring abroad even if you’ve never visited your chosen nation before!
Information about almost every element of starting a new life overseas is now just a mouse click away, and suddenly the world really does seem like a much smaller, more accessible place.
The Britons who have already relocated overseas or who are in the active planning stages cite the following top 5 reasons for wanting to move abroad when they give up work…
1) Better weather 2) Less crime 3) An improved lifestyle 4) Lower cost of living 5) And lower taxes
1) In the areas that we cover, the Dordogne Valley & Poitou Charentes, the weather is significantly better than back in the UK. Shorter milder winters, and longer, warmer summers, but all 4 seasons.
2) Much less crime on this side of the channel, reflected in the much cheaper property insurance. Increasingly some Britons are citing their main reason for relocation abroad in retirement as wanting a safer place to live.
3) Everything from taxation to energy bills are rising, so as the cost of living escalates and job security falls dramatically, the lifestyle "enjoyed" by Britons is seriously declining. A recent quality of life index by uSwitch, advises that the quality of life in the UK is the worst in Europe… and that in France was No1.
4) Property prices & costs in France can be lower, and with the £ currently around 1.20 € now is a good time to be looking.
5) Thanks to the introduction of qualifying recognised overseas pension schemes (QROPS) by HMRC, those who are retiring abroad may also be able to improve their pension income by moving their pension to a regulated offshore jurisdiction where tax may not be charged, or may also be charged at much lower rates than in the UK. France although sometimes seen as a country of higher taxation, does offer significant possibilities for paying less Inheritance Tax (IHT) & also Capital Gains Tax (CGT).
Further information via sales@allez-francais.com

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Focus still on the €uro

The euro has fallen further against other major currencies as fears continue over the eurozone's future. The euro fell below $1.30 for the first time since 12 January. Against the pound, one euro bought 83.85 pence, while the pound was worth 1.19 euros.
Last week, 26 of the 27 members of the European Union backed new fiscal rules, with only the UK abstaining. But many fear that the budget pact will still not be enough to prevent more countries from seeking a bailout.
Traders are now watching closely to see what kind of interest rate Italy in particular will have to pay, particularly after Germany’s Chancellor Merkel ruled out an expansion of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the current Eurozone bailout fund. Whether they like it or not, Germany is running things in Europe at the moment (financially speaking) and that is causing some quite vocal animosity around the member states.
The ‘deal’ forged on Friday to create a more integrated fiscal situation in Europe is in trouble after it emerged that it would be hard to get it ratified in Sweden, the Czech republic, Holland, Denmark and Finland. Whether France will ever ratify the package is also now in doubt after France’s main opposition party rejected the deal. The problem there is that there is a very good chance this party will oust President Sarkozy in the April elections so Angela Merkel may find herself in a coalition of one.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Euro crisis

Dismay, coupled with rage have been words used to best describe the reaction by France and Germany after they thought they had reached an agreement with Greece - the details of the Mer-kozy plan were yet to be fleshed out but it certainly didn’t involve delays, referenda or the potential for rejection by Greece. Mr Papandreou has to face a confidence vote before he has the infamous referendum so that will make the markets uncertain for a while yet. The Euro remains at a low ebb and that is fantastic news for anyone who wants to buy Euros. I would strongly urge buyers to make sure you do not fall into the potential trap of assuming that further Euro weakness will follow. The Pound has reached this level on three previous occasions recently, but each time has slumped back without making further headway and as we all know, history does have a habit of repeating itself.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A tale of Notaires

We have been doing this job now for almost 10 years, so we think we know what is what.
When it comes to the final Acte de Vente (completion), we are in the hands of the Notaire, and like all walks of life, some are good and some are, well, pretty poor !
Currently we are wrestling with one such individual, and their "army" of staff who position themselves between you and Maître. This case has been ticking along without any problems and was due to complete on 30th September.
Because of inheritance / succession problems, the clients wish to purchase via a S C I (property company), so that they can leave shares (the property) to who they wish, rather than having succession laws imposed upon them.
The Notaire is insistent that the S C I must be created a week or so ahead of the Acte de Vente, even though we have previously done this on the same day as completion. (They have known about everything required since mid-April, and it is now that they start raising objections).
Following several phone calls, they have finally backed down, and completion can now take place on the same day as the S C I is created. Good news, BUT, they now cannot make the 30th September as their diary is full !!
The Notaire is also going on a weeks holiday between 3-9th October, so the first appointment available is 12th October.
Needless to say, we have well and truly marked the card of this Notaire and won't be using them in a hurry.
Meanwhile, another sale has bumped along and hit a few problems along the way. This time the Notaire involved, (a different one), has been proactive and has overcome the problems, much to everyone's delight. There is light at the end of the tunnel....
Peter Elias

Sunday, 18 September 2011

New Capital Gains Tax rules - impact on some vendors

It is not yet widely appreciated, but there are significant changes planned for Capital Gains Tax rules for owners of a maison secondaire in France. Previously, after a 5 year qualifying period, owners were allowed a 10% reduction in their liability, for each complete year of ownership, until after 15 years the property was deemed to be free of tax. The 15 year rule has now been extended to 30 years with smaller allowances in place. The new rules apply to all sales concluded after 31st January 2012. If the property is owned by a SCI (property holding company), the rules have already changed, (effective from 25th August 2011). A summary of the rules is aavailable from us upon request. You may need to discuss the implications of the new rules with us. We envisage that some owners, especially those who have owned a 2nd home in France since prior to 2007 will have financial implications as a consequence of this legislation. Those who have owned for even longer periods may have believed that they were now outside the Frencg CGT calculations. There could be a significant opportunity for owners to sell prior to the 31/01/2012, which generally would require a sale to have been agreed, (and a compromis de vente signed), by 31/10/2011.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) http://www.allez-francais.com/

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

2nd homes news

French Ministers have got their knickers in a twist again over changes to treatment of 2nd homes. Followers of the Blog may recall the climb-down earlier this year when a new proposed tax on 2nd homes was abolished before it even became law. Now it looks likely that recently proposed changes to capital gains tax (CGT) on 2nd homes will be watered down to appease members of the ruling UMP party. Now, it is likely no CGT will be paid on properties held for more than 30 years, an extension of the current 15 years and a considerable change from the proposals which saw no advantage to holding a property long term. It is also proposed that the calculation of CGT will change, the finer details are still being thrashed out, probably based upon inflation over the period of ownership and with an increase in social charges. Currently capital gains made by private individuals on the sale of a property that is not their primary residence are subject to a withholding tax of 19% for EU citizens, to which is added the social security contributions (for French residents). The capital gain is broadly the difference between the original purchase price and the sale price, less any qualifying expenses. However, a reduction of 10% per year beyond the 5th year is aplied to the gain calculated. Thus, sales made after the 15th year of holding the property are fully exempt from CGT. This has encouraged owners to keep their property for 15 years to benefit from a CGT exemption. Prime Minister Fillon recommended removing the 10% reduction per year to tax gains actually realised on property, after neutralisation of inflation. The capital gain would be calculated based on purchase price plus inflation observed since the acquisition date. It is likely that the new regime will apply to any sales contracts signed after 24th August 2011. Peter Elias http://www.allez-francais.com/

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The property market 2011

No doubt, since 2007, the property market has been tough, both here in France and globally. But having survived during these difficult years, I have become convinced that the only reason that a house does not sell, even in troubled times is it’s price.
I have lost count now of the number of owners who now admit that my original estimation was in the right ball park, and that their « valuation », which is normally based on original cost + cost of all works carried out + x%, was shall we say optimistic.
Vendors often want to build in a « margin » for negotiation as well, and this of course inflates their house price even further.
Beware ! When you are selling a property you will come across 3 types of agency, the first, stroking your ego by agreeing a high valuation for your property, in order to ensure that they get the mandat. The second, who will look to sell your property quickly, and give a low valuation, and perhaps try to tie you into an exclusive mandat deal, and the third who will try to give you a realistic valuation of what you can expect to get in the current market.
Don’t forget that if you bought between 2000 and early 2007, you purchased in the boom years, when Brit buyers were following the trails of « A Place in the Sun » and houses were selling, literally, like hot cakes. Since then, the market has changed dramatically, UK buyers are largely absent, and the young French buyers don’t want to live in rural France, they want to live in the towns and cities.
We find that the most interest that we have for a property is during it’s first 6-8 weeks on the market, known in marketing terms as the Product Life Cycle (PLC). It is crucial to get the pricing right during this early phase of the marketing, as this represents the best opportunity to sell the property. After the 6-8 week period, the property has reached « maturity » in this cycle, through it’s exposure on the internet and enquiries received. After that, it is a slow, steady decline, until some new impetus is injected, (in the form of a price reduction), when the cycle starts again on a smaller scale.
Therefore, you us to give you an accurate guide to pricing your property from the outset, and please don’t be tempted to try to factor in what the house « owes » you, or that margin for negotiation. At the end of the day the only real driving force for a sale in price.
A house in poor condition, or bad location will sell if the price is right. A beautiful house, in a great location won’t sell if it is above the market value in a difficult market. Peter Eliashttp://www.allez-francais.com/

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Changing markets

Wealthy North European buyers from Germany, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands are moving into the French property sector, with British and Americans clients largely absent. The turmoil in the equities markets is driving buyers back to a safe haven they trust … namely, property, and this coupled with historically low interest rates throughout the Eurozone, has created a rise in demand. However there is still a very cautious approach by British & US buyers, who remain conspicuous by their absence, principally due to a lack of confidence in their respective economies and currencies. Peter Elias

Friday, 12 August 2011

England - summer 2011

This picture says it all. The recent rioting in England has made us appreciate just how lucky we are living here in France. The images of vandalism and youths looting shops has not been a great advert for the UK, especially with 2012 being Olympic year. No wonder the kids of today don't respect other citizens and their property, they clearly don't have any respect for themselves. Rural France seems an awful long way away from what is going on back in England at the moment.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Many tax changes

2011 is proving to be a good year for those people living in France as far as taxes are concerned, with significant changes already made or planned.
The latest changes are concerning UK expatriates who have been affected by the UK's 90 day residence rule. With effect from 6th April 2012, most expats will now be able to spend up to 119 days in the UK, and still remaon a non resident in most cases.
French Wealth Tax has also seen significant changes, with the threshold increased from 800,000 Euros to 1.3 million € (effective 2011), and coming soon, just 2 bands of tax 0.25% between 1.3 and 3 m €, and 0.5% for above 3 m €, (effective 2012).
Succession & Gift Taxes have also changed.
Coming to France offers many financial planning opportunities, especially via QROPS & QNUPS arrangements. The benefits include examption from all UK taxes on death if you have been non UK resident for 5 consecutive years, (a potential saving of 55%). These plans also avoid French succession law and offer other additional benefits.
As usual, new tax laws bring with them new opportunities to plan your finances, (different and better). We are able to offer the best quality Independent Financial Advice via our dedicated contacts, (for whom we are registered introducers).
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) http://www.allez-francais.com/

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Exclusive mandats

One of my pet hates is French agencies using “sole agency” on their properties without explaining the potential outcome to their clients, (the vendors). In the Poitou Charentes, there is one well-known agency who is particularly active in this respect. There is also one Notaire who is also into the exclusive agency business. What does it offer for the vendor – well, not a lot apart from a number of promises by the agent, which they will struggle to keep. Normally this is based on increased advertising and internet presence. In practice, it means that the agency can sit back a bit in the knowledge that they have blocked the sale of the property by any other agencies for a period of at least ¼ of the year, sometimes even longer. The agent that I have in mind, currently has 34 properties advertised as sole agent, even though I have seen a registered mandat with another agency, created before their exclusive mandat, that is still valid. So that could prove interesting ! This agency takes out a small 2 property advert in the French Property press, so over the period of a quarter only 6 out of those 34 properties will benefit from this “high profile” marketing. In the Dordogne valley, if we enter into an exclusive agreement, it is very much on a “gentleman’s agreement”, and the vendor only signs a non-exclusive mandat, there being trust between both parties that the deal will be honoured. In return we are able to arrange floor-plans and elevated photography to make the property really stand out in the market place. We think this added-value is much better than an empty promise.
Rarely to vendors know how to get out of these exclusive mandates, which normally requires a registered letter (AR), towards the end of the 3 month exclusive period as a minimum, to renounce the contract. Mandates for the purchase of French property are often signed in haste by keen sellers and buyers and repented on at leisure. They are a fruitful source of work for litigation lawyers in France and regularly keep the French Appeal Courts and Supreme Court occupied. UK buyers and sellers are at a big disadvantage as the system in England is not the same and they do not understand what they are signing. So, you have been warned.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Negotiations

OK, the market is pretty static, both in the UK and here in France, but recently I have encountered clients (buyers), who have been advised by an agent not too far from where we operate, that buyers should negotiate hard, typically 20% below the asking price. It may well be that in certain circumstances, when someone is desperate to go back to the UK for example, that the vendor may listen to such an optimistic offer. After all, the vendor may have purchased their property when the £ / Euro value was around 1.50 against the present 1.12. The currency movement covers a 25% gain during this period, giving some vendors a lot of flexibility. You have to question the professionalism of an agent advising clients in this way. They are opening the door for wild offers on any properties that they have for sale, something their owners will not thank them for. Unless of course, that as part of their strategy they over optimistically inflated the asking price by 20% in the first place. My advice, would be to steer clear of such agents. By all means listen to what your agent has to say, and they will often know when a vendor is negotiable or desperate to sell, but the latter situation is the extreme rather than the rule. For our part, we have successfully negotiated properties priced between 350,000 and 500,000 recently and the offers have all been around 5% below the full asking price. So the buyers have gone away happy, as have the vendors. Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) http://www.allez-francais.com/

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Good news on 3 fronts

The French Government has announced that access to the French Health service will now be available for "early" retirees – a reversal of the previous legislation that caused many people caught up in this trap a lot of problems. Thus the gap between the expiry of reciprocal health cover provided by the S1, (issued for up to 2 years based on N.I. contributions) and the S1 issued on reaching UK retirement age has been completed. This reverses the decision made back in 2007. It means that, providing contributions are made to the French Health Service ex-pats will be entitled to exactly the same cover as French Nationals. The French Government previously had announced the abandonment of the proposed new tax on foreign owned holiday homes – “maisons secondaires”. This U-turn came about when they realised that it impacted significantly upon the many French citizens working overseas and how they would be affected by such a tax. With an election scheduled for 2013 the Government cannot afford to risk upsetting these potential voters. Special Offer – 300 Euros refund ! To qualify for this refund, you need to spend a day viewing with us (normally 4 or 5 properties), and then purchase via ourselves. Full details on request via our websitehttp://www.allez-francais.com/

Monday, 20 June 2011

Tax on holiday homes in France scrapped

News update - The proposed tax on holiday homes in France has been scrapped by the French government. The decision to scrap the tax was taken, we understand, over the weekend at a meeting between President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Minister, François Baroin. The government had clearly not thought through very well. It certainly smacked of a last minute concept, thrown into the mix of the finance bill during its passage through parliament in order to help make the sums add up on the reduction in the wealth tax. Many commentators were of the opinion that the new tax would have infringed EU regulations, and was also contrary to a number of taxation treaties France has in place with other countries. According to the French government, 363,000 owners would have been liable for the tax, of which around half would have been UK citizens. There was a huge misunderstanding about just how much it would cost. We received many enquiries ! In fact the impact was going to have been pretty small. For the vast majority of those affected by it, the tax was never going to cost more than a few hundred euros a year.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Reports, reports & more reports

Most readers will know that in France when you buy a property, you receive a dossier expertise made up of numerous reports carried out on the property. Very similar in fact to the HIP reports introduced in the UK. I have never been a great fan of these for reasons I will outline below. But clients do sometimes misunderstand them and get very wound up about their contents. A few examples :- Energy reports (DPE) – whilst accepting the concept behind these reports, if you want character (such as exposed stone walls), you are never going to get a property featuring highly on the rankings of this report. You shouldn’t need a report of this detail to learn that by adding more layers of insulation and installing double glazing that you will improve the energy rating of the house ! Electrical reports – again, I am all for highlighting where there a safety issues, but the standards to which properties are now measured are for new-builds, not properties that were rewired 15-20 years ago with perfectly safe systems, that work. Drainage reports – we believe that over 80% of rural properties don’t have a fully conforming fosse septique. The standards change on a regular basis, so one installed 5 years ago, may not meet today’s compliance standards. Often it is just a case of adding a new grease trap, or something else minor, but a “damning report” sets the alarm bells going for a potential buyer. Woodwork reports – principally seeking termite activity, which is a real problem. We have just lost one sale where the report mentioned carpricornes, (a form of beetle), and the buyer got cold feet. We subsequently found out that the capricornes were not active (i.e. dead) and were actually old traces in old beams removed from the house and stored in an old barn away from the house on the floor. But the damage had been done, and the buyer had pulled out ! The reports are useful, if used correctly. They can be a good tool to negotiate a reduction in price for example. But I would hardly ever find these reports a good source upon which to base a decision to buy or not. Bone weekend.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

New tax for 2nd homes

A new Tax on second homes is planned for 2nd homes owned by foreigners in France.

From 1st January 2012, non-residents who own a second home in France will be charged an annual tax of 20% of the cadastral value of the property. Clarification is being sought of what comprises the cadastral value, but it is roughly equivalent to the Taxe Habitation.
We are trying to establish whether there are any exemptions, and understand that expatriates overseas for professional reasons will not be affected. One client got in touch this week about the new tax to find out how it would impact upon their purchase. Having explained that a typical Habitation Taxe bill is perhaps 400 Euros, the sum of 20% of that, i.e. 80 €, is hardly going to be a deal-breaker, although it would be better of in your pocket ! It will be interesting to see if anyone challenges the legality of raising a tax solely on foreigners .... so watch this space.

Monday, 16 May 2011

French Tax Reforms 2011

The Finance Bill covering the latest tax reforms in France was presented to the Council of Ministers on Wednesday 11th May 2011.
Amongst the measures proposed is a new tax on second homes owned by foreigners :
From 1st January 2012, non-residents who own a second home in France will be charged an annual tax of 20% of the cadastral value of the property. This is like a second Taxe Foncière. Expatriates overseas for professional reasons will not be affected.
Some good news - Wealth Tax
Abolition of the Bouclier Fiscal, except for people on very low incomes whose Taxe Foncière on their main home exceeds 50% of their income. The threshold is increased to €1.3m. Wealth between €1.3m to €3m taxed at 0.25%. Over €3m taxed at 0.5%.
The declaration of wealth tax is usually due by mid June, but the deadline is being extended to end of September.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Has the £ turned the corner ?

The Euro has seemingly, at last, taken a long overdue fall after surging 9 cents against the pound this year. The newswires are supposedly full of stories of the Greek situation. Further bail-outs, interest rate reductions, debt restructuring and even a full scale Greek exit from the Eurozone are the possibilities to consider this week.

The net result is the downtrend in £ / € has stopped, and is perhaps now in reverse, although we are in a volatile market, but the £ has moved higher so far reaching €1.14 from €1.10 last week.

There have been previous crisis moments, with Greece, Ireland and Portugal, but the € has to date managed to overcome the crisis thanks to bail-outs & increased stability funds. So, it pays to be cautious in betting against the Euro.

Unfortunately, as ever Mervyn King is talking the £ down at every opportunity, so upward moves in the pound are limited in nature.

So what does this mean for you ?

EUR Buyers

Orders are recommended between €1.14 and €1.15. Big resistance (a ceiling) comes in at €1.15 and €1.16. A fall back to €1.12 levels would concern us and possibly signal a resumption of the downtrend to €1.09/€1.10.

EUR Sellers

The best levels in over a year have provided a fantastic window of opportunity for Euro sellers. £ / € can turn quickly and reverse moves in a matter of days. This happened previously around New Year 2010 when the rate went from €1.15 to €1.19 and back to €1.15 in roughly 3 weeks. This was also evident lately in the move from €1.14 to €1.10 to €1.14 in 2 weeks. A stop loss order above €1.15 would guard against a move which could go another 4 cents higher.

As ever, we recommend that you speak to our dedicated currency dealers for the best information.

Please contact me initially by e-mail sales@allez-francais.com

Monday, 9 May 2011

House prices - observations

Figures have recently been released by the FNAIM, (French Estate Agency body), and it makes interesting reading as there are quite noticeable variations throughout France.
I have chosen to focus on the 2 areas that our business deals with, namely the Poitou Charentes and also the Dordogne Valley.
Over the year to 31/3/2011 prices fell in the Poitou Charentes by around 1.3%, but the fact that the market is falling there is highlighted by the Q1 figure for 2011 which comes in at minus 2.6%.
Further south, in the Dordogne valley the picture is much more positive - with the year to 31/3/2011 showing +2.2% in the Limousin, +3.9% in the Midi Pyrennees, with the Aquitaine returning a negative 0.8%. (However the Aquitaine is showing +3.1% for Q1 for 2011).
The recent fall in the £ against the Euro means that some ex-Pat vendors looking to return to the UK are flexible on price, so the indications are that the market has bottomed and this should be a great time to be buying French Property.
For all of our properties please visit http://www.allez-francais.com/

Friday, 6 May 2011

Win a stunning riverside property - competition

2 houses, 3 kitchens, 3 moorings, 3 acres, 4 reception rooms, 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, planning in principle for 3 more properties... the list goes on. It could be your's for just £25 !
Some previous clients of Allez-Français have decided to launch a competition rather than sell their lovely property using a traditional agency.
The property is set on the banks of the Charente river near the town of Cognac, SW France. Built in the 1840s by Hennessey, makers of world famous Cognac, it was used for over 150 years to store its produce. Horse-drawn barges would transport barrels to and from the property with those of exceptional quality remaining over 50 years whilst their contents matured and developed further.
If you are wondering what some of your options might be; the property offers a multitude of exciting opportunities and subject to planning permission where necessary, here are some suggestions:
1. If your dream is to move to a warmer climate, be mortgage free and live in a lovely location, then this could be just the place for you, your immediate family and even your extended family.
2. It was recently registered for self-catering holiday accommodation and B&B and though it is not necessary for you to do this, if you did wish to generate income this way, registration is a simple procedure and the local Tourist Office is very helpful.
3. The property has achieved as much as £3,000 per week through tourism.
4. If you would like to advance the property further, outline planning permission in the form of a Certificate d'Urbanisme has been granted to develop part of the buildings into 3 more dwellings - some 300m². When constructed this additional habitable space could be offered as tourist accommodation, sold, or greatly increase what is already a substantial family residence.
5. The residue of unmodernized chais, some 960m², presents many further possibilities, for example: vehicle and boat storage; kennels; workshops (there is also three phase electric power); indoor swimming pool, tennis courts or other sporting activities - it is even big enough for an indoor 5 a side football pitch; gymnasium; gallery; conventions; or even more dwellings.
6. If it is not possible for you to live in France in the immediate future, there is a ready market for longer term rentals in the region
For further details drop me a line and I will send you the link to the competition. Contact sales@allez-francais.com

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Market update - 1st May

As we enter May , I thought that it would be useful to have a look at how the market has progressed since the start of the year. Certainly, there is a bit more activity at the higher price ranges, especially 250-400k, but in reality, the market is still sluggish. The weak £ is not helping UK buyers into the French market, although the strong Australian $ has resulted in a noticeable increase in enquiries from down under. For me, this is still a buyers’ market, with plenty of choice out there, and a considerable number of properties very negotiable. This does beg the question why so many vendors insist on putting their houses on to the market at inflated prices, even for a few weeks to “test the market”. They insist that you can always come down in price and not go the other way, agreed, but you are probably going to miss maximising the impact of your property when it is fresh to the market. I have just seen one property come down from near 700,000 Euros, (with another agent), to 550,000 within one month of coming to the market. For me, it is still overpriced at this figure, but the owners have spent more than that renovating the complex. Pricing property doesn’t work like that. A house is worth what it is worth, not what it owes you ! Bon weekend.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Smoke alarms

The installation of smoke detectors is going to become a legal requirement in all French homes from 2015. The new regulations recently issued by the French government apply to both existing homes as well as new build properties.
There has been some confusion concerning who has the responsibility for the installation of the alarms in rental properties, but it appears to fall upon the occupant of the property, except for seasonal and furnished lettings. Once the installation has been carried out, the owners / tenants need to notify their insurer.
It is perhaps surprising that currently only a minute percentage (around 2%) of the 33 million properties in France are equipped with a smoke detector. This is a measure with a long lead in time, as the legislation was first passed in the French Parliament in 2005.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Early drought in the Poitou Charentes ?

We seem to have by-passed Spring and gone straight into Summer with lovely temperatures throughout the middle of April and virtually cloudless blue skies.

But this is coming at a cost since 8 departments have seen the imposition of summer-style water restrictions. Those worst hit by the drought are Seine-et-Marne, Essonne and Val-de-Marne which are on maximum restrictions with water even being banned for irrigating agricultural crops. Also affected are the Deux-Sèvres and Charente-Maritime where prefects have asked consumers and producers to reduce their usage. The neighbouring Charente and Vienne are also on a low-level alert. We have had virtually no rain now for three months and there is a real risk of drought if there is no rain in the weeks to come. The forecast is less favourable for the Easter weekend, but not a lot of rainfall predicted.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Property with the WOW factor

It is rare for me to get too excited about a property - we see so many during the course of a year. It is unheard of for me to go overboard about a modern property - until now !
A fabulous ensemble made up of a stunning modern property built in 2006 and an ancient fully restored Maison d’Amis, set in one of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France”.
The principal accommodation is approached from a gravelled drive with ample parking for several cars. The entrance to the house is through a choice of double patio doors into the 72m² lounge and dining area. The 2 large sliding windows (into wall cavity) lead onto the sun terrace with spectacular views. Flooring is quality wood laminate and there is a “Jotul” wood burner. There are also two oil filled electric radiators and satellite TV installed. The stylish 27m² kitchen is open to the lounge and has a feature island, and includes quality white goods including a dishwasher, washing machine, American fridge / freezer with ice-maker, electric oven, and microwave. The floor is the kitchen is a lovely ceramic tile. There is an electric oil filled radiator and a cavity sliding window to the terrace.
The guest bedroom is 10.24m² and has a wood laminate floor, oil filled electric radiator and a double window. There is a mirror fronted double wardrobe and chest of drawers. The guest shower room is 6m² with ceramic tiled walls and wood laminate floor. Comprising of a large glass shower cubicle, a modern wooden vanity unit, mirror fronted storage system, extractor fan and heated towel rail.
A modern spiral staircase from the lounge to a mezzanine office / 3rd bedroom area of 15m². Having a broadband connection, in-built storage area, electric convector heater, velux window with blind and fitted carpet. A 4m² shower room is adjacent to this with ceramic tiled walls and flooring. There is a large glass door shower cubicle, WC, glass and chrome vanity unit, extractor fan, heated towel rail and mirror fronted storage system.
Also on the 1st floor is the 16 m2 Master bedroom with it’s own 6m² walk-in wardrobe. There is a fitted 1.5m x 2 m bed, velux window with blind, fitted carpets, chest of drawers and electric convector heater.
The whole property is double glazed, and furniture is available by negotiation. Outside there is a superb sun terrace 125m² with great views, plus a 3m80 x 3m40 natural stone floored pool and outside shower.
The Maison d’Amis / rental cottage is well away from the main house and has two floors each of 30m². and can produce seasonal rental income of 10,000 Euros. The accommodation consists of on the ground floor a kitchen/lounge/dining area with electric hob, microwave / combi oven, dishwasher, ceramic tiled floor, oil filled electric radiator and encased 50 litre hot water system. A glass fronted door leads to the outside decking and barbecue area. There is an integral wooden staircase leading to the bedroom with built-in wardrobe, satellite TV and en-suite shower room.
There is outside access to the pool area from a glass panelled door. There is a block built and ceramic tiled pool with decking and outside shower, benefiting from more fantastic views. The whole is of this property is also double glazed. It is maintained in 1st class condition and has a large garden amounting to 6,600m², very rare in a village such as this. The situation within one of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” does qualify this property as something extra special. With the 2 beautiful swimming pools, and rental income potential, it is something that will have great appeal. No work required at all – just bring your suitcases. Just 30 minutes from the recently opened Brive / Vallée de la Dordogne airport.
Priced just in excess of 500,000 Euros

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Top Choice

A revealing article in the French magazine "Télé-Star" has been followed up in a newspaper article in "La Montagne", highlighting the fact that the parents of Katie Middleton own a house in the Dordogne valley, seen as a great escape, and visited several times by Katie.
Until now, a well-guarded secret, the property is close to Beaulieu sur Dordogne, a beautiful market town with several restaurants and of course the River Dordogne flowing through it.
Next month sees the famous "Fete de la Fraise", since Bealieu is the capital of the strawberry growing area, when there will be a crowd of around 10,000 to see the event.
The Middleton's have used the new Brive / Vallée de la Dordogne airport, great value at 59 Euros each way, including baggage allowance and hospitality on the flight.
The Limousin has fantastic investment potential and has been featured recently in most of the major Sunday papers. In a recent survey carried out by Channel 4's "A Place in the Sun" this region was ranked as one of the top 5 property investment destinations in the world ! The new airport Brive / Vallée de la Dordogne will increase property values in this lovely picturesque area.

Friday, 1 April 2011

New technology - new energy

The terrible situation in Japan has the entire world looking at how it produces energy, both for today, and of course, in the future. France is heavily dependant upon nuclear power, and has invested heavily in wind turbines, "éoliens", but they have many critics due to their lack of power when there is no wind, or indeed too much. Indeed, with an estimated life span of 20 years, it takes them 15 years to break even, so there is a period of just 5 years when they are profitable. The impact that they have on the landscape divides opinion, but they do have a negative impact upon house prices. In the Corrèze there is just one wind farm, at Peyrelevade, producing 9 MW of electricity. In comparison, a large solar powered plant has been built at Saint Priest de Gimel, producing 24 MW of electricity. Given the low impact on the surrounding area, and the excellent sunshine records in south western France, surely this is a better way to proceed. Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) www.allez-francais.com

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Reduced by over 200,000 Euros

A fantastic property existing of a main house with a guesthouse and a swimming pool , this all on land of about 5 hectares.
The main house has an elevated ground floor: covered terrace of 28 m² , giving access to the entrances of the house and a guest room (18 m² with bathroom and separate toilet). Kitchen of 28 m², living room of 22 m², dining room of 45 m² , a study area of 26 m², a mezzanine of 10 m². Laundry room, side kitchen, toilet and cloakroom. A large, tiled terrace facing south of 90 m² overlooking a charming inner court yard.
First floor: A room of 34 m² with private bathroom, toilet and dressing, a room of 11 m² with private bathroom and toilet, and 2 more rooms of 10 m ², bathroom, separate toilet and hallway.Basement: cellar of 100 m² with a garage, cave and toilet.
Guesthouse: Ground floor: A terrace of 50 m² of which 30 m² covered. Kitchen-dining room bathroom/toilet and living room.
First floor: 2 rooms and separate toilet.Out buildings (450 m² ground floor 167 m² upper floor). A closed barn, a closed hangar, sloping roof and a little tower.
A swimming pool of 10 x 5m, heated and salt, finished of according to security norms. Solar shower, 105 m² beach and local installation. An area of approximately 5 hectares of which 3 hectares is forested. Superb location with all privacy, fantastic views and no direct neighbours.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Mandates, bon de visits & paperwork

Before an agent is able to market the property in France on behalf of a client, they need to have their formal consent, and this normally is covered in the “mandat de vente”.

This is normally, but not always, on a non-exclusive basis, allowing the vendor to sell privately or via another agency. This document details the vendors, the property to be sold, the asking price and the agency fees.

When as a buyer, you view property via an agency, it is standard practice to sign a “bon de visite”, in fact it is a legal requirement to do so. This document lists the buyer’s details, summarises in brief the properties to be visited etc.

It demands that the client will deal with the agency for any negotiations for the properties listed. This ensures that the agency will be paid any commission that they are due resulting from the sale.

Sometimes, buyers try to be devious, and go behind the agents’ back, in an attempt to save fees. They are still liable if they are taken to task, and if the buyers is proven to be an accomplice, they are also liable.

This was the recent decision of the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) in a case that came before them. They found that the estate agents had been formally instructed by the sellers on the sale of their property, for which they had a written contract (mandat de vente). The buyer and vendor tried to avoid the agency fees and deal directly with each other, with the vendor even cancelling the mandat. Although the contract had been terminated by the seller, the terms still required they pay the agent’s commission for potential buyers introduced to them up the end of the contract period. The commission continued to be payable for a period of 18 months for any clients who had been introduced to the seller up to expiration of the contract. By dealing directly with a introduced by the agent during this period, the court deemed that the seller had committed a breach of contract.

The commission payment due under the contract was 15,400€ and as the court considered that this sum was not excessive and reasonably justified, it was due by the seller.The court also examined the responsibility of the buyer in this particular matter. It found that they had dealt with the seller directly less than 2 months after having been introduced to the property by the agent. The court ruled that the buyer could not escape their responsibility for the commission by arguing that they were not party to the contract between the seller and the agent, since they had signed a ‘bon de visite’ which bound the buyer to deal irrevocably with the agent in their dealings with the seller. On this basis the buyer was equally complicit with the seller in defrauding the agent of their commission. As a result, the court found that the buyer and vendor were equally liable for the payment of damages.

Don't try to cut out the middle man - you have been warned !

Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) www.allez-francais.com

Thursday, 3 March 2011

D P E reports - a waste of time & money

For several months, I have been very suspicious about the validity of some of the DPE (energy) reports that we have been receiving on our houses. Some properties that are very well insulated do not come out very well in the survey, whilst some totally unrenovated properties seem to escape the wrath of the technician carrying out the diagnostic report. We have 2 absolutely identical properties with differing reports, but in a recent independent survey, a company asked 16 diagnostic experts to visit 4 houses, and only 1 of the houses was classified in the same band by all experts. 2 properties, (50% of the sample), were actually classified under 3 different bands, by these so called experts ! Given that these reports will dictate the level of 0% finance that could be available on a property, these are pretty serious findings, but do not really surprise me. For the full article (in French) follow this link http://www.quechoisir.org/immobilier-logement/achat-vente-travaux/communique-dpe-des-diagnostics-toujours-aussi-peu-performants Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) http://www.allez-francais.com

Sunday, 27 February 2011

France - a low rate tax regime

Some people assume that France is a country of high taxation. It can be, be it can also be one of low taxation if you are smart.

Looking at Capital Gains Tax for example on property - if the property has been owned by you for fifteen years then no capital gains tax is payable on sale, even though it is not, and may never have been, your principal home. This is a massive advantage in comparison to UK rules.

Even if you have only owned a property for between 6 and 15 years an allowance of 10% per year of the gain is granted. Thus, as an example, if you sell a property after having owned it for a full 10 years, you will be granted an allowance of 50% against your liability to capital gains tax. Unfortunately, no exemption is available for a sale in under 6 years. In addition, no capital gains tax is payable on a property owned by a non-resident of France, provided you can demonstrate / prove that you have previously been fiscally resident in France for a continuous period of at least 2 tax years.

Ex-Pats often consider that the French get preferential treatment in some areas, but non-residents are not subject to the 12.3% social charges element of capital gains tax, that French residents have to pay under any circumstances. So there is some good news – and France can be a low rate tax regime ! Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) www.allez-francais.com

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Financial matters

We have been living in France for ten years now, advising clients as they consider a new life on this side of the Channel. We work with highly qualified IFAs who have offices in France – so their help is never far away, wherever you’re setting up ‘chez nous’.
We see some clients make mistakes in their financial plans, purely by not seeking professional advice before they move. Even then it is not too late, as some adjustments can often be made. Also, for ex-Pats returning to the UK, there are often planning tools that can ensure a better financial outlook for their return to Britain.
Lump-sum investments and Pension plans are worthy of special investigation, and we can assist with QNUPS, QROPS - If you are retiring in France, your pension arrangements are of utmost importance, don’t risk not making the most of the hard work that you put in during your working life.
Getting in touch to discuss how our preferred advisers can help could make a massive difference to your finances. Check-us out today !
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) www.allez-francais.com

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Bargain basement price - 75,995 Euros

This stone built 2 bed house is situated in a quiet and secluded hamlet within the south Deux-Sevres countryside and is a couple of minutes drive from the picturesque village of Chenay.
Ready to move into and with easily managed gardens to the front a rear. A great buy.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Sunday, 20 February 2011

House with 2 gites and beautiful lake

It is not often that you can truly describe a property as outstanding, but here is one....
In a location that most can only dream about is this beautifully renovated farmhouse and cottages overlooking a valley and it's own small lake. This stunning house sits behind a stone wall affording privacy to the houses and garden. Open the remote controlled gate and you will see why it’s location alone sells this property. The quality of the renovation of the 3 houses and the views from the gardens will further delight you.
Set in probably the most attractive village of the Pays Melloise this property is superb value at 416,000 Euros. Link http://www.allez-francais.com/details.php?pty_id=1326
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The dreaded DPE (energy) reports encore !

Anyone that is interested in French property will know that these reports have been in force for some years now, and that Notaires usually advise buyers not to take any notice of them.

However, with effect from 1st January 2011, the report has formed part of the property advertising, although many reports are still outstanding, as there is a significant backlog with the firms carrying out the diagnostics.

However, there is a very important aspect of the DPE reports, that has not received much publicity, and that relates to the 0% loan facility (mainly for French buyers) - where a proportion of their mortgage can be claimed at 0%, see

http://www.ptz-plus.info/le-pret-a-taux-zero-plus/ptz-plus-ce-qui-va-changer.html

This website shows the changes planned for 2011 & 2012. With effect from the latter date, the DPE report is going to significantly influence the amount that a buyer can borrow, with properties in ratings A-D eligible for double the zero % loan, and this will definitely make these properties more marketable.

« Les acquéreurs des logements étiquetés A, B, C et D bénéficieront d’un montant de prêt doublé par rapport à ceux des logements évalués E, F ou G ».

So those vendors with houses rated E, F & G might be advised to try to sell sooner rather than later as more press coverage is sure to emerge, and will inevitably show these houses in a poor light.

Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) www.allez-francais.com

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Coming soon - very serious business income

There are lots of gîte complexes and similar businesses available for sale at the moment, buyers have truly got a great choice open to them. Some are very successful, others have aspirations, and some are frankly fairly average affaires.
Prices vary tremendously, but once you start to pay top dollar you expect a really thriving business, and that it what is about to come on to the market in the Lot department (Midi-Pyrenees). Priced in excess of a million Euros, we have an entire country estate for sale, made up of several houses, a restaurant, tennis / basketball courts and lots of land, (over 10 hectares).
The present owners have put together a special business plan, making their business stand out from the rest. So good, in fact, that the likes of BMW have used the conference facilities for their in-house events.
Everything is in tip-top order, a great business that is producing over 200,000 Euros per annum.
Full details via http://www.allez-francais.com/ (upon request)
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial).

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

French property prices on the rebound

The French national association of estate agents, FNAIM, have announced their review of the property market in France for 2010.
Overall, they indicate that the price of older homes rose by an average of 1.3% in the year, while there was a rise of 1.8% in the price of apartments. This increase for last year comes after two successive years when, on average, property prices fell (-3.1% in 2008 and -4.9% in 2009).
Being a National survey, there are distinct regional variations, and the graphic attached shows the range of price changes for each region during 2010. This would seem to indicate that now is an excellent time for buyers to be returning to our principal markets - the Poitou Charentes, and the Dordogne valley. Peter Elias Agent Commercial http://www.allez-francais.com/

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Tasteful decorations

One thing frequently observed on makeover TV programmes, is the importance of dressing a house to it's best advantage, in order to secure a sale. That fashion has not taken off in France, where I am sure you will have noticed Estate Agents' photos with washing draped here and there, plus unmade beds etc. It is always a pleasure to show a tastefully renovated house, especially if the colour schemes are not too overpowering. We do currently have a house that has been decorated by a famous interior designer, Jean Philippe Laplaud, who has also worked in the United States. The direct link to the property is http://www.allez-francais.com/details.php?pty_id=1275 Happy viewing, Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) www.allez-francais.com

Monday, 10 January 2011

A business in the Corrèze

Many people looking to move to France have a requirement that they start to generate an income pretty well as soon as they arrive in France.
Creating your own gîte or B & B business is, of course, possible, but it all takes time, and during that period you can eat into your savings at an alarming rate.
So, why not buy an established business ? OK, you may have to pay a small premium for an up and running business, but you can hit the ground running and start to receive an income from day one.
One great opportunity is currently available for 565,000 Euros, with a 3 bedroom area for the owners, and 3 letting rooms, (all en-suite), a bar with a Class IV licence, and just 2 Km from a touristic village. The new airport at Brive / Vallée de la Dordogne is just a short drive away. A golf course on the doorstep, what else could you ask for ?
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) http://www.allez-francais.com/

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year - more paper !

The 1st January 2011. A New Year, some new rules & regulations for property sales, with a requirement for DPE reports (energy ratings), and status reports on fosse septiques.

December has proved to be a fruitful month for sales, and special thanks go to Kim & Nigel, our colleagues in the Poitou Charentes, who managed to secure sales on both Christmas Eve and also New Year’s Eve. An example of the Allez-Français team going the “extra mile”, whilst other agents extended the holiday period.

It was rather fitting that the deal agreed yesterday, on New Year’s Eve was for a Scottish couple, selling their home near Melle. They were able to celebrate Hogmanay in style.

The new energy reports are working their way on to websites, property details, and into windows. They won’t change much – one of our properties scores incredibly badly on one scale, and then incredibly well on another. It just has an outdated system, which is blatantly obvious to even the most inexperienced eye. We also have 2 identical properties that have been visited for the diagnostic reports, by different “experts”. The results are significantly different, even though the houses and the heating systems are the same. C’est la via !

If you would like to see my New Year greeting, follow the link below

http://www.jacquielawson.com/viewcard.asp?code=2692103349993&source=jl999

Bonne année pour 2011, Peter Elias www.allez-francais.com