Monday, 27 December 2010

End of 2010

This will be the last blog of 2010, and what a strange year it has turned out to be.
Strange extremes of weather have made it a year to remember, and certainly the coldest December either side of the Channel for many a year.
We are steadily busy with viewings between Christmas & the New Year, principally with French clients from Paris, who are looking to buy a holiday home near to Beaulieu sur Dordogne, also known as the Limousin Riviera.
UK buyers are also maintaining strong interest in the area, but they will need to move quickly, as I predict that house prices will start to rise again, albeit slowly in 2011.
Anyway, our best wishes for you in 2011.
Peter Elias

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Great business opportunities

To make a real success of life in France, it is most important to have a good, steady income, and many hopefuls turn to gîte income, only to find that this is lower than their expectations.
Depending upon individual circumstances, it may normally require 3 or even 4 letting units to generate sufficient income, to maintain a satisfactory lifestyle.
During the last few days, we have found 2 business opportunities with property for sale, the first one through retirement, and the second one due to family illness.
Both are in the Lot department (46), in good locations for tourist business, being close to towns such as Rocamadour, (the 2nd most visted site in France).
At 733,225 Euros there is a fabulous C18th house, plus a 3 bed house, plus 2 studios with a pool. For 890,000 there is a Quercy farmhouse plus 4 cottages, a pool and 6 hectares of land. Both very different, but both have real income generation potential.
Visit our website for full details of each property -
Seasons greetings, Peter Elias

Sunday, 12 December 2010

New territory

Having moved from the Poitou Charentes in the summer, the last few weeks have been taken up sorting out our home in the Corrèze. Now that has been largely completed, I have been able to turn my attention to developing the business down here in the Dordogne Valley.
There are some wonderful properties, some spectacular views, and some superb prices.
2011 is going to be a great year to buy in France, with the market stabilising, prices have probably gone as low as they are going to, and there is still a surplus of property on the market. That means some great opportunities are out there.
Over the next few weeks, I have to populate the website with the influx of properties that are now available.
Bonne dimanche !

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

New rules for property sales

With effect from 1st January 2011, any advertising of a property for sale must specify the “DPE or Diagnostic de Performance Energetique” (energy efficiency) report. We are working with our vendors to arrange for these energy ratings to be displayed on our property details.

Since November 2006 all new homes and buildings for sale have been required to undergo an energy performance evaluation (an energy performance diagnostic, or DPE), and receive an energy performance certificate.

The certificate, rather like those applied to washing machines and fridges, indicates both the level of energy consumption and the greenhouse gas emission level, on a scale of A to G, with G being least efficient and the highest emissions.

The full diagnostic report is accompanied with various recommendations for improving the building’s energy efficiency.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

France No 1 again

Once again France comes out top in the quality of life index. According to France enjoys the earliest retirement age (joint with Poland), spends the most on healthcare (11% of GDP) and has the longest life expectancy in Europe. Its workers also benefit from 36 days holiday a year, compared with just 28 in the UK, and it comes only behind Spain and Italy for hours of sunshine.
The UK came 9th out of the 10 European countries in the Index, thanks to high living costs, below average government spending on health and education, short holidays and late retirement. The Index shows that people in France enjoy the highest quality of life, closely followed by Spain.
People in the UK pay the highest prices for food and diesel, yet the government spends below the European average (as a percentage of GDP) on health and education. We also work longer hours, retire later, receive less annual leave than most of our European counterparts and get less sunshine along the way - not to mention the fact that we can expect to die two years younger than our French counterparts.
Ireland and the UK trailed in the last 2 places. Isn't it time for you to make that move and join us over here in France ? Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

U turn on Taxation of Capital Gains

Currently Capital Gains in relation to immovable property (except the main residence) are taxed in France at a rate of 16% plus 12.1% social charges. These rates apply after deduction of the 10% allowances for each year of ownership after the first five years. After 15 years, the gain is free of tax and social charges.

An amendment was adopted by the National Assembly during the course of their examination of the 2011 Finance Bill. If amendment is agreed by the Senate, it will increase the tax payable on capital gains concerning immovable property.

Probable Regime from 1st January 2011

The measure voted on the 21st October proposes an increase in the rate of tax from 16% to 19%. Social charges on property gains will increase from 12.1% to 12.3%. Whilst the tax will still be calculated after the 10% deductions for length of ownership, the social charges will be calculated on the total gain before taking account of such allowances.

Therefore, where a property is sold after 15 years of ownership, the individual will not have any tax to pay, but they will still pay social charges of 12.3% on the full gain. The gain is taken into account when looking at taxable income for the purposes of the Bouclier Fiscal, but the amount taken into account will be the full gain before any allowances (previously it was just the taxable gain after allowances).

If these measures are adopted by the Senate, they will affect individuals who sell their property after 1st January 2011. Therefore, if a sale is on the cards, the Acte Authentique should be signed before 31st December 2010 in order to benefit from the current rates.

Peter Elias

Monday, 1 November 2010

Immaculate 19th century Château with far reaching views

This beautiful and homely chateau, built at the end of the 19th century, is in a private position overlooking a valley with far reaching views.
The entrance is through the round tower where you find yourself in an original panelled hall (32m²) with stone floor and original staircase. The salon/dining room (60m²) was two rooms but has been opened into one large space with marble tiled floor, 5 windows giving spectacular views on three sides, a large stone fireplace provides a central focal point and the walls have been fabric covered. The breakfast kitchen (18m²) is fully fitted with oak units in a traditional style, plenty of room for a large table. The office (26m²) is panelled in wood with complimenting fireplace and lovely views over the valley. Family bathroom (11.5m²) has double vanity sinks bath and bidet. Separate wc. Door down to the sous-sol area.
On the first floor are 4 double bedrooms, all with lovely views, the floors are all original wood parquet in great condition. The master bedroom (27m²) has an en-suite shower room, bedroom 2 (27m²) has a dressing room in the tower, bedroom 3 (27m²) and bedroom 4 (12.5m²). Family bathroom (12.5m²) has 2 vanity sinks, bath and wc. Separate wc.
On the second floor are 3 large bedrooms, tower room and 2 attic rooms for possible conversion.
The basement or sous-sol can be accessed form the house and the garden. It contains various useful rooms, all with high ceilings, laundry, boiler room and cellars for wine storage. There is also another large vaulted cellar (380m²) which is under the terrace and garden.
Outside are the dependences and garages (totalling 220m²) in superb order.The gardens have a superb balustraded terrace overlooking the valley.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Great business opportunities

With the summer season now past, there are a number of gîte complexes out there for sale, some are good and some are quite frankly bad.
I have chosen to highlight a couple, coming in just below 500,000 Euros, which is around £445,000 at today's exchange rates.
Both are located in South Deux Sèvres, well-known as the 2nd sunniest region of France. There are good road, rail and air connections to this area, and attractions such as La Rochelle, Cognac & Futuroscope are within an easy drive.
The 1st complex is made up of a 4 bed Maison de Maître with 4 cottages to let, (proven track record), and has 2 swimming pools. Priced only 495,000 Euros.
The 2nd complex is a large French farmhouse with 4 beds, plus 2 gites, 2 chambre d'hotes rooms, a large bar, plus a mill to restore in a riverside setting. Price 495,850 Euros.
Do get in touch for full details of these special properties.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Currency volatility back in the news

Once again the GBP/Euro pairing was volatile this week with highs reaching 1.1807, lows of 1.1509 and an average exchange rate of 1.1686. This equates to a difference of 2.59% between high and low leading to a difference of 6,475€ on an exchange worth 250,000€. Last week saw the publication of UK GDP data which temporarily caused a positive shift in the value of Sterling. This was short lived and the value of the Pound against the Euro dropped off towards the end of the week. Sterling has been relatively strong against the other major currencies this week leading analysts to speculate that it is primarily Euro strength which is causing the movement. The value of the Euro has managed to rise even in the wake of the increased bailout of Anglo Irish Bank and the downgrading of Spain’s credit rating. Looking to the week ahead the Euro could strengthen further on the back of the announcement of Germany’s Purchasing Manager Index (Manufacturing) which is expected to be bullish. The PMIM measures the level of goods manufactured in the Eurozone’s strongest economy and therefore indicates consumer purchases and German trade levels. On Thursday the BoE announces its interest rate decision. A hawkish outlook from the Bank and a rate rise would be positive for the value of Sterling. However it is important to note that the BoE have not indicated a rate rise and dovish comments could see GBP lose more ground to the Euro. Both of these announcements could mean it is the ideal time for Euro buyers to capitalise. The points raised emphasise the volatility of the market and the necessity to remain in close contact with specialist currency exchange dealer, perhaps about the benefits of forward contracts as a way of safeguarding a rate of exchange. Small changes in exchange rates can lead to large differences in transactions so utilising the expert knowledge and professionalism of a dedicated trader can help you save thousands of pounds. Peter Elias

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Golfer's paradise

A luxury modern property with a heated swimming pool, close to leisure lake & golf course, just bring your suitcase and golf clubs ! Completed in 2006, this spacious 3 / 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom home offering 190m² habitable area, with a heated swimming pool on a large elevated plot with views towards a lake and golf course, outside you will find a gravelled driveway, a large parking area, and a landscaped garden with stream running through it. Membership of the local golf club gives you the opportunity to enjoy a testing 9 hole course as well as a beautiful wooded 18 hole course. This course is in partnership with another course just 15 km away, thereby giving members two courses for the price of one!The property is in a small hamlet in the south part of the Corrèze department. There are several local villages classified as "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" within a short drive. The area is now serviced by Brive / Vallée de la Dordogne airport, with flights to London, which is likely to result in an increase in local prices. More photos and room sizes available upon request. Link Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) Dordogne Valley Contacts Tel: 05 55 28 46 40 (France) or Tel: 0844 284 2569 (UK)

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Fantastic building plot

Fabulous land of 7,870m² with stunning views towards the south west, in a quiet hamlet under 5 minutes from Beaulieu sur Dordogne. Approached via a quiet road, the land sits on a sloping parcel, giving really wonderful views towards the sunset.
The owners have detailed plans approved for 2 dwellings.The 1st house would be a 4 bed property 152m² SH in a Quercy style with a character pigeonnier, large lounge of over 45m² and 3 bath / shower rooms.
The 2nd house 95.62m² SH would also be in keeping with the local style, with 3 ground floor bedrooms, and 1st floor space of 52m² convertible, plus a further 32.87m² under the eaves (below 1.8m high).
Of course, these plans could be changed / adapted to a single dwelling on a large plot if desired.
Schools and shops are just 3 km distant. The land is in a small hamlet near Beaulieu sur Dordogne, a popular market town set on the Dordogne River in the south part of the Correze.
There are several local villages classified as "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" within a short drive. The area is now serviced by Brive / Vallée de la Dordogne airport, with flights to London, which is likely to result in an increase in local prices. More photos available.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Moving forward

They say that moving house is one of the most stressful experiences of your life, up there with divorce and loss of life. Well, it’s our turn next week! After almost 10 years in the Poitou Charentes, we are turning a new page, and will be moving further south into the Corrèze department, close to the glorious Dordogne valley. Saying goodbye to our French neighbours is proving especially difficult. They have appreciated our efforts to integrate into their social network, and a few tears have been shed during the face to face meetings that we have had to date. This is making the decision to move even harder than we imagined. Aperos last night continued ‘till almost midnight, under a starry sky and a lovely warm evening. Our immediate neighbours bought us a lovely momento of all things local, beautifully packaged in a wicker basket. This weekend we prepare all of the boxes for the removal van, physically challenging work as well as emotionally draining. At least we know that our buyer has sent his money to the Notaire ahead of time, and we have the transfer of utility services all in hand. We even managed this week to successfully transfer our existing telephone number to our business associates so that we don’t lose any calls. All of the tasks are slowly being ticked off, but we are now looking forward to the next chapter in our French adventure, in the Vallée de la Dordogne. Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Great renovation project

A renovation project with a lot to offer.
Comprising of a detached house with 2 rooms of 25 & 15m², plus a smaller room of 10m². 1st floor to convert with 2 rooms of 20m². The property sits at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, with no passing traffic or nuisances. Adjoining the house is an open barn of 40m² that could easily be incorporated into the living accommodation. The stonework in this barn is very attractive.
Outside there are attractive gardens of 563m² with a small outbuilding and a well. The property has water & electricity available, but does need a fosse septique, but there is plenty of space available, and the soil tests etc have already been carried out.
The village is little more than 5 minutes from the popular market town of Chef Boutonne, with its café pavement culture and good range of local shops & supermarkets. There is a good choice of regional airports and the coast is about an hour distant at La Rochelle.
Peter Elias Agent Commercial

Friday, 6 August 2010

Bargain properties

In times of difficult market conditions there are always times when some vendors are under more pressure than others, and their prices become very negotiable. This is when a buyer needs to work with their property agent, so that they know which ones are negotiable and which are pretty fixed on their price. Currently, we have properties raning from just over 120,000 Euros to those at around 500,000 Euros that are quite negotiable. Get in touch with your requirements and we can tell you which ones you could pick up at a bargain price. Happy hunting ! Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Survive France Network

During recent weeks, I have joined a network called “Survive France” and found the people there interesting, helpful and able to communicate in words of more than one syllable, which seems a challenge on some forums in France ! There are a number of interesting groups on the network, such as the following :- Bloggers in France Computer corner Rural writers Photography club Business owners in France Music professionals in France Plus one of course for the Poitou Charentes There are many more, and you can start your own group. A great idea and one that I am more than happy to recommend to our clients.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Dordogne Valley properties

Having worked in the Poitou Charentes area for 9 years, the time is rapidly approaching for our move, (at the end of August), and subsequent relocation to the Dordogne valley area of southern Correze and the northern Lot departments.
Prices are pretty much the same, but the scenery quite spectacular, often having a real WOW factor.
We have just started to add properties to our portfolio in this area, and are going to focus on an area of around 30 minutes from the really beautiful town of Beaulieu sur Dordogne.
So if you are looking to move to this pretty area, home to several of "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France", let me know, and indeed if you are selling !
Bon weekend,
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Friday, 23 July 2010

An SCI for Unmarried Partners

There is no longer any French inheritance tax between spouses or couples who have a French civil partnership agreement. However, a live-in partner, without a French civil partnership agreement is effectively treated as a stranger and has an allowance of only €1500. Anything he or she inherits after that will then be taxed at a rate of 60% – ouch! Such a tax bill may well mean having to sell the property to clear the debt!
Some partners could of course get married and solve most of their French tax problems but most people do not wish to make a decision to get married purely for tax reasons and this option is not available to same-sex partners. What else can be done to mitigate heavy taxes?
Civil partnership agreements
Since 15th November 1999, couples, either heterosexual or same-sex, who want to live together and share their lives may make a pacte civil de solidarité (PACS) which has legal recognition in France. This is in fact a contract by which the couple declare that they are sharing their lives and that they wish to register the fact and have their relationship made subject to the 1999 law. However, at the moment this option is only available to those who are either French or resident in France.
SCI tontinière – a French property-owning company with a twist
Another rather neat solution, available to residents and non-residents, heterosexual and same-sex partners, is to set up a particular type of company known as a Société Civil Immobilière (SCI) Tontinière. An SCI is a French property-owning company suitable for small numbers of people or family groups, set up to manage and/or let property. It is possible to have a special form of this company whereby the shares are held ‘en tontine’. Shares held in this way cannot be said to belong to either of the owners. It is as if both partners are holding the property on trust until the other dies. At this point the survivor is said to own all of the shares retrospectively (from the date of purchase) and the deceased is considered never to have had any rights as far as ownership of the shares is concerned.
The real advantage of this is that because the transfer of shares to the survivor is not considered an inheritance but instead is treated in the same way as a sale of shares, then the rate of tax paid is only 5%, as with any transfer of shares. For an unmarried partner, this represents an enormous saving on the usual rate of inheritance tax for ‘strangers’ of 60%. Not only that, the rights of the deceased’s reserved heirs, ie children, are effectively eliminated with regard to the assets of the SCI.
Previously, there were disadvantages to this structure in the UK. This is because the Inland Revenue would treat the shareholders as if they were directors receiving benefits in kind from the company. Thus the shareholders would be charged income tax on the deemed rental value of the property for all the time it was available to them during the year. Fortunately, provisions in the 2007 budget provide that this measure will be abolished from 2008 and apply retrospectively. Therefore anyone setting up an SCI now is unlikely to have any tax problems at home.
Are you eligible to use a tontine clause?
There are some provisos to the use of a tontine clause whether in a purchase contract or the statuts (articles of association) of an SCI. These are that the couple must contribute equally in financial terms to the purchase and that they must be of similar age. The reason for this latter proviso is that the people concerned must have the same life expectancy to have an equal chance of benefiting from the tontine clause eventually. The reason for the former is that if the contributions were not equal, there would be a disguised gift and hence an avoidance of tax. It might also be seen as a deliberate attempt to benefit the partner to the disadvantage of any reserved heirs, which may be considered an abuse of law in France, leading to the arrangement being treated as void.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)
with special thanks to Sue Busby of France Legal

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The perils of a private sale

Something happened this week to a client that had viewed with our agency in June, and it has prompted me to comment again about the dangers of buying and indeed selling privately, by cutting out the agent.
There are a thousand and one things that could go wrong, but between them, this buyer and vendor had contrived to hit upon several classics and had found themselves in a dispute, that doesn't look like being resolved.
Why do vendors market properties privately ? Sometimes to give the impression of a lower price, (minus the 6% or so agency fees). But many sellers advertise at the same price in any event ! Often, private ads are out of date, and the agency sites have a lower price than a private ad. Sometimes, the vendor will have advised the agency of their "bottom line", so the agency can steer a buyer towards a successful offer, rather than a blunt take it or leave it offer.
We have produced a guide for both buyers & sellers explaining why they should use an agency. They may actually save money in the end!
In our (perhaps biased) opinion, there is no substitute for using a professional agent, who is likely to market the property more successfully than a private vendor, and get a sale agreed quickly, at a price determined by the market. We look forward to working with you given the opportunity.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Remove the World Cup blues

Both France and England have seen their World Cup hopes shattered. Both teams were on early flights back home and their supporters left deflated.
Whilst this has been going on though, the £ has broken through the 1.20 mark and today is nudging up towards 1.24. This is really great news for UK buyers looking to buy in France. Houses priced in Euros have fallen significantly on currency exchange alone since the start of the year, and many vendors are also reducing their prices to cash in on the summer market.
You need to work closely with your agent as they will often know whether a vendor is further open to offers and could help you obtain a real bargain.
When you get to France, you can join a really great network called SurviveFrance, some great ideas about living in working on this side of the channel !
Peter Elias (AgentCommercial)

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Bargain properties

Estate agents long for real value properties, and we are currently lucky to have 2 superbly priced properties for under £100,000 - both ready to move into.
Both are priced at 117,000 Euros and offer 3 bedrooms.
One has a small, easily managed garden of just under 300m², ideal for a holiday home.
The other, a larger garden & outbuildings, but still relatively easy maintenance.
Don't hang around if you are looking for a bargain, get in touch and arrange and early viewing of these properties.
Peter Elias

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Currency situation - Ex-Pats selling to return to the UK

In this article I am going to return to the currency question, but looking at the situation exclusively from a vendor returning to the UK this time. The International Monetary Fund, a partner in the 750 billion Euro support plan, is urging the EU states to complete the currency convergence and centralise more financial control in Brussels or risk further problems ahead. It is reported that in Germany and France there is resistance as the general consensus is that their taxpayers are paying for Greece’s past profligacy. The £ for its part, remains quite strong against most currencies in spite of Prime Minister David Cameron warning of spending cuts which will be large, sustained and which will affect everyone. A good example of what is happening to vendors can be illustrated by considering a house worth 250,000 Euros. Just 3 months ago, this would have realised £153,500, whereas today this would only achieve £141,150 a potential loss of over 8%. Many vendors are speaking to our dedicated currency dealer Adam Bobroff, and have fixed forward rates, to combat the demise of the Euro, which is predicted to fall even further, even against the £. If you don't have his details let me know and I will arrange for hime to contact you at a convenient time. Whatever you do, dont use your bank to transfer your money back to the UK. Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Golfer's dream

A well presented 35 year old property, built to a good standard, set in a quiet location surrounded by an attractive mature garden of 4,571m² with country views.
You enter the property into an entrance hall 5m², the lounge 26m² has a fireplace and insert fire, the kitchen 14m² has a good range of units and appliances. Adjoining the kitchen is a utility room 10m². A corridor leads to a study 12m² and a formal dining room 12m². (Both rooms were originally bedrooms, and could easily be used as such). The ground floor accommodation is completed by a modern bathroom with a WC. N.B. Most of the ground floor rooms have doors leading directly into the gardens.
A solid staircase leads to the 1st floor landing, where there are 3 good sized bedrooms, the largest measuring 6 x 3.7 max and having a dressing room. There is a good sized shower room and plenty of storage areas.
There is an integral garage 22.75m² housing the 2 heating systems, one being oil fired, and the 2nd being an ultra modern electric system. The house is virtually all double glazed, with just one window remaining single glazed. Outside there is a wooden summer house and useful outbuildings used as a store & additional garaging.
The mature gardens are laid mainly to lawn, but has many fruit trees and a small orchard. The property is 12 Km from the popular Les Forges golf course.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Strong sterling as predicted - dont let your money go up in smoke

Just a few weeks ago, I looked at the £ / € situation and predicted that the tide was turning back in favour for UK buyers rather than French vendors returning to the UK.
This has continued to be the case, with the £ climbing above the 1.20 mark, and hovering either side of this crucial barrier. I now think that if this can be maintained, there is no reason for 1.25 to become the next target for the currency.
As mentioned recently, these are the best levels since the collapse that started with the fall of Lehman Brothers in October 2008. That is fantastic news for anyone moving to Europe, although it is not such great news for those with Euros to sell.
It does highlight the need to deal with a specialist currency dealer, rather than relying on your High Street bank, and many of our clients have benefitted from this service and expertise during this critical period. Just a week ago the £ was at 1.15, so by getting the timing correct, you could have saved 4.35 % on your money in under a week. Not a bad deal !
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Bargain basement price - 91,800 €

Set in the heart of a quiet hamlet is this deceptively large 2 bedroom house.
Enter from the courtyard garden into a veranda then into the large and bright lounge (31m²) which has a tiled floor, exposed beams, original cupboard, fireplace with wood burner, 2 double glazed windows to the front and stairs up to the first floor. The kitchen (20m²) has a real farmhouse feel with its Charentaise fireplace, tiled floor, stone sink and windows to the front and side. To the rear of this is another room (15m²) which is currently being used as an office/laundry room. The family bathroom (5m²) is on the ground floor with bath having a shower over, sink and WC.
The stairs from the study lead to a master bedroom (25m²)with exposed beams and pine floor, en-suite shower room (8m²). Another staircase leads from the lounge to the second bedroom (31m²) with exposed beams.
Behind the house is a large barn (36m²).The front courtyard is plenty big enough to enjoy al fresco dining. Across the lane is a barn used for storage but would be ideal as a garage. Some 100m up the lane is a garden of some 965m² perfect for growing those vegetables.Sauze Vaussais is a short drive away, (as are Melle and Lezay), and there is a good choice of reginal airports. Very competitively priced at only 91,800 €

Sunday, 16 May 2010

5 years old

Normally, I am not a great lover of modern French properties, preferring the older style character houses. From time to time, something a bit different comes along and challenges your thoughts. Very recently, I visited a 5 year old bungalow, on the edge of Sauzé Vaussais. There is a bit of extra character in this bungalow, so often missing from other modern properties. Quality oak flooring and tasteful tiling has been used in many areas of the property. The living rooms are much larger than in the average pavillon. The oil tank is buried in the garden, and the property is also on mains drainage. The garden benefits from open views across open countryside, (last year sunflower fields). With the shops, bars and restaurants within walking distance, this property will appeal to a wide selection of people. Other facilities such as schools & a supermarket are available within the town. All in all, good value at 222,600 Euros. Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Sterling on the up

With the UK election finally over and a decision made as to who will form the British Government finalised, the relief within the financial markets was very evident. Mervyn King delivered the Bank of England’s quarterly Inflation report and made it very clear that UK interest rates will stay low for a considerable time to come due to the troubled rimes ahead. His boost for the new government was that he is enthusiastic about plans to start reducing the budget deficit as soon as possible. The Bank of England is clearly concerned that a delay in action would risk the UK losing its Triple A credit rating and that would have cost repercussions for the Bank and the Treasury. Whilst Sterling slipped a bit, the Euro also remained weak and there are fears that this decline could increase in pace in line with market scepticism over the effectiveness of the €uro rescue plan funding. Some analysts are predicting a further fall of 5 or 6 % in the Euro’s value against the US Dollar, although the UK government will have to start proving itself if Sterling is to keep pace. The Sterling - Euro exchange rate is hitting the highest levels it has achieved since June 2009 and a break above 1.19 € would offer the best levels since the collapse that started with the fall of Lehman Brothers in October 2008. That is fantastic news for anyone moving to Europe, although it is not such great news for those with Euros to sell. However, those sellers have had 20 months of advantageous rates and it now looks like it is the turn of the buyers. Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Friday, 7 May 2010

Where now for currencies ?

So we head into the weekend not knowing who will be the next resident of 10 Downing Street, not knowing whether the €110 billion bailout for Greece will be enough, not knowing whether one of the other Mediterranean countries is preparing its bid for EU support and not knowing whether we will get rain or not, although that last one is apparently easier to predict.

What we do know is that the Pound is still offering some of the best levels for Sterling sellers in 9 Months, that the Euro is the cheapest it has been for US Dollar sellers since March 2009 and that the Australasian currencies may well weaken a tad in the days ahead if safe haven buying is all the rage and whilst the Canadian Dollar is still looking good now, it may well weaken as oil comes under pressure. Sadly for those with Sterling in their pockets, even if the Aussie and Kiwi Dollars lose strength, the £ is likely to lose strength faster because the UK economies is far more reliant on and tied to the European Union countries.

It’s a very cloudy view both weather-wise and economy-wise right now and risk management is the key to being currency-wise.

If you thought the recession was behind us, I am sorry to say, it may not be dead and gone just yet. The problem lies in the nature of the credit markets. Bank A may lend to Bank B who lends to Bank C but Bank C may also be lending to Bank A and Bank B may be heavily indebted to Bank D as well. This is also true for countries and the whole world wide web of debt hangs on the premise that each is capable of repaying everyone else. If one bank or country fails to keep its part of the bargain, the whole pack of cards is in danger of collapse.

Peter Elias Agent Commercial

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Uncertain markets

May Bank Holiday weekend – and what confusion on the markets. With the prospect of a “hung parliament” in the UK and the European crisis elsewhere, the currency markets don’t know which way to go. A hung parliament would bring with it uncertainty for the markets (equities & the £), so the week ahead will define the way forward. In Euroland the so-called PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece & Spain), are still in big trouble, especially the latter two. Riots on May Day In Greece in response to the austerity measures required as part of their rescue package, whilst in Spain, they have just announced unemployment at over 20%. If there is a decisive result in the UK elections, I would expect Sterling to surge ahead in the weeks ahead, perhaps towards 1.20 and even 1.25, which would be a great buying opportunity for UK buyers looking to acquire a property here in France. Peter Elias

Monday, 19 April 2010

Another moulin

Last week I wrote about three recent additions to our portfolio - all of which were water mills. Well now we have another !
This one is a large 5 bed mill, with a fabulous mill room, scope to enlarge even more, and is in great condition.
The very attractive gardens are bordered by the water course, and there is a really private sun terrace and salt water swimming pool installed.
Definitely worthy of an early inspection ...

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Water Mills

A bit like buses, you wait ages for one to come along, and then three arrive together !
That is exactly what has happened in recent days with an old favourite, the moulin d'eau. One example is a beautiful restored watermill dating back to the 17th century retaining original features in a peaceful secluded yet secure setting, with land totalling 2,550m². Offering approximately 260m² habitable full details can be found via this link :-
Nearer to facilities is another mill, where the owners have tapped into the water course to provide a form of geothermic heating for the property :-
Completely in the country, but again convenient for commerce, is a large partially renovated mill, offering tremendous potential :-
Because river management is much more pro-active in France than in the UK, there are rarely flooding problems. I can highly recommend visits to these lovely waterside properties, where you can relax and enjoy the laid-back French lifestyle.
Bonne chance !
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Sunday, 4 April 2010

QROPS, QNUPS & a Seminar

One of the hardest parts of becoming an ex-Pat is knowing where to get the best financial advice to ensure that your decision is sustainable. Since our business was established in 2001, we have been searching for such a business partner, and we have now concluded negotiations with one of the leading International Independent Financial advisers.
They now have offices in Niort (79), so are convenient for most readers of this magazine. Anyone who would like to receive advice on their financial situation, either before or after they have moved to France is welcome to contact us using the details at the end of this article for further information.
Protecting assets from tax during your lifetime and on death is an important issue for many expatriates. Particularly if you are unsure of the exact regime for a country, such as France, with it’s complex succession rules. They can provide and advise on a comprehensive range of asset protection structures which can help you – a) Minimise your tax liabilities during your life and in the event of your death, b) Pass assets to your heirs in an efficient manner, c) Control your assets after your death . You will probably need to change your approach to investment management to ensure that your wealth is invested in a tax efficient manner reflecting the taxes of the country where you live. Within tax efficient vehicles, it is possible to work closely with you to establish your investment strategy.. The strategy will be based on diversifying your holdings and the asset types you invest in, as this will assist in reducing risk and preserving your wealth in real terms over the longer term. To introduce you to these ideas, a free invitation based seminar is planned for May 6th (morning), entitled “Tax Mitigation, Pensions and Wealth Preservation”. The seminar will explore the tax mitigation and wealth preservation opportunities available to UK nationals who are currently tax resident overseas, whether they should become non-UK tax residents, and advice for those who may repatriate back to the UK in the future. The agenda covers private wealth and UK pensions, taking the opportunity to explore tax and investment strategies for preserving your capital, improving your investment income and maximising the value of your UK private pension funds in France. Certainly if you have over £100,000 of savings/investments and/or pension funds totalling over £100,000, you should reserve your place at this seminar, but it is suitable for most ex-Pats. Of special interest are 2 recent pension schemes which I will touch on briefly below. Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) are pension schemes located in a jurisdiction outside the UK and which HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has approved to receive transfers from UK registered pension funds. They provide many benefits for British expatriate retirees. Most UK private pension funds can be transferred provided you have not yet bought an annuity or, if it is a Final Salary Scheme, that you have not commenced taking your pension. On the 15th February 2010, a new UK HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) statutory instrument came into force, which creates significant opportunities for British expatriates to save local taxes in the country in which they are tax resident as well as UK inheritance tax (IHT). The UK legislation created a new type of trust known as Qualifying Non-UK Pension Schemes (QNUPS). The tax rules for both of these pension schemes are generally more favourable than other investment structures. Some British expatriates will return to the UK at some point, whether this is to be closer to family or on the death of a spouse or a partner. Most defer seeking tax and financial advice until they have actually returned to the UK, however the key to effective tax planning is to plan early before repatriating. This way you may be able to structure your assets in a far more tax efficient environment than you could achieve by waiting until you have arrived back in the UK. Between now and the next issue of Impressions a General Election will be held in the UK. At the time of writing many experts are predicting a hung parliament, which would not be good news for the UK economy or for the £. Which leads me nicely on for a word about currencies. The graph below shows the 90 day movement :
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) Tel 05 49 27 01 22 or e-mail for details of the seminar or any other information contained in this article.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Selling a house in France is quite different to the UK, or so most people believe. Agency fees are much higher here, and are paid for by the buyer, whereas of course they are paid for by the seller in England. But be honest, if you are selling a house in the UK, don’t the prices reflect the fact that the vendor is going to pick up the tab for say 2.5% fees, and therefore this is built into the price in any event. The main difference here in France is the general lack of exclusivity delas for agencies, so that a property will often be with 4 or 5 agencies and perhaps advertised privately as well. Inevitably, these agencies will all have differing fee structures, so the house appears in marketing at different prices, confusing the buyer. Since they are not paying, some vendors decide to place there property with numerous agencies, with the end result that none of them go out of their way to make a special effort to sell the property, and the house appears on dozens of websites, giving the appearance of a desperate vendor, with a problem property. Going down the private sale route is fine if you can present your property professionally, but many adverts are frankly awful, and you then end up dealing with serial viewers who are not in a position to proceed even if they feel inclined. You also face the thorny issue of negotiating face to face with the buyer, and even if you are up to the challenge, they may not be comfotable! Buyers are also suspicious of how an owner arrived at the asking price for a private sale. The natural assumption is that the owner is being hopeful and this then attracts a significantly reduced offer. In our admittedly biased opinion, there is no substitute for using a professional agency with good internet presence, (since 95%+ of searches start this way), and restricting your choice to 3 or at an absolute maximum of 4 agencies to work with. Feel free to offer photographs that show the property in the best light, and offer to work with your agent rather that against them, and you will enjoy the rewards sooner rather than later.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Taxing news

Gîte owners Please note – a little publicised law was passed in France at the end of last year – and according to article L. 324-1-1 & D. 324-1-1 of the tourism code, anyone offering furnished accommodation for tourists must make a declaration to the maire in the commune where the property is situated. Previously those offering Chambre d’Hôtes have been required to register. Since there are tax breaks that are enjoyed by gites and holiday rentals, notably deductible costs of 70% as opposed to 50% and a much higher income allowance of around 70,000 €uros instead of 32,000, it might be the case that these benefits will only be available in the future if you have completed and registered these forms. You can download the PDF file by clicking on the following link :- Financial Planning On the 15th February 2010, a new UK HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) statutory instrument came into force, creating a new type of trust known as Qualifying Non-UK Pension Schemes (QNUPS) - which should not be confused with Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS). Both schemes create significant opportunities for British expatriates to save local taxes in the country in which they are tax resident as well as UK inheritance tax (IHT). Allez-Français have a formal Introducer arrangement with a leading firm of International Independent Financial Advisers, and they will be holding a seminar on how best to arrange your financial affairs in May. Please e-mail me for an invitation at U K Budget 2010 While Chancellor Alistair Darling’s last Budget under the current administration contained few direct tax increases, it was nonetheless a budget designed to increase tax revenue. Darling pointed out that 60% of the tax increases will be paid by the top 5% of earners, saying that those who are better off should pay their “fair share”. Although he failed to mention personal income tax allowances in his speech, they have been frozen, a move described in the press as ‘classic stealth tax’. While British expatriates may have been relieved to have escaped the UK tax regime, the situation is not much better in other European countries and we could see more tax rises or stealth taxes coming our way. The UK budget and its ‘tax raid on the middle classes’ is a good example of why it is worth reviewing your financial planning to see what steps you can take to legitimately lower your tax bill. The IHT measures will hit thousands of expatriates as it extends beyond residency and is charged on worldwide assets. As an expatriate you may however be able to use one of the new QROPS or QNUPS pension arrangements to free your investable wealth from this tax, as well as some local taxes. These options will be discussed at the seminar outlined above. See our highly acclaimed website

Sunday, 21 March 2010

QROPS pensions

It is estimated that there are currently around 200,000 British expatriates living in France and most have a UK pension that is worth a considerable amount of thought and planning. In recent years the option has arisen to allow UK expatriates to transfer their UK pension into a QROPS fund, thereby allowing them to gain from the many benefits that come with having your pension transferred into a QROPS.
There are many types of pension that can be transferred which include personal and occupational pension schemes and this includes pensions that are in draw down (even if currently in payment) and protected rights can also be transferred.
It is often a great option to transfer your UK pension into a QROPS since UK pension schemes are not very flexible and there are many restrictions on when and how you draw down your benefits. The majority of expat pensioners in France are also forced to buy an annuity at age 75. Consequently this means that you cannot then leave any balance of your remaining pension fund to your heirs on death. However, if your pension is transferred into a QROPS this is something which becomes a possibility and is just one of the many benefits which makes relocating your pension into a QROPS something really worth considering.
You are not able to transfer a final salary pension, or a scheme if you have already purchased an annuity.
Our business partners (fully registered IFAs), with offices in Niort would be pleased to talk to you about your requirements. Please note that a fund of at least £100,000 is normally required to access this facility. Please contact us for further details.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Politics & the market

The political uncertainty surrounding the forthcoming election is doing nothing to help the volatility surrounding the £ currency, both against the € and the $. UK buyers are facing an exchange rate of around 1.10 € to the £ if they wish to buy a home in France. Not great when you compare rates over the past 5 years or so, but who knows what will happen if there is a hung parliament? This weakness in the £ does present itself as an opportunity for any ex-Pats looking to sell up in the Eurozone and return to the UK. Sensible vendors are using this as a chance to lower prices, generate more interest leading to a sale, and then pocket the gain in currency. Peter Elias (Agent Commercial),

Monday, 1 March 2010


This past weekend, the Poitou Charentes and the Vendée have been blasted by an exceptional storm – called Xynthia with winds of up to 159 Km per hour. The storm has caused devastation, particularly on the coasts, with serious flooding, partly also due to Spring tides. The centre of La Rochelle was especially badly damaged by this freak storm. Unfortunately, over 50 people from this area have lost their lives, and inevitably the damage caused to property has been significant. The last serious storm of this magnitude was at the end of 1999, between Christmas and the New Year, when a serious storm on a similar course to this one, (en-route from Spain & Portugal), caused havoc over a 72 hour period. As a nation France has declared the event a “national disaster” and promises have been made to release funds to help communities rebuild. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy has today visited the storm-battered Atlantic coast. Many of the casualties on the French coast drowned, while those elsewhere were hit by parts of buildings or falling trees. Peter Elias

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Market picking up ?

Spring time is traditionally the period in the property market when activity picks up. There are signs that here in France, that Spring is coming early, as we have had a flurry of potential buyers including Swiss, Belgian, Dutch plus of course the expected French & British clients. There are clear signs that the French property market has "bottomed", many clients see this as a good opportunity to buy, with some vendors still being negotiable on price. We will know which properties are negotiable and which are not. The last few weeks have seen some very interesting properties coming on to our books, including several new gîte properties with excellent income track records, a great B & B property, a quality apartment in a very sought after location, and many more. The only way to be sure of being alerted to these opportunities is to build a good relationship with your agent. Don’t be afraid of asking for our help – that is why we are in business ! Peter Elias (Agent Commercial), Allez-Français

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Tree planting day in Paizay-le-Tort

Regular readers of this Blog will recall that in late autumn, Allez-Français advised that for the end of 2009 & for the whole of 2010 we decided that we will try to off-set the carbon footprint of clients viewing through us, by planting a tree* for each client visiting and viewing a selection of property, which will over time absorb their carbon dioxide emissions. If you missed the article it can be found at We would like to think of ourselves as ground-breakers with this idea. Hopefully, clients will decide to view with an agency trying to something for the environment, rather than one just offering a standard service, that we are confident that we will exceed in any case! This weekend saw the annual tree planting event in our village, and in our own way, we were able to supplement the number of trees planted in the village. Hopefully next year will be even better and there will be even more trees to plant. We will perhaps invite some of the new owners to attend the event, and even plant their own tree. The mayor, of our village, Mme Bouchet, is aware of our initiative, and made a point of thanking us for the contribution. I personally would like to thank Jackie & John Warner, who purchased via ourselves several years ago. They sold last year, and they very kindly made a contribution towards our effort. That was a super gesture, and very much appreciated.
At Allez-Français we are like to consider that we are taking steps to help reduce our impact on our surroundings and create a more environmentally friendly future. * We advised that a tree for each client would be planted in the village of Paizay le Tort. Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) E-mail: Website

Thursday, 28 January 2010

More on the £ / € situation

The year has started better for UK ex-Pats as the £ rises to recent highs against the Euro, making a significant difference to those on fixed income, such as pensions. As I write this article, the £ is trading in excess of 1.16 versus the Euro. It is effectively the Euro that is weak though, since both the Pound and US Dollar have managed to make headway against the currency. We have to conclude that fears over the economies of Portugal, Spain. Italy and Greece are weighing heavily on the Euro. Greece has received a lot of headlines over their faltering economy, but Portugal is slipping in the same direction as Greece in terms of its government finances and they will need to address this in their forthcoming budget on a domestic level. This is especially so igiven the distance French and also German figures are placing between their countries and the problems that Greece is facing. Not such a cosy club now it seems ! Sterling remains at the very top of its recent ranges with the Pound buying more Euros, Canadian Dollars and Australasian dollars than it has for 5 months. However, these levels are looking less and less secure and the charts are posting increasingly overbought signals against the Pound so those with Sterling who haven’t already swapped some of their funds for another currency should think about doing so urgently. At times like this rates are stting on a precarious knife edge and go either way so if you are risk averse, then you should have a more detailed conversation with our dedicated dealers to determine how these moves may save or cost you money and what you can do about it. What does this mean for house prices? Well, the cost of buying a French house has become cheaper for a UK buyer, with a 250,000 Euro house costing £215,815 today, as against ove £224,000 both 1 and 3 months ago. Given that French property prices have fallen since 2008, I am very much of the opinion that today represents a great buying opportunity for UK buyers, with relatively low prices and a favourable exchange rate. Some of our vendors are ex-Pats who are returning to the UK, for various reasons. They now face a difficult decision, since whilst the £ has been weakening throughout 2008 & 2009, they have been able to reduce their prices, secure in the knowlegde that they would gain on the exchange rate and be able to buy in a weak UK property market. The emphasis has now shifted, as the UK market strengthens and the Euro weakens against the Pound.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Great buying opportunity for the £ against the €

The pressure on the Euro has become immense since Greece was downgraded and the Eurozone refused to step in to help. Traders fear a Lehman Brothers type scenario where Greece defaults on its debt and Portugal, Spain and Ireland are forced to follow suit as the carpet is pulled beneath them.
A report in the telegraph over the weekend suggest the European Central Bank (ECB) are preparing legal ground in the event a Euro member tried to leave the Eurozone breaks up following the Greek crisis.
The fact that EUR USD has fallen over 7.0% since December will not worry the ECB one little bit. They have been attempting to talk the euro down for most of last year to help their exporters pull the Eurozone from recession.
The pound on the other hand has had a great weekend. December CPI inflation data released Monday was 2.9%, much higher than the Bank of England 2.0% target and very close to the number which requires BoE Governor Mervyn King to write a letter of explanation to Chancellor Alistair Darling. This was the largest one-month rise since April 1991.
The next number to surprise to the upside was UK December unemployment which fell by 15.2k, the second consecutive monthly decline.
Euro buyers have therefore been presented with the best levels to buy in 4-months after a 4.5% bounce since last week.
Call me today for an introduction to our dedicated dealers and get preferential rates !
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) +33 549 27 01 22

Sunday, 17 January 2010

France is officially, for the fifth year in a row, the best place in the world to live according to a survey carried out by the magazine International Living, who for the past 30 years have been producing a 'Quality of Life' index, looking at the best places to live in the world.
Their index examines nine main criteria, such as the cost of living, climate, crime, environment, infrastructure and the quality of health care, with statistics drawn from official sources. The magazine does acknowledge that if you live in France you have to be prepared to put up with ‘tiresome bureaucracy’, they this is outweighed by an superb quality of life, including, of course, the world’s best health service.
France scores high on most categories in the index, but it is the lifestyle of the French that the magazine considers to be the special quality of the country. As you may guess, these include the pleasures of long lingering lunches, the importance of friends and family, the beautiful countryside, and many more aspects of La Belle France that cannot be measured by a set of statistics.
Behind France in the ranking of 194 countries comes Australia, followed by Switzerland and Germany. Britain languishes in 25th place, while Spain comes in at a sluggish 17th place. Britain's ranking highlights why so many are keen to move across the Channel. 25th place in the poll, coming behind the likes of Uruguay, Hungary and Lithuania ! Somebody has remarked that if the benefits system wasn’t so generous and local governments weren’t obliged to house anyone arriving without cash, it would be lower down than 25th place.
A debate rages over whether Greece can scramble out of its economic problems and start to reclaim its standing within the Eurozone. You may not have any links with Greece at all, but the repercussions if they don’t sort their problems out could be earth moving. Questions over whether other EU states will offer Greece financial support and whether, if Greece were forced out or forced to pull out of the Euro, the Euro project could survive are coming thick and fast. The answers are a lot more elusive and if we measure all the Eurozone countries against the original financial measures which were the original requirements for membership of the Euro, few would pass, so it is a bit of pot and kettle right now. Consequently, I would be very surprised if any other EU state would point the finger at Greece until their own houses are in better shape.
However, while the debate is in place we can expect further volatility in the Euro.
That would be great if the UK wasn’t being tarred with the same brush as Greece. There is a strong feeling that UK debt levels will create problems in the year ahead as credit referencing agencies continue to monitor Britain’s progress - or lack of it and Sterling is certainly reflecting that in its current levels of weakness. Equally, the fact that Iceland is prevaricating on whether it will repay the £2.3 billion that the UK government paid to those who lost money when Icelandic banks collapsed, isn’t helping matters. £2.3 billion may only be a miniscule part of the humungous debt that Britain has accumulated in the last couple of years but every little helps. Having said that the £ has gained some ground over the last 7 days against the Euro.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Allez-Français Direct

New launch in January 2010 – for special properties, in selected areas of France. A no cost service to vendors, at attractive rates for buyers, utilising our existing highly regarded website Since our launch at the end of 2001, the name Allez-Français has been associated with quality property in the Poitou Charentes region of France. We currently have around 300 properties for sale, and specialise in properties at the middle to higher end of the market. Throughout this period we have been asked by potential clients whether we have property for sale in other areas, and until very recently the answer has always been “no”. We believe that we have identified a place in the market for our business, whereby we advertise and market quality property outside the Poitou Charentes for people who are trying to sell privately. This is often a dilemma for people about to put their property on the market. Many fear that the relatively high agency fees in France may put people off and discourage them from buying via an agent. Agency fees in France are typically between 5 – 7.5% in France and that does add a significant cost, but bear in mind it is the buyer who pays the fees and they are already conditioned to paying this sum and the same again on Notaire’s fees. As a private vendor you will be viewed suspiciously as to how you arrived at your asking price. Are you being wildly optimistic and hoping for the lottery win! Selling your own house also costs money. Private advertisements are not cheap; websites cost time and money to set-up. Don’t expect a newly designed website to suddenly generate lots of traffic it doesn’t work like that. You will also receive many calls and viewings from people who are frankly ‘time-wasters’, who are just window shopping and re-living “a Place in the Sun” in their own minds. As your agent, we would present the property professionally via our website and the French property media (at our cost – not yours). We would use photographs and a descriptive supplied by yourselves – all optimized for website exposure, and edited to our exacting standards. Peter Elias (Agent Commercial)