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5 tips for buying a property in the Côte d’Azur

5 tips for buying a property in the Côte d’Azur

Navigating the purchase of a luxury property in France can be a complicated, sometimes frustrating process. If you haven’t done your homework, it can even become stressful. Here are a few pointers on how to save time and money in your search and acquisition of your dream house in the south of France.

Take the less-traveled roads

The French real estate market is not well organized. There is no mature Multiple Listing System like in the USA or central database like in the Netherlands where you can access all properties on the market.

Many property owners make their properties publicly available each and every day via ads on a myriad of French real estate portals, home-for-sale publications and real estate agency websites. In the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, there are about 10 major real estate providers, plus thousands of local realtors (i.e., 1,450 FNAIM-registered agencies; 7,300 Chamber-of-Commerce– licensed agents). That makes it extremely time-consuming to review so many ads from so many sources.

But there also are off-market listings (also known as ‘pocket listings’) whereby the property owners don’t want to list their home publicly for various reasons (e.g., confidentiality).  Those properties often are the most desirable properties in the best location such as Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Monaco or Cannes. But those homes will never reach the open market, will never be included on portals’ and websites’ search and most people will never even hear about them or see a ‘For sale’ sign.

Tip #1 ► Unearth those pocket listings. Alternatively, work with an independent real estate pro whose connections with local real estate agents and French ‘notaires’ (notary, solicitor) can give you access to those exclusive listings.

The heart feels, the head compares

To make the sharpest real estate decisions, you’ll need to assess the market, neighbourhoods and more.

For instance, if you consider investing in an apartment located on the magical Promenade des Anglais in Nice, you’ll need to know that from No. 1 to the Negresco hotel, the price per m2 offered by listing agents varies between 10,000 and 12,000 euros. Prices can go up to 15,000-€20,000 euros/m2 meter for select prestige apartments. A little further down the “Prom”, the price decreases to 8,000 euros/m2. The Promenade des Anglais shares the higher end of the market with other neighborhoods such as Gairaut, Mont Boron, Rue de France and Jean Médecin.

It’s also worth noting that in Nice, prices for resale apartments fell by 1.7% in the first nine months of 2016, according to a recent note of the ‘Chambre des notaires’. Over the same period, they went up by 2% on average in France. The overall real estate price index increased by +15.6 % between 2006 and 2016 according to the INSEE. According to the ‘Notaires de France’, the apartment price index rose by +13.2 % between 2006 and 2016 while the house price index rose by +5.7 %.

Tip #2 ► Dig out cutting-edge information on other home values in the same area as your target dream home.

Better safe than sorry

Happiness sometimes is made up of details: so, leave nothing to chance!

Before signing the ‘compromis de vente’ (preliminary sale agreement), you might want to go to the ‘mairie’ (city hall) and check if there any planning applications, private planning permissions that may exist near your dream house or proposed developments on adjoining land which may be privately owned.

Tip #3 ► Ensure that your neighbour is not about to build a new house or a commercial building next to your property.

A live visit is worth a thousand photos/videos

When you look for a property, the ultimate question you must ask is: Does it feel like home to me?

Browsing the web, reading brochures or watching videos won’t cut it. It won’t give you a true idea of its total size, quality of detail, exposition, neighborhood, signs of maintenance…

Tip #4 ► Instead of eliminating potential candidates too easily, spend time in France, visit as many luxury properties as possible and absorb the lifestyle in the Côte d’Azur. If you don’t have time for that, send a hatchet man (e.g., someone who represents you) to pre-visit the properties that have caught your attention and prepare a visit tour of the best properties either listed by different realtors or unlisted.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity

To snap up an opportunity and commit to a high-end property purchase, time often is of the essence.

So, you’ll need to be prepared: prepared to prove your financial capabilities to make an all-cash purchase or secure a loan from your preferred lenders; prepared to pay a 10% deposit on short notice; prepared to meet the financial obligations associated with the ownership of a property (i.e., insurance, taxes, maintenance…).

Tip #5 ► Before deciding, ask your local accountant and/or financial advisor to give you a crystal-clear overview of the financial commitment you are going to make.

Bonus tip

If you don’t have too much time in your hands, make sure you find an exclusive buyer’s representative who will work for you all along the search and purchasing process and defend your interests only.

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Olivier Bourrain

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