Compare the Market

Chateau Javarzay – Chef Boutonne

Yesterday’s gorgeous spring sunshine meant that I was able to combine business with pleasure. The morning was spent looking at properties (and, admittedly, “researching” the quality of coffee and patisserie) in the charming little market town of Chef Boutonne. Business completed, a stroll round the town taking in the picturesque chateau and ancient wash house left me feeling relaxed and ready for an afternoon spent chez nous digging over the veg plot. Happily renewing my ongoing battle with the briar roots that still dare to make an appearance in the middle of my spring cabbages, I was interrupted by a call from a friend in England. I sensed that things weren’t going particularly well from the outset. “No, it isn’t”, “very windy” and “totally fed up” were the replies to my initial questions. (Good day? Weather? How are you?, in case you wondered).

Having bemoaned the weather, cutbacks and petrol prices at length, there followed the inevitable:
“ …Of course it’s different for you, living in France. You don’t have all that to worry about”.
Well, of course it is different – that’s the whole reason we moved here. There are things we miss and some aspect of our lives here that aren’t ideal – in our case notably the bureaucracy. Better? In our experience, much better in terms of quality of life and definitely less pressured.
Given my role as a Property Finder, I inevitably started thinking about pros and cons of buying in France as opposed to the UK. Seeking another point of view, I looked at The Independent business section and if their reporting is to be believed, it looks as if the housing market in the UK is heading for yet another setback. Mortgage lending in January was at the lowest levels we’ve seen since the start of 2008 .The CML (Council of Mortgage Lenders) noted that the figure for January was a depressing 12% lower than for the previous January. The same article reported that Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, warned that prices could fall by 5% in 2011 which would represent a fall of 10% from peak 2010 levels. This, added to the prospect of rises in interest rates in 2011, doesn’t make the UK property market seem the most attractive place to be buying at the moment.

In contrast, the market in France is looking more stable. The French have always been more cautious about lending and so the “crise” hasn’t been quite so dramatic here. That said, prices did drop and it’s been possible to negotiate some really good deals as a result. In 2010 prices stabilized and the FNAIM predict a slow but steady increase as we go through 2011 making French property look like a good investment. As an added bonus, rates for a French mortgage are currently at their lowest since the 1940s making this an option that increasing numbers of British property hunters are picking up.
All this “gives one furiously to think”… as my friend Francette would say. Taking all things considered, I’d much rather be contemplating life from my own particular French home than from anywhere else. Biased? Me? Surely not.

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