French lenders banking on British home buyers

23rd October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 22, 2006 (AFP) - French banks are increasingly targeting investors from the United Kingdom who want to buy property in France, with a growing range of packages designed specifically for Brits seeking joie de vivre in a foreign land.

PARIS, Oct 22, 2006 (AFP) - French banks are increasingly targeting investors from the United Kingdom who want to buy property in France, with a growing range of packages designed specifically for Brits seeking joie de vivre in a foreign land.

Crédit Foncier is the latest bank to move into the British property boom in France, with the opening of an office in London at the end of September to be closer to buyers.

Acquiring a property in France was once a luxury for rich Brits seeking a pied-a-terre on the Côte d'Azur on the Mediterranean, in the rural paradise of the Dordogne in the west, and to a lesser degree in Normandy across the English Channel, as well as in Paris.

But the past decade has seen thousands of ordinary British mortals take advantage of the strong pound and low cost flights to buy a piece of France, says Sébastien Duquesne, head of development at UCB International Buyers, which belongs the BNP Paribas banking group.

British people now own EUR 6.83 billion worth of property in France and have bought 51,000 houses here since 2000.

They represent 48 percent of all non-residents who have bought in France, way ahead of citizens of Benelux — Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg — at 13 percent, and Italians at 10 percent, according to a study by Crédit Foncier.

Also, the number of British people who live permanently in France has doubled in the past five years to 100,000 people, according to the last census in 2004 by the Insee statistical institute.

The 'roastbeefs', as the British are nicknamed by the French, are attracted to their nearest continental neighbour's way of life, healthcare, sunshine, and cuisine as well relatively lower property prices, said François Drouin, president of Crédit Foncier.

Aware of the new trend, BNP Paribas in 2004 bought Abbey National France, a subsidiary of the British Abbey National, specialised in housing loans for non-resident English speakers.

French banks have also started adapting to British demands for more flexible services such as variable mortgage rates or interest-only mortgages which are rarely available to French customers.

Some go even further, offering to guide potential buyers through the purchasing process from start to finish.

To this end, Barclays France last Monday launched an Internet site to advise Brits wishing to invest in France.

Crédit Foncier offers services ranging from a bilingual advisor for a day to managing an electricity subscription or taking care of an unoccupied second home.

BNP Paribas has opened five branches for foreign clients in the regions of France considered the most popular for British investors. Financial advice is available from a bilingual advisor who can reply to "legal and fiscal questions that are raised when we buy property abroad," Duquesne said.

The average price of a property in Britain is EUR 283,825, compared with EUR 176,000 in France, according to an annual study by Era Immobilier estate agents, published at the end of September.

But on average, Brits spend less money than other nationalities on their property in France — less than EUR 200,000 — because they prefer to buy houses that are run down which they can restore.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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