News: France investors shun high priced bling

Thu, 15 Nov 07

Provence may still have the glamour and fame, but years of property-price over-heating now means that neighbouring Languedoc is the ‘hot’ region in the south of France to invest in property...

Property price figures just released by FNAIM - the French national estate agency association - and posted on the creme-de-languedoc.com website - reveal that property prices in Languedoc are still much lower than those in Provence, and, for the most part, rising far faster.

The study, released in July 2006, covered the price per square meter for houses in cities across France.
(To see the complete chart of figures for Towns in Provence and Languedoc, visit: www.creme-de-languedoc.com/languedoc-property/south-france-property-news8-6.php)

High priced ‘bling’

Top of the list in terms of price came Mandelieu La Napoule - near Canne, Provence, at an extortionate €4,257 per square meter. Following it came Sanary-sur-Mer near Toulon in Provence at €4,101 and St Raphael, between Cannes and St Tropez, Provence at €4,086.

It would seem the ‘bling bling’ of the Côte d’Azure still comes at a high price. But it’s not only the Provençal coastal towns that are expensive - nine out of ten of the Provence towns surveyed were more expensive than all the nine Languedoc towns included. The only exception was the Provence town of Arles - which happened to be the closest town in Provence to Languedoc.

Of the Languedoc towns listed, booming Montpellier is most expensive, with a square meter price of €2,799. Limoux is the cheapest at only €1,730 per square meter, probably because it is the city furthest from the sea.

Soaring growth

Clearly, Provence’s role as playground of the rich and famous has kept prices high. But the more interesting finding from the survey was that prices in Languedoc are growing far faster than those in Provence. It would seem that Languedoc is fast catching up with its glamorous neighbour.

Growth in Provence’s houses prices never makes it past the 10% mark (except again for Arles). In fact, growth in the region averages 6.2% compared to 11.4% in Languedoc - where prices continue to defy gravity.

Of the Languedoc cities, Béziers tops the list with an amazing 38% growth (the highest in France). It seems that the ugly duckling of Languedoc’s cities is finally blossoming, perhaps due to rumours that budget airlines are poised to fly to the city for the first time. Pretty Narbonne manages a growth rate of 17.2%. And booming Montpellier also edges above 10% property growth. Sète, near Montpellier, and Perpignan, also achieve healthy price rises.

Why such fast growth?

The Mediterranean is prime real estate, and it was probably only a matter of time before Provence over-heated and demand shifted down the coast to Languedoc.

But a number of other factors have helped fuel the boom in property prices in the last 5 years. Flights is one - with low cost airlines opening up routes to 4 of the region’s airports (Montpellier, Perpignan, Nîmes and Carcassone) and other airports nearby (Girona, Marseille, Toulouse and Rodez). Improved motorways have also helped, with the recently opened A75 providing a cheap and fast motorway from the heart of Languedoc to Paris via the magnificent Norman Foster-designed Millau bridge.

But it is Languedoc itself that provides the real allure. The region’s beaches are superior to those of Provence’s - larger and sandier, they allow greater numbers of people to enjoy the Mediterranean with less over-crowding.

The countryside is as beautiful as it is further east, with the magnificent gorges of the Tarn, Hérault and Cèze rivers; the flatlands of the Camargue with its flamingos, wild horses and bulls; the magnificent Pyrénées and Cévennes mountains which offer spectacular (and far cheaper) skiing, and perhaps the jewel in Languedoc’s crown - the tranquil, tree-lined Canal du Midi.

Rising tourism

Then there’s wine. Languedoc is still the world’s largest wine-producing region, and its reputation for cheap plonk has being replaced in recent years by a reputation for fine, full-bodied reds and the world’s best Muscats. Vineyards cover much of the region, which has helped preserve traditional village life, another attraction for those looking to buy property here.

The history of the region is also more colourful and dramatic than that of Provence. As a result, Languedoc’s tourist revenues are soaring as people from all over the world flock to visit the giant medieval castle of Carcassonne; the world’s best-preserved Roman aqueduct (Pond-du-Gard), Temple (Maison Carrée) and Arena (at Nîmes); and the spectacular, cliff-top Cathar castles of Quéribus and Puilaurens.

With tourists, of course, comes the opportunity to buy and rent out holiday homes, making investing in property in the area an even more lucrative venture.

No signs of abating

The FNAIM report makes it very clear that Languedoc property is still an excellent investment, despite a recent slowing in property price growth for France as a whole. With prices in Languedoc still relatively low, and neighbouring Provence still too expensive for most, it looks clear that prices in Languedoc will continue rising for the foreseeable future.

With a new TGV line set to open between Perpignan and Barcelona (bringing journey times down to 50 minutes), the widening of the region’s main motorway - the A9 - and new low-costs flights likely to open up at Béziers airport, tourism to the region looks set to continue its upward trend, boosting the demand for property still further.

Read more Languedoc property news at: http://www.creme-de-languedoc.com/languedoc-property/news.php

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