French Property Investment - The Basics

By: Tem Pearson

With so many investors looking at exotic locations for their next investment, sometimes the gems closer to home are completely overlooked.

Investing in property in France is still a firm favourite with the Brits and there is good reason for this loyalty!

More and more foreign owners are flooding to France, either for a second home or as an investment for their future. Over the last three years, an average of 80,000 properties per year have been sold to non-French buyers, almost half of which have been UK buyers. However, just because property is popular in France does not mean that a bargain cannot be found.

France has truly embraced the investors, both domestic and foreign and offers a range of useful facilities, such as guaranteed rentals and leaseback schemes that make investing in property in France a particularly solid and, therefore, popular choice.

Guaranteed rental schemes are exactly what they say they are and developers will sell properties, normally apartments or houses on a complex, to investors whilst offering a guaranteed rental of around 6 to 6.5 percent to the new owners.

The development company then takes over the running of the property and rents it as it chooses in order to make the rental income that it has promised to the owner. If the developer does not make the required return, then they will have to make up the shortfall.

However, if they exceed the profit, they will keep the excess profit. From the investors' point of view, this is a very low hassle, low risk way of investing in property that will hopefully gain in capital value over the years that it is being rented out.

Leaseback works in a similar way, although the property is leased back to the company on a long-term lease with set terms for the company to rent on. Although the two schemes are largely similar, with a guaranteed rental, there is more flexibility for the owner as it is simply a contract and additional terms such as owner use for X weeks a year can be negotiated.

A lease is a more formal property document and it is normally for a longer period of time than a guaranteed rental scheme, tying the owner into a longer period of ownership.

France is a lower risk option than many of the emerging markets in Eastern Europe and as such the returns both in rent and in capital are not as large or dramatic as in those countries. On average, rental yields have been around the 5 percent mark for the last 3 years and capital gains have been around the 12 percent mark.

Savvy investors will note that these figures are very similar to the UK and the property market in France should indeed be viewed in a similar way to the UK domestic market. That said, the value of property has on average risen by 87 percent between 1997 and 2005, showing the explosion that has hit the more popular regions.

One major advantage that property investing in France has over the UK is that there are still some very underdeveloped regions where real bargains can be picked up. For example, Limousin still offers investors the opportunity to buy a renovation project for less than

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