House Hunting in … France

A stone-walled staircase leads to the second floor, which has two bedrooms with en-suite baths, each partly tiled. One has a tub with a hand-held shower; the other has a shower. A washer, dryer and ironing board are tucked into a cupboard. On the third floor is a master suite with a large sitting room that has a fireplace, a bedroom and an en-suite bath with a shower and a black-and-white checkerboard-tile floor.

A rear entrance with a remote-control gate leads to a two-vehicle carport.

The house is a short walk from the post office, supermarket, bakery and restaurants in Plascassier, a village with a population of 2,200, where the singer Edith Piaf lived before her death in 1963. Mougins, where Pablo Picasso had his last residence and studio, is less than five miles away.

“It’s very central, but very rural,” Mr. Lilloe said, with 10 golf courses in a 15-minute radius and fine restaurants, a few with Michelin stars, “scattered in the backcountry.” The beaches at Cannes and Cap d’Antibes are about a 10-mile drive, and the international airport in Nice is 17 miles away.


Against a backdrop of historically low interest rates, more uncertainty in Britain and other parts of the world, “France is set to attract more global wealth,” said Mark Harvey, a partner and head of European residential sales at Knight Frank. That is particularly true on the Côte d’Azur, he added, “where the most demand emanates.”

In the last year, sales prices on the French Riviera have increased an average of 4.5 percent, a relief after seven “very difficult years,” during which Russian buyers — who had buoyed the ultra-high-end market for a decade — vanished as their money dried up, said Laurence Chaleil, chief executive of Côte d’Azur Sothebys International Realty.

The former French president François Hollande’s government “wasn’t very attractive for foreign investors,” Mrs. Chaleil said, but the recovery has been aided by the election in 2017 of the current president, Emmanuel Macron, which has helped to bring back both French and international buyers. “We have a lot of confidence for the coming year,” she said.

The luxury market, which starts at around 1.5 million euros (about $1.8 million), Mrs. Chaleil said, can exceed 100 million euros (or about $122 million) for listings in St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, St.-Tropez and Cap d’Antibes, where demand is strongest: “The closer you are to the sea, the higher the demand.”

But the most active part of the luxury market is the lower end: listings up to 5 million euros (or a little over $6 million), said Nigel Hindle, a founding director of the real estate agency Hindle Baldock. With the market “more muted” since the global financial crisis of 2008, he said, at the higher end there is a “big disconnect” between asking and sales prices.

While the current market reflects the feeling that “it’s cool to be back in St.-Tropez again,” Mr. Hindle said, “the number of big ticket transactions has reduced.”


Brexit has given us a big boost from British buyers,” Mr. Lilloe said, referring to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

The British now account for 25 percent of all buyers on the French Riviera, while French buyers represent 20 percent of the market, said Mark Harvey, a partner and department head of European residential sales at Knight Frank.

Other foreign buyers include those from Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and the United States, mainly residents of New York, Boston and sometimes Miami, Mr. Harvey said. Buyers from the Middle East are mostly from the United Arab Emirates, he added, and people who live or work in Monaco also often buy homes on the French Riviera.

Mr. Hindle said he has also seen buyers from Belgium and the Netherlands. And Mrs. Chaleil noted that she has seen a small number of buyers from South America and Hong Kong beginning to show interest.


There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in France, and a permit is not needed if the property will be used as a second home. “You just can’t spend more than six months a year” there, Mr. Harvey said. “You don’t want to pay U.S. and French tax.”

Total transactional costs are usually around 7.5 percent of the sales price, which includes notary fees of 1 percent, set by the French government, plus stamp duty fees and land registry charges, Mr. Hindle said.

“Although a notary very often acts for both buyer and seller, the purchaser can engage their own notary at no extra cost,” he said, “as the fees are divided between the notaries involved.”

And it makes sense, Mr. Harvey said, for buyers to retain a lawyer to ascertain the best way to structure the ownership, and to deal with inheritance issues and tax consequences upon selling. He also advised buyers to consult a financial planner.

Mortgages are available for foreign buyers, Mr. Hindle said, and “a normal retail bank will lend up to 80 percent of the value, but for larger, expensive purchases it is usually capped at around 50 percent loan-to-value through private banks.”


Côte d’Azur tourism:

French tourism:

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs:


French; euro (1 euro = $1.22)


The annual taxes on this property are about 7,800 euros (or about $9,516).


Mark Harvey, Knight Frank, 011-44-20-7861-5034;

Continue reading the main story