Family buyers are replacing tourists in the seaside resort town of Biarritz.

Housing Market on France’s Basque Coast Teeming with Buyers

Like many resort towns worldwide, Biarritz has been transitioning from a high-season, second-home owning town whose population has historically quadrupled from April to October to a younger, remote working, more family-oriented town since 2020.

Philippe Thomine-Desmazures, associate director of Barnes International Realty, Cote Basque, said, “We have seen many, many people between 35 and 45 move here to work remotely, or go to work two to three days a week in Paris, Madrid or London and come back.  We’ve seen many, many people who moved their family here.  It was a booming market with COVID.”


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Cramped Seller’s Market

New buyers in Biarritz have been finding a very crowded seller’s market.  In the recent years, only small buildings with 10 to 15 apartments have been built in Biarritz.  The approval process makes new builds here to come by.

Thomine-Desmazures said, “It is difficult to knock down and build something new.”

Benedicte Marchal, director of Biarritz Sotheby’s International Realty, said that another complexity of Biarritz’s seller’s market is “We have some property that we work off market, confidentially, and some people prefer that.  Marchal added, “People are afraid to sell because they don’t know if they can buy something else.  They don’t want to get stuck.”

Dwindling Inventory = Increasing Home Prices

Home prices in Biarritz have jumped an average of +15% over the last year.  Luxury home prices have soared +30% “…if the property is well renovated and if it’s on the first line to the see,” said Marchal.

The average sale price in Thomine-Desmazure’s office in 2021 was E1.45M or $1.64M with 50 houses selling between E1M-E1.5M or $1.13M and $1.7M.  Ten houses sold for over E3M or $3.4M.

Stanislas de Roumefort, partner in Cote Ouest Immobiliier, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, indicated that local prices have doubled since 2016 including a spike of +40% in the past two years.  De Roumefort said, “The market in the area was the most dynamic are in real estate in the country last year, and it is not because of COVID.  The only reason – and it is only this reason – is the bank.  You can go to the bank, get money and buy.”

Investor Action Up

All three of these real estate professionals have been experiencing an influx of investors to Biarritz in the past two years.  Investors go to the bank, put down 15% on a property, and voila…they are making quick returns of 7 to 9 times their initial investments.

Other investors are creating full-service luxury rentals with butlers and cooks in villas with sea views that sell between E3M – E10M of $3.4M and $11.3M.

Marchal added that even with the uptick in Biarritz prices, prices on France’s Cote d’Azur are more expensive.  “(Biarritz) is more authentic, confidential and discreet than the Cote d’Azur.  The coastline is still more untouched, wild.”

Who Are the Buyers?

Some 80% of Biarritz and Basque Coast buyers come from Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse, many of whom are ex-patriots.  Others arrive from Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, the US and Russia.  De Roumefort said that Vladimir Putin has two houses in Biarritz and his former wife and daughter each have homes.

According to Jack Harris, a partner at Knight Frank, said that British buyers predominate in southwest Occitanie regions of France.  American buyers look for large chateau-style properties or authentic manor homes.

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As of January 1, 2022, mortgages have a limit of 25 years and that the debt ratio cannot exceed 35%.  Most Americans are advised to consider a cash purchase since French banks are reluctant to lend to US citizens.

Thanks to The New York Times.


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