Posts in category: News

Good news for US buyers of French property as 70% loan now available at 1.4% fixed for 20 years creating significant savings.

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Thanks to two new partnerships French Private Finance can now offer up to 70% for US tax residents buying in France.

Since the closure of Credit Foncier de France in January, loans for US taxpayers in France had been limited to 60%, with competing for offers few and far between. The reason for this is that many French banks struggle with the FATCA reporting – Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act –  where banks have to declare everything about each individual US account to the US Tax service.

Thankfully, French Private Finance’s new partners can offer up to 70% LTV on a repayment basis (capital + interest paid every month) with a 20 year fixed rate of 1.40%. These loans will also require a savings account to be opened with circa 15% of the loan amount, though these savings are accessible and not blocked. In addition, this offer is also available to Russian or Brazilian residents as well and limited to employees of listed companies for the time being.

The other good news is that versus the old Credit Foncier deal at 2% fixed for 20 years, people borrowing 1M€ will save close to 70k over the life of the loan.


SARL: Is it viable for your real estate project in France?

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The SARL, a limited liability company, is one of the most common types of businesses in France. That said, it is a bit unknown in the field of real estate. The company must be composed of at least two partners. If you are alone, you can create a EURL (a single-member company with limited liability). In the case of the Family SARL, this one obliges the SARL to be constituted of the members of the same family in the direct link (children, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, spouses, persons linked by a Pacs or marriage) and only that! The creation of a family SARL with his niece or uncle is impossible (for example). In this case, it will turn to the SCI (Civil Society for Real Estate).

Advantages:

In front of the law

The liability of the partners is limited according to the contribution to the capital of the company. However, it will be difficult to get a mortgage with small capital. It will then be necessary to increase the contribution or to stand surety for the SARL.

Flexibility

There are three major families of SARL, the “classic” SARL, the family SARL, and if you want to start alone, the SARL Unipersonal (or EURL). For the latter, you can at any time change its status upon the entry of a new partner.

Furnished rentals and social contributions

The notable difference between SARL family / EURL and SCI is that it is possible to obtain the scheme “rented-out, non-professional, furnished properties” (LMNP). It is possible to be taxed on income so it is important to be advised. In addition, when you are alone (EURL), you will not pay social security contributions if your income is equal to or less than 23,000 Euros per year. However, this is appreciated by family members in the company. For example, if you are four partners, this threshold is increased to 92 000 Euros!

Capital gains

Real estate gains are part of the professional gain regime because the company’s business is commercial. It is interesting to note that long-term real estate capital gains benefit from a 10% reduction per year of detention beyond the fifth year. In other words, capital gains are totally exempt after 15 years (against 22 years for individuals (or SCI) and even 30 years on the social security part).

Transmission of shares

The family SARL allows the dismemberment of shares (possibility of separating usufruct, and bare property). If you keep the usufruct (you continue to collect rents) and you give your children the bare ownership, the amount of inheritance tax will generally be very low since calculated on a lump sum according to the age at which you make the donation. One can see a certain advantage of passing on one’s shares when the company is in debt.

Reclaim VAT

When an LMNP investment is subject to VAT (20%), it can be recovered 6 months after the acquisition of the property. In order to dispose of this recovery, your property must be in one of the following categories:

  • Accommodation services provided in classified tourist hotels
  • Accommodation services provided in classified or approved holiday villages
  • Accommodation provided in tourist homes classified when they are intended for the accommodation of tourists and are rented by a contract for a period of at least 9 years to an operator who has subscribed to a tourism promotion commitment to overseas

You must also offer 3 of these benefits, whether for free or for a fee:

  • The breakfast
  • Daily cleaning of the premises
  • The supply of linen
  • Customer reception

It will not sell the property before 20 years, otherwise, the VAT will have to be refunded to the State pro rata. If you have a commercial lease, it will then be necessary to sell your property with the latter to avoid being liable.

Disadvantages:

Set up costs

It is necessary to write the statutes before depositing them at the clerk’s office of the Commercial Court and to advertise them in newspapers of legal announcements. This is between 1000 € and 2000 €.

Direction

The company is managed by one or more managers appointed from among the partners or outside them. They must be natural persons. The manager has powers which are defined in the statutes of the family SARL. The partners meet at least once a year in an ordinary general meeting. Decisions leading to a modification of the statutes are taken at an extraordinary general meeting.

Change of regime

When you choose the corporation tax, you can not go back to income tax. A change is possible the other way around…

If you choose the income tax

The SARL, since it carries out economic operations for a fee, is a taxable person and, as such, is liable for VAT. When you recover the VAT on the amount of the property, you will have to pay a VAT of 20% to the state on the rents perceived for the classical regime. For LMNP property in a senior, student, business or tourism residence, a rate of 10% applies. Finally, regarding the property Leaseback LHPE residence type, the VAT is 5.5%.

If you choose the corporation tax (IS).

For companies with a turnover of less than 7,630,000, the IS tax is as follows:

  • Profit range from 0 to 38.120 euros, the IS rate is 15%.
  • from 38,120 to 75,000 euros, the IS rate is 28%.
  • above 75,000 euros, the IS rate is 33.33%.

For companies whose turnover is between 7,630,000 and 50,000,000 €, the tax is as follows:

  • Profit range from 0 to 75,000 euros, the IS rate is 28%;
  • above 75,000 euros, the IS rate is 33.33%.

For companies with sales of more than 50,000,000 euros, the IS rate is 33.33%.

Source: https://www.impots.gouv.fr/portail/professionnel/imposition-des-resultats

The territorial economic contribution

Like any natural or legal person who, in France, normally carries out a self-employed professional activity, the SARL is liable for the territorial economic contribution (formerly business tax). New businesses escape this tax for the year of their creation.

Conclusion:

A real estate company has more advantages for less inconvenience than SCI. However, it will be very careful to respect the requirements of a family SARL if you want to make the most of the furnished rental.


Why creating a SCI, and why not…

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An SCI, or “Société Civil Immobilière”, is a company that allows a number of individuals to share one or more real estate entities. The partners of the SCI can make contributions ‘in kind’; movable or immovable property that they already possess. These contributions, most often in kind or in cash, give entitlement to shares in the SCI  based on the total capital to partners share accordingly the profits and losses of the company. The SCI can be administered by one or more managers who are chosen by the partners. The managers may be physical or moral persons, for example, a company.

Pros of an SCI

Legal Protection

One of the advantages of an SCI is that it can protect the assets of the partners. Registered in the Trade and Companies Register, it has a legal personality and a heritage that differs from that of an individual. The SCI is the sole owner of the property. Therefore, in case of a dispute, creditors will first turn against the company. If their action proves to be unsuccessful, they can then bring an action against the partners. Only the shares can be seized by the creditors. In addition, it is difficult for creditors to sell the shares of another SCI associate or to know the extent of their wealth. In fact, the partners have an indefinite responsibility according to their participation in the share capital of the SCI, but not in solidarity. This implies that the creditors must act independently against each partner, to engage their responsibility.

Inheritance

SCI also gives parents the possibility to pass on their property to their children while maintaining the management of the property. They simply bring the property to the SCI and distribute the shares of the company to their children. They are the managers of SCI and thus retain control of the property. When parents and children of the same family are associated with an SCI, we are talking about creating a family SCI.

Taxation

The SCI makes it possible to have advantageous taxation. The transfer of a property is normally subject to capital gains tax, with a tax deduction depending on the length of ownership, and a total exemption from tax after 22 years. For the sale of the shares of SCI, the holding period is calculated from the date of subscription of the units and not from the date of entry of the property into the SCI. In addition, the transfer of shares is simpler than the sale of a building that must go through an authentic notarial act.

Investment

the SCI makes it possible to realize several real estate investments by gathering means, which can facilitate the obtaining of financing. It may indeed be intended, for example, to rent.

Business

if you are a business owner, you may also want to use the SCI to acquire the real estate necessary for your business. SCI will collect rents while deducting rental expenses. This arrangement also allows you to allocate shares of SCI to your children without being in your company. In addition, the creditors of your company will not be able to attack the SCI, so real estate is protected.

Cons of an SCI

Creation

The biggest disadvantage with the SCI is its creation. You must complete certain formalities to create it, in particular:

  • the drafting of the statutes,
  • registration of statutes in the tax department,
  • the publication of the constitution of the SCI in a Journal of Legal Announcements (JAL),
  • the registration of SCI with the Registry of the Commercial Court,
  • the declaration of the beneficial owners of the SCI.

These operations have a cost especially if you go through a lawyer to write the statutes. As for the legal announcement, it takes about 200 €.

Management

You must comply with the operating rules of the SCI such as holding an annual general meeting of partners or the keeping of accounts. Accounting is more rigorous if you have made the choice to submit the SCI corporation tax. The accounts should be handed over to the registry every year.

Engagement

You must also take into account the fact that as an associate of an SCI, you have an indefinite responsibility regarding the debts of this one. You commit your personal wealth in proportion to your shares in SCI.

Sell of shares

The sale of shares of an SCI can be complicated if a clause of approval is provided for in the statutes. Indeed, if you want to sell, it will require the agreement of other partners.

Our Suggestions

Creating an SCI is a good option if you are planning to simplify transmission and protect real estate assets, it permits to be flexible in the choice of the tax system and it adds the possibility to sell shares easily with the agreement of the shareholders. But the procedure may seem complex, you must be rigorous regarding the law concerning the organization of the general assembly and the accounting.


From London to France – The Brexit Effect on Paris Real Estate

Paris streets

A new month, another new high for Paris property price records. London, on the other hand, is experiencing the effects of Brexit and all the uncertainty that comes with the constant delays and lack of clarity which has impacted the London residential property market negatively from a price perspective.

The numbers speak for themselves

In the French capital, we are close to reaching the 10.000 €/per square metre mark after continuous price rises over the last 4 years. This is not the same for all the European capitals, especially if we are looking across the English Channel.

The London market prices reached extreme levels pre-2016, especially in Zone 1 and 2 where some flats are on the market at around 16.000 and 17.000 €/per square meters on average, and sometimes more than 25.000 €/m2 for premium addresses. This is still 70% more than in Paris but in the last 2 years average prices have begun to fall, which is not the case for the French capital, quite the contrary.

The latest publication from LonRes, a leading data source and network centre for property professionals in London, reveals that the situation is similar to a mini crash. In Q1 2019 properties valued under 2 million pounds in London (around 2,3 millions €) suffered the worst decrease for the last 10 years; a stunning -10% in 1 year only.

This is mainly due to the months of political instability and the probability of  a No Deal Brexit growing in the mind of investors and corporates. According to Marcus Dixon, lead researcher at LonRes, Property owners have started to become more inclined to accept offers lower than what their property was previously valued for because of the unpredictability of the political events and the risk for even further decrease in value.

French Private Finance views

The market is showing an interesting dynamic. The extremely hot UK market is cooling off and the Paris property market is booming due to the Parisian returners and the wider interest in the Grand Paris project, which is rejuvenating and improving many areas. The French mortgage rates available in Paris are some of the lowest in France. This is due to the high liquidity of the market, which means that banks can be confident the property will sell quickly, which leads to lower mortgage rates to buy property in Paris.


The Grand Paris, or how to make the capital more attractive!

paris

The project Grand Paris should take about 20 years to complete. It aims to create a united cluster seven times bigger than the current city of Paris, with a population 3.5 times bigger. The challenge consists of transforming a region that has been up to now characterized by its star shape into a more homogeneous territory.

What is the current size of Paris?

Paris “intra-muros”, meaning the part of the city located inside the ancient walls (now disappeared) is a very compact area of 100 square kilometers and 2,2 millions habitants. Its image of a closed city has been reinforced by the ‘Great Boulevards” built along the paths of the ancient fortifications, the ring road and the new circular tramway.

A large-scale project

The Grand Paris will include the City of Paris, the Seine-Saint-Denis, Hauts-de-Seine and the Val-de-Marne suburbs and several other neighborhoods situated on the outskirts.

Source : www.parisdigest.com  

Together, they’ll create an area seven times bigger than the historical Paris. Once the metropolis expansion is completed, Paris will house 7,5 millions inhabitants, more than half of the population of the ‘Ile de France’ department, representing 25% of the country’s wealth. The project aims to confirm the status of Paris as a world economic power and an example for sustainable development. The successful bid of the city for the Olympic Games in 2024 and its desire to build the reputation of a European financial center after Brexit is one of the steps the city is taking to detach itself from the touristic image it has. Another objective of the project is to improve the quality of life in the suburbs, mainly by improving and introducing new housing and transportation solutions.

A new transport network

The Grand Paris Express, as an automated transit network, will be the new metro of the capital city region. The Grand Paris Express will consist of a circular ring around Paris (line 15) and lines connecting developing areas (lines 16, 17 and 18). The Grand Paris Express will also involve the extension of existing metro lines. These new lines will surround the capital and provide links with the 3 airports, the business district and research centers. It will serve more than 165,000 businesses.

The Grand Paris Express in numbers
  • 4 additional lines
  • 200 km of new railway lines
  • 68 new interconnected stations
  • 2 million passengers a day
  • a train every 2 to 3 minutes
  • a 100% automatic metro system
  • 90% of the lines will be built underground
  • It will only take 34 minutes – instead of 53! – to go from Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle Airport to La Défense
  • It will only take 15 minutes – instead of 1 hour and 6 minutes! – to go from Orly airport to Paris Saclay University campus
A positive conclusion for all investors:

The ongoing project of The Grand Paris will have a positive impact on urban planning, housing, businesses and environmental protection. It offers a unique opportunity for all stakeholders, including developers, transport operators, public and private investors, construction companies, architects, urban planners and the population of Greater Paris.


Paris / €2,861,600 Mortgage, 80% LTV, repayment, 2,54% fixed, 20 years

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The Profile

Buying in: Paris 8ème
Property price: €3,577,000
Loan amount: €2,861,600
Type: Repayment
Rate2.54% Fixed for the duration
Loan To Value: 80%
Term: 20 years

The Context

Our client had a very good profile. However it was a bit difficult because he had withdrawn less funds from his Self-Employed activity than he had the previous years.

French mortgages are calculated on a DEBT TO INCOME ratio which generally cannot exceed 30-33%. That means that the total of your monthly commitments (personal loans, car loans, student loans, mortgages or rent) cannot exceed more than 30-33% of your monthly income.

Our client’s debt ratio actually reached 40%.

Our Approach

Thanks to our panel of banks, we managed to get THE French bank that would allow a debt ratio to exceed the 33% limit and go up to 45% depending on the profile, all this without requiring Assets Under Management (or collateral). The client ended up with a 80% loan to value mortgage (2,861,600 €) for a fixed rate of 2.54% on a repayment basis over 20 years.

Cerise sur le gâteau, we negotiated the bank fees to… 0€!


Luxury real estate: has Brexit increased property prices in Paris?

Paris

Summary of an interview with Nicolas Pettex, general manager of the Féau and Belles Demeures de France groups.

According to Nicolas Pettex, the Parisian luxury market is seeing new buyers coming from the United Kingdom. These buyers fall into two main camps. From British residents, usually residing in London, who are facing a move to Paris due to company relocation and from the French population living in London showing Brexit uncertainty. For those French residents living in London, concerns over the future value of sterling and preparing a possible return to Paris are the two main motivations for the current increase in interest  in the acquisition of an apartment in Paris. This aims to both strengthen “the share of euros in their assets” and provide a foothold in the Parisien property market.

Where are they buying?

These London based buyers, according to Nicolas, behave in the same way as the French, attracted to neighbourhoods such as the Marais, the 9th or the 11th for example. Nicolas also explains that the 16th is “back” on the market. It is attracting younger buyers, or families sensitive to the quality of schools. We can, to a lesser extent, apply this phenomenon to eastern Paris in its entirety.

What are the prospects for 2019

What Nicholas has under offer or under contract is the same in terms of volume and amount as the record levels seen in 2018. A trend he expects to continue in 2019. He believes the fact that what can be found on offer in the Féau group is a good representation of “the state of health of the real estate market” given its size and market share. Nicolas reassured us that there is no “yellow-jacket effect”, and, he expects a record number of visits to their website at this time when Parisians return from the ski slopes to begin looking for property again.

Do “very wealthy” young people behave differently in terms of preferred area?

According to Nicolas Pettex, there has been an increase in extremely wealthy young people seeking to buy a property in Paris. Like the other high end property buyers, they are aware that buying in one of the most beautiful cities in the world is to purchase something extremely rare. Unlike other major cities which see large scale new build developments, central Paris remains in a frozen state due to strict building regulations. These investors are not very sensitive to the price of the apartments and behave in the same way as people buying a piece of art.


Courchevel / €659,400 mortgage, 70% LTV, Repayment, 2,15% fixed for 20 years

Courchevel

The Profile

Buying in: Courchevel, French Alps
Property price:
942,500 €
Amount: 659,400 €
Rate: 2.15% fixed for the duration
LTV: 70%
Term: 20 years
Type: Repayment

The Context

Our client was a non-French resident living in London and buying a Residence de Tourisme in Courchevel.

Financing a residence de Tourisme can be harder than a normal freehold property with some banks refusing to finance this type of property because of the obligation to rent your property out a few weeks a year for many years (depending on the contract).

The client originally wanted an interest only mortgage so the rent could cover the mortgage repayment. However, Interest Only mortgages are not always available for the Residence de Tourisme developments, which was the case here. In addition, the client wanted to buy the property through a company to maximise his tax efficiency.

Our Approach

The client had to choose between a LTV of 70% over 20 years or 80% over 15 years. As he originally wanted a small repayment so that the rent could cover the payments,  it was a no brainer to pick the deal at 70% over 20 years (the rates were identical).


Paris / €408,000 mortgage, 80% LTV, Repayment 1,80% fixed for 15 years

paris

The Profile

Buying in: Paris 11ème
Property price: 510,000 €
Loan Amount: 408,000 €
Type: Repayment
Rate: 1.80% Fixed for the duration
LTV: 80%
Term: 15 years

The Context

The client wanted the highest LTV possible at the best possible rate as she was limited with her personal contribution since she had just paid off the mortgage on another secondary residence.      

The bank accepted to tick all of her boxes,  however it did  not accept to finance the real estate agents fees. These must be paid from the client’s personal funds.     

Our Approach

In order to reduce the deposit at its maximum, we asked the real estate agent and the vendor if we could re-write the compromis de vente and add the real estate agent fees to the purchase price. Though it increases a little bit the notary fees / mortgage tax and the amount of interest paid over 15 years (by a few thousands), it allowed the client to keep about 20,000 € of her personal funds at the moment of the purchase, funds she could allocate to actually decorate the property.

The client was very pleased by the solution as we answered her short term issue. The extra interest paid could be solved by repaying the mortgage early later on.


French property transactions stabilise near record highs with outlook bright for 2019

Property Prices

Overview

2017 saw a record number of transactions in France at 960,000. This number has dropped only slightly to 957,000 in 2018. The forecast for 2019 would seem to be continued volume at these levels as the main conditions are all set to stay the same; ultra low interest rates, slow price rises and high turnover of property.

Slow Price rises

The average price increase across France in 2018 was 2.9%, which is a relatively slow and stable growth rate which we have been accustomed to over the past 20 years. Of course, there are always local variations and in recent times a lot of the stronger growth has been coming from Bordeaux and Lyon. Last year was no exception with Bordeaux registering growth of 9% and Lyons 6%. Paris and the other big brand name ski stations kept pace with the average whilst growth was more anemic along the Cote d’Azur.

Ultra low rates

The main driver of this continued growth across the majority of the country is of course the low interest rate offering which saw the average effective mortgage rate in France drop to its lowest ever rate of 1.5% in November. At the same time, the amount of outstanding loans in France has reached an all time high of just over 1,000 billion euros. At the time the rate of inflation in France was 1.9% meaning that the real cost of borrowing was below inflation which is a rare event in a rising market. Since then, inflation has fallen to 1.2% in January yet the 1.5% fixes available for 20 years at a net 70% Loan To Value still looks incredibly attractive.

High turnover of property

Paris is the standout example where demand is extremely high currently. In central Paris, agents have approximately 20 clients for the most common property search enquiry, such as a 3 bed property at €3M or a 2 bed at €1.8M. There is a lack of stock which is affecting buyers and agents alike with properties not staying on the market for very long, sometimes only long enough for a visit of the apartment by video link at which point an offer is made. The same is true for well priced, well located in many other regions where the Brits like to buy.

British buyers still number 1

Of the 957,000 transactions over 55,000 were made by foreign buyers, up to 5.9% from 5.7% the previous year. Whilst the number of Brits buying as a proportion of it is down from 33% in 2016, British buyers still account for 25% and, as they have been for the last 10 years, remain the largest group of international buyers in France representing close to 14,000 transactions each year. The reduction has most likely been the result of the EU Referendum but we can still see large strength from British based buyers with 65% of British buyers not resident in France at the time of purchase.

For more insights about the real estate climate in France and to receive advice on cross-border transactions and finance, don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Èze / South of France: €900,000 Mortgage, 100% LTV, Mixed Interest Only and Repayment, 2.3% fixed and 1.16% variable, 9 years

Eze Village

The Profile

Buying in: Èze, South of France
Property price: €900,000
Loan amount 1 interest only: €750,000
Loan amount 2 repayment : €150,000
Type: Part Interest only & Part repayment
Rate: 2.3% Fixed + 1.16% variable
Loan To Value: 100%
Term: 2 year interest only + 7 years repayment with 2 years on low start repayments

The Context

The client was a retired Doctor who has some property investments in both the UK and France. He was eager to buy a new villa in a small village called Èze near Nice. He already had a mortgage-free property in the same town, but had decided to upgrade. He did not want to sell the existing property immediately as the rental of the property was going well.

Having discussed the options with the client’s existing bank, we confirmed that the bank could not offer an interest-only product as in their view the net assets in his portfolio were not sufficient to match their strict criteria. Furthermore, they refused to consider a mortgage on a 20 years on repayment basis as the client would be over 80 years old at the end of the term – the maximum repayment age. We tried decreasing the duration of the mortgage, however, it was not possible due to the affordability ratio.The shorter the duration, the more the monthly repayments. As a result, the criteria of below 40% debt ratio was not met to support the new mortgage.

Our Approach

At that moment, we decided to apply for a mortgage with a private bank in Monaco. The private bank in question has no limit on age criteria and they are more relaxed about a clients debt to income ratio. Here, the bank looks at all the committed expenditure vs income too, however, when the ‘rest-a-vivre’ is more than a couple of thousand pounds a month, the bank will be satisfied that the client has enough money left over.

The private bank we’ve worked with offered up to 100% LTV with a side investment of 30% to be deposited with the bank. We could also look at a short-term interest-only bridging loan, as the client is intending to sell his other apartment in the same village. Because of the so called ‘promesse de vente’, the bank was happy to lend on an interest-only basis as they were satisfied that this part would be paid off by the client when selling the property. This has been provisioned for 2 years with a possibility of extending for another 2 years if the criteria were met.

The charge that is put against the property to be purchased as well as up to 30% LTV of the loan amount is asked in cash collateral. This acts as an additional security, but the idea is that the bank can show the client how they can grow the invested capital with the bank. Private banks look for the longer term relationship with their client’s and want to impress the client with how they manage their portfolio.

In the end, we’ve managed to place the mortgage with the private lender on split basis where the majority of the loan was put on to a interest-only part on a two-year renewable deal. As long as there is a secondary property to be sold in the near future, the bank is happy to renew the deal at their discretion. The 7 year repayment had a low-start initial period of 2 years – essentially an interest-only period before the mortgage switches to repayment. After that the month payments were increased.


How low can we go? Interest rates overview by Romeo Belli from French Private Finance

Interest Rates

Interest Rates Overview

Since the financial crisis of 2008, Central banks in the US and EU have maintained extremely low interest rates in an attempt to stimulate growth. Central banks fear that this is not sustainable and have been waiting to raise interest rates ever since. Overall, the banking sector remains weak with 30% of too-big-to-fail banks at risk of not meeting the stress test of the Financial Stability Board. This is evidenced by the low share prices of many banks and the existence of more debt in the balance sheets than 10 years ago.

However, last year, the US market showed some strength with strong economic figures such as unemployment. This enabled the FED to raise interest rates on two occasions. In both instances, global indices fell sharply leading investors to question whether we may have reached yet another top in the economic cycle.

We do not seem to be quite there in Europe where GDP growth rates are half of our American counterparts. The uncertainty around Brexit certainly has had its impact on the economic outlook of the EU. Furthermore, Mario Draghi probably won’t end his term on an unpopular note. Hence, we are unlikely to see an increase in rates in the near future. In fact, our main mortgage partners recently lowered their rates by a few basis points.

So, how low can we go?

Well, buying a property is definitely a long term play for most. Our recommendation is generally to fix the rate while you can. In an interconnected world where things move at lightning speed, it is difficult to forecast where we will be 2 years from now. Your parents may have experienced 15% + interest rates while they bought their first home and there is no guarantee we won’t get there again in the next 20 years which is the standard duration for a French mortgage fixed rate.


Deal or No Deal: How is Brexit affecting the French property market for UK buyers? by John Busby

Big Ben

Introduction

Whilst things remain uncertain in relation to the eventual form of Brexit, perhaps this is the beginning of the end of a period of uncertainty over the past two and a half years in the French property market for which British buyers make up the majority of foreign ownership.

In summer 2016, the French property market was buoyant with a strong pound and ultra low interest rates. Many British buyers were taking the plunge and buying a dream property in France, engaging in a new chapter in their family’s history. The Brexit vote caused the value of sterling to decrease by circa 10%, increasing purchase costs by this amount.

The effect of this increase in the upfront costs was mitigated by the low fixed rates on offer from French banks where you could still fix your interest rate at 2% for 20 years, thus many people have continued to purchase property over the past 2.5 years.

However, not all sections of the market were affected equally. The prime end of the market and those looking for a cheap and cheerful property were less concerned by this increase in real terms of the cost to purchase their property

The fact is that when you have the €280,000 available to purchase a prime property for €1m with 80% on finance, if the cost increases by 10% (€28,000), this is not necessarily going to stop the purchase in its tracks. Chances are that if you are looking at a property in this price bracket, you have the funds and the confidence available to continue with the purchase.

Likewise at the lower end of the market, where the banks have seen growing numbers of requests for loans in the €100,000 region in recent times, increases in initial purchase costs are perhaps only a few thousand euros and small enough not to be a factor relative to budgets and income.

It is the so called squeezed middle, whose aspirations for a property in France exceed what would be wise from a risk perspective given deposit and Brexit concerns, who have not had the confidence to buy in large numbers.

Brexit has been dragging on now for more than two years. A difficult negotiation has been made even more so by the high emotion which surrounds the issue. As we get to the business end of the horse trading, we will soon see the outcome or at least have some more visibility on the outcome to enable the middle of the market to begin buying in France at a higher volume.

Some scenarios

No Deal

In the event of a no deal Brexit, many of the agreements between the EU and UK would become null and have to be renegotiated. However, what wouldn’t change are the specific agreements which exist between France and the UK. These agreements relate mainly to double taxation and provide a basis for the ongoing relationship as they pre-date our membership with the European union and have been updated along the way. Of course a No-deal Brexit would be traumatic in the media and result in a tougher 2020 as businesses adjust, taking some time for the British economy to recover from all the bad press, the loss of income and the higher initial expenses.

Existing owners

The overall effect of a no-deal would be a lower value of sterling for an initial period and thus those with existing mortgage payments in euros would see the cost go up by another 10%. Of course, commensurately anybody who owned a property in France would see the value of the property increase by the same amount. This means we might see some more property come onto the French market in tourist locations which again might drive the price down a little, keeping the status quo.

Those seeking to buy in 2019

For people looking to purchase in France from the UK, a no-deal Brexit would push up costs on the purchase price by approximately 10%. A small amount to consider if you have found the property of your dreams and you can finance up to 100% of the purchase price (leaving 30% with the bank in a collateral), but a serious issue if funds are tight. For this reason, I would want to say that the lower end of the market might see falls in prices in popular areas but that would be tempered by the fact that we have seen a return of French buyers over the past two years  being quite active and looking for value in the prime tourist areas, exactly at this level between €300,000 to €750,000. Because of this, I am not sure we would see much of a change in property prices at those levels.

A deal of some kind, is the end in sight?

As we have seen recently, the risk of a no deal has been reduced with the UK Parliament taking more of an active role in the negotiations. This has lead to an increase in the value of sterling of roughly 3% in January. This is due to the fact that we have a relatively strong economy with a very low unemployment rate which can be invested in if we have some more certainty which in turn, will lead to higher interest rates and returns for investors in the future. In this scenario, the sterling will continue to appreciate, bringing down the cost of mortgage payments for existing mortgage holders and reducing deposit and property purchase costs for UK buyers. This should then bring the volume back to all levels of the market as we begin to get back to where we were in 2016.

Reversal of the referendum

In the event of a “People’s Vote” which resulted in the cancellation of Article 50, we should work our way back to 2016 levels, sterling at €1.35 to the pound and French property looking even more attractive. The ultra low interest rates will begin to disappear as Europe and the UK pick up investment and we all wonder why we wasted two years. There will still be some uncertainty caused by the Brexiteers complaining and asking for a best of three with a neverendum situation as they have in Canada, with constant talks and threats of a new vote which may be a bit of an economic drag.

Extension of Article 50

This option also seems quite likely and would simply preserve the status quo, perhaps it might strengthen sterling which seems most sensitive to the prospect of a No deal. This would continue things as they are. Buyers continue where deposit costs are not a factor and avail themselves of mortgages at 80% LTV and in some cases at 100% LTV (with 30% collateral with the bank). The truth is that many see buying a euro denominated asset as a hedge and security against a downturn in the UK’s economic fortunes.

 

Buy now or wait?

So to the question of what is the best thing to do. Well like any good adviser, I would say it depends entirely on your situation. If the place of your dreams has been found and you have the deposit for it and it does not present a risk to your family, then now is a good time with low long-term mortgage rates available. This advice stands at any stage of the market. The French property market is known for long steady growth rather than the boom and bust of the UK, so providing the mortgage is affordable, it is a good long-term investment to be enjoyed for generations.


3 French Mortgage Options by Romeo

French Bank

The Classic French Mortgage: Lock in long term value

The standard mortgage option in France is repayment. You pay both principal and interest which means that the loan will be repaid in full by the end of the term. Repayment mortgages are available on second home purchases, buy-to-let investment properties and main residences. This type of financing provides the most security to the borrower. In fact, it is very easy to budget for the payments as French lenders can offer fixed rates for the entire duration of the mortgage.

For those looking at holiday lets, the break even point is generally around 50%-60% loan to value (LTV). This means that the rental income covers the mortgage payments and you will own the property outright in 20 years time. Property is a great store of value; so, investors in their mid 40s can reasonably expect to triple their money by retirement age.

The Lesser spotted French Retail Banking Interest Only Mortgage

In our experience a finance professional will generally opt for an interest only mortgage – you only pay the interest and will owe the same amount of money to the lender at the end of the term. This option frees up capital and allows investors to seek higher returns in financial markets as well as lowering the cost per month. This means the property rental income covers the mortgage with less capital employed. For instance, a fund manager that can achieve a 7% annual yield will have nearly double his investment in 10 years time. If he makes 10%, interest payments on the French mortgage will be taken care of as well. Rental income on the property can be used to rebalance the portfolio or make early repayments on the mortgage thereby mitigating risk. Again, this option has some serious wealth building potential but requires a bit more skin in the game and is not suitable for the risk averse.

The Private Banking Mortgage

It is possible to get a 100% LTV in France. In this case, the borrowers only have to pay for taxes and fees upfront which are not financeable. This type of loan is offered by private banks who are keen on building relationships with high net worth individuals (HNWIs). The borrower will place a minimum of 30% with the lender as a collateral. The industry standard is around €1m in assets under management (AUM), though we can find options with a lower amount. Private banks can be flexible with the way they invest your money and clients can choose from a large range of securities as long as the overall asset allocation is deemed appropriate. This means that borrowers can potentially transfer an existing portfolio and keep the collateral in its original currency. So, disregarding the taxes and fees, you could get yourself a brand new property without any changes to your current financial position.


Paris 8ème: €370,000 Mortgage, 70% LTV, Fixed Repayment, 1.35%, 20 years

Paris

The Profile

Property price: €520,000
Buying in: Paris 8ème
Mortgage amount: €370,000
LTV: 70%
Mortgage type: Repayment
Rate: 1.35% Fixed
Term: 20 years

The Context

Some banks, especially in the region of Paris, can be reluctant to work with non-residents.

They require the clients to have some history with France and a plan to live in France on the short-term. Basically, they have no issue financing a main residence but become hesitant for holiday home or investment properties. It is a shame as some banks have wonderful terms that could just create a whole new dimension on the Parisian property / finance market.

The client, a French entrepreneur who lives in the UK, was buying the last 2 floors of a Haussmann building to convert them into a duplex loft. The project was ambitious.

Our Approach

We were looking for the best rate possible at a high loan to value.

We have several contacts in Paris who could lend to our client with fixed rates ranging from 2% to 2.4% over 20 years. However, we found one who could offer 1.35% fixed for 20 years but solely to French nationals. We played the card that our client, though now living in the UK, was born and bred in France, that part of his business was made in France, that he already owned a couple of properties in France and last but not least, his father and grandfather each have had successful businesses in France. One could say that we provided the family tree, but guess what… it worked!

Having kept in touch with our client, he now informed us that he is selling the flat for 640,000 €. That is almost a 25% profit investment in less than 2 years. Well done sir!