A personal observation on recent country house price performance in France and Devon


I was reading some property articles recently which were talking about the UK housing market. One included the situation in London with stamp duty revisions seriously impacting on certain property values. Another said that in terms of country house performance, cottages had increased in value in some parts of the country substantially when compared to farmhouses, rectories or manors. In fact, in the last five years, cottages were said to be up by 9.7% compared with farmhouses at +2.1%, rectories +0.3% with manors down by -5.5% which might surprise some.

The source for those figures by the way was Savills and whilst I would imagine it is very much like this post, a broad brush approach which will vary from area to area, it does show a trend.

Now, regular readers of this blog will know I don’t do figures very often. After a career continually comparing actual performances with forecasts on numerous profit and loss accounts plus all that mind numbing board room conjecture, I was glad to leave it behind. That said, I did get to thinking about the market generally since we moved back from France and thought I might share my thoughts.

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We sold our UK property in August 2007 at the time the housing market peaked prior to the financial crash two months later. I would like to say it was planned that way but that would be a lie. The classic “Charentais” stone farmhouse we bought in France seemed at the time to be good value and we had almost six very enjoyable years in the Cognac vineyards before returning back to the UK to live in Devon in March 2013.

After some spirited negotiation with a Belgian family we sold our house in France for more or less the same price we had paid for it. We had done some work but the change in currency meant that in Sterling terms we were happy with the sale so a reasonable result, especially considering the high volume of property that was available for sale at the time and the market stagnation generally.

However, the Devon market seemed a bit flat as well when we came back to “search” at the end of 2012 and any “adjustment” in our French price was more than compensated for by our ability to negotiate on our return resulting in the purchase of the cottage we currently live in. Now having modestly improved the Devon cottage and with prices having gently moved forward since, it’s not just London that’s on the up, I am more than comfortable with a recent valuation.

By contrast, I know that French property is still hard to sell and it is definitely a buyer’s market partly due to the numbers of buyers available and partly due to some sellers reduced price expectations in a saturated market. That’s my personal view anyway when talking to friends and former colleagues who are still in France.

In fact I would go as far as to say if you wanted to buy our old French house today the selling price would not be very different to what we achieved in 2012 and may even be a bit cheaper.

You are now thinking what is the point of this rambling post?


All I am saying is that if you are thinking of retiring or buying a holiday home to enjoy a new lifestyle, with a view to achieving some capital appreciation at the same time, do make sure you carry out some careful research first as in my opinion, your money might be better spent in Devon than France. And that is not based on speculative statistics but speaking from personal experience. Timing is all and the French property market looks set to continue to be flat for some time yet not to mention currency fluctuations exacerbated by the recent referendum announcement.

You will say I would say that anyway but the factual evidence is there. You can certainly bag a stunning French bargain right now, just don’t expect it to appreciate. Some may even think that is a good thing! France is a truly wonderful place to live but don’t go there if you are hoping to make lots of money on your property because very few do.

It’s my view that Devon will give you a better return on your money, particularly it appears now, if you buy a classic country cottage…

If you are looking for help finding your dream home in Devon then why not give me – Andy Simpson – a call and learn how I can help!