The CÔte d’Azur, or French Riviera, has a worldwide reputation as a playground of the rich and famous. Located on France’s southeastern Mediterranean coast, it comprises exclusive seaside towns such as Cannes, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Cap-d’Ail, Saint-Raphael and Saint-Tropez. A string of prestigious international events in the area, including the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Yacht Show, along with superb beaches, azure waters, chic bars, restaurants and casinos, attract substantial numbers of affluent visitors, estimated at ten million per year.
Internationally popular, and with a vast range of tourist attractions, the region consistently commands the highest residential property prices across France, and is thus a highly desirable location for second-home investors. Of non-resident home owners on the Côte d’Azur, British nationals account for 27 per cent. In recent years there has been a sharp increase in demand among buyers from Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe. These emerging buyers have a preference for new-build modern properties located in areas such as St Tropez and Cap d’Antibes, which tend to attract a younger crowd seeking more of a party atmosphere. Properties in this luxury segment can sell for up to Є30 million. In contrast, British, Irish and Scandinavian buyers remain drawn to older ‘provincial’ properties set in village locations, away from the hustle and bustle of the beach towns.
House prices in France doubled between 2000 and 2007, and then in 2008 they suffered a significant dip which eventually stabilised in 2009 and 2010. This dip was more pronounced on the Côte d’Azur, especially within the luxury sector, where developers and investors tend to be more reliant on bank funding.
Encouragingly, as with elsewhere in France, renewed growth within the financial markets and growing consumer confidence has lead to a resurgence of interest in high-end properties on the Côte d’Azur. Moreover there still remains a lack of quality stock, so buyers are once again looking beyond prices and focusing on properties that provide a complete luxury experience.
Serge Cowan, co-founder of Unique Living, an international search agency, comments: ‘At Unique Living during the economic downturn of 2008, although we experienced a fall in general enquiries, those received were from mature, savvy investors looking to take advantage of historically low prices. While the majority of owners did not need to sell during this period, those motivated to sell were selling to those who a few years earlier were priced out of the market. These sales, even though reduced, were still significant in value. Over the last 12 months we have witnessed significant improvements in market conditions and as such, house prices are almost level with those recorded during the peak of 2008. Looking forward, although we anticipate growth, we believe this will be more of a steady incline. However, there are always exceptions and within high profile areas there remains significant under-supply of quality properties, and as such prices are being set once more at record levels.’
Thus interest has grown among a more diverse range of international buyers keen to take advantage of historically low prices in what remains one of the world’s most sought-after and visited areas.