Tuesday, December 27, 2011

French Riviera property market 
Predictions 2012

You have to be a little mad or arrogant to predict property markets - crisis or no crisis. However, as we leave 2011 and enter 2012 I thought I would have a stab at what next year may hold for the Côte d'Azur. 

Against the economic odds, 2011 was hugely busy and successful for Côte Abode. We had a stream of serious clients throughout the year and found (and importantly secured) the right property for each one first visit. It is not surprising, however, as more people hear of our reputation and can see the advantage in professional assistance when property buying. We act for the buyer, so our expertise and work is different from estate agents.

Many of the estate agents on the Riviera, especially those dealing in the luxury property market, have also done well in 2011. Prices on the Côte d'Azur were up by 5 percent for apartments this year and 8 percent for houses (figures from l'immoblier des Notaires de France). The Riviera is seen as a safe haven in shaky times. But for some in the property business it has been a tough year on the Riviera. Too few good properties, too many cautious wait-and-see buyers, and just too many agents competing in an already competitive market.   

So what will 2012 bring? Here are some predictions, but I can't promise they will hold true. We shall just have to wait and see!

- Asking prices will hold up but the price is still negotiable. 
This year we have negotiated between 4 and 8 percent off the asking price for apartments and villas. We believe this will continue into 2012

- It will remain a serious buyers' market
Less available credit around means that cash buyers will continue to dominate the Riviera property market. One of the biggest complaints from agents in 2011 were about buyers who were not able to fulfill a deal due to financing falling through at the last moment. People in a position to buy immediately always have the advantage, as our clients prove.

- More US and Asian interest 
As the Euro wobbles and the US dollar gains, we should see interest from American buyers once again. The South of France is not yet a favourite choice for Asian buyers, but this is set to change as a younger affluent generation discovers the chic status of the region.

- Investment properties in Nice will stay strong
A city that is on the move, Nice is a hot-spot for rental apartment investment. The City government is on a mission to make Nice the jewel of the South. Public spending on new developments and infrastructure continues apace. Owning an apartment in Nice makes sense with its almost year-round tourist industry and high seasonal rental returns.   

- Two-bedroom apartments are the best investment choice for rentals
There is a good quantity of studios and 1 bedrooms available on the Riviera property market. The next stage up is harder to find but far more desirable as more people eschew hotels for short-term apartments and want more space.  

- The quartier to invest in Nice is Lafayette
The Carré d'Or - traditionally Nice's most expensive central neighbourhood - will hand the crown over to Lafayette/Place Massena and streets in close proxmity - Alberti, Pastorelli, Hotel des Postes - Gubernatis, Place Wilson.... Smart investors know that the new park that is being built on Felix Fauvres and bordering the Old Town will dramatically change the area. It is also simply a quartier that has the branché (trendy) factor - great restaurants and shops are springing up daily here.

For villas on the Riviera, look to Beaulieu and Eze bord de mer
- Villefranche is beautiful but crowded and touristy. The real afficionado will buy in expensive but chic and discreet Beaulieu and Eze.

- The personal, smaller agent will continue to have the good properties
A lot of properties that come to our attention are by word of mouth or 'silent' listings (a seller who wants to sell discretely). Smaller agents often pick up the best and more interesting properties. Bigger, flashier agencies tend to share the same properties between them, take more commission and over-price them to a non-local market. Local and small is always best and 2012 will continue to confirm this! 

Bonne Année!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A few of my favourite things
Christmas in Nice
Christmas shopping with the sun shining in a deep blue sky is one of the pleasures of Nice. It might not feel particularly 'winter wonder-land' but there is still something very pleasing about the season. The city returns to the locals after the summer wave of tourists. Nice's Vieille Ville (Old Town) is a pleasure in winter. One can actually navigate the narrow, windy streets in peace and really enjoy the architecture and sense of history. A stroll along the Cours Saleya market picking up seasonal vegetables, followed by a lunch at Le Cambuse is a regular out of season Saturday morning for our family.
With Christmas only a week away, it seems a good time to share some of my favourite Christmas shopping spots in Old Nice. 
Joyeux Noël!

Maison AUER patisserie and chocolatier
7 rue François de Paule

A little chocolate delight of a shop that has been in existence since 1820. A Florentine-Rococo style interior is lined with every sweet chocolate treat imaginable plus their famous 'fruits confits' (honeyed fruit), a speciality that originated in Provence but is now adopted by the Southerners on the coast.  There are perhaps smarter, more modern chocolatiers like Lac, but there is something lovely and old fashioned about Auer. 
A selection of fruits confits at Auer in traditional earthenware bowls
The enticing Rococo interior of Auer

Cours Saleya

Nice has many wonderful markets but the Cours Saleya on the edge of Vieux Nice is the best known. Seasonal vegetables, bunches of flowers and sellers with local produce - honey, olives, olive oil and lavender soaps - nestle side by side. Watch out for the small, more local stall-holders selling 'Bio' (organic) harvested from their gardens. For the Christmas feast, this is where I will be buying my side of salmon to marinate (in dill and orange), fresh beetroot to roast with lemon thyme, and celeriac to make a traditional remoulade.

The small stalls are often the best as the produce is grown locally and organic
Compagnie de Provence
rue François de Paule

We love this soaps and lotions shop for the fact that everything smells good, is lovely to use and is beautifully packaged. They will even gift wrap the tiniest bar of soap to make it look like a million-dollars. The lavender based range is divine - from organic hand cream to crisp linen spray. And there is nothing old lady about it.

rue de la Préfecture

A concept store that feels more Paris than Nice in its cool style. Eschewing the Provencal look for something more earthy and funky, the shop is an eclectic mix of household  ware, clothing, decorative objects and linen. 

Maison Baral
rue Sainte-Reparate

The proliferation of fresh pasta shops in Nice is a reminder  of its Italian past. Maison Baral is one of the best. The display of fresh ravioli changes everyday and is constantly inventive - from the more traditional daube to newer flavours such as roquette, ricotta and pistachio. They also have a good selection of oils, pasta sauces in jars and truffle paste that make great presents. 

rue Droit
Caprice is our favourite vintage shop in the Old Town. Two floors of clothes, bags, accessories and small pieces of furniture. For something original, this is the place to pick up a snakeskin clutch or a pair of Chanel shoes from the 70s. Nostalgia with a modern twist.