Searching for a home in France: diamonds in the rough near the Basque Coast

This nine-bedroom Basque-style villa is located on a 1.85-acre lawn in Winter Park, a quiet residential area outside of downtown Biarritz, the resort town on the French Basque Coast, near the border with Spain.

The 6,458-square-foot home was built in the 1920s, was last renovated in the late 1990s, and has been vacant for five years. “You have to do some renovation,” said Philippe Thomin Dessemsours, associate director of Barnes International Realty, Cote d’Basque, which has the listing.

A gravel driveway leads to the covered front porch. The entry hall has a checkerboard tile floor and a powder room. Double wooden doors open into a lobby with high ceilings, terracotta tile flooring and a spacious fireplace. French doors with levers leading into the garden.

Beyond the three arches is a library with a fireplace, a double living room with bay window, and a banquet-style dining room with spacious moldings, each with parquet floors and doors opening onto a terrace or garden.

The kitchen has a white and blue patterned ceramic tile floor, with La Cornue set against one wall and a glass break with wood trim against the other. Through the parlour corridor, a stone staircase with ornate metal balustrade leads to the Juliet Balcony overlooking the ground floor.

The basic bedroom suite, in the center of the second floor, has pink wallpaper, floor-to-ceiling curtains, and double transom doors that open onto a balcony. To one side is a bath with a barrel-shaped coffered ceiling over a claw-foot tub. On the other side, there is a sink with a wooden surround from the second bathroom off the bedroom to a desk with cabinets, bookshelves, and windows overlooking the property.

Next to the main suite there are two other bedrooms with parquet floors, decorative moldings and double balcony doors. Each has a full bathroom with a clawfoot tub.

The third floor has five bedrooms. The largest has a seating area under exposed wooden beams and a skylight bathroom. The other two bedrooms have exposed beams above the dormer windows. The small nursery and maid’s rooms share a bathroom and a separate commode.

The basement contains a gas boiler room, a wine cellar and storage rooms.

Mr Thomine-Desmazures said the overgrown garden has plenty of space for a swimming pool, an annex building with space for two to three cars and a care home.

The house is a few minutes’ walk from local bakeries, while restaurants and shops in the center of Biarritz are about 1 mile away. Once upon a time, the small fishing village of Biarritz, with a population of 25,000 on the Bay of Biscay, became a favorite British winter residence and beloved by members of the royal family (“Queen of Resorts and Resort of Kings”) after Napoleon III and his Spanish Empire, Eugénie, visited 1854. It has long been considered the surfing capital of France.

Biarritz Pays Basque Airport, with flights to eight European countries, is a three-minute drive from the house. San Sebastian, the nearest city in Spain, is a 30-minute drive away.

Before the pandemic, most sales in Biarritz were for second-hand homes during the high season, from April to October, when the population often quadrupled. “Biarritz and the region have been highly sought after for secondary housing since the Imperial era,” said Benedict Marshall, director of Biarritz Sotheby’s International Realty. “A lot of aristocratic people like to be in Biarritz.”

But since 2020, as in resorts around the world, the markets have drifted at a younger age. “We have seen many, many 35-45-year-olds move here to work remotely, or to go to work two to three days a week in Paris, Madrid or London and back,” said Mr Thomine-Desmazures, the listing agent. . We have seen many, many people who have moved their families here. It was a booming market with Covid.”

These newcomers found a tight seller’s market with higher prices. In the past few years, only 10 to 15 small apartments have been built in Biarritz, and approvals are difficult to obtain. “It’s hard to tear down and build something new,” said Mr. Thomine-Desmazures.

The pandemic added another layer of complexity, as the stock dwindled even more. “We have some properties on which we operate out of the market, discreetly, and some prefer that,” Ms Marshall said. People are afraid to sell because they don’t know if they can buy something else. They don’t want to get stuck.”

Ms Marshall said harsh conditions in Biarritz had led to an average 15 per cent rise in home prices over the past year, with luxury home prices up 30 per cent “if the property is well renovated and if it is on the first line to the sea”. .

Mr Thomine-Desmazures said the average sale price for his office last year was 1.45 million euros ($1.64 million), with 50 homes ranging between 1 million and 1.5 million euros ($1.13 million and $1.7 million), and 10 selling for more than 3 million. Euros ($3.4 million).

Stanislas de Rumfort, partner at Côte Ouest Immobilier, a subsidiary of Christie’s International Real Estate, said local prices have doubled since 2016, including a 40 percent rise in the past two years. “The market in the region was the most dynamic in real estate in the country last year, not because of Covid,” said Mr. de Rumfort. The only reason – and this is the only reason – is the bank. You can go to the bank, get the money and buy.”

In his company, he said, an investor client bought four properties at a price of 2 million euros apiece ($2.26 million), down just 15 percent, and sold the stake for about 16 million euros ($18.1 million). Ms. Marshall also noted the influx of investors aiming to create full-service luxury rentals, with butlers and chefs.

De Rumfort said the sale of the seafront villas ranged between 3 million and 10 million euros ($3.4 million and $11.3 million).

The high-ceilinged condos of mansions and divided villas since the early 1900s have sold for more than the balconies of buildings from the 1960s or 1970s. Older buildings go for more, said Mrs. Marshall.

Even with the hikes near the Basque Country, Marshall said, prices remain less expensive than those on the French Cote d’Azur, where property prices can be as high as $40 million. “It’s more authentic, secretive and secretive than the Cote d’Azur,” she said. “The coast is still too untouched, wild.”

About 80 percent of buyers in Biarritz and the Basque Coast are French, with most coming from Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse. Agents said buyers were also arriving from Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the United States.

Many of the French buyers are expats, while others come from Germany, Italy and Russia. “Mr. de Rumfort said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. His ex-wife has a home and his daughter has a home.”

Prices an hour east, in the rolling hills of the Occitanie region of southwest France, said prices are relatively attractive and British buyers predominate. American buyers are also looking for large mansion-style properties or authentic manor homes.

There are no restrictions for foreign buyers in France. The closing costs, which are paid by the buyer, are about 7.5 percent of the price, Marshall said. Most sales are handled by notaries who work on behalf of the government, for both the seller and the buyer.

As of January 1, French mortgages cannot exceed 25 years and the debt ratio cannot exceed 35 percent.

Harris said that because of the reluctance of major French banks to lend to US citizens, most US buyers should consider buying cash.

French; Euro (1 Euro = $1.13)

The annual property tax on this home is 5,000 euros ($5,663).

Philip Thommein Desmors, Barnes International Realty, Cote Basque Country, 011-33-6-62-68-81-91;

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