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The château market has hit rock bottom – how to get your fairy tale without it costing you an arm and a leg



Château life can start from €600,000! For that price, if buying a two-bedroom apartment in Paris is not your cup of tea, you will not only get hundreds of square metres (100 sq.m is approximately 1,076 sq ft), but also an estate spanning 10 to 15 hectares (approximately 25 to 37 acres). A growing number of couples have reached the same conclusion. Their aspirations are no longer tied to city life, thanks to digital technology which facilitates remote work – they’re taking the plunge, between 45 and 55 years old, and the current price situation is working in their favour because, according to the BARNES network, which specialises in this type of property, the market has unquestionably hit rock bottom. 

The end of the crisis

The sector is coming out of a rough patch that started in 2008 and continued until 2015. The international financial crisis left political and economic turmoil in its wake. Widespread hesitation meant that properties took longer to sell. Prices began to drop, but despite that, the opportunity of getting a bargain did not kick-start demand.

French art de vivre is admired all over the planet

Over the past few months, a diverse clientele has started to show renewed interest. The clientele is international: French art de vivre is appreciated in equal measure by Americans, Russians, the Chinese and Northern Europeans. And of course French purchasers, with an notably decline in their average age.

A subjective definition

Circumstances are all the more in buyers' favour due to the massive number of châteaux in France. As Bertrand Couturié, the Director of BARNES Propriétés et Chateaux explains, “given that there are 36,000 municipalities in France and that there is a château in almost each of them, sometimes several, it is thus reasonable to believe that there are between 40,000 and 50,000 châteaux in France”.

So what exactly constitutes a château? “There can be many definitions, depending on whether you place the accent on a château's architecture, its defensive role or the historic nature of its location,”, adds Bertrand Couturié.

The concept is thus a subjective one. Real estate professionals agree that the concept of a 'château' is connected to the presence of towers and fortifications, when talking about residences that date back at least to the 19th century. That said, some 20th century buildings, due to the originality of their style, can be considered as châteaux in their own right. Inversely, it can no longer be claimed that some older buildings are châteaux, due to the damage they have suffered over the centuries.

Historical monuments and TGV stations

Irrespective of the various definitions of a château, the châteaux for sale are sufficiently numerous and diverse that everybody can find a turret or a keep to suit their tastes! While it is possible to find low-cost châteaux, standard prices are in the range of €1 to €3 million. Everything depends on the general condition of the property, the amount of land being sold with it and whether there is a TGV station or a motorway entrance nearby. These criteria will help you decide that property for you, whether it's a bastion, a fortress, a manor, a country seat or a lordly country residence. They are generally located in some of the most-loved areas of France, such as in the Ile-de-France, Périgord, the Loire Valley, Provence, Burgundy, Sologne, Normandy and Brittany.

The temptation of opening a guesthouse to pay for the investment

A financial arrangement to pay for the investment often consists of converting some bedrooms into guest rooms. In Bertrand Couturié's opinion, this is certainly something that is worth thinking about,  “Especially when it comes to small châteaux that need work and that are sold at low prices, between €600,000 and €700,000”. 'The guesthouse business generates revenue that can be used to pay for current and future expenses.' But take note”, says the expert, “running a guesthouse is a big life choice, and requires a flair for business is required”.

Especially since, in his view, other avenues should be explored. Particularly conference centres and country hotels. Now there's an innovative approach, and one that should meet with growing success in the coming years. This approach reinvents château life, by metaphorically brushing the dust off and by making it accessible to as many people as possible.  The idea is to offer a broad clientele the chance to enjoy all the attractive features of a warm and welcoming second home, without having to worry about the cost and constraints involved.

© Galivel & Associés - published on Barnes International Realty on 25/10/2019

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