My last market report was written in mid-April, one month into the lockdown in France. Normally I write these once a year. Now it feels like they need writing once a week!
As an online estate agency, we are in a good position to track and analyse everything we do. It’s been part of our process for the last 20 years. Since COVID-19 struck our lives in France, we have been going even further. Every sale, every new client and every fail has been thoroughly researched. In my original report, I mentioned that the first few weeks caused a hiatus in traffic to our website and a dip in new enquiries too. After the first month, that started to change. Traffic to our website started to match that of the same period last year, whilst enquiries returned to normal. This last month has seen above-average traffic on our website and far more enquiries than we are used to in May. This is fairly obvious, when you think that many people have more time on their hands and have nothing better to do than dream about a move to the Alps.
It’s not just dreamers though. Our agents report that most of these enquiries are serious buyers. This has been backed up with 14 agreed sales during this period. That is less than our usual spring activity, but not much less. And considering the restrictions we are working under, this is really rather incredible. From what I hear, we are not the only agency to report activity like this. The usual shenanigans continue as well. We lost out on a sale last week as, with our encouragement, one of our buyers decided to hold off from making a visit due to the travel restrictions. At the same time another buyer from another agency had no such qualms, they made the journey and agreed to buy. “All’s fair in love, war and business” they say?
The main points to draw from my analysis are that we are receiving more French enquiries than normal. We usually expect an equal spread between Anglophone and Francophone enquiries, now it is more like 35/65. The agreed sales are currently split equally. 90% of these sales are from customers that have contacted us this year, so they are ‘new’ to us. 80% of the properties are being bought as weekend homes or for long-term holidays, so not primarily for rental.
Remember too, that a vast amount of money has been withdrawn from the stock markets and it is looking for a home. Property is traditionally one of the safest places to put it. Combine that with very low interest rates and governments desperate to help lenders, some people are finding access to loans very easy.
“a vast amount of money has been withdrawn from the stock markets and it is looking for a home. Property is traditionally one of the safest places to put it. ”
Generally, life in the Alps is returning to some sort of normality. Currently, we miss our café’s and restaurants, though many of our boulangeries have taken up that slack and are serving coffee. The schools are stuttering back to life, and in common with everywhere else in Europe, our beauty spots are working at 100% on weekends. It is evident that all the local people that have been confined in their homes are keen on making the most of some outdoor family time!
You’d think that during our confinement we, as estate agents, would not have much to do. However, that has not been the case. Our marketing efforts have not changed. In fact, if anything they have increased. We are making more use of our virtual tours, videos, 3D images and daily social media posts. Our agents have had fewer visits to do but have been spending the time improving the images and presentations we have. They are also fully engaged at keeping the sales we already have in the pipeline afloat.
On the subject of property visits, we have a whole new protocol in place to make visits safe. This has come from the government, a procedure we will be rigorous in following. On top of this we have a 100km travel restriction in place, though we expect this to be eased as the summer approaches. This is complicated by the tit-for-tat quarantine measures in place between France and the UK. We are comforted by the news that this will be reviewed every three weeks so we expect this to become more manageable by July.