This Paris Life

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Real estate market makes a slow recovery in Marseille

Attracted by a sharp drop in property prices and low interest rates, buyers are returning very gradually to the Southern French city, whose real estate market had a particularly bad year in 2014.

The oldest city in France, known as Massalia by the Greek merchants who settled there from the old Greek city Phocaea, Marseille remains one of France’s key commercial ports. The largest in France, second in the Mediterranean and fifth in Europe — Marseille is a major hub for the regional and national economy.

Benefitting from its sunny climate and efficient transport system — various maritime shuttle services link the city center to nearby towns such as L’Estaque, alongside bus and tram routes and a simple underground network; the Paris-Marseille TGV takes only a little over three hours — Marseille was named European Culture capital of 2013. A joint initiative of the national government and local organisations, the Euroméditerranée project is planning major urban, economic and cultural renewal initiatives in the city for the coming years.

Marseille’s population was built by successive waves of immigration originating mainly from the Mediterranean basin. In a nod to its enduring multiculturalism, many foreign observers have noted the fact that relations between the diverse racial and national communities in Marseille are far smoother than in the rest of France.

Isabelle Grodecoeur of the Agence des Tanneurs, a bilingual agency who works with many international real estate buyers, deems Marseille “a city of neighborhoods, almost villages” making it difficult to categorize the state of the market as a whole. Overall, properties are going at low prices, often much lower than the asking price; and the sales cycle – from listing to close – is much longer than in years past.

Nonetheless, many Marseillais real estate professionals hope that slight increases in sales volume so far this year are early signs of a genuine market turnaround to come. By all accounts, 2014 was mediocre at best.

“The worst is behind us,” believes Serge Lucia of Agence Marty. Lucia sees first-time buyers leading the return of property purchasers to the market.

The new build sector is faring particularly well, with an increase in new projects recorded last year and continuing into 2015. Numerous construction projects to be launched before the end of the year will help to fill the shortage of new buildings in the city. Prices in this sector remain stable and relatively high, at an average of 3875 euros per square meter.

President of the Federation for real estate promoters in Provence Stéphane Perez believes that, while first time buyers are the majority purchasing force in the new build sector today, investor money will soon join them as newly-instituted preferential tax treatment opportunities – part of the Pinel program which passed into law in September 2014 and provides tax reductions to owners renting their property long-term in areas lacking in rental offer – become more widely known.


Photo: Anissa Putois

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