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Real estate Tour de France II: which French cities are struggling to maintain their speed?

L’Express’ real estate special assesses the property sector of major French cities. Results diverge amongst those recuperating: while some have begun an uphill course towards recovery, others continue to struggle.

France map showing the location of major cities struggling in the property sector (base map: Wikimedia Commons / TomKr; locations added by Anissa Putois)

Major cities on the road to recovery (base map: Wikimedia Commons / TomKr; locations added by Anissa Putois)

Following slowly:


Prices remain stable in the city center, but sale quantities are decreasing. However, beyond the medieval ramparts, the opposite is true: falling prices attract more buyers, especially young families on a budget.


A new influx of first-time buyers has revived the market without increasing prices. Buyers remain picky and seek property closer to the center while still keeping one foot in the countryside, a real possibility in this garden city. This southwestern city has the added advantage of being an hour’s drive from both the ocean and the snowy slopes.


Sales are increasing very slightly in this northeastern town in the Lorraine region, while property prices continue their sustained descent. Since 2008 prices have fallen by 25% in the city center — the 17th century part of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site — and by 35% in the outer suburbs.


After two years of poor performance, sales volumes are growing again. This is in spite of prices remaining high, especially in the city center and the east of the métropole. Prices are decreasing sharply in peripheral neighborhoods and nearby communes however. Named “the most liveable city in France” by l’Express in 2012, the capital of Brittany has been investing a lot into cultivating its appeal in the last 20 years, through a multitude of urban development projects.

At a standstill:


Despite a slight recovery in activity in the Aixois property sector, performance scores are increasingly wider between areas. While the center of this southern city-commune remains attractive, with smaller property selling easily, villas on the outskirts of Aix advertised for over 450,000 euros are finding it hard to attract buyers. All over, prices remain high. 

Falling behind:


Lying dormant for the third consecutive year, the major university-town’s market continues to suffer, despite new property faring a little better. Prices remain high in most central districts, and despite very slight price erosions in some areas for the third year running, sales remain sporadic.


The Lillois real estate market has been hit hard by the recession, with only certain central areas being spared. The number of transactions has stagnated in the capital of the Nord-Pas de Calais region, despite prices falling slightly but steadily since 2012. On the outskirts, buyers dictate the rules with prices having dropped considerably. 


Despite prices falling for the last three years, real estate transactions remain few and far between in the capital of the Lorraine region. Its many strengths — an iron and steel industry heritage kept alive through applied research and material development, sprawling public gardens earning it the nickname ‘The Green City’ and a historic center comprising one of the largest pedestrian areas in France ­— are not enough to revive the northeastern city’s property market.


Both prices and sales volumes continue to plummet in the capital of the Burgundy region with most transactions occurring on property costing less than 200,000 euros. Famous for its mustard and displaying a wide variety of architectural styles, the city’s historic center was listed on July 4th of this year as a UNESCO World Heritage. This hasn’t prevented prices from falling in all real estate across all areas of the Côte-d’Or department.


Despite prices falling to their lowest rates in years and many urban regeneration programs undertaken of late, the housing market continues to struggle in this southern French city. Nestled between sea and mountains on the Spanish border, nearby sand beaches and vineyards offer the capital of the Pyrénées-Orientales department the ideal living environment. Nonetheless this hasn’t sufficed to raise its real estate sector from its deep slumber.

Normandy: Rouen, Caen, Le Havre:

The Normand property market enters its fourth year of low prices. Prices are falling especially along the coast, where sales of secondary residences have dropped markedly. In large cities, the price decline oscillates between 6 and 10% per year, with sharper drops in some areas: the historic center of Caen for instance — capital of the Basse-Normandie region — where property prices fell by nearly 20% last year.

Feature photo: Wikimedia Commons / Steve F

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