Brexit – What does the future hold for British citizens buying property in France?


The honest answer is, nobody really knows for sure at the moment. The negotiations for Brexit are well under way with a leave date fixed for Friday 29th March 2019 and a recently agreed transition period, expected to end at midnight on 31st December 2020, to smooth the way to post-Brexit relations.

The first thing to do is stand back and try to see through the conjecture and scare mongering. There are clear indications as to what is most likely to happen, but there is little doubt that France is unlikely to do anything that affects its substantial tourist trade where tourism contributed over 200 billion Euros to the country’s Gross Domestic Product last year.

Buying a holiday home will see little or no change whatsoever. Plenty of non-EU nationals own holidays homes in France, and before the EEC so did many Brits.

The most extreme scenario, albeit an unlikely one, is that British citizens will be treated like any other non-EU citizen (such as Canadians, Americans, Australians and New Zealander) – who live and work perfectly happily in France today, although admittedly it is more complicated than living there as an EU citizen.

Both countries intend to create reciprocal arrangements for their respective citizens who want to work, study or settle in the other county. France has even openly rubbed its hands in glee at the prospect of persuading businesses, entrepreneurs, banks, talents, academics and researchers to head across the Channel.

There are 5 main questions being bandied about at the moment:

    1. Will I need a visa?

    Unlikely, as the UK wants to keep visa-free travel to the UK for EU visitors after Brexit and this will hopefully be reciprocated for UK citizens visiting EU countries for short periods, which is normally up to 90 days. Again, anything other than this will be too much of a hit for the much-prized tourist industry. Like other non-EU nationals, we are likely to need a carte de séjour to live in France which will need renewing on a regular basis.

    2. What will happen to those who are already in the ‘other’ country?

    The cut-off date of Brexit day – 29th March 2019 - provides for those already living, working and owning property to have their current rights protected. Britons arriving in France following this date during the transition period (and EU citizens arriving in Britain) will enjoy the same rights as they would have if they arrived before 29th March 2019.

    3. What about health care and pension rights?

    If you are already living in France on the day the UK leaves, your EHIC card, which entitles you to state-provided medical help for any condition or injury that requires urgent treatment, will continue to work. After that date, it is unclear about what will happen but it is likely that you will need to take out appropriate health insurance. UK pension rights continue to be based on paying National Insurance contributions for at least 10 years – where you take and spend that money is entirely up to you. Under the current rules, if you are an EU citizen and haven't paid in for 10 years, you can have any contributions you have made in your native country included.

    4. What about living permanently or retiring to France?

    You can buy property and retire anywhere in the world, subject to the rules of the country you are retiring in. British people already living in France before the cut off date, and during the transition period, will be protected. After that date it is unclear, but France is unlikely to make it difficult for the British just because they left the EU. It is likely that if you want to move to France after Brexit you will need to prove you have enough retirement income to live on and that you have your own private health insurance. You may also have to apply for a residency permit or ‘carte de séjour’.

    5. What will happen to property prices in France post-Brexit?

    Brexit will have no effect on the bulk of the French market which is driven by domestic demand. House prices have remained stable and are now on the rise. France relies on the British to buy its traditional stone properties, the French preferring modern villas, so there is no reason to believe that France would want to discourage Britons from renovating old houses. French property prices remain unbelievably good value.

Reasons to buy now

The reasons for buying in Languedoc-Roussillon, Occitanie, South France are still the same:

  • Enjoy the mild Mediterranean climate

  • Enjoy the safe, clean and civilized environment with great roads and less traffic

  • Buy a beautiful house with land, a stunning view and a swimming pool for less than a two up, two down terrace house in the UK

  • Benefit from the great health and education systems in France

  • Take advantage of the excellent quality of life

But also:

  • Buy now to secure your rights going forward

  • Buy now ahead of any unfavourable tax changes that could trigger a surge of purchases and a subsequent increase in property prices

  • Avoid the predicted UK economic crisis post Brexit

At AB Real Estate we saw, immediately after Brexit was announced, some of our clients taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude, but as the negotiation process continues, confidence is increasing as the situation becomes clearer, with clients determined more than ever to buy their dream homes and continue with their plans for a better life.

In fact, this year we have had the busiest January and February ever as clients rush to beat the deadline. So what has changed? Certainly not people’s yearning for la belle vie. British buyers remain the top foreign buyers of French property and Brexit seems to have had a limited impact on their plans to buy in France, according to a recent survey by BNP Paribas. The French certainly will not wish to scare away British property buyers.

Contact us today with your ‘wish list’ and let us help you to secure your dreams