The French Riviera is one of the world’s most expensive real estate markets. It enjoys both an exclusive standard of living and a wealth of high-end cultural and recreational attractions. Ever since the end of the 18th century, this stretch of coastline has had a reputation as a favourite retreat of ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWI), European aristocrats and international high society. “Even during the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to see a consistently high level of demand and stable price development in the luxury segment. The appeal of the South of France has intensified in fact among real estate clients, as the region proves a safe haven for both owners and investors,” says David Scheffler, CEO of Engel & Völkers in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Traditionally an international market, this year has seen a sharp increase in the number of domestic buyers at the Côte d’Azur. In 2020, the demand of French prospective buyers has been high, with a particular concentration of Parisian clients, followed in particular by interested cross-border buyers from Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. Effective sales have nevertheless remained in line with the market; with approximaltely 50 percent of foreign buyers in Cannes and approximaltely 75 percent foreign buyers in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
Besides glamorous yachts, upmarket boutiques and exclusive beach clubs, the French Riviera is also known for its historic towns and picturesque coastal villages. The extremely limited number of properties in the region’s absolute hotspots sets the Côte d’Azur apart from other luxury destinations. One of the highest priced residential addresses is Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, where villas sell from 4 million euros up to several hundreds of millions. “Often dubbed the ’billionaires’ cape’, this region is well-known for its sumptuous properties and prices per square metre which rank among the highest in the world“, says Marie-Claire Sangouard, Managing Director of the Engel & Völkers Market Center at the Côte d’Azur, and adds:
„To only name one, the mythical villa ’Les Cèdres’, former home of Belgian King Leopold II., was sold for 200 million euros las year. Other more confidential properties are currently being brokered ’off market’ in the area for even higher amounts. Villas which are comparatively less extravagent can nevertheless be acquired from 2.5 to 50 million euros.“ In Cannes, well known for its beautiful beach and “Croisette” boulevard, prices for houses and villas reach up to 35 million euros in 2020. For apartments here, top prices per square metre reach in excess of 20,000 euros. In Saint-Tropez, world famous holiday destination, houses and villas fetch up to 30 million euros, for apartments the top square metre price was 26,000 euros in 2020.
When it comes to second homes, UHNWIs tend to gravitate towards grand villas with lush gardens and pools, ideally located near the beach and enjoying sweeping views across the sea. This wealthy clientele also favour luxury estates further inland, surrounded by outstanding natural scenery and affording ample peace and privacy. Those buyers and investors looking for a property both for private use and with a view to potential rental as a holiday home tend to invest in more urban locations close to the main boulevards and beach promenades. With its comparatively moderate entry prices starting at 4,200 euros per square metre, Nice is one of the most popular markets to invest.
With travel restrictions still in place, the desire for dream holiday destinations and beautiful real estate is particularly high at the moment. The French ‘joie de vivre’ can be experienced to the full on the Côte d’Azur. “During the lockdown in spring, many of our clients from Paris temporarily relocated their homes to the south of France and used their holiday properties both for recreation and as a remote place of work,” says Marie-Claire Sangouard. This trend is also evident among property owners from neighbouring countries in Belgium, Italy and Switzerland who own a second home on the French Riviera. The last months have also generated an increased interest for the hinterlands offering much larger living spaces and bigger plots for comparable prices. Inland areas away from the coast with picturesque mountain villages and Provençal countryside are also becoming increasingly attractive.
The market for luxury real estate in the South of France has continued to prove its resilience in the face of the coronavirus crisis. Interest in residential and rental properties remains high. During the period prior to and after the lockdown in spring, client enquiries from Engel & Völkers rose by 10 percent. Buyers and owners with long-term investment plans are still well advised to invest in top-end villas and apartments on the French Riviera. “For the winter season this year we will have to wait and see how the virus develops. We are confident that the strong interest in luxury real estate will come back in spring 2021. The Côte d’Azur market is an evergreen, never getting old season”, David Scheffler concludes.