House Hunting in France: A Diamond in the Rough Near the Basque Coast


This nine-bedroom, Neo-Basque style villa On the Basque coast of France, close to the Spanish border, the resort town sits on 1.85 acres of grass in Winter Park, a quiet residential neighborhood outside of downtown Biarritz.

Built in 1920, the 6,458-square-foot home was last renovated in the late 1990s and hasn’t been used for five years. “You need to do some renovation work,” said Philippe Thomine-Desmazures, deputy director of Barnes International Realty, Côte Basque, which owns the listing.

A gravel driveway leads to the closed front porch. The entrance hall has a checkerboard tile floor and a toilet. Double wooden doors lead to a lounge with high ceilings, terracotta tiled floors and a large fireplace. Transom French doors open to the garden.

Beyond the three arches is a library with fireplace, a double living room with a bay window and a banquet-style dining room, each with large moldings with hardwood floors and doors to the terrace or garden.

The kitchen has a white-blue patterned ceramic tile floor, the La Cornue range against one wall and a glass front with wood trim on the other. Via a hall arch, a stone staircase with decorative metal balustrades leads to a Juliet balcony overlooking the ground floor.

The primary bedroom suite in the middle of the second floor has pink wallpaper, floor-to-ceiling curtains, and transom double doors to the terrace. On one side is a bathroom with a barrel-shaped coffered ceiling over a clawfoot tub. On the other side, from a second bathroom outside the bedroom, a wood-enclosed tub enters a study with wardrobes, bookshelves, and windows overlooking the property.

Next to the primary suite are two more bedrooms with wooden floors, decorative sills and double balconies. Each has a full bathroom with a claw-foot tub.

There are five bedrooms on the third floor. The largest has a seating area under exposed wooden beams and a ceiling-lit bathroom. Two more bedrooms have exposed beams above their skylights. A smaller nursery and maids’ rooms share a bathroom and separate nightstand.

In the basement there are gas boiler room, wine cellar and storage rooms.

Mr Thomine-Desmazures said there was plenty of room for a swimming pool in the overgrown garden and room for two to three cars and guard rooms in an annex.

The house is a few minutes’ walk from the local bakeries; Restaurants and boutiques in the center of Biarritz are about 1 mile away. Once a small fishing village, Biarritz, with more than 25,000 residents on the Bay of Biscay, was a part of III. , eugenieIt was visited in 1854. It has long been considered the surfing capital of France.

Biarritz Pays Basque Airport, with flights to eight European countries, is a three-minute drive from the house. San Sebastián, Spain’s nearest city, is a 30-minute drive away.

Before the pandemic, most of the sales in Biarritz were for second homes used during the high season, from April to October, when the population usually quadruples. “Biarritz and its district have been highly sought after for secondary residences since Imperial times,” said Bénédicte Marchal, director of Biarritz Sotheby’s International Realty. “Many people from the aristocracy like to be in Biarritz.”

But since 2020, the market has leaned younger, as has been the case with resorts around the world. “We have seen a lot of people aged 35 to 45 move here to work remotely or commute two or three days a week to work and back in Paris, Madrid or London,” said listing agent Mr Thomine-Desmazures. . “We’ve seen many, many people moving their families here. It was a booming market with Covid.”

These newcomers found a narrow seller’s market, with prices rising. Small buildings with only 10 to 15 flats have been built in Biarritz over the last few years and approvals had to come. “It’s hard to tear down and build something new,” said Mr Thomine-Desmazures.

The pandemic has added another layer of complexity as inventory dwindles further. “Outside the market, we have some properties that we operate in secrecy, and some people prefer that,” Ms Marchal said. “People are afraid to sell because they don’t know if they can buy something else. They don’t want to be bored.”

Ms Marchal said tight conditions in Biarritz led to an average of 15 percent increase in home prices last year, with luxury homes rising 30 percent. .

Mr Thomine-Desmazures said the average selling price for his office last year was 1.45 million euros ($1.64 million), 50 homes were between 1 million and 1.5 million euros ($1.13 million to $1.7 million). and he said 10 homes have sold over 3 million. Euros ($3.4 million).

Stanislas de Roumefort, partner of Côte Ouest Immobilier, a subsidiary of Christie’s International Real Estate, said local prices have doubled since 2016, including a 40 percent increase over the past two years. “The market in the region was the most dynamic for real estate in the country last year and it’s not because of Covid,” said Mr de Roumefort. “The only reason – and the only reason – is the bank. You can go to the bank, get the money and buy it.”

An investor said he bought four properties in his client’s company for €2 million ($2.26 million) each and sold the property for around €16 million ($18.1 million) at a discount of just 15 percent. Ms Marchal also noted the influx of investors seeking to create full-service luxury rentals with butlers and cooks.

Mr de Roumefort said the sea-view villas have been sold for between 3 million and 10 million euros (3.4 million to 11.3 million dollars).

Carved from split palaces and villas from the early 20th century, high-ceilinged apartments sell for more than balconies in buildings from the 1960s or 1970s. “Old buildings are asking for more,” said Ms. Marchal.

Despite the increase on the Basque coast, prices remain cheaper than in France’s Côte d’Azur, where properties can go up to $40 million, Ms Marchal said. “It’s more authentic, secret and secretive than the Côte d’Azur,” he said. “The coastline is still untouched, wild.”

About 80 percent of buyers in Biarritz and the Basque Coast are French and come mostly from Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse. Representatives also said buyers came from Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the United States.

Most French buyers are expatriates, while others come from Germany, Italy, and Russia. “Mr. Putin has two houses in Biarritz,” he said. “His ex-wife has a house and his daughter has a house.”

Jack Harris, a partner with London-based Knight Frank International Housing Department, said an hour east, in the rolling hills of southwest France’s Occitanie region, prices were relatively attractive and British buyers dominated. American buyers also look for grand chateau-style properties or authentic mansions.

There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in France. Ms Marchal said the closing costs paid by the buyer made up about 7.5 percent of the price. Most sales are handled by notaries working on behalf of the government for both the seller and the buyer.

As of January 1, French mortgages cannot exceed 25 years and the debt ratio cannot exceed 35 percent.

Mr Harris said that because of the reluctance of major French banks to lend to US citizens, most American buyers should consider buying with cash.

French; euro (1 euro = 1.13)

The annual property tax for this house is 5,000 Euros ($5,663).

Philippe Thomine-Desmazures, Barnes International Realty Ivory Coast, 011-33-6-62-68-81-91; barnes-cotebasque.com

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