International real estate
The rural Dordogne department of France “remains the most sought-after of French countryside house-buying destinations,” agents say.
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This renovated Tudor-style manor sits on almost 20 forested acres in the bucolic French commune of Saint-Front-de-Pradoux, about 15 miles north of the city of Bergerac.
Built in 1889 using a white limestone typical of the region, the house is currently operated as a bed-and-breakfast; each of the nine bedrooms has its own bath and dressing room.
Eight stone steps ascend from the front yard to the main entrance and a grand entry hall with a handsome carved staircase, wide ceiling beams and a large stained-glass window. “It is very different from the traditional Bordeaux style, which makes this estate very unique in our region,” said Etienne Delpech, an agent with Bordeaux Sotheby’s International Realty, which has the listing. “It is a very British atmosphere; you can imagine Winston Churchill staying here.”
Off the entry hall, the great room has 13-foot ceilings and a large limestone fireplace. Flocked wallpaper and oak paneling complete the feeling of an English salon. The dining room is similarly appointed, with a herringbone wood floor and a floor-to-ceiling window alcove. The library and billiards room have Art Nouveau-patterned wallpaper, arabesque ceramic floor tiles and a wood-paneled and tiled fireplace. Oak plank floors and ceiling timbers throughout the house were sourced from local materials, Mr. Delpech said.
The basement-level kitchen retains much of its 19th-century character, with original tiles on some walls and a large fireplace, but it is now supplied with commercial-grade equipment and two stand-alone islands. Also on this level are a wine cellar, pantry, the laundry room and a half-bath.
The nine en suite bedrooms occupy the second and third floors, ranging in size from 170 to 430 square feet, Mr. Delpech said. All have decorative fireplaces, wide-plank oak floors, floor-to-ceiling windows and modern bathrooms. The largest bedroom suite features a stone balcony overlooking the lawn.
The grounds have been landscaped around century-old sequoia and oak trees, and include a swimming pool with a minimalist wood deck; covered patio spaces for dining; and several outbuildings, including a stone barn, a horse stable and a former guesthouse. The barns’ interiors are rough-finished but could be refurbished into living quarters, Mr. Delpech said. A portion of the lawn has been trimmed into a heart shape, reflecting the house’s provenance as a wedding gift from its original owner to his fiancée.
The city of Bergerac, on the banks of the Dordogne river and known for its historic center of timbered buildings, is in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwest France, about 65 miles east of the regional seat, Bordeaux, and about 115 miles north of Toulouse. Bergerac is served by a local airport, mostly oriented to Britain, with limited direct flights from Paris, about 375 miles north. The French national railway, SNCF, offers service to Bordeaux and its larger airport, with more outgoing flights to other European cities. Adjacent to Bordeaux’s famed wine region, Bergerac has a vinous history of its own with both family wine estates and larger commercial operations.
The rural Dordogne department of France, which encompasses Bergerac and the commune of Saint-Front-de-Pradoux, “remains the most sought-after of French countryside house-buying destinations, as it really is as everyone imagines the countryside should be,” said Harris Raphael, founder and owner of Pioneer France, which specializes in Dordogne properties. “The most popular house remains a beautiful stone farmhouse property set in around one to five acres of land, with a swimming pool and, if possible, a guesthouse, not too far from commerce and amenities.”
Mr. Raphael’s agency lists such a property at 2.3 million euros, and another similar in feel with a gabled roof, more modestly priced at 492,500 euros. (The euro, which has fallen to its lowest level in years, is currently exchanging at roughly an equal rate with the U.S. dollar.)
Prices in the area, he noted, have increased 5 to 10 percent year over year. “Properties without any particular negatives that are correctly priced are selling much more quickly now, and with a lot less, if any, negotiating,” he said.
Gonzague Le Nail, owner of the Le Nail real estate agency, which specializes in chateaus and castles throughout France, called the area “an attractive region with a pretty steady value,” where tourists and buyers come for “a very specific landscape and architecture.”
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, he said, sales have depleted his portfolio by two-thirds, with many buyers opting for the tranquil countryside. “Twenty years ago, there was no motorway, and you accessed this area through tiny roads with guaranteed protection from noise,” he said. “Covid really changed people’s lives, and they are more keen to come to the country for this experience.”
The shift in demand spurred an “immediate” price increase — about 15 to 20 percent over the past two years for large estates, Mr. Le Nail said, adding that “prices have settled, and we think it will stay there.” His current local listings include a seven-bedroom equestrian estate with a guesthouse, on 74 acres for 1.95 million euros.
As of August, the median price per square meter for a house in the Dordogne department was 1,726 euros ($160 per square foot), up 13 percent over the past year and 21 percent over the past five years, according to data compiled by Figaro Immobilier, the real estate portal of France’s daily newspaper, and Yanport, a leading real estate data firm. “In France, new construction is a small market and prices are higher than for existing houses,” said Mayia Echavidre, chief lead and market officer at the portal.
In Bergerac, the median price per square meter for housing — ranging from a studio to seven or more rooms — is 1,776 euros ($165 per square foot), up 11 percent over the past year and 22 percent over the past five years. Five-room houses have the highest price per square meter, at 1,883 euros ($175 per square foot).
The data also suggest, based on a comparison of when real estate is bought and sold, that the best time to buy a house in Bergerac is in April, when available properties typically exceed those bought. On average, a property in Bergerac is sold after 85 days on the market, according to the Figaro and Yanport data.
“British and American buyers have been coming here since the 1950s or ’60s,” Mr. Raphael said, though he added that “in every commune, you’ll have at least a 90 percent French presence.”
Just as foreigners sought more serene surrounds as the pandemic endured, “now the French are doing the same for the first time — moving from cities to the countryside, and that trend looks to continue for some time. They find here what they cannot find or afford in their own settings,” he said.
With the favorable euro-to-dollar exchange, Mr. Raphael and Mr. Le Nail each noted an influx of interest from American buyers. Mr. Le Nail said 20 percent of recent inquiries on his agency websites were from Americans.
There are no restrictions on foreigners buying real estate in France, though a translator may be required and, in the case of a historic property, it is advisable to have a notary vet the transfer for any inheritance issues, said Kristel Court, a notary at Cheuvreux Bordeaux.
An attorney can be included for some tasks, Ms. Court said, although “the notary is responsible for all the formalities, ensuring the authenticity of all documents involved in the purchase, as well as liaising with tax administration.”
She said buyer’s fees total about 7 percent of the sale price, and transactions typically take three months.
Bergerac tourism: pays-bergerac-tourisme.com
Visit Dordogne: us.france.fr/en/dordogne-valley
Dordogne tourism: visit-dordogne-valley.co.uk
French; euro (1 euro = $1.00125)
The annual taxes for this house total 1,893 euros. The buyer pays the broker’s commission, which is 5 percent for this listing and included in the listing price, Mr. Delpech said.
Etienne Delpech, Bordeaux Sotheby’s International Realty; +33 615 421 298
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