The latest news from the Languedoc - May 2008

The average high temperature during May in Montpellier was

23°C


Bienvenue !

As the summer months arrive the housing market is picking up pace, but still very much a buyers’ market at the moment.

I have included a couple of articles this month that may interest those thinking about buying in the area. Don’t forget we are just a phone call or an email away if you have any queries.


There’s no place like it !

The South-West Mediterranean coast of France

If you need tempting, which is doubtful, or if you are still researching the various regions in France to buy that wonderful holiday home of your dreams, then maybe the following might sway you in our direction.

In the very south of France, the stunning region of Languedoc Roussillon runs along the Mediterranean coast and nestles between the Rhone Valley and Pyrénées Mountains. Comprising the Départements (counties) of Aude (11), Gard (30), Hérault (34), Lozère (48) and Pyrénées Orientales (66), it has everything you could possibly want mostly within an easy drive from wherever you might be located.


Bordering the Mediterranean Sea, there are miles of white sandy beaches, and on the plane expansive vineyards stretch toward the mountains, dotted with almond and olive trees, where more than 40% of France’s wine is produced and is the largest vine growing area in the world (yes! in the world).

Gently undulating countryside, called le garrigue, offers a myriad of possibilities for nature lovers and gives the region its distinctive smell of wild herbs and flowers.

The climate is typically Mediterranean with mild winters and dry summers, and is France’s sunniest area with 300 days of sunshine each year. Yes, the sunniest area. Guaranteed. The snow capped Pyrénées offer a multitude of winter sports, including skiing of course. If you like outdoor pursuits this region has everything – golf, tennis, cycling, water sports, hunting, horse riding, motor sports and more. Close to the Spanish border, visits to Spain and Andorra are easy, as is the Côtes d’Azur, Monaco and Italy. Not to mention Corsica and Morocco. The Languedoc Roussillon is also steeped in history with its castles, fortified villages, cathedrals, churches and even Roman monuments and ruins. Not forgetting our famous Canal du Midi (which we covered in the last Newsletter).

Or why not just take it easy and work your way around the multitude of excellent restaurants – perhaps sampling the fresh seafood this region is famous for, particularly the oysters from Bouzigues. Or tasting wine in our distinguished and well-reputed domains. Perhaps simply escape the midday sun in a shady corner of your terrace while sipping some chilled wine – probably from the vines in the vista in front of you.

And the people here are just so lovely and welcoming. Your neighbours are always there for you and each village is a small enough community that you have a support network and a new group of friends in no time. The children here will pass you in the road and say ‘Bonjour’ politely whether they know you or not. Crime – well crime is something that rarely happens round here.

With direct flights to many airports in the region – Avignon, Béziers, Carcassonne, Marseilles, Montpellier, Nîmes, Perpignan, Toulouse (even Gerona) – fantastic motorways, excellent rail and TGV links to Paris, Lille & London, the region is easily accessible.

Having had its price explosion back in 2002/2003, the region is still one of the most interesting areas to buy, remaining cheaper than other southern regions but with projected house price rises it makes sensible investment logic.

The Languedoc-Roussillon is the only area of Southern France that has retained its character. It remains unspoilt and uncrowded

From frenetic cities with historical and architectural interest to tranquil and unspoilt countryside, from picturesque ports and harbours to classic French villages (where you will find a group playing boules in the shade of the trees), there is no place like it – a home from home; but in the sun.

Tempted? I thought so.




The season of the Féria approaches !

Béziers is noted for its rugby and wine, but probably mostly for the annual Féria that takes place in mid August (this year 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th). The entire town closes down for four or five days during the festival when partying takes place from dawn til dusk – well actually dawn til the following dawn.

It’s true, you either love it or hate, but the fact is it is very much part of the culture here and as a minimum one has to accept it. A tradition for centuries, gleaned from the close proximity to Spain, the best advice is if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

If you really can’t bear the spectacle of the bull fights, or corridas as they are called here, you don’t have to go. You can still glean all of the excitement, admire the culture and soak up the atmosphere on the roads of Béziers after the arena empties. There is so much to do and see you will find that you want to be in two places at once. There is the enchanting horse show, the Spanish flamenco dancers, concerts, processions of floats and bands and much, much more. The Feria offers many different types of entertainment which suit all ages. There is always something going on, and most of it is free.

Much pomp and ceremony takes place during a bullfight, far too long and complicated to regale you with here, but it is basically a test of courage, strength and skill between a bull and a matador, or torero. Here they have the status of famous footballers – they have women swooning at their feet, fame, respect and above all fortune; not to mention those natty little costumes they wear and those very, very tight trousers …

The torero must read the bull and anticipate his actions. His job is, admitedly to stay alive, but most importantly to entertain the crowd. Depending on his prowess (and the applause in the arena), the dignitary of the day may award an ear, or two ears, or on those rare occassions two ears and a tail as a mark of his performance.

Nîmes has two main dates in the calender for the corridas, the main one in May – attracting a million visitors and is one of the most popular festivals in Europe – and the other in September. The bullfights are held in the beautiful Roman arena; a smaller version of the Collesium in Rome. In front stands the sad and beautiful statue of Nimeño II; a torero who made his public debut at the tender age of 13. He shot to fame and enjoyed many honours but at the age of 35 a bull tossed him into the air and he landed on his head, paralysing him. He gradually regained the use of his legs and right arm, but even so, at the age of 37, he committed suicide by hanging himself.

Like Béziers, the roads are closed to cars and become pedestrianised with the opportunity to buy alcoholic beverages and food along their entire length from the bodegas – often accompanied by loud music and crowds enjoying themselves.

Love it or loathe it, bullfighting is enduringly popular, particularly in the Languedoc. More information can be found here www.arenes-de-beziers.com and here www.beziers-tourisme.fr




Taxes in France

It’s sad but true; you can’t escape the taxman when you escape to the sun! However, recent legislation changes in France have improved the situation.

Sarkozy’s aim to improve France’s place in the world, with an emphasis on the French population owning their own homes, means he has introduced tax breaks to encourage this, namely the new changes to inheritance (or succession) tax. Since last summer, the surviving spouse is now exempt from inheritance tax liability, with this tax-free status also now applied to those with a PACS agreement (pacte civil de solidarité: a contract entered into by unmarried couples that governs their assets. It is available to people of the opposite and same sex although there is no automatic right of inheritance by a PACS partner, so a Will needs to be made).

The level of tax-free allowance for inheritance and gifts received by children was increased from 50,000€ to 150,000€. However, tax remains up to 60% for those who are not closely related to the deceased.

If you live permanently in France you may be liable to wealth tax on your assets world wide (that total over 760,000€), but if your property in France is a holiday home or second residence, then only your wealth in France is liable for tax.

Capital gains tax, or plus value, is the tax liable on the difference between what you paid for your house and what you sold it for. You can offset the amount for certain improvements you have made to the house to it but you will need bills as proof. The Notaire will be responsible for collecting this tax from you at the point of the completion of sale. However, this does not apply to the sale of your main residence.

Unfortunately there are no proposals yet to reform the outdated Napoleonic code of succession law, which forces parents to leave a major proportion of their wealth to their children instead of their spouse or partner. Estate planning therefore remains necessary to ensure your wealth is distributed as you wish.

Income tax is too complicated to summarise here, but beware that most of what is deducted from your salary is for social charges – some 40-50% of your earnings. If you are self-employed these are paid in advance on projected earnings for the following year – ‘tantpis’ as they say here if you don’t actually earn enough in order to pay these charges, but it will be adjusted in three years time.


Friday 13th …..

Well, next month (June) has a Friday 13th in it – will you be British and worry about it or will you be French and not bothered at all ?

There are several theories about why 13 is unlucky, mainly around religion. For example the number of people at the Last Supper, with the 13th guest at the table being Judas. Many negative biblical events supposedly occurred on a Friday, including Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit and the crucifixion of Jesus. In Britain, Friday was the conventional day for public hangings, and there were 13 steps leading up to the noose.

The most common basis for the superstition, however, is believed to stem from Friday 13th October 1307, when the Knights Templar were disbanded.

The organisation existed for approximately two centuries in the middle ages and was founded to ensure the safety of pilgrims to the Holy Land after the Crusades. They are often depicted by an image of two knights on a single horse, a symbol of their early poverty, but their power grew along with their wealth and they soon became a target for jealousy. A new Pope was appointed in Rome and under pressure from the King of France, the Templars were tortured until false confessions were given and they were burned at the stake as heretics.

The abrupt disappearance of a major part of the European infrastructure gave rise to speculation and legends. So, now you know, there’s no need to stay indoors this Friday 13th, is there …. ?


Boom Town Béziers

Beziers

Things are looking good down Beziers way. The Languedoc Roussillon region is set for dynamic economic growth and its continued popularity, among the French and foreigners alike, bodes well for future investment.

Growth of the regional PIB* is more than 5% and is higher than the average of other European regions, not just France. There is rapid growth of employment – the Languedoc Roussillon is one of 25 european regions where unemployment benefit has reduced the most since the year 2000.

The region is ranked 35 in 254 european regions where most employment is in the service sector (76%) and is the region that is best placed for employment in the construction industry. Since 1999 Languedoc Roussillon is the only region to have registered a growth in its population of more than 11%. With this record, it is the region that is the most dynamic in the country and offers important potential for the creation of employment and commerce.

France has not been hit by the credit crunch in the same way as the UK and USA due to its very strict requirements over lending money - it is difficult to obtain a French mortgage. Together with the changes to the tax regime, part of the government’s bid to ensure higher levels of ownership, the property market continues to perform well. With a stable property market and banking sector innovation, France looks set to continue as a good investment for buyers, and there is no reason to suggest a decline in its popularity.

When making an investment in property, buyers are recommended to choose popular areas. Aside from the cities, the south of France and Languedoc continue to be popular. There is a tendency to look towards established favourites, but the need to find those hidden gems that secure increases above the average is why the south-west still remains a firm favourite. Prices have remained stable in Languedoc Roussillon with prices still rising in some areas, such as Montpellier.

Airports and accessibility are important when deciding location, and this is where the region excels. The recent expansion to Beziers airport has opened up the area further with flights already to Paris, Denmark, Corsica, Bristol and London Stanstead during the summer months and no doubt further routes in the future.

There has been major investment in the expansion of Beziers town generally which offers a privileged position in terms of tourism and potential economic growth. The region’s demographie and ideal location explain its dynamic economy. There is a projected rise of inhabitants from 2.5 million in 2005 to 3.4 million in 2030.

With more employment opportunities arising, investment and economic growth, projections for the future look good and the Languedoc remains an attractive area for many reasons.

* produit intérieur brut or GDP (gross domestic product) is one of the primary indicators used to gauge the health of a country's economy


Did you know … ?

If you live in France you are automatically an organ donor, unless you specify otherwise. A much better system, perhaps, than in England where one has to make a conscious effort to fill out a form. Likewise with a television licence. The UK wastes time chasing people who haven’t paid, whereas in France it is assumed that you have a TV and charges are automatically paid along with your council tax each year - there is an option to declare that you don’t have a TV (if you genuinely don’t). Much more cost-effective and, well quite frankly, effective !



À Bientôt

Thanks again for taking the time to read our newsletter and I hope you found it interesting. Please feel free to contact us at any time with your queries or comments.

Please feel free to call us on

+33 (0) 4 67 36 36 80 in France

or

0871 990 2000 from UK

or by email

With best wishes

Annelise Bosshard
Managing Director
AB Real Estate


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