Aticle on Loire Valley - House & Home, on Dec, 2nd, 2017

Aticle on Loire Valley - House & Home, on Dec, 2nd, 2017

Loire châteaux fall to ‘realistic’ prices

Loire châteaux fall to ‘realistic’ prices
 
Would-be winemakers can find vintage and vintnery with proximity to Paris
 
Brexit arrives early in Frankfurt property market
 
NOVEMBER 30, 2017 Hannah Roberts 3 comments
 
With more than 4,000 vineyards dotted along the Loire, this fertile river valley is the epicentre of French white wine production. Spring frosts threatened to make 2017’s harvest an année blanche, or lost year, but a warm summer saw central Loire recover to produce an earlier harvest and a small but promising vintage.
 
Loire was the “summer retreat” of the French aristocracy during the 15th to 17th centuries and the high concentration of manoirs and stately piles keeps prices relatively affordable, according to several agents.
 
Prices have fallen 40-50 per cent since the financial crisis, according to Jane Marshall of Sotheby’s International Realty. They are now priced “realistically”, according to Wolfgang Grell, French châteaux specialist at Engel & Völkers, who claims they should not drop much further. Small châteaux can sell for €700,000 or less, better value than equivalent properties in Spain, says Grell.
 
Some buyers are looking for a large historic property to turn into a chambre d’hôte, wedding venue or equestrian business. Others, given the fruitful surroundings, are looking to become winemakers. “But hobby vineyards don’t make money,” warns Roger Willoughby of Prestige Property.
 
With its sophisticated cities and towns — including Angers, Tours, Chinon and Blois — rich history, good restaurants and winery visits, Loire is the second most popular choice for châteaux in France, after the more expensive surroundings of Paris, says Grell. A six-bedroom manor house 40km east of Angers is on the market for €535,000 with Prestige Property.
 
Les Tourelles in Châteauneuf sur Loire, €645,750
A four-bedroom 16th-century manor house near Blois is on the market with Engel & Völkers for €790,000.
 
The “convenience factor,” is everything says Willoughby. Being within a reasonable distance, usually 2.5 hours of a Paris airport, is often non-negotiable. Properties towards Orléans or near Tours, where there is a small airport and a station for TGV high-speed trains, are more likely to find buyers.
 
Les Tourelles, a nine-bedroom château in the Forest of Orléans, is on the market with Sotheby’s International Realty for €645,750. The agent is also selling a nine-bedroom château, 40km from Tours, for €2.4m.
 
Low interest rates energised the French property market this year, with inquiries at Knight Frank up 48 per cent in the first half of 2017 year on year. Transactions through the agency were 8 per cent higher in the first quarter of 2017, year on year, and some 29 per cent above those of 2015.
 
Confidence in the French market further increased following Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the presidential elections in June, says Mark Harvey of Knight Frank, thanks to his plans to lure international talent and restructure the economy. “French citizens, who moved their lives and wealth overseas during Hollande’s presidency are starting to return, drawn by historically low prices and Macron’s pro-business stance,” Harvey says.
 
Macron’s reform of France’s notorious wealth tax (which contributed to the exodus of as many as 12,000 millionaires a year) will come into force at the end of this year. Other international buyers in the Loire tend to be from the US, Germany, Australia and, increasingly, China.
 
Nine-bedroom château near Loches, €2.4m Cédric Chardron © Cédric Chardron
Rental interest is steady, with 80m tourists visiting France every year, more than any other country, according to Marshall. Around Le Mans, where a motorsports endurance race is held every June, the weekly rental charge of properties around that time is high enough to cover a year of expenses, according to Marshall. A 19th century castle with 18 hectares land near Le Mans is on the market with Sotheby’s for €1.264m.
 
Not all buyers want large properties with land. Barbara and Peter Pescod from the UK bought a townhouse in Chinon, after discovering the area during a walking holiday. “We chose Chinon because it felt authentically French, it’s not too far from the UK, and with châteaux and vineyards there’s always something to do on a wet day”.
 
While town houses offer convenience, châteaux and manoirs are “a lifestyle choice”, says Willoughby, and should not necessarily be seen as an investment as restoration can cost as much as the property. “A château roof can cost €200,000-€300,000 and the heating alone can cost €20,000-€30,000 a year,” he says. If the property is listed you have to use French artisans to do restoration work, he adds. When it comes to selling it can take “two to three years”, says Grell. “Each one is unique and needs a unique buyer to be found.”
 
Would-be vintners looking for a vintage property and favourable terroir will find plenty to pique their interest in the Loire, although they may need to dig deep to restore their new home to premier cru standards (or just fix the roof). Investors hoping to earn a healthy return on their châteaux anytime soon may want to think twice before putting down roots.
 
Buying guide
Offers are written and binding for a period of exclusivity
Allow 7 per cent for taxes and fees
Capital gains tax of 30 per cent will be applicable on sales from 2018
What you can buy for . . .
 
Share this graphic 
€535,000 A six-bedroom manor house east of Angers
 
€800,000 A four-bedroom 16th century manor house near Blois
 
€1.25m A 19th century castle on 18 hectares near Le Mans
 
Photographs: Getty; Cédric Chardron
 
More homes at propertylistings.ft.com
Learn more