Côte d’Azur Property Search: Where to Buy?

As much as we might wish it to be different, the old cliché “location, location, location” is a prudent guideline to follow and the Côte d’Azur is no exception to this rule. Geographically big and diverse as it is, it’s just as susceptible to the ebb and flow of global economics as anywhere else and “where to buy” remains as important as “what to buy.”

For many foreign buyers owning a place in France is a longstanding dream that can finally be fulfilled. Be it a pied dans l’eau apartment, a tiny village house or a rambling stone farmhouse, which home buyers settle on is often more down to a decision of the heart than the head. But the risk is that a property that touches the heart might well be in the wrong location. This is why guidance from an independent local expert can be very important, no matter where in France you’re searching.

I often get enquiries from people starting their Côte d’Azur property search for “up and coming” areas – like a London neighbourhood about to be gentrified. A Côte d’Azur Harlesden perhaps? However, in my experience, areas touted as being the “next big place to buy in” rarely turn out to be a new property hotspot and buyers easily can be led astray by headlines or over-eager marketing to that effect. The hotspots on the Côte d’Azur have been the same hotspots for a very long time and the less expensive areas are less expensive or sought-after for reasons that won’t go away.

There is a lot to be said for caution when investing abroad. Choosing size over quality of location is an often-regretted mistake. Buyers can easily be swayed by the prospect of “more” for their money. More rooms, more garden, simply “more”. But more property in the wrong location can end up being a big disappointment and a burden when it comes time to sell. In real estate on the Côte d’Azur, a one-bedroom apartment with a grand sea view generally is a much better idea than a three-bedroom place tucked away in a backstreet.

Just to confuse things, some neighbourhoods in Nice might for instance have attractive sea views but aren’t all that interesting or a good place to live for other reasons and buyers would be much better off concentrating elsewhere. Again, only an impartial local expert can offer this insider knowledge.

So how do you know what the prime locations are?

1. Do your research. Study the prices of different areas, towns and neighbourhoods and see how they fluctuate.

2. Certain factors always tip the balance. These include proximity to the coast, pretty historic villages or upscale larger towns. Never underestimate the charm factor when it comes to desirability. Other important factors are proximity to transport links and good schools.

3. Visit an area in different seasons. A lively village in summer might be as dead as a dodo in winter, whereas the neighbouring village has a lot more going on all year round. One city neighbourhood will shine out over another (look around at the café-restaurant and art gallery quota to gauge a popular area). Why some places thrive and others don’t is often a very ephemeral thing but it will have a long-term impact on the value of your property.

Reading the subtle cultural signs in a foreign country is not as easy as on your home turf, especially when you only know it as a holiday destination. This is when an instinctive feeling needs to be backed up with hard facts and expertise. In the end, the same rules that apply at home should apply in France. By all means listen to your heart, but do keep your wits about you.

Riviera property finderRebecca Russell lives in Nice and is the Côte d’Azur search agent within THE FRENCH PROPERTY FINDERS alliance. For more information, please contact us via email or on +33 (0)981 12 45 63.

This article previously appeared in FrenchEntrée Magazine.