Buying Property Abroad: The Highs, The Lows, The Benefits, The Fun And The Profits
The Sales Pitch
With an average 300 sunny days per year, the French Riviera has long been the envy of Brits. A tradition of wintering there was even a fashionable pursuit amongst eminent Victorians, although you obviously needed a healthy bank balance to fund any extended sojourn. That most eminent of Victorians, Queen Victoria herself wasn’t short of a bob or two. She spend long spells there during later life and traces of her presence – in monuments, street and hotel names – can still be felt. “Oh, if only I were at Nice,” she famously said upon her deathbed, “I should recover.” Alas she died on the sunless Isle of Wight.
Had Queen Victoria managed to cheat death for long enough to catch a glimpse of Nice today, she might have been somewhat surprised, since this Mediterranean resort is no longer the reassuringly expensive favourite of sun-starved northern European. It still lays claim to exclusivity. It even remains something of a deluxe playground, but it ’s also the most economical choice along the French Riviera in which to buy property.
Nice’s airport is a testament to that. The second busiest in France, it currently welcomes over 30 daily flights from the UK, many of them from budget airlines. EasyJet (www.easyjet.com), Flybe (www.flybe. com) and Jet2 (www.jet2.com) all arrive there from a number of UK airports. With in excess of 4 million international visitors per year, Nice is second only to Paris in terms of popularity. Its university is also a popular choice for French students, ensuring good mileage for longer-term property lets.
But what exactly is Nice’s secret? The “location is everything” mantra beloved by property investors arguably finds its finest textbook model in Nice. Besides that envious climate (even the 65 sunless days are mild) and its strategic position along the French Riviera (Cannes, St Tropez and Antibes are just some of its world-famous neighbours), Nice is ideally situated for accessing some of the Alps’ best ski slopes. And let ’s not forget the presence of the Med and the beautiful Bay of Angels that forms the city’s seafront.
Venture inland and you’ll find a surprising large amount to occupy a long weekend stay and enough charm to recommend next year’s return trip. Food fans will find little to complain of in the city’s Old Town, with some of the Riviera’s most celebrated seafood restaurants occupying the medieval streets between the sea, port and city centre. When the sun goes down, this area is also the focus of Nice’s vibrant bar scene. Culture vultures are well catered for too, with a clutch of must- see museums, a national theatre, opera house, numerous churches and attractions to choose from, many of them free to visit.
A Case Against?
As is so often the case, what recommends a place to one group of investors can provide its unraveling for another. Nice is no exception. Visitor numbers in the summertime can be overwhelming; places on the beach impossible to find.
Like many A-list tourist-driven destinations, there can also be a tendency towards smugness and complacency, though scratch beyond the impeccable theme-park veneer and you will discover a real, living, warts-and-all French city. Speaking the language, as ever, will improve anyone’s experience of owning property locally.
Despite offering some great property deals, don’t forget that the larger Riviera vicinity is traditionally one of France’s most expensive, although this will obviously be reflected in the amounts you can charge visitors to your property.
Nice’s most famous road, the Promenade des Anglais provides the most familiar picture-postcard view of the city, since it cuts a bold 5-mile swathe from the airport across the entire seafront. Imposing Art Deco hotels and high-end apartments line its pavement, enjoy the poshest address in town and charge the obvious visitor premium.
The triangular labyrinth of streets that link the seafront to the Boulevard Jean Jaures constitutes Nice’s Vieille Ville (Old Town) . For day trippers and overnight visitors alike, this area provides the main focus for any time spent in Nice, since it houses the greatest concentration of restaurants and bars and is just minutes from the beach. As you’d expect, the mostly listed building of this medieval quarter tend to lack lifts and terraces. The narrow layout of streets also precludes much natural light, while noise levels can seriously prohibit restful sleep. Of course none of these factors prevent Old Town accommodation from being seriously overbooked during the 6-month peak season.
The downtown Place Massena is France’s fifth largest square and forms the natural retail heart of Nice. With the recent launch of the city’s urban tramway project, the neighbouring Quartiers Musiciens and the streets around Rue Gioffredo both offer some of the best investment potential in Nice, without compromising on style or affordability.
The hills to the north are where you’ll find elegant Cimiez and the city’s main proliferation of modern apartments and grand old villas, although the 10-minute bus ride to the beach may mean your property loses out to Old Town choices.
Meanwhile Fabron , to the west, is well placed for airport access and almost exclusively residential. It ’s also safe and cheap, but arguably lacks the punch of more centrally located neighbourhoods.
You don’t need to venture that far east of Nice to find some of the Riviera’s most exclusive neighbourhoods. Cap Ferrat and Eze are famously the haunts of billionaires, but if you’ve got the money you can flaunt it on a pooled gated villa and expect up to £10,000 of weekly rental income in return.