Home Finance News Bordeaux and beyond: buyers head to France’s south-west

Bordeaux and beyond: buyers head to France’s south-west


Emilie and Hamish White and their two young children are moving to Bordeaux this week from south-west London. The French-Australian family has bought a five-bedroom art deco style townhouse with a garden annexe in the Ornano district.

Taking advantage of Hamish’s greater scope for hybrid working in the telecoms industry, they decided to move to France after a decade in London. “We were looking online and realised how much further our money would go there than in England,” says Emilie, a wedding photographer. “We wanted international school options, to be near the ocean, the airport, and a good TGV link to Paris. Bordeaux is elegant, big enough but not too big.”

Homes in the south-west city of Bordeaux are certainly cheaper than in the French capital, which is two hours away by train. The average sold price of a property in Bordeaux is currently €4,982 per sq m, half the price of Paris at €10,569, according to FNAIM, the union of estate agents in France.

Yet it’s still the fifth most expensive city in France, behind only Paris, Antibes (€5,652), Annecy (€5,267) and Lyon (€5,005) and its price increase of the past year — 3.2 per cent — has been much less than cities such as Montpellier, Nice and Marseille.

For those who can afford it, proximity to the sea and access to Paris means that Bordeaux and the areas around it remain a target for remote workers, according to Brad Turner of estate agent Leggett Immobilier. Before Covid, he says, it was typical for one partner to give up their job to facilitate the family’s move; now hybrid working is more prevalent, such compromises are often not needed.

Vineyards in the village of Saint-Émilion © Getty Images/iStockphoto

The city offers employment opportunities of its own. The number of new businesses created in 2021 was 20 per cent higher than in 2019. Ubisoft Bordeaux, part of the worldwide gaming company, employs 300 people in the Bassins à Flot (wet dock) area, where new apartment blocks have been part of the district’s regeneration: “We’ve had American clients working for Ubisoft who rent in this area,” says Turner.

The average price of a second-hand apartment in Bordeaux is currently €4,777 per sq m, having risen rather than dropped during the pandemic. To help cool the market by making the purchase of buy-to-let properties less attractive, a new rental cap has been introduced on July 15 for new city-centre rental agreements. “Investors may decide that rentals are less attractive and offload their properties,” says Simon Liddiard of Leggett. At an average of only 3.4 per cent, the gross rental yield on apartments in Bordeaux is “not exciting” he says.

He points to the fact that in Paris, rentals have been capped since July 2019, and the average rental yield is only 3 per cent. The new green party mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, has also introduced a new rental permit system in a handful of areas of the city, including Saint-Michel. Owners will now need to seek permission to rent out a property at all (owners of second homes are already in effect barred from letting their properties out as Airbnb-style short-term rentals).

Map of Bordeaux, France

The fact that their daughter is studying for a masters degree in wine in the city helped persuade Kim and David Lloyd from Houston in the US to buy a two-bedroom townhouse near the Jardin Public as a second home in December.

“We love the fact [the city] is so walkable,” says Kim, a finance controller — which is handy, because the traffic in Bordeaux can be stifling. “The architecture is beautiful; we can be at the coast in an hour, and we plan to stay for a few months when I retire soon [with a long-stay visa].”

Saint-Seurin, Ornano and Saint-Genès are quieter neighbourhoods often preferred by families, but the increase in remote working and improvements in transport links are making towns and villages outside the city more attractive to commuters, says Liddiard.

While existing fast train links have helped make pretty villages south-east of the city such as Beautiran and La Brède popular with Bordelais seeking more space; others are investing in locations on the new suburban metro, the RER (Réseau Express Régional) — being phased in until 2028.

The new east-to-west line will link the upscale seaside resort of Arcachon to the pretty bastide town of Libourne in the wine-growing area close to Saint-Émilion. Sitting on the confluence of the Dordogne and Isle rivers, it is 25 minutes by train into Bordeaux, and the average property price is €2,400 per sq m, according to the property portal, SeLoger.

People sat at a cafe’s outdoor tables
Café life in the city’s old town © Camera Press/Laif

Nearby, in the heart of the Entre-Deux-Mers wine-growing region, Tasmanian-born Alissa Foale bought a “petit château” in August 2020. The 16th-century three-bedroom property with a turret is a second home for the Londoner that she lets out on Airbnb when she’s not using it.

“I was with some friends buying a big château and joked with the estate agent that I wanted a smaller ‘lock and leave’ one,” says the 40-year-old who works in financial services. “I fell in love with it, but I felt it was a good buy with so much investment into infrastructure going on.”

She also loves its accessibility to the Gironde coast, to which the Bordelais escape for weekends or — since the start of the pandemic began — remote work part of the week. At the south of the Bassin d’Arcachon, a large bay famed for its oyster farming and protected by Cap Ferret, a long spit of pine forests, fishermen’s cottages and holiday villas.

The town of Arcachon — on a direct train line to the city — offers plenty of apartments popular with retirees and holiday home buyers. “Bordelais families will often buy a small flat and rent it out when they are not using it,” says Arthur Maxwell of Maxwell-Baynes, affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate.

At nearby Pyla-sur-Mer, villas can sell for more than those in the more internationally well-known Cap Ferret, with average prices €10,220 and €9,599 per sq m respectively, according to SeLoger. “It’s still a very French market, yet a fortnight ago we had our first British clients looking to buy a property in Pyla instead of renting one every year,” he says.

A dish of oysters
Oysters with wine in Arcachon © Shutterstock / Maksym Fesenko

It is fortunate that no such villas were reached by last week’s extensive forest fires, which got as far as the car park for the beach for Dune du Pilat, Europe’s biggest sand dune, around which 6,500 hectares of thick pine forests have been destroyed.

Last month, despite being “subject to marine submersion, land movement and forest fires”, a frontline six-bedroom property in need of major renovation on Cap Ferret sold via online auction for €6.53mn. Complete with termites and asbestos, the “faded” 190 sq m property also needs new electrics and sits on a 2,000 sq m plot. Currently on the market is one of the area’s typical wooden cabin-style properties, priced at €3.36mn.

Buyers have been looking at nearby Lacanau as an affordable alternative, suggests Morgan Mutch of Maxwell-Baynes. It offers similar long sandy beaches and a 2,000-hectare lake, with an average price of €5,145 per sq m, according to SeLoger. “A British expat couple recently sold their place in the Bordeaux suburbs to move there,” he says.

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What you can buy . . . 

Three-bedroom house, €798,000

A three-bedroom property near the Jardin Public in central Bordeaux. The house, which measures 135 sq m, has two bathrooms and a garage. Available through Leggett Immobilier International.

Mansion house, outside Bordeaux, €1.9mn


A renovated manor house with a total of 11 bedrooms located 10 minutes’ drive from the centre of Bordeaux. The property, which measures 500 sq m, is currently used as a bed and breakfast. Available through Savills.

New-build house, Arcachon, €4.95mn


A new six-bedroom house near the Plage des Arbousiers on Arcachon Bay, about 55km from central Bordeaux. The property, which has 320 sq m of living space, has a large open-plan reception area and an outdoor pool. Available with Maxwell-Baynes.

Buying guide

  • The average price in Bordeaux has increased 33 per cent over the past five years, according to Le Figaro Immobilier; in Arcachon it is 47 per cent, Cap Ferret 56 per cent.

  • The number of new businesses created in the Bordeaux metropolitan area increased from 15,900 in 2019, to 15,999 in 2020 and 19,154 in 2021, according to Insee, the national statistics bureau of France.

  • A new tram, Line A, will from central Bordeaux direct with the airport in 2023.


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