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Americans buy homes in Paris, British in countryside

When Americans buy homes in France, they choose Paris; the British and Dutch head for the country, a property report shows.

Foreign investments in the French real estate market rose to €6 billion ($7.5 billion) in 2005 from about €2 billion in 2000, according to a study published this week by Credit Foncier de France SA, a unit of Caisses d'Epargne, France's fourth-biggest lender. „The buyers' nationality influences the location choice,” Jean-Michel Miuch, who heads real-estate market analysis for the Credit Foncier, said in the report. „British and Dutch citizens have a preference for the countryside.” About 44% of Americans who buy property in France choose the city of light. They buy small apartments, with a kitchen and a bedroom, a pied-a-terre, the study says. Europeans, British, Germans, Italians, Dutch, Spanish and Swiss, also find France an attractive country for a home. British people stay close to the coast, with a taste for Brittany's oysters and houses. They spend on average between €81,800 and €93,500 ($102,376-$117,000) in the Cote d'Armor and up to €365,000 for the greener low hills of the Ile et Vilaine. British people represented half of the foreign purchases in France in 2005. Their „predominance” in the number of foreign buyers „accelerated in the past years,” the study says.

Home prices in France increased 55% between 1970 and 2003, according to an International Monetary Fund study cited by the Credit Foncier. During that period, Spain's home prices soared 218%, Ireland's 184%, the UK's and the Netherlands' 151%. „There are a growing number of British pensioners who establish themselves in France for good, for the sun and for good healthcare,” said Credit Foncier's chief executive officer Francois Drouin in an interview. With baby boomers retiring, „the volume of investments in France should grow even more in the coming years,” Credit Foncier said. In 2005, foreigners owned 8% of France's secondary homes, or about 250,000. Southern France remains the top choice, the study shows, although Paris, its region and the wine areas around Bordeaux are being sought after more and more. Drouin said low cost airlines have played a prominent role in overseas interest in France's real estate market He cited the case of Irish executives, „who install their family, wife and children, in France and, thanks to low cost airlines, commute.” Foreigners moving permanently to France does not represent the majority yet, although „it's growing,” Drouin said. (Bloomberg)