‘Vines, I want to look out on to vines.’ Well, the Loire Valley certainly has enough vines to satisfy anybody.
A client had recently asked me to find a house in the area around Bourgeuil, a name which instantly conjures up two of the Loire Valley’s famous red wines – the Coteaux de Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil appellations or types.
The town of Bourgueil lies in the Parc Naturel Régional Loire-Anjou-Touraine (more wine names!), but was historically part of the province of Anjou. Before the revolution, it was one of the administrative centres for the hated salt tax – la gabelle – where the government forced everybody over eight years old to buy a minimum amount of salt each week at a fixed price.
Bourgueil has ancient roots. The Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Pierre was founded in 990 by Emma of Blois on the site of a Roman mansio, a travellers’ hostel. Today’s visitor can see parts of the cloister, refectory, infirmary and a fascinating suspended staircase as well as visit the museum of arts and local traditions on the first floor.
But of course, Bourgueil is most famous today for its Appellation d’origine controlee (AOC) wine produces primarily red wine from the Cabernet Franc grape variety, celebrated by Pierre de Ronsard (“the prince of poets”), François Rabelais, the writer and satirist, and author Honoré de Balzac. Not to be forgotten the area also produces Touraine, Crémant de Loire, l’IGP (Indication géographique protégée) Val de Loire and Loire rosé (dry and refreshing!).
Around four hours’ drive from Le Havre (six from the tunnel and Calais), Bourgueil also enjoys great air links: both Angers-Marcé and Tours are an hour away to the west and east respectively. The TGV from St Pierre des Corps (just outside Tours) runs a direct service to Paris from which you can easily reach Eurostar services and Paris airports.
What’s on the market?
Although Bourgueil itself retains much of its historic character and offers a pragmatic mix of the ancient and modern to the property seeker, it’s in the surrounding villages that you’ll find the houses with vines.
A little to the east in the direction of Restigné, this 1800s longère, with an upper storey and extension added in 1946/47, lies in a street bordered by fields of vines. Built of stone and some block, with traditional crépi rendering and natural slate roof, it offers 145m2 of living space on a plot of 1800m2.
With tiled floors and ceiling beams, the sitting room, dining room and kitchen/diner provide airy downstairs accommodation with views on to the inner garden. Upstairs are three bedrooms, a bathroom and dressing room which could be converted into a second bathroom. A stone barn barn provides garaging and workshop with a kitchen garden and further grass area behind. And the grapes are all around… Asking price 189,000 €.
A little further east towards Ingrandes a modern, well-specified house set in a traditional village is for sale at 206,000 €. Walking up through the many beautiful shrubs and perennials in the front garden you reach the front door opening on to a spacious entrance hall. A light and airy living room, fitted kitchen, four bedrooms and two bathrooms complete the accommodation. And there’s a terrific basement with the usual garaging, workshop and storage areas. At the back is a terrace and large garden which makes up the plot of 2600m2. And the view outside the front door? Rows of vines.
A hop across the Loire, but only just, is a delightful 1970s house, often a category neglected by buyers. Priced at 189,000 € and beautifully maintained, it includes a large and light living/dining room (36.6m2) with French windows to a raised terrace overlooking the back garden. Three bedrooms, a fitted kitchen and two bathrooms, all tile-floored for coolness and easy maintenance, complete this floor. And again, there’s a large basement, this time with another kitchen plus an office, garage, another possible bedroom, storage and garaging. The living room gives onto a terrace where you could easily imagine yourself with a glass of wine on a balmy evening – Bourgueil, of course. And this terrace overlooks a huge garden, including a mini-park of over 6,000m2. And behind the trees stretch fields of guess what?
What about property prices?
In its second quarter report for 2012, the French estate agents’ association, FNAIM, noted that prices for all property had stabilized and even registered a slight fall back from 2011; market activity decreased by up to 15% in some areas compared with the same period in 2011 due to pre- and post-presidential election concerns, reform of capital gains regulations on property investment and second homes and the end of no-cost loans. Conditions for loans generally have hardened, including the requirement for a higher deposit. Thus, the global figure for home loans has halved and loan terms have shortened with a thirty year loan period vanishing. Prices are set to remain where they are for the rest of the year, with a possible softening even up to -3.5% by the end of the year in comparison with 2011. (Marché de l’Immobilier Ancien – Conjoncture au 1er Semestre et Perspectives 2012)
Bourgueil comes under the Chinon administrative area (arrondissement). The average price for actual sales in this area as recorded by the Notaires de France for the twelve months to 31 May 2012 for a 4 room house (reception + 3 bedrooms) was 136,500€ and for a larger 6 room house an average 160,100€. Three things to bear in mind: firstly, prices are averaged across near ruins in the middle of nowhere to state-of-the-art decorated smart town houses; secondly, there is a gap between asking price and actual sale price; and finally, taxes, agents’ commissions and notaires’ fees (approx 8-10%) are not included in these figures.
The property site Seloger.com records a significant drop in price per square metre in the Bourgueil area from a high of 1,890€ per square metre (End 2011) to 1,590€ per square metre (September 2012), based on weekly updates on asking prices. This reflects a heavy dose of realism by sellers. But it discourages potential sellers from putting their houses on the market. We have certainly found that house prices are negotiable apart from in the most prestigious areas. But the shortage in the supply of property has made it that bit more difficult to dig out the gems.
Time to buy?
If you are ready to go, autumn and winter are excellent times to buy. Apart from a few hardy souls, tourists have disappeared and you’ll be able to see the area as it really is. And in winter, you may well see people wielding secateurs in the vineyards, tidying the vines and carrying out essential pruning.
Understandably, many people in the UK looking to purchase a property in France have been waiting to see what would happen to the pound/euro relationship. The pound has been steady gaining during 2012 and has been consistently above 1.25 euros for several months. With French property prices stabilising at a realistic level in a sluggish market a good offer can be negotiated with the help of an expert.
Buying a property is one of the most important purchases you ever make and involves a mixture of head and heart. Having your own independent property finder means you can select from a list of property tailored to your requirements from which the “lemons” have been excluded, but not the grapes. Professional finders can also guide you through the buying process and help you cross language and cultural barriers. And they’ll know where to buy the product of those lovely vines. Cheers!
Alison Morton runs an independent property finding company, Loire Thouet Property Search (www.ltps.fr) as part of FrenchEntrée Property Finders in the Loire Valley and North Deux-Sèvres. Contact her on +33 6 06 43 93 40 or at email@example.com