Home Searching in France: A Medieval Property Close to Provence for $Three Million


This 13 bedroom house with a tower, built in the 11th century as a defensive station for the military order of the Knights Templar, is located in the middle of olive groves and oak truffle trees at the gates of the medieval city of Uzès in southern France.

The 5,920 square foot stone house is anchored by a courtyard and surrounded by nearly 47 acres of landscaped gardens, lawns, and trees, along with a caretaker’s house, heated swimming pool, pool house, four enclosed garages, and other outbuildings.

Over the years the house has been used as a convent, American school, and private home, said Patrick Poncet, CEO and co-founder of Poncet & Poncet Christies International Real Estate, which has the listing. Most recent renovations were made in the 1980s, including underfloor heating on the ground floor. Parts of the house still need to be restored.

Cavernous rooms with vaulted stone ceilings form a U-shape on the ground floor. Beyond the barrel-shaped entrance hall, the reception rooms offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and the river that runs along the southern edge of the property. On the left, the updated dining room can seat 15 people. A stone fireplace dominates one end of the living room and glass doors under an archway that is open to the grounds. A covered terrace overlooks the river. The kitchen needs renovation, said Isabelle Clavie, a senior international real estate advisor at Poncet & Poncet.

To the right of the entrance hall, a cave, a billiards room and two steps down a compact library look out onto the courtyard. Terracotta tiles and stone slabs, typical of French houses, cover the floors.

A second tower has a spiral staircase that leads up. On the second level with parquet flooring, the master bedroom has an en-suite bathroom with a bathtub. Each of the seven other large bedrooms has its own shower room and sink, but shares the bathroom in the hallway. An office and a laundry room are also on the second floor. Straight stairs lead from the courtyard to the first floor.

Five other compact bedrooms on the third floor that were once used by nuns have their own showers and sinks. Toilets that are shared are away from the hallway. The house’s dozen bathrooms need updating, Ms. Clavie said.

A modern sauna and shower are located in the knight tower. Stone stairs lead down to the heated pool, where a covered pool pavilion dug into a rock wall includes an outdoor kitchen and living room. Aside from the main house, the caretaker’s house has two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom and a private garden.

The property is just over a mile from Uzès, a medieval parish with narrow circular streets, shops, restaurants, arcades, the First Duchy of France and an annual truffle festival. Marseille and the French Mediterranean coast are about 90 miles to the southeast, and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region is to the east. Although Uzès is widely used in real estate listings for the Provence region, it is located in the Occitanie administrative region, formed in 2016 from the former regions of Languedoc-Roussillon (where this house is located) and Midi-Pyrénées.

International flights are available from Marseille Provence Airport, which is approximately 90 minutes away.

France’s real estate market was robust until the tumult of 2020, despite the economy slipping into recession. In the fourth quarter, real estate prices rose by 6.1 percent compared to the previous year, with prices for existing properties rising faster (+6.4 percent) than for new buildings (+2.8 percent) according to the National Institute for Statistical and Economic Studies.

On April 3, when a new wave of Covid-19 infections hit France, the nation was closed for the third time. Travel between regions was prohibited, with the exception of primary residence buyers. “This allows us to work almost normally,” said Poncet.

However, second homes make up a significant part of the property portfolio in the south of France, particularly in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Occitanie, where Montpellier and Uzès are the most sought-after locations.

“The climate is mild, the cities and villages have a very rich architectural heritage, culture in all its forms is omnipresent,” said Poncet, including a theater festival in Avignon, dancing in Montpellier, beaches and nightlife in St. Tropez. and the Cannes Film Festival.

Tim Swannie, director of Home Hunts, which specializes in luxury real estate in France, Monaco and Switzerland, said his company’s sales fell around 20 percent in 2020 after a robust 2019, although interest remained strong. “The south of France is generally not a boom-and-bust real estate market,” he said. “Most owners see their property value increasing gradually over time.”

When the first lockdown was lifted last May, “it was like a dam opening its doors – the market was inundated with buyers all looking for property,” Swannie said. When buyers from Paris, Monaco and other European cities sought larger homes with more outdoor amenities, “properties were being sold at asking price, sometimes with multiple buyers, or they were being sold before they were officially launched,” he added . Even properties that had weakened “were picked up with a compromise by buyers willing to consider renovating and upgrading homes.”

With foreigners restricted by travel restrictions, domestic buyers filled some of the void. “However, with a view to the next summer season, foreign demand is rising again in line with global progress in vaccination,” said Marie-Claire Sangouard, Engel & Völkers French Riviera Managing Director.

Laetitia Hodson, Associate Partner at Knight Frank in the international housing division, said the “appetite for a second home in France is very, very high for a home in the country,” with “double the number of new customers and inquiries. ”

As of early 2021, “transactions have been much closer to the asking price,” Ms. Hodson said, and inventory levels are low. “Some of the sellers have chosen not to sell but to keep their second homes,” she added.

In Occitania, prices start at 450,000 euros for a small pied-à-terre up to several million euros for a property, said Poncet.

In Provence, a village house with three or four bedrooms and a small garden ranges from 650,000 to 1 million euros. Prices start at 1.5 million euros ($ 1.8 million) for a home with a garden and pool in a quiet area, and the highest is 30 million euros ($ 36 million) for private property, Swannie said.

Most buyers look for “signature properties” like “mas,” which are traditional Provencal stone farmhouses, “with thick walls and small windows on the south side of the house,” said Swannie.

Others prefer larger, often better located “bastides” houses, which were originally built for nobles. “These houses are more symmetrical in terms of rooms and size,” he said with bigger windows and better views.

Before the pandemic, about 60 percent of buyers in southern France were international, with the majority from the UK, Sweden and the United States, Ms. Hodson said. Now 60 percent of the buyers are French, and foreign buyers come from neighboring Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Switzerland and Germany.

Across France, non-resident buyers make up only about 2 percent of real estate transactions, said Amaury de Monclin, executive director and co-founder of Bluesky Finance, a French mortgage broker targeting international buyers. “The presence of international buyers in the prime real estate segment is increasing significantly,” he said. “American buyers make up a significant portion of the premium real estate market. Foreign buyers account for up to 40 percent of transactions over 4 million euros. “

Non-EU citizens are only allowed to spend 90 days out of 180 in France, Ms. Hodson said.

By law, French properties are required to carry out asbestos, energy, lead and termite inspections, paid for by the seller and included in the sales contract. If the property has a swimming pool, a safety report is also required, Swannie said.

American buyers can borrow up to 80 percent of the purchase price for real estate up to 700,000 euros. Most mortgages require a 30 percent minimum down payment, Monclin said, and some U.S. buyers arrange French mortgage loans to get lower interest rates, taxes, and foreign exchange benefits. The brokerage of a mortgage takes two to three months.

French; Euro (1 Euro = 1.20 USD)

The annual property tax for this house is 5,000 euros. The closing costs amount to 7 to 8 percent of the sales price, including stamp tax, the land register entry and the notary.

Patrick Poncet, Poncet & Poncet Christie’s International Real Estate, 011-33-466-20-27-62; poncet-poncet.com

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