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Inside the Market / Market Trends

Falling prices in Pau beckon buyers back

Pau Castle

Affordable prices in Pau are encouraging more property buyers to purchase. The new influx of first-time buyers has revived the market without increasing prices. Poised between snowy slopes and the ocean while retaining a vibrant and historic city center, this garden city and its near suburbs attract young professionals and nature lovers alike.

Most weekends of the year residents in Pau have the choice between surfing and snowboarding on their time off. Indeed, the southern French city has the appealing advantage of being an hour’s drive from both the Basque Coast and the Pyrénées mountains, which are visible from the city center’s boulevards.

Moreover, the capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department economically benefits from the presence of leading businesses’ headquarters in its area, with the largest being Total, helicopter manufacturer Turbomeca-Safran and agricultural cooperative Euralis. The French Army also has its archive center near the city. These major international groups afford the city an economic dynamism echoed in its property market. High-earning executives and employees from around the world are sent to Pau where investing in their primary residence is a better bet than renting.

In Pau and its outskirts, average prices stand at about 1,600 euros per square meter, allowing buyers with modest budgets to prospect in the city. These affordable prices paired with low interest rates are encouraging young families and first-time buyers to purchase homes. Furthermore, the market’s variety provides high-end houses for higher income buyers as well.

Purchasing candidates with higher means prefer the chic residential areas of Bizanos and Idron, where prices for villa on the hills start at 400,000 euros. Trespoey and Beaumont are two sure value neighborhoods which remain the most exclusive areas of Pau. Here transactions often exceed 600,000 euros — despite being rare. Buyers on tighter budgets will look to Lescar, Gelos and Billière where homes change hands for 210,000 euros on average. Further out, in Soumoulou for instance, prices start as low as 180,000 euros.

While the city center strongly contributes to Pau’s touristic strength — thanks in part to Henry the fourth’s famous castle — recurrent parking issues and a lack of architectural cohesion has turned potential buyers away. Even the famous Boulevard des Pyrénées features many unsold homes. In fact, a quarter of housing in central Pau remains vacant, often needing serious renovation works. Instead, demand is focused on refurbished apartments to be used as main residences and studios and other small spaces for rental investment.

While real estate prices have not escaped the national downward trend, this decrease has greatly expanded the panel of potential buyers, allowing 10% more of the area’s population to purchase property while encouraging buyers with higher means to obtain superior goods. Pierre Conchez of GIE Orpi Pyrénées states that “the wide variety of goods on sale now enables each and every buyer to find a property and area adapted to their needs and budget.”

Lesser known than Toulouse and the Basque coast, Pau offers a high quality living environment at significantly lower prices. It is the third urban center of the southwest after Toulouse and Bordeaux, comprising 200,000 inhabitants.

Pau also boasts of a rich cultural and festive year-round program. Activities range from musical entertainment, street shows and festivals showcasing southern French culture, to a “cinema under the stars” event lasting from July through to September, an electronic culture celebration and a crime fiction festival in October. Having benefitted from the English culture inherited from British travellers holidaying in the area in the nineteenth century, Pau is home to France’s oldest golf club, established in 1856.

The City of Pau recently launched a major operation in partnership with the National Housing Agency (Anha) to improve its city center. It aims to put 821 homes on the market by 2019 — by granting financial aid to owners of vacant housing needing works — and to renovate 11,000 m2 of commercial space in central Pau to improve residents’ quality of life.

Photo credit: Wikimedia / Ineremhat

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