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Inside the Market / Big Deals

Property Auctions in France: Forts, Prisons, Chapels and other Atypical Investments


Last year, property auctions in France brought the government 574 million euros in revenue, with forts and prisons among the sale items. The fire sale continues in 2017, with more interesting goods on offer. 

Among the variety of unused properties sold off by the French government last year was a former Prison Museum at Fontainebleau. An anonymous Parisian property developer bought the 1,770 m2 property for less than half a million euros, with a view to turning into a complex of apartments.

This kind of purchase is illustrative of the opportunities to be found at property auctions. Low prices can be sought for properties with huge potential to the motivated investor, or even those who simply have an eye for a special item. Last year, a 17 m2 chapel at Mauleon in the Pyrenees was sold for the comically low sum of €400; lower still, a tower in Oreilla (also in the Pyrenees) that needed some serious work done went for only €130.

Of the 920 properties sold in 2016 for a total of 574 million euros were:

  • 549 plots of land
  • 133 residential buildings
  • 89 office buildings
  • 77 unused structures
  • 70 public buildings/activity centres
  • two monuments

One of these was the old fort at Chavagnac, pictured above, which went for €100,000 to an ambitious property developer who intends to turn it into a tourist attraction. An old prison at Grasse also went for half a million euros. The auctions are turning into a very efficient way to achieve the French government’s aims for new-build construction or renovation, with developers often much better at turning properties around and making them habitable for the 21st century.

We are currently in the middle of an auction period that runs through April. It is run by the Notaries of France and sees properties being sold throughout France. Everything from old warehouses to fully functioning residential properties is on offer. One notable property that went for sale is the home of the daughter of the recently-deceased ex-dictator of Uzbekistan.

image © Wikicommons


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