This guide is divided into three parts: “Why buy in Nice?”, “Where to buy in Nice?”, and “What to buy in Nice?”
Why buy in Nice?
We list some general reasons in our guide to Nice, but in this section we will concentrate on the financial aspects. Why Nice instead of anywhere else. If you are on this web page the chances are you have experienced a taste of what Nice has to offer as a tourist. As an investor you need to know about the financial underpinnings.
The question “Will this property make me money?” breaks down into two questions: “Will I sell it later at a profit?”, which we call capital appreciation, and “Will it make me money in the mean time?”, which we call the yield.
Property prices in Nice
Historically property prices in Nice have risen around 8% per year on average. There are peaks and troughs. Prices rose rapidly during the boom, and stagnated around the crisis. They tend to slow around election times. However they have averaged out consistently over the past few decades. One of the reasons is the conservative banking law. A foreign buyer can take out a French mortgage of maximum 85% of the selling price of the property, and you need to prove that the monthly repayments do not exceed 1/3 of your net income. The same rules were in place during the boom, during the crisis, and they are still the same today. The strict rules that were mocked a few years ago by nations giving 110% mortgages on fudged paperwork have now insulated the French market from the shock effects seen elsewhere. There is no “foreclosure” or “distressed asset” market in Nice, and if you look at the court property auctions they are mostly unused council property being sold off.
The second important factor is demand. You may have read stories about properties dropping up to 40% in areas such as Languedoc and Dordogne. As nice as the fantasy of buying and renovating a dilapidated farm house in the middle of nowhere is, it is only a dream of the English. Nice, on the contrary, has a very broad international appeal. The principle buyers are Italian, making around 35% of holiday home purchases on the vicinity. Second are the British at around 15%. The fastest growing sector is the Russians, who have had a love affair with Nice since Tsar Nicholas second visited in 1865, long before billionaires such as Abramovich moved in just up the road. The Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Denmark have been buying in increasing numbers, with cheap flights enabling them to escape the winter blues. Other nationalities such as the Dutch and the Swiss have strong presences. If demand falls from one country, another will take up the slack.
The third factor is infrastructure. Nice is incredibly well connected. It is not only France’s second busiest airport city, with direct flights all over Europe and the world, the national railway is currently under construction to connect it directly to Paris (instead of going via Marseille). The bus network will take you anywhere, including as far as Cannes and Monaco, for just €1. A billion euros was spent creating the tramway, including the creation of new squares, parks and pedestrian zones. The price differential between Nice and neighbours such as Cannes and Villefranche before the works was up to 20%. Nice now looks stunning whilst the neighbours have changed little. Take a look at photos of both 10 years ago and today. The price differential today is… the same. The world has not yet woken up to the fact Nice is no longer the scruffy neighbour of a few decades ago but is the jewel of the French Riviera. The destruction of the centre of the town, including the eyesore bus station, to make way for the new €40M Coulis Vert (the ‘Hyde Park’ of Nice) will only bring this home. It can only be a matter of time before prices rise to reach parity.
Property rental in Nice
There is always a shortage, and hence a demand, for rental property in Nice. However Nice is a low risk medium yield investment. You will not get rich buying and letting out property in Nice, unless you have quite a few properties, but it is a very solid money maker. Yield is on average around 5% gross (monthly rental x 12 / purchase price). A good deal will see around 7%, an absolute bargain 8%.
There are three types of investor in Nice:
- The private investor with a lump sum of cash. Interest rates mean putting it in a bank will see it be eroded by inflation. Recent events have shown in stocks you can lose everything. Home property market may be unstable. At the moment putting it in a property in Nice means getting around 10% a year, half that in cash from rental and half from capital appreciation.
- The private investor who invests in property for a living. If the property is chosen correctly, you should be able to purchase a property using maximum mortgage and use the rental to cover the mortgage repayments. This should enable you to build up a substantial number of paid-for apartments by retirement, though remember the minimum 15% down payment required by French law for each property.
- Professional investors. A product in Nice makes a very safe base for a more diverse portfolio, offsetting the risk of more high yield investments. High turn-over means releasing capital easily when required.
We have had some clients find their property so profitable that when they come to Nice they stay in a hotel rather than use their own purchase. Other clients started to use their apartments so much, because they fell in love with the place, that they took it off the rental market all together. As your plans and circumstances evolve, we will be on hand for advice no matter how needs evolve with it.
Where to buy in Nice
Property tends to fall into certain price bands. We have compiled a table below which shows where investors tend to spend their money for a given budget. It should serve as a guide for where you should be looking.
|Area||below €150k||€150-€250k||€250-€350k||€350-€500k||€500-€650k||€650-€800k||€800k above|
From €150-250k people look for a pied-a-terre in the Old Town or the Carre d’Or. At the lower half it will be a small one bedroom in the Old Town around 30sqm or a studio in the Carre d’Or about 25sqm. In the top half it will be a reasonable size one bedroom around 42sqm in the Old Town or in the Carre d’Or around 32sqm. Principal obstacles from an investment viewpoint (hence the price) tend to be the apartment is not bright enough, it is too noisy, or it is on the ground or first floor. The principal obstacle for the investor is to overlook the small size (even apartments as small as 11sqm sell). Holiday makers renting this type of apartment are young and just want a place to sleep. For them location is everything. The size can be dressed with clever furnishing but the final rental price for your outlay is the key.
In the €250-€350k range people tend to look for a one bedroom in the Carre d’Or with a small balcony, or a two bedroom in the Old Town. The rental demographic here is the young to mature couple. They want to be shopping or on the beach during the afternoon, but will want to spend some time in the apartment before heading out to the restaurant or bar in the Old Town or on the Zone Pietonne. A short and safe walk home is important.
From €350-500k the search is for a two bedroom in the Carre d’Or or the Musicians Quarter in an old building with a balcony or terrace. The renter will be a more mature couple or a family. The building should have character, and the trade-off is between size and original old features or a terrace large enough to dine on. Unfortunately “bourgeois” and “large” terrace are contradictory, though a compromise can be found in turn of the previous century Art Deco buildings which can offer stunning looks plus an average size balcony.
At €500-€650k you are expecting a two bedroom apartment with side sea-view and terrace or a two bedroom on an upper floor with a terrace large enough to put a dining table on. It is not quite enough to get a two bedroom with full sea view, but is the perfect budget to get a fantastic apartment in the Carre d’Or or Quartier Musiciens. In this price range you should expect a very nice apartment. One to watch for is Le Capitole on the Promenade, which often has apartments with a large terrace and a reasonable sea view within this budget.
From €650-€800k it is the luxury end of the market. It will be a three bedroom in a bourgeois, which are expensive in Nice due to a shortage (so many large apartments broken down into smaller ones during the property boom), on the best part of the Promenade, or will have a spectacular terrace overlooking the rooftops.
Above €800k is the ultra-luxury. The penthouse suites. The rooftop terraces. It should have something unique that at any one time there are less properties with the same feature on the market than the fingers on one hand. At this end it is more about capital appreciation than yield. For rental income you are better off buying four apartments at €250k than one apartment at €1M. However great offers can be made in the luxury end at the moment. When the property cycle swings back up, it will be far easier to give a lick of paint and make a €200k margin on a €1M property than wait for each of the €250k reach €300k. It is a good way to maximise profits if looking at medium term returns. Yield will be below average but it is a great way to park a significant amount of money for 10 years. It will also be a very prestige property in the portfolio.
What to buy in Nice
Location is the number one factor in choosing a rental property. As we walk into some apartments you may think “Goodness this is small!”. If you are buying the apartment partly for yourself then you need to tell us as this will influence our choice of properties. Otherwise we have made our clients a lot of money over the years and know which apartments will give you the maximum returns.
As you go up in budget certain things become more essential. For instance the in a cheap property in Old Nice the communal areas are irrelevant, but in a sea-facing property on the Promenade they become significant. The Musicians Quarter attracts a more mature renter and so a lift becomes a must.
If buying in the Old Town, generally the 2nd to the 4th floor are optimal. Renters do not expect a lift in the Old Town but the prospect of five or more flights gets daunting. Ground and first floor noise and lack of light become a worry. However 400 years of history has made the exception the rule. It used to be the closer to the sea the better, but with the fantastic Place Garibaldi the other side and the new park being built along the north side the whole of the Old Town is now quite desirable. It only takes 5 minutes to walk across between any two points so nowhere you buy will be far from the beach. Overlooking a square is nice but expect to pay dearly for it.
In the Carre d’Or proximity to the beach trumps size. Anything between Place Massena and the Negresco Hotel is prime. In the Carre d’Argent it is proximity to Place Massena. You are better off getting a balcony or terrace than an extra bedroom. Holiday makers love the idea of being able to sit outside, sip on a glass of wine, and watch the world go past underneath them. Next comes number of people that it can sleep. Then type of building, the older the better, finishing with elevation and view.
The Musicians Quarter is full of stunning architecture. It is one of the reasons people elect to stay there and so the type of building you choose becomes more important. Size also becomes more important as long as you follow the rule “don’t go near the train station”. Stay as close to Boulevard Victor Hugo as you can, but up to Rue Verdi is still prime. Outside space and an extra bedroom are more equal in importance. The importance of the communal areas rises linearly with the price of the apartment, generally becoming an influencing factor from €400k and upwards.
It can be pretty noisy on the Promenade des Anglais so the higher the floor the better, which also means your view clears the palm trees that line the street. Third floor and above are best. The prime area is from Le Capitole to Le Meridien. Do not expect a nice building, concentrate on the size of terrace and the view. Many of the apartments are long and narrow, almost like a corridor running from front to rear, so if you find a nice square apartment grab it quick. Some buildings are set back, sacrificing some of the view for quiet, which can also be attractive.
To the east of these areas, the only valuable part of the Port is the facade overlooking the yachts. Expect to pay the same if not more than the Promenade des Anglais. To the west you may be tempted by Fleurs to get a “free” terrace for the same price, but avoid this and invest your money more centrally.
Properties turn over quickly in Nice and bargains can sell within days. What you see online and the properties we send you are merely representative of what you can expect. We put together your final portfolio 3-4 days before you arrive, and adjust it as necessary right up until the day of your arrival. However if you see any advert on any other web sites that interest you then feel free to send us the links for our honest assessment.