Last night the French prime minister, Edouard Philippe, addressed the national assembly of deputés - that is the French equivalent of the House of Commons. He set out his plans for our first steps out of lock-down and asked for the deputés' approval - which he got. As I see it, these are the pertinent facts as far as the property market is concerned:
* Relaxation of the rules is not a given - we have to continue to lower the curve and keep "R" well below 1
* Relaxation of the rules will not be uniform across France, but will be applied on a departmental or regional basis.
* Departments will be coded "red" (less freedom of movement) or "green" (greater freedom of movement) according to how badly any department is affected by the infection at any time. This colour coding will be reviewed and made public on a daily basis. "Green" departments will be allowed greater freedom of movement because they have less infection.
* We will not be allowed to cross departmental boundaries unless for urgent family or business purposes.
* We will not be allowed to travel more than 100km from home.
* We cannot gather in groups of more than 10 - and there is a suggestion that we will be asked to keep our contacts to tightly defined "social bubbles" of less than10 although I don't think anyone is entirely sure what all of this means in practice yet.
*Masks will be obligatory on all public transport.
*Social distancing must continue to be observed.
*There will be comprehensive testing (they are talking about 700000 tests a day) and contact tracing/enforced isolation where necessary.
This has all clearly got to be thrashed out by the various authorities over the next fortnight and, as I noted earlier, does depend on the progress we continue to make in containing the spread of Covid 19.
Where does this leave someone who is wanting to buy or sell a house in France this year? Well, buyers can clearly continue to get as much information as they can about individual properties and the market as a whole remotely - by looking at websites, talking to the owner of the property on the phone and perhaps by viewing their property on line via a camera in the vendor's phone or tablet. As far as live viewings are concerned it looks as though we will be able to visit property for sale within our own department fairly soon - providing the department is "green", you or your vendors are in good health and not too elderly and providing you and they observe all of the required sanitary and social distancing requirements. This is my understanding of the situation and I may be too optimistic, of course, but I am already hearing of notaires provisionally arranging appointments to signing for the purchase of properties for after 11th May, for example.
Beyond individual departmental, or regional, boundaries, things get a bit more opaque with international borders likely to be closed for a little while yet, although officials are beginning to talk about how trains and aircraft can be made as safe as possible which implies that travel across greater distance is now being factored into their longer term plans.
Please note this is just my interpretation of what is likely to happen after May 11th and Mr Philippe's plans can easily be hijacked by better ideas or, on the minus side, a resurgence of the infection. Whatever the case, we will do our best to keep you informed and also to highlight the safety measures buyers and sellers should take in the coming months.
As always, you can continue to browse our properties on our website and we can put you in direct contact with the owner. You can therefore find out a great deal about a property that interests you without leaving home yourself - and if the vendor has a smart phone or an i-pad they can even give you a guided tour of the property and its exterior. In this way you can find out much more from the property owner than you can from an intermediary, such as an estate agent. This will put you ahead of the rest of the field when the lock-down is lifted and people can once again buy property in France.
This Sawday listed farmhouse plus gite is on the market at 560 000€. Ref 10826, near St Beauzile, Tarn
If any of the houses we are marketing are of interest to you and you have a question, then just ask. You can easily contact the owner, using the form on the property's details page on our website, or you can e-mail us and we will pass your question and your contact details directly to the owner. They will then reply to you personally, cutting out a middle-man and avoiding estate agency commission.
We only market property which is for sale by vendors directly. Because of this there is no estate agency commission to pay us by either buyer or seller following an introduction by us.
I hope we can help you buy or sell your French property in the near future, but more importantly I hope that you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy during this horrible pandemic.