18 May 2012
Mixing wine culture with French property sales
|Property attraction on the Riviera.|
The two most popular types of property which Chinese buyers are chasing are apartments in Paris and vineyards, particularly around Bordeaux, said Tim Swannie, Managing Director of Homehunts, based on the Riviera.
The company specialises in luxury homes and investment properties throughout the entire south of France, as well as in Paris, the Alps, Monaco, Geneva and London, generally at prices beginning at Euros1 million.
Paris has been popular for the past three to four years with the company's Chinese clientele, while over the past two years vineyards have seen a real increase in demand from Chinese clients heading for the Riviera, Swannie explained. "We have two Chinese ladies within our French team now so that we can specifically help those clients."
|Parisian luxury apartment.||Central Parisian location.|
In Paris, the demand is for large apartments (on one-level) with river or garden views, parking and concierge services, said Tancred Lidbury, Christie's International Real Estate Associate Director of Sales for Europe. Trophy houses with good ceiling heights are also in demand for homeowners to entertain guests.
The company's clientele looks in areas such as Avenue George V, Avenue Champs Elysees, Concorde and Avenue Montaigne, where some of the finest residences are located, Lidbury added.
Sales are mainly to individuals, although Chinese buyers are becoming more open to purchasing under a corporate structure.
|Lidbury: demand for trophy homes.||Villa with a view.|
Property sales benefit from wine
Away from the capital, Lidbury said the potential for wine making is always a plus, so houses with large land plots with vines are very appealing to those wanting to make a start in producing their own wines.
China has recently discovered a passion for wine drinking, which makes it Bordeaux's largest export client, and has stimulated interest in many aspects of French life.
|Chateau for lifestyle investment.||Chateau cellars.|
China surpassed the UK as the world's fifth largest wine consuming nation at the end of last year and the market is forecast to grow to nearly 250 million cases by 2016, according to International Wine and Spirit Research.
Some analysts said China will overtake the US as the largest wine-consuming nation within 20 years.
|Guillon: interest from Asian investors.|
IFL has worked in French property transactions for 13 years, at first in Europe and now in Asia, based in Hong Kong.
The current interest in French vineyards from Chinese or Asian investors is definitely maturing, Guillon explained. It started with a general interest in wine tasting and learning about European culture and then, for many clients, developed into a true passion for French culture and specifically, its wine and gastronomy.
IFL Managing Director Somalina Nguon-Guignet added that the value of luxury properties in France continues to increase steadily with annual growth estimated at between 5% and 10%. It's an excellent way for investors to fend off inflation, she believed.
Some 10,000 chateaux were built in the Bordeaux region over the centuries, and IFL sold 18 in the past 15 years to Asian buyers.
Maxwell-Storrie-Baynes, a company with expertise in the Bordeaux vineyard real estate market and an exclusive affiliate of Christie's International Real Estate, has also detected a growing number of Chinese clients over the past 18 months.
|Chateau du Grand Moueys: Hong Kong investment.|
Annual production from the vineyard is up to 400,000 bottles, which was largely sold in Europe. The new owners expect only 10% of the product to remain in Europe and the rest to be exported to China.
"It has been exciting to work with the Chinese over the past few months," said Karin Maxwell, Co-owner and Sales Director of Maxwell-Storrie-Baynes. "We constantly marvel at the size and scale of their distribution networks, something that I am sure is the envy of many European wine makers."
"The Chinese are contributing to a significant increase in vineyard activity," said Co-owner and Managing Director Michael Baynes. "We expect to see more vineyard purchases from China during 2012, as their passion for Bordeaux wines continues unabated and they make the most of the historically low prices per hectare in the region."
Some French residents welcome Chinese and Asian investors buying up traditional vineyards and palaces, said industry experts, as the new money helps to improve the vineyards and wine-making facilities, resulting in better quality wines.
|Classically French vineyard.||Investment good for business.|
Many believe that these Asian acquisitions are good for French vineyards because investors are interested in the product, want to improve the wine and can afford to hire experts.
|Du Rey: interest from Mainland clients.|
By corollary, some purists believe Chinese chateau owners are tempted to ship their entire production back to China, and this could affect the French industry's continued health.
Some vineyard owners have actually insisted that if they sold their properties, then a certain percentage of wine must be sold in France.
French luxury property specialist, Phillippe Benoit du Rey, Managing Director of Aruzzrealestate, has been selling high-end property to wealthy Chinese business people over recent years, including in the south.
In 2010, the sale of a luxury villa with stunning sea views in Nice in the Côte d' Azur was the first recorded purchase from a Chinese national on the French Riviera, he said.
|Hospital with potential.|
The agent is seeing increasing interest from affluent Chinese mainland clients seeking to take advantage of relatively low property prices. He noted that properties sold to Chinese investors must be in good shape, as they don't expect to do repairs.
As an indication of the variety of properties of interest to Chinese investors, he said one project was a former hospital, 70 km from Tours and near the famous Beauval Zoo, which has two pandas that China gave to France. The hospital has great potential to be turned into a hotel and a conference centre for Chinese culture in France, he believed.
Turning traditional sites into tourist sites for Chinese tourists is a developing trend. Chinese investors eager to take advantage of their country's growing love of wine plan to turn chateaux into luxury resorts complete with Chinese restaurants, golf courses and French gardens.
from special correspondent Garry Marchant, Nice
||Tel: (852) 2971-1374, (33) 608-054-259|
|Christie's International Real Estate
Tancred Lidbury, Associate Director of Sales for Europe
|Tel: (44) 20-7389-2631, (44) 20-7389-2551
Fax: (44) 20-7389-2168
Tim Swannie, Managing Director
|Tel: (33) 970-44-66-43
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
|In France Limited (IFL)
Somalina Nguon Guignet, Managing Director
|Tel: (33) 616-43-84-05, (852) 9035-0906
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
|International Wine and Spirit Research
||Tel: (44) 20-7689-6841
Fax: (44) 20-7689-6827
Karin Maxwell, Co-owner and Sales Director
|Tel: (33) 557-84-08-82