The French Riviera, and in particular Nice, has been an investment hotspot for locals as well as an international clientel for over 100 years. Both English and Russians have been heavy investors here since Victorian times, the Italians before then. The international appeal of this sunny working city has the same draw today. During the last financial crisis, Nice and Paris were the only two cities in France where property prices did not drop. The massive infrastructure developments happening over the next three years will cement Nice’s position as a top worldwide destination.
The appeal to today’s investor are both the safety and the good yield. The safety comes in two forms, capital appreciation and equity release. Nice is not a good place to “flip” property, price growth will be too slow over the next few years and stamp duty too high, but it is one of the safest places to put money where the price increases will be beat low bank interest rates. Because of such heavy demand for property here, equity release is easy. It is not a question of if you sell your property, only a question of how much for.
Nice has always had a very strong demand for rental, and has long been a desirable city for buy to let. The reasons for this are:
- reasonable capital outlay compared to capital cities
- all year around demand, unlike smaller towns along the Cote d’Azur which are summer only
- good capital appreciation, with the city improving all the time
- easy equity release, good property in Nice sells quickly
Types of rental
There are three main types of rental:
- holiday lettings
- student rental (9 months – September to June)
- long-term furnished and unfurnished
The most popular rental type at the moment is holiday lettings. The reasons for this are:
- you can rent per week the same price you would rent per month if renting long term. Even after taking into account management fees (around 30% of revenue) and any traditionally quieter months (November to February) you can still earn substantially more
- the ability to use the apartment yourself whenever you want
- easy resale, as the apartment can be sold empty at any time by simply cancelling future bookings
At the bottom end of the property price scale, student rental can be combined with holiday letting to provide a balance between security and rentability.
For student, long term furnished, and long term unfurnished, there is exceptional demand. If there was over-demand a decade ago, the large amount of rental stock being converted to holiday lettings has exacerbated this. This makes longer term rental secure as a “fire and forget” investment, but you will take a hit on the resale price if you need to sell before you are able to get the tenant out.
Best areas for rental
Your budget will determine the best investment area. At under €150,000 the area will be predominantly the Old Town. It will be a studio, possibly 1-bedroom. If renovated around 25m² and if needing refreshing around 35-40m².
From €150,000 to €200,000 the areas will be mostly Old Town and possibly the Carre d’Or. In the Old Town it will be a good sized one-bedroom, or possibly a small two-bedroom, and in the Carre d’Or a small one bedroom.
€200,000 to €250,000 is a rental “sweet spot”, where you start to get something desirable for a good price. The area will be split between the Old Town and the Carre d’Or, and possibly the “Petit Marais” (a new trendy district in the Port). In the Old Town it will either be a one-bedroom with something special, such as a nice view or a lift, or a second bedroom. In the Carre d’Or it will be a one bedroom in an exceptional building or it will have a balcony, or possibly a very small two bedroom. For that price in the Port it needs to be right on or next to Place Garibaldi / Place de Pins or the Port itself.
€250,000 to €300,000 is the same as above but with a desirable addition that makes it more rentable. It can be an extra bedroom, a balcony, or a nice view. The extra outlay will be recuperated by being booked more fully outside of the summer season.
€300,000 to €400,000 falls between those wanting a cheap buy-to-let and those wanting a buy-to-let with a “wow factor”. Those that buy in the price range are happy to compromise yield to have something they also love as a holiday home. Areas are Carre d’Or, Carre d’Argent, Musicians Quarter, Old Town, and Port.
€400,000 to €500,000 is a sweet spot for those wanting a two bedroom rental. It will usually be in the Carre d’Or or the Musicians Quarter. It will be in a historic building, or have something unique like a terrace, a garden, or a slice of sea view. It is not quite enough for a full sea view without sacrificing something important, like location. There are a lot of great apartments that have been neglected inside so budget in possible refreshing costs for a potential bargain.
€500,000 to €600,000 needs to be spectacular if buying to rent out. It needs two bedrooms, outside space, a good view, and excellent finishing.
Above €600,000 let us be honest, it is more for yourself than to rent out. It will still make very good money, but not as much if you bought two for half the price.
There are a number of factors that will influence your yield. As well as choosing the best possible property, you will also need great looking photos and a property management company that responds quickly to inquiries.
The first year you will need to work out the optimum pricing. Too cheap and your dates will all book instantly, too expensive and you will have large empty blocks. The property market has changed since the package tours a decade ago, when people used to book up their holiday up to a year in advance. In these days of budget flights and AirBnb, people book their accommodation a lot more last minute. This makes it easy for your to adjust your pricing as you go.
When you ask estate agents how much an apartment will rent for, they will always quote you gross revenue and peak rental rate. This not any attempt to deceive, it is simply the only way to compare like with like. Property management rates vary a lot and off-peak rates fluctuate as owners try to fill the quietest months.
The following is only an example to use as a base.
A property priced at €200,000 might be quoted as a holiday rental rate of €800 / week. Owners tend to reduce the price by 1/3 off-peak, so call it €600/week off-season.
Peak rates usually run beginning of May until end of September. You can expect around 30 weeks of rental per year. If we take an example of around 75% occupancy over the summer, that is 16 weeks. If we take 40% occupancy off-peak that is 12 weeks. Generally there is more peak but the total looks roughly right. Let us use 28 weeks like this as a worst case.
Total revenue will be 16 x 800 + 12 x 600 = €20,000 gross annual revenue. This gives you a gross annual yield of 10%.
From speaking to clients and rental agencies, revenue for a property in this price range has been €16,000 to €38,000. At the bottom end, it is too low and that person needs to change rental agency. At the top end, they are pulling tricks like putting one or more bunk-beds in and charging extra per person per night. The median rate for those doing it non-professionally appears to be around the €18,000 mark.
Your principle costs are the property management company, insurance, electricity, syndic charges and council tax. A full service property management company that does everything, you just get a cheque at the end of the month, takes around 30% of revenue. Electricity will probably be around €30/month, so €360 per year. Then add annual insurance €200, council tax €600, syndic charges around €70 per month so €840. This gives you costs of €8,000.
If we take the lower rate of &euros;18,000 and take away costs of €8000, this leaves an annual profit of €10,000. This gives a net yield of 5%.
You do not need to take our word for any of this. All the annual costs can be obtained from the current owner, and the property management charges are clearly laid out in their terms and conditions (we can introduce you to the right company, depending on the property you buy). When we find you the property you like, you can independently call a property management company and ask them, “Am about about to buy this property, would you be prepared to take this on and if so how much per week would you charge guests?”