The Sale of State Owned Property in France

An article about property for sale in France which is state owned

*** Updated 2018 ***

Property for sale in France - paying off the debt

Britain isn't the only country feeling the pinch in these tough economic times. Ireland and Portugal's financial woes are well documented, of course, and UK citizens cannot fail to be aware that the current government is making savage cuts in the economy to try to balance the books and reduce the national debt accrued in recent years. France too, is grappling with the problem of a deficit in the country's economy, and in 2010, the French government decided upon an interesting way to recoup its finances through selling off a large amount of state owned property.

State is property rich

France may be struggling to find its financial feet at the moment, but the state is tremendously property rich. In fact, the state owns an embarrassment of property, much of it outdated and completely superfluous to its needs. The French Budget Minister (always an unenviable job!), stated that France has to "get rid of useless and unadapted buildings", and there the great French sell off of 1,700 properties began.

French property sale - a three-year plan

French state property has been sold in the past, but this is the first time that it has been opened to the public in such a concentrated fashion. The public sell off of French state property was to take place over roughly three years, having begun in 2010 and continuing to the end of 2013. The aim was to not only profit from the cash raised from the sale of these buildings, but also to save on the expense of the maintenance of what are, in many cases, very substantially sized properties. This sale is still continuing.

Type of property for sale

The properties come in a huge range of shapes and sizes. Ordinary buyers may well be interested in the smaller ones, such as a canal lock house or town houses once used for government offices, while the wealthier with an eye for something special may well wish to grab the chance purchase one of the several grand chateaux that form part of the great sell off (Owning a chateau in France). Beyond chateaux and town houses, there are occasional real specialities such as a former royal hunting lodge... a celebrity home in waiting for sure!

Properties with a difference

Those are the types of properties that are likely to appeal to the home seeker, but the bulk of the properties are rather different, and would need extensive renovation to become any sort of comfortable residence. Many are former Ministry of Defence facilities, scheduled for change anyway under a plan to downsize and improve the country's military. Others are large office buildings, ripe for use by expanding companies perhaps, while even shops, lighthouses and forestry huts also feature on the list.

Who can buy?

The question of who can bid for these properties seems simple, but has a thorny underside in the light of recent money laundering scandals involving French property purchases. The French government is taking great pains not to allow this to happen during this sell off, with investigations into the origins of the money and the veracity of the purchaser scheduled to take place on all sales. Other than the requirement to be clean and above board, anyone, nationality notwithstanding, is invited to bid for the property.

Local authorities have the first option to buy

In the past, this may have caused an outcry among the more nationalistic French, but the attitude now seems to be that those who care about these often historic and important properties are happy for them to be bought and restored by enthusiastic foreigners than for them to crumble into ruin. However, local authorities are given the first option to buy, with the open bidding opportunity passing to the public only after this right has been waived in each case.

State owned properties for sale - where to find the details

The properties for sale can be found on the website https://www.economie.gouv.fr/cessions, detailing the properties, the locations and posting photographs. Contact details and procedures are also given for each property. Bear in mind, with some property there is no guide price given at all, leaving prospective purchasers to make up their own minds just how much they think a property is worth.

What is the money raised to be used for?

It is estimated that around 20% of the money raised will go towards paying off the national debt, which currently stands at a colossal figure of 1.4 trillion Euros. The greater portion of the money from property sales is to be put to use to improve existing state facilities, services and the efficient functioning of the military.

Generally accepted to be a good idea

The sell off is the result of a carefully researched programme of regeneration of the functioning of France's military and ministries, with each body having drawn up a far reaching strategy for improvement and rationalisation. However, there are dissolute voices in the background, largely from those concerned about the potential for corruption, or from a minority who object to the loss of French heritage. Overall, though, the sell off is generally accepted to be a good idea, and one which will ultimately benefit the country and its people in various ways.

French property seekers are offered the chance of a lifetime

While the lack of a guide price makes it a little difficult, the sale of these properties could represent the chance of a lifetime to purchase historic, unusual and even a truly unique property. Whatever you buy, and whatever you pay, each piece of former state property will be a little piece of French history in the making.

Additional articles which may be of interest:


French Property Prices
House Renovations in France
Building or extending property in France
Why buy property in France

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

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