The Bobo Effect on French Property

A guide to Bobos in France and their influence on French property

Bobos and property in France

There has been much talk in the last decade of the new social class who are known as Bobos, especially when it comes to the property market in France (French Property Prices). Essentially a modern day Yuppie, the term was first coined by David Brooks in his book "Bobos in Paradise". Published in 2000, the book applies the name to a new social class who are a mixture of the old style Bohemians and the Bourgeoisie. Brook's work refers to the USA, but of course, Bobos can be found in most civilised countries.

A particular interest in wise property investment

Bobos are educated, reasonably wealthy individuals who have plenty of disposable income but who regard money as something to be used wisely in essentials such as good living rather than advocating a profligate lifestyle and worshipping money for its own sake. They are characterised by a social conscience, albeit one which may not have been entirely thought through. It follows, therefore, that they have a particular interest in wise property investment, and it is this fact that has prompted the property phenomenon known as the Bobo Effect.

The Ryanair Effect on French property

The property market in France has seen many changes in recent times, one of which is the well documented Ryanair Effect, where different towns, departments and even regions of the country have had their property prices and desirability levels dictated and even revolutionised by the budget airline Ryanair choosing either to fly into local airports or, in some cases, to withdraw their service. The availability of cheap flights has made areas accessible from Britain, attracting a large number of property seekers, adding to the value of properties in hitherto unknown areas. Equally, the withdrawal of the budget airlines from certain airports has left prices, and ex-patriot residents, floundering.

Other "Effects" influencing the French property market

Prior to the Ryanair Effect, France has seen the Peter Mayle Effect, which made Provence (and more specifically, the Luberon), a hugely desirable area and pushed property prices there through the roof, and later, the No Going Back Effect, referring to the rise in the popularity of a rash of TV programmes promoting the idea of Brits leaving the UK for a better life abroad. While these influences may not seem to be as powerful as financial crises and times of recession, they are capable of changing the face of the property market in no small way.

What is the Bobo Effect?

The Bobo Effect is different in many ways from the above examples, but also similar, in that it popularises previously little known areas and has a discernible impact on property values. The phenomenon (with regard to France) began in Paris (Paris Arrondissements Property Guide), first coming to national and international attention in the 1990s. With their advantages of wealth and education, Bobos began to see unfashionable areas of the French capital in a new light.

Desirable Paris property areas

Aware of the revamping of other run down areas of large cities such as dockland and slum redevelopment, Bobos began to purchase property in the less desirable 10th, 19th and 20th arrondissements. As a result, property prices soared, the areas changed completely, as did their populations. Where immigrants and the impoverished once lived, the young, wealthy and left wing Bobos now took up residence, bringing about changes not only in the properties and the people who lived in them, but also in the surroundings, styles of shops, cafés and restaurants to name but a few. The undesirable became desirable. In the 19th, the area around the Buttes Chaumont Park is currently doing very well, with property prices rising fast, while in the 20th, an area near the Jourdain stop on Metro Line 11 locally known as Jourdain Village, has also benefitted hugely from the Bobo Effect.

Marseille property and the Bobo Effect

The Bobo Effect has mainly concerned Paris, but has spread in part to a few other French cities. Marseille (Marseille Property Guide) is a case in point. France's second city, and capital of the south, Marseille has long had a name for its dark side, an underbelly of poverty and crime and having "no go" areas of town. Things are slowly changing in Marseille, however, and with the arrival of the TGV Méditerranée in 2001, making Marseille accessible by train from Paris in just three hours, the city began to come to the attention of the Bobos. Ripe for improvement and with plenty of affordable property, Marseille was a perfect hunting ground. The arrival of the Bobos has brought new businesses, in particular organic shops and very noticeably trendy restaurants to Marseille as well as having its predictable effect on property.

Good property investment

Ten years on, and it may be pertinent to take a look at what the Bobos are up to in 2010. They are still around, certainly, and there are many who say that the smart way to seek a good property investment in France's big cities is to buy where the Bobos are buying. However, there are many who say that the Bobo Effect has a limited lifespan. With the changes they have brought about, the Bobos are becoming wealthier, and with this wealth comes an inevitable change in values, politics and spending habits. Where once they were more Bohemian than Bourgeois, Bobos are becoming more Bourgeois than Bohemian.

A possible downside?

There is a backlash against them too, with those whose moral conscience asks the question "'When the Bobos move into these areas, what happens to the previous occupants of the properties? Dispossessed and forced, perhaps, into even worse areas, are the Bobos unwittingly creating a new underclass through their own actions?"

The future of the Bobo Effect on property in France

It seems the future of the Bobos is uncertain. The Bobo Effect on the housing market may continue for sometime, but the general consensus seems to be that Bobos have had the best of their day, and that as they become less and less uniform as a social group, so their effect on the world around them will also be diluted. There is no doubt that Bobos have had a very significant effect on the Paris housing market and the areas that they chose to inhabit. For the property seeker of today, this means that there are new and highly desirable areas in which to buy property, although any investment advantages of this (ie: low prices) will have been negated by the subsequent rise in prices.

The new French property buyers

New areas for investment are still possible to find by following the Bobos, if you can catch them early enough, but evidence suggests that the wisest move might be to look out for the next "Bobos" on the scene. Each social group is, in time, replaced by another, so if the Bobos are the spiritual (if not actually physical) children of the Yuppies, perhaps we should be keeping a weather eye on the children of the Bobos? In just ten years time it will be they who are the new property buyers and investors of the future.

Additional articles which may be of interest:

Life in France
French Connections
Moving to France - how to go about it

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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