A river runs through it

Think of St Tropez, think of sport cars and casinos, think of waves gently caressing sun-kissed beaches, think of beautiful men and women… OK stop right there, we’re here to talk about property. Graham Norwood pulls himself together to report.

Picture this. Guaranteed sun for some 320 days a year, some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, rich and rambling countryside inland, and a worldwide reputation as a millionaires’ playground. It could all be yours, too, if you don’t mind mingling with the rich and famous…. And paying for it.

jetset girl in St Tropez

St Tropez has all of the above and more. It was only when this humble property writer saw movie legend Joan Collins in one restaurant and dance king Michael Flatley in the next, that he realised that, well, he was really in Saint Tropez, where celebrities mingle with the locals and where holiday property has been completely out of reach for mere mortals, until now.
“One reason for the high price of properties is simple shortage, down to planning controls on over-development,” says one local agent. “Land is expensive by French standards and more people moving here want a period property. Some moderately-priced homes exist but there aren’t many” he admits.
If you do manage to buy into the market, returns are historically strong. An estate agent in Provence, says: “Prices rose around ten per cent in 2002 and six per cent in 2001 – both higher than we have seen in a lot of France during that time. This year may produce another five to eight per cent.
“New properties are becoming more popular because of the high prices of older houses, so these form a strong investment opportunity now.”
The Parcs of St Tropez will be completed in late 2004 and will provide a private estate of around 20 properties with 24 hour security. The five en-suite-bedroom villas, from a local developer, will be vast – 800 square metres, including land, with sea views and direct access to the beach. And the price? A cool €6.1 million (£4 million).
Most modestly priced is a 14–year old development close by, where a resale four-bedroom villa with guest annexe and pool in the Belle Isnarde development will set you back €4.1 million (£2.6 million).
A resort development of the type previously shunned in this part of France, but increasingly common around some parts of the Mediterranean coast, has just gone into construction on the hills overlooking St Tropez harbour.
The Gassin Golf and County Club consists of 60 villas and 73 townhouses, many of which are still being built. They are selling for high prices, although – because they lack the privacy than many similar properties, at between €613 000 and €2.3 million (£425,000 to £1.6 million). Each of the three-, four- and five-bedroom properties has views over the medieval village of Gassin, its nearby forests and vineyards.
“These days many people want this kind of property. They can lock them up and leave them when they travel or return to a main home. Because the estate is new the homes incur no maintenance costs, there’s guaranteed security and it’s a location with a worldwide luxurious reputation” states one property developer.
“The better developments of this kind adopt some of the local vernacular (architecture) in terms of materials used and room sizes, and create a feel for the place in which they are built” he says. Hence, at Golf Gassin, there are farmhouse style doors and unpolished marble tiles, and each house has a patio area with a private pool.
The 100-hectare site will eventually include a nine-hole executive golf course as well as the full 18-hole championship version, plus a golf academy for learners, a bar and a restaurant and a beach club spa with gymnasium, saunas, Jacuzzi and steam rooms.
The annual service change comes in at £2 000 a year per property, which includes private security, and you are also obliged to join the golf club that sits outside your front door –at no less than £49 000 for two adults.
“Yes, it’s expensive, but this is St Tropez” says a local service that sells and buys properties for the burgeoning expat community.

If you are committed to living in this glamorous area but do not have a seven figure budget for your holiday place or new permanent home, you could look a little further afield. Properties at the limits of a 20 minute radius of St Tropez, for instance, suddenly become much more affordable.

Due to restrictions on widespread development in the region, most new properties will be single residences, often with large gardens or even areas of woodland – but estates are, in most instance, simply not allowed.
For example, in La Garde Freinet is a four bedroom Provencal-style villa currently under construction some 20 minutes from the St Tropez beaches with sprawling views and a swimming pool – and it would be yours for €1 million, or around £690 000, it will be completed in January next year.
Property is not the only St Tropez purchase that should not be undertaken by those of a nervous financial disposition; the French government recently identified it as the most expensive part of the country for eating out, for petrol and water supplies.
For some reason the survey did not include property – who would have bet on it not being the most expensive for that too?

This article was taken from the magazine “Home Overseas”, November 2003.
Names of estate agents have been volontary deleted from this article.

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