Britons tunnelling through to cheaper property

It was reputedly Napoleon who first thought of digging a tunnel under the English Channel, the idea being to provide a means for his armies to bypass the sea barrier which had (and still has) protected Britain from a successful full scale invasion since 1066.

Perhaps ironically, then, it is now such a tunnel does exist that a British army is apparently heading the other way. But far from being men with guns and bayonets, these are commuters who are combining the possibilities of travel with the lower prices of the French property market.

This trend has been reported by HIFX, a UK financial services company which deals with international property buying France property, as evidenced by a 17 per cent surge in enquiries from British buyers about French property between August and September. This was not, the company believes, a blip. Rather, the increase took place just as Eurotunnel announced a new faster Eurostar service.

As a result, commuting between France and the UK is now faster, quick enough, in fact, for some to decide to live on one side of the Channel while working on the other. Noting that the country had always been a popular holiday home destination for Britons, HIFX director Mark Bodega added: “It is now increasingly feasible for buyers to have the best of both worlds, living permanently in what was a holiday home and commuting back to the UK when necessary.”

The company has also noted that they are not alone in seeing this trend. French property specialists VEF have too. Spokesman Peter Wheelton said: “We’ve noticed a particular rise in the number of people who perhaps spend two or three days a week working in the UK and the rest of the time living in their permanent homes in France.” To this he added the notable facts that French property was 30 per cent cheaper than its UK counterpart, while in the northern French region he is based in, Pas de Calais, it is a third below the national average. All of this suggests a significant bargain.

Indeed, the availability of cheap deals in many parts of France has been broadly recognised and not just by Britons. American buyer Donna Dell bought a former holiday home in the Champagne region when the owner died and told the San Francisco Chronicle that “we got an extraordinary deal”, remarking that properties in rural France were “very inexpensive”.

Given this fact, it is perhaps not surprising to hear research from Savills which states that France is now the leading European destination for British second home buyers. The firm also noted that there is a good market for buy-to-let investors, with average rental income per property at £15,645, reports homesworldwide.co.uk.

Having cheaper or more lucrative property is not all. For those who are commuting, HIFX also noted that a return train trip between London and Paris can cost around £90, less than half that of a journey between London and Manchester. As well as being able to buy for less, it seems, commuters settling across the Channel can travel for less as well.