Buyers find their place in Nice

During the Nice Jazz Festival last month, the café terraces of Place Magenta were teeming with locals enjoying the music until late into the balmy evening. Young couples have gathered along the Promenade du Paillon, a green alley in a park with dancing fountain jets.

“There was a wonderfully inviting sense of normalcy,” says Kati Mulligan, originally from the north-east of England but who has lived in Nice for the past six years, where she works for Savills, the real estate agency. “While I miss the sound of hearing international voices, seeing their excitement as they discover new things in the Old Town or the colorful Cours Saleya food market.”

Covid-19 restrictions may have been largely lifted in the capital of the French Riviera, but international tourists remain meager on the ground due to travel restrictions.

Aristocrats, royalty and artists began to flock to Nissa La Bella (Nice the fair) over a century ago, drawn to its mix of seaside Beaux-Arts buildings and the Baroque architecture of its old City. Last month, Unesco inscribed Nice on its World Heritage List, honored to be the “winter resort town of the Riviera”. But the city has never been more than a seaside resort.

While sometimes overlooked by high-profile real estate buyers who head to town before quickly making their way to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat or Cannes, Nice’s convenience and vibrant cultural scene have long appealed to buyers in Paris, Northern Europe and the United States. And sales have picked up this year.

“[In April and May 2021] we achieved the same turnover as for the whole of 2020, ”explains Hélène Tauson of Wretman Estate, a Swedish agency. “Even with the pandemic, 2020 has been better for the agency than 2019, with many buyers in northern France looking for pied-à-terre apartments.”

Nice, capital of the Côte d’Azur © Getty Images

After increasing by 5% between 2018-2019, the average price of Nice real estate stagnated in 2020, according to agent Leggett Immobilier based on data from LPI-SeLoger. However, the agent’s own figures for properties sold so far this year put the average price at € 4,800 per m², up from € 4,550 per m² in 2019.

Although there are plenty of properties to be found priced below € 3000 per m², prices go up to € 6000 – € 8000 per m² in the prime areas around the Promenade des Anglais, Le Port, Cap de Nice and Mont Boron, the wooded hill bordering the magnificent bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Map of Nice, France

According to Alex Balkin, director of the Savills office on the French Riviera, the highest price in Nice is around € 15,000 per m², which can be achieved on apartments on the upper floors of Quai des Etats- States that run along the seafront to the Port. . According to the Knight Frank real estate agency, the price of luxury homes in Nice is on average € 10,000 per m², far behind Cannes (€ 19,600), Saint-Tropez (€ 25,500) and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (€ 35,300).

Balkin says the city has improved considerably since he moved there in 1994. “It is mandatory for homeowners to renovate the old facades of their buildings (or receive fines) and the mayor [Christian Estrosi] invests a lot in greening the city.

Since the terrorist attack five years ago – when a truck was driven through the crowds celebrating Bastille Day along the Promenade des Anglais, killing 86 people – hundreds of security bollards and new palm trees have been planted along the historic seafront boulevard. Residents rave about the new tram connecting the city center to the airport (the fare is only € 1.50) and the regenerated Port district – by removing 20,000 Promenade cars.

“I can go door-to-door from my apartment at the airport in 20 minutes,” says Mulligan, who lives in an Art Deco building in the Musician Quarter, and who also uses the free electric shuttle that goes around. the city.

The Gare du Sud food court in the Liberation district

The Gare du Sud food court in the Liberation district © Hemis / Alamy

The Old Town, or Old Town

The Old Town, or Old Town © Inge Johnsson / Alamy

Apart from the Musiciens – still a very French district where we hear accordions in the streets every weekend – Mulligan also likes the Liberation district, which is full of Belle Époque and Art Deco buildings, and where a large hangar tram station has been transformed into the popular Gare du Sud food court. The average price of real estate in the district is 3,970 € per m², according to French notaries, still lower than that of the district around Nice’s other popular food market, Cours Saleya (4,050 € per m² ) or Le Port at € 4,630.

Well-to-do international shoppers prefer the chic waterfront district of the Carré d’Or for its position behind the Promenade des Anglais and the pink-domed Le Negresco hotel. This is where Victoria Harris and her husband, based in Oxford, buy a period apartment for between € 250,000 and € 300,000. Working as a British Airways cabin crew member, she once lived near Cannes for a stint.

“We had planned to buy last summer, but now we’re back looking for something a block or two from the Promenade des Anglais,” she says. “Our budget will not go far in Cannes, but we prefer the Nice atmosphere. The restaurants are more innovative and diverse than elsewhere on the Riviera.

Like many other shoppers in Nice, Harris is looking to find a place she can rent on Airbnb when she’s not using it – but this may be less profitable than before, especially given the drop in price levels. tourism since Covid -19 has arrived.

“We see some owners who are very dependent on Airbnb income selling,” explains Barthélémy Desgranges of the real estate agency L’Agence in Old Nice. “Prices have not yet come down, but we are seeing lower offers being accepted for apartments in this region. Other owners are moving to long term rentals.

Cours Saleya, the food and flower market

Cours Saleya, the food and flower market © Vuk Valcic / Alamy

According to AirDNA, which tracks the short-term rental market, the number of properties listed on Airbnb in Nice has increased from 11,128 in July 2019 to 7,339 in June 2021, and the occupancy rate across the city has increased. from 68.5% to 48.6%. New registrations are also down. In June 2019, there were 738 new listings on Airbnb, but only 401 in June 2021. “The pandemic and local restrictions have made a big difference in the number of new properties listed,” explains AirDNA’s Madeleine Parkin.

In an attempt to stem the spread of Covid-19, the mayor of Nice ordered a holiday rental ban during the mid-term vacation in February 2021, a decision overturned when the vacation rental union, the Union of the Tourist Rental Professionals (UPLT), took the decision to court. However, the owners’ committees of certain buildings have their own prohibitions.

Paris-based Michael, who declined to give his full name, withdrew from buying a € 690,000 two-bedroom apartment on rue de France (parallel to the Promenade des Anglais) in December. The retired banker and his artist wife have targeted Nice as a great place to generate income.

“The rules said vacation rentals on ‘platforms like Airbnb’ were banned [and] that I could face a trial if I didn’t respect them, ”he said. “I thought about fighting it, or renting through a local agency, but we buy in Normandy instead. “

The verdant boulevards of Cimiez, northeast of the city, are where the rich arrived from the old town in the 19th century. Around this time, the Excelsior Regina Palace Hotel hosted Queen Victoria and artist Henri Matisse – a museum dedicated to him can be found nearby.

Cimiez still attracts well-to-do professionals to its period villas, which cost between € 1.5 and 2.5 million, says Balkin. Mont Boron, to the east of the city, is also attracting international buyers, with villas priced from € 2 million to € 10 million, he says. “Last week, a British owner sold a five-bedroom villa to an Alsatian buyer for 5.5 million euros,” he adds.

Next to Mont Boron is Villefranche-sur-Mer, popular for its charming medieval village full of cafes and restaurants, says Tim Swannie of Home Hunts, a buying agent. “It’s just 15 minutes by car or train from Nice, with great views of Cap Ferrat.”

He says it is possible to find a village house there for around € 600,000, but there are many villas between € 1.5 and € 2 million – or € 5 million more for those on the hillside. hill with the best views.

Mulligan’s favorite view is the vibrant yellow and black tiled rotunda atop the neighboring building’s elegant balconies from its own patio. “It really is a magical place where it is good to live.

Purchase guide

  • Nice is the fifth largest city in France and the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department. It is 12 km from Monaco and 25 km from the Italian border. TGV trains from Paris to Nice take 5 to 6 hours.

  • Nice Côte d’Azur airport is the third international airport in France after the two Parisian airports, with nearly 14.5 million passengers in 2019 and flights to 40 countries.

  • The cost of buying a resale property is about 7% of the selling price.

What you can buy. . .

€ 895,000 A three bedroom apartment on the third floor of a Carré d’Or building, in the heart of Nice. The property, which measures 114 m², has an open-plan kitchen, dining room and living room, with wooden floors throughout. The property is available through the Home Hunts real estate agency.

1.15 M € A three bedroom, two bathroom penthouse apartment in Cimiez. The property, which measures 134 m², was renovated in 2004, and offers panoramic views of the city from its large balcony. It is available through the Savills real estate agency.

6.3 M € A six bedroom hillside villa in Villefranche-sur-Mer, just around the coast of Mont Boron in Nice. The property, which measures 300 m² and is spread over three levels, has an elevator, a large terrace with swimming pool and offers superb views over the magnificent bay of Villefranche. The property is available through Home Hunts.

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