Monaco and the Riviera - Real Estate Realities podcast
The allure of the French Riviera is enough to parallel global wealth hubs such as London and Paris. In the third episode of Real Estate Realities, the Barclays Private Bank podcast devoted to prime property, we’ve looked at the trends influencing prime and super prime property markets in the French Riviera and Monaco.
Join property journalist Zoe Dare Hall, as she explores the luxury residential markets of the Riviera and asks the experts for their thoughts on the trends and opportunities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this episode we’re joined by Edward de Mallet Morgan, a partner in the International Super-Prime department at Knight Frank; Thibaut Lambert, Head of Monaco Domestic Market; and Stephen Moroukian, Product and Proposition Director, both at Barclays Private Bank.
Don’t have time to listen to the whole podcast? Dip into the recording at the times below to listen to specific topics:
- Market overview – 1.47
- Lifestyle shifts – 7.11
- Economic backdrop – 13.02
- Supply and demand – 17.17
- New developments – 24.43
You can stream this podcast by scanning the QR codes with your smartphone camera or clicking the buttons below.
Whether you're buying, selling, or investing in prime property, is now the right time? Are we headed for a downturn in prices? And which markets will remain the most resilient?
Tune into Real Estate Realities, the new podcast series from Barclays Private Bank, where we give you the inside track on prime and super prime residential markets. We uncover the trends and the opportunities. As global events evolve, we analyse the data and ask the experts for their opinions and insights into what's next for prime property.
Zoe Dare Hall (ZDH): Hello, and welcome to Real Estate Realities from Barclays Private Bank, the podcast series that looks at prime residential property through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic and other market critical trends. I'm your host, property journalist Zoe Dare Hall, and in this episode I'll be joined by three guests, all experts in their fields, to talk about the allure of the French Riviera.
But first of all, let me welcome Edward de Mallet Morgan who's a partner in the International Super-Prime department at Knight Frank joining us from his home in London. Welcome, Edward.
Edward de Mallet Morgan (EMM): Thank you so much, Zoe. It is fantastic to be speaking with you all today.
ZDH: I'm also delighted to welcome Thibaut Lambert, Head of Monaco Domestic Market at Barclays Private Bank, joining us today from Monaco.
Thibaut Lambert (TL): Pleasure to be here, thank you for having me.
ZDH: Thank you, and, and also from Barclays Private Bank, we have Stephen Moroukian, Product and Proposition Director.
Stephen Moroukian (SM): Hi, Zoe great to be talking prime property again from a chilly but bright London.
ZDH: So, hello to you all and thank you for joining us in what I'm sure is going to be a stimulating half an hour talking about the French art de vivre on the Côte d'Azur.
I don't know about anybody else, but whenever I hear the words 'French Riviera' I think of the, the glorious colours of the Mediterranean, the, the glamorous café culture, the year-round sunshine and, of course, lots of perfectly chilled rosé, which may all sound a bit of a cliché, but it's one that seems to have been attracting visitors and investors for a very long time.
Edward de Mallet Morgan, you spend a lot of time in the south of France, does my idealised vision of the Riviera ring true? Are, are buyers keeping you busy in their quest for sea, sand and sun?
EMM: Absolutely, absolutely. I think, given all the attractions of the Riviera, it's difficult to understand why more people don't spend more time there, frankly. But, it's been a really busy period over the last six months or so and we have definitely seen different trends through the course of the summer from the beginning of lockdown through to the, the central months and now we are in a different period today.
But if we look back at that in terms of asking prices and, and average sales and how that has changed, actually, earlier on in, in, in January of this year, there was about 7% or so that was being negotiated off asking price where deals were being done and this is based on, on information and data across the market and then, later on through the summer, this was reduced even more and today, probably, it's more or less around 5% in terms of where that negotiation level stands as an average.
But what that doesn't quite take into account for is the fact that, for new build stock, there is very little negotiation and, in fact, you know, we're aware of deals that have been done and one recently at about €15m which was at the guide price itself. For the main market across the Riviera, actually, that's something that tends to be quite unusual unless they are very specific and very specific properties.
But the, the buying profiles have also changed a lot. If we look back at May and June time, where a lot of the, the clients, a lot of the, the people out viewing properties were French and, funnily enough, the number one buyer in Paris is French and the number one buyer in, in London through the course of this year after British has been French in terms of an international buyer.
So, French nationalities have been very active in a lot of these marketplaces, but then as we got through into the early summer months and through July into August, we saw more Belgians come into the market, more Swiss, more Germans, more Italians and, and then, obviously, people who live in Monaco and have Monaco as their residence, but have owned and, and are interested in owning a larger property outside Monaco for much more leisure time and for a bit more space and quiet outside of the principality.
The other slight change to that is that we've now also seen a few more Americans and Canadian buyers coming into the market of late as well. It's been really interesting to see how people, obviously, the travel disruptions have really changed how people have been able to actually access the Riviera and one of the nice things about the Riviera as a marketplace, the vast majority of buyers, actually, are either from the UK or they're from mainland Europe.
So, where people, maybe, didn't have the confidence to get on an aeroplane, they've been driving and we had one client who actually drove from Oslo all the way down because they are really keen and really interested in, in buying something on the French Riviera.
ZDH: That's interesting. It points to some parallels across global wealth hubs, whether that's prime central London or Paris or the south of France, it seems lockdown has made everyone everywhere reevaluate how much space they need, especially as we all seem to be moving into more lockdown restrictions.
Thibaut Lambert, let's talk about the Monaco market specifically. What have you been observing about the pandemic's short-term effects on the local economy? The principality's local businesses must be feeling the absence of high-profile events like the Monaco Grand Prix, the yacht show, the big music festivals and, of course, all the associated spending by wealthy international visitors.
TH: Yes, of course, Zoe. Let's share some figures with you. So, we know that, at the end of the Q2, the principality's turnover decreased by 13%, nearly €1bn compared to the second quarter of 2019. I also can tell you, just by walking around Monaco, that there are fewer guests at the luxury hotels which are very quiet.
You mentioned the Formula One races. Just alone, the Formula One races attract around 200,000 fans at every event, so, of course, there has been a knock-on effect on the hospitality industry and, naturally, we have far fewer international passengers, down 85% in the month of September compared to last year, but if we look back a couple of years, it's interesting to note that passenger numbers at Nice Côte d'Azur Airport increased by more than 4% at the end of 2018 for the eighth year in a row.
So, I would say the area is in a strong position to remain popular with international visitors when commercial travel eventually begins to recover.
ZDH: Thanks, Thibaut and, and that's all very good information for buyers and sellers to keep in mind. Let's get back to the lifestyle that's, that's so attractive to wealthy individuals. The climate of the French Riviera is an obvious draw, especially for, for Brits and Northern Europeans. Stephen Moroukian, what are some of the other factors shaping the second home market?
SM: Yeah, well, thanks Zoe. Yeah, we're, we're seeing the shift to that second home market as Thibaut describes. Obviously, in, in many cases, that need has, has, has changed to be much more about a longer more sustainable home for that lockdown window. So, really that comes to some of the more practical natures of, of the property and its ability to communicate.
So, whether that's fast, reliable broadband, the, the, the requirements for being able to work remotely and having the space and the technological backing to be able to do that effectively, but at the same time, to have in-roads to good communications locally so that you can move around if you need to and, and almost that's becoming almost as important as having the pool and the view.
ZDH: Yeah, that's interesting and, and, Edward, I've been hearing a lot lately about well-being featuring highly on the agenda of ultra-high net-worth individuals and I imagine the pandemic has only increased well-being as a priority when it comes to high-value property.
EMM: Zoe, absolutely. And I’m sure that this is something that Thibaut is talking about with his clients and that Stephen is talking about with his clients. It really is at the front of everybody’s minds at the moment with the pandemic. Funnily enough over the past few years health and wellbeing has been creeping up more and more in terms of the priorities for our clients and for high-net-worth and ultra-high net-worth clients.
But the pandemic has really focused everybody’s real sense of priorities and the things that are important at the moment. Particularly with people planning ahead for future lockdowns, they are reappraising how the core of their family structure works. You know, all of a sudden you’ve got husbands and wives spending more time with each other than they ever have done and also a lot of the time, particularly when locked down, having to share those homes with the children who are either tearing around or who are trying to be home-schooled at the same time.
So, the dynamic has slightly changed a little bit in terms of the properties that people are looking for. And there we’ve got a number more clients who are looking for shall we say multi-faceted family unit properties or compound-type properties.
Where, we have one client at the moment who lives in a European capital city. They want to buy a property on the French Riviera, a very big property with multiple villas on it.
They’re going to base the mother there – lucky her – on her own for most of the year. But then that property is going to provide we could say a refuge for the family to retreat to, or a safe haven for the family to retreat to during the pandemic, but also it’s just going to be a holiday home for the rest of the year.
And as we are starting to see people travelling to fewer locations, and those people then spending more time in those fewer locations, it’s impressing more I think the appetite for people to buy rather than to rent. Particularly because it then means you can guarantee that you can then use the property whenever you want to.
So, the technology bit, the, the Wi-Fi element, I think the quality of the properties, certainly the amount of outdoor space, whether it's a tennis court, whether it's a swimming pool, You know, if you are slightly further into the back country and away from the Riviera, maybe it's, you know, you want some olives, you want to have some oranges, you want to be able to have your lemons and have a vegetable garden and other more simple things, but that trend for bigger spaces is definitely there and is definitely pushing people.
I still think that there is appetite and there is continuing appetite for quality trophy assets everywhere and, and doesn't really matter what market it's in, but if a best-in-class property comes on the market in the French Riviera, I think there are even more people around today probably than there used to be and, again, this is about people thinking about and imagining themselves spending more time in those location.
ZDH: And, and does this desire to have more space and, and perhaps a, a slower pace of life with your oranges and olives and everything chime with, with what some of your clients have been asking for, Edward?
EMM: For some, certainly, but, but, but not all. You know, those are looking at that eastern Côte d'Azur between, you know, whether it's Cap-Martin or between Monaco and Nice, you know, a lot of those people have still wanted to make sure they've got, really, an easy access to Monaco and I think there are quite a lot of people that are enjoying spending more time in their houses outside and, you know, and not sitting in traffic for an hour and a half every morning to get into town.
But across the Riviera, you know, there are fantastic anecdotes all through about how people are continuing to want to come. I mean, I've got a client from, from Berlin who wants to come down. He doesn't want to get stuck in Berlin again, so they, you know, flew down his private jet, stayed at the, the Hotel du Cap and is aggressively looking for properties.
You know, we've got clients from Canada, funnily enough, who are French, but moving back to France. They want to put their children into the school in Mougins and, interestingly enough, they are potentially ready to buy a property without physically having seen it. They are looking to send their banker, who is an advisor for them to come and see the property. But look, I think that there is definitely that appetite is still there. The fact that we've got the best part of €100m worth of property under offer at the moment shows that the appetite isn't reduced.
ZDH: So, that trend for the, the fully self-contained private compound you mentioned earlier, Edward, that multi-generational model is something that seems to have developed in lots of markets during the pandemic. It's somewhere that, when you use the words 'refuge' and 'retreat' and 'safe haven' it gives you a greater sense of security during insecure times. Thibaut, let's touch, now, on the question of economics in a broader sense and what effect the recession will have on property markets.
TL: Well, as we know, prices in and around Monaco and the Riviera as a whole have historically remained stable with relatively small percentage increases over the past couple of years for prime and also super-prime properties. What's happening now, or what's not happening, is a waiting game. Those who have a property to sell can wait and those searching for something to buy are waiting to see what will happen with prices or whether buyers will also want to be ready to make an offer.
ZDH: And, of course, that sometimes includes having a mortgage in place, which is what I want to ask Stephen about. We know that a lot of prime and super-prime deals involve cash buyers, but the current low interest rates must also be very attractive for ultra-wealthy clients. Stephen, what's the mortgage landscape like for that part of the world?
SM: Yeah, Zoe, there's three points there. Let's, let's take them one by one. I think the first is the, the cash buyer piece or near cash buyer piece. In any prime or super-prime market, to be able to transact quickly is, of course, important and it's even more important today and there are various ways that that can be structured, doesn't have to necessarily be cash.
I think the second thing is really around the, the, the interest rate demand. So, there are opportunities and advantages to leveraging an asset. Of course, that's because it allows you to buy it in the first instance, but of course, it could also be that it allows you to buy something bigger or of a more important location or whatever it might be that's driving that particular property decision, but of course, there are other considerations when leveraging which include, perhaps, some, some local tax thinking or, or, or some diversification.
All of those are, are important, both in this market and, and as a high-net-worth individual and I guess the last thing is that, kind of, local expertise.
So, Barclays has a significant footprint in Monaco and that spans across the, the, the French Riviera in terms of influence and the important aspect there is our ability to not only leverage, I guess, what is a hub in London for, for international clients, but to connect them with Barclays locally in Monaco and that allows international buyers wanting to get into the marketplace a really clear way of being able to engage and that's important, especially if you're entering a foreign market that's not familiar to you.
ZDH: And Thibaut, I imagine the very low interest rates are of great interest to buyers looking to borrow. Can you explain how the current negative interest environment affects lending?
TL: The theory behind negative interest rates is ultimately, as we know, to boost the economy via spending and via financing and that includes, of course, increased activity in the housing market. Our clients are savvy and a good deal at €5m to €10m-plus level can be very significant. However, I would say that, right now, we are also seeing a lot refinancing and refinancing to, to help them coming out of fixed-term deals, to diversify their portfolio across, you know, real estate and liquid assets for wealth optimisation, for instance.
This means greater diversification in terms of liquid assets and more interest in commercial property or could be shops and offices.
ZDH: That's interesting and I guess we'll see more and more commercial opportunities as the long-term effects on locked down businesses play out, but let's get back to the residential side of things.
From some of the conversations I've had recently, it sounds like demand for the best properties in good locations, so that's properties that have great views and are ready to move straight into, it's far out-stripping the availability of good stock. Edward, are your clients managing to find their perfect properties, the, the ones that tick all these boxes?
EMM: Absolutely, Zoe. There is certainly enough choice in the market currently for people to be able to find what they want, albeit what they end up buying very often looks very different to what they set out to buy in the first place.
It very much is an educational process with a lot of these clients who may have started looking three or four years ago and now, really, are reassessing what their needs are today and reassessing how much time they're actually going to be able to or will be able to or want to spend in those properties and that is something, really, that is being facilitated by the use of technology and we obviously talk a lot about well-being and security, but the technology that we have at the moment is something that really hadn't been properly tested before.
So, it really is a, a wider consideration. Yes, there's the health. Yes, there's the space consideration.
You know, there are some amazing properties that are for sale and in terms of people starting looking at one thing and then moving onto something else, there's a great example. We've got a client recently who said, 'I want to be in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat,' which is very often where people start.
They, then, realise that, actually, for their money, which was €20m, €30m, actually they weren't able to get everything that they wanted, which, at that price, usually means a separate dwelling of some kind, whether it's a granny annex, whether it's for, for extra family or whether it's for staff.
We, then, took them just a little bit down the Riviera to Ville Le Roc Fleuri, which was the house that was famously owned by Sean Connery, which has had huge coverage over the course of the summer and lots of interest and multiple bids and they said, 'Okay, well, actually, funnily enough, we've got three times as much land, we've got the main villa and then two separate individual villas and the view is still fantastic'.
But there was an educational process and that particular client couldn't get their head around the location of being on the, the Cap de Nice and not on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, which still has that reputation of being one of the number one addresses in all of France and particularly is the most expensive address in France and on the Riviera.
ZDH: And we should probably just add there that, Edward, you're referring to Villa Les Cèdres at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, which, at one point, was the most expensive home for sale in the world and, and last year changed hands for US$221m.
So, let's revisit shifting priorities, this time from an, an economic perspective. What are ultra-high net-worth individuals looking for from their real estate investments in pandemic times? Thibaut Lambert, what, what can you tell us about that?
TL: I mean, it's very much the same as they always wanted: growth, liquidity, a safe haven and, of course, lifestyle and business demands, tax attractiveness. However, the order of those priorities has changed for certain clients. Some are looking for good deals, some are looking for distressed assets, and some are looking for lifestyle and long-term commuting.
For example, we recently had a client who had a base in the UK, but wanted to invest in a large villa with more outside space and dedicated home office. They needed to be near international airports with good flight connections and also near excellent schools in Mougins and in Monaco. It does show what ultra-high net-worths are looking right now and does illustrate the change in the mindset.
ZDH: Thanks, Thibaut. I'm going to come back to distressed opportunities in a moment, but first let me ask Stephen, do you think the buying power of billionaires at this very top level influences the regional market as a whole?
SM: Yeah, I think so, Zoe. I think where you've got notable transactions in the marketplace, not only do they underpin confidence in the region, but they also do have a, a, an influence to a whole range of other factors that perhaps one doesn't think about straight away, but local cultural pursuits, whether that's the arts, we've mentioned sports already, cuisine, schools and, of course, their attendance and who and where becomes interesting and even airline routes can be influenced by the, the, the level of participation in that particular market.
ZDH: Definitely, and, and it will be interesting to see what effect Brexit will ultimately have on where British billionaires invest in real estate too. Edward, let's just pick on, on that ease of buying property in the French Riviera. If a client came to you with a budget of, say, €10m or €20m, what would they get?
EMM: I think you can get a lot, it just depends on, really, where you want to be. You know, the, the closer you want to be to the sea, the slightly less you're gonna get in terms of the size of the house, but if you've got €20m, there are two or three villas, fantastic five-bedroom Belle Époque-style villas in Cap-d'Ail with amazing sea views that you can buy.
You know, €10m will buy you a, you know, a five-bedroom house in Villefranche. Again, incredible views, an amazing swimming pool with an infinity edge and amazing views over the bay of Villefranche and, and over Saint-Jean. You know, you go down to Saint-Tropez and, you know, €10m could still buy you a four-bedroom house, you know, or, or villa in Les Parques de Saint-Tropez or it could buy you a little farmhouse in the back country of Saint-Tropez.
You know, €20m buys you a beautifully refurbished house within probably a five-minute drive out of town, again, of Saint-Tropez or in Cannes. You now, Cannes, I think, people forget has a huge range or properties.
It's got a different feel because the, the likes of your, your Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrats and the other Caps have much more of a, sort of, a village atmosphere. You know, you know, and, and Cap d'Antibes is another one like that, but there's a huge range of property for sale in Cannes, which is somewhere where more people are actually realising is a good place for investment.
Usually, historically, because you get more of the, well, pandemic aside, you have the Cannes Film Festival and Cannes Lions and all these other events that means that you get good rental income from your properties through the season. As Stephen just mentioned, and as Thibaut has alluded to as well, people are changing. We've got Brexit coming up, there are going to be fiscal changes in different parts of the world. Where you have that instability, people do, then, try to or look to acquire property in relatively safer havens.
You know, the market along the Riviera actually is more affordable, frankly, than it's been for quite a long time and where you have properties, particularly that may have been in the market for five to seven years in some cases, a lot of those properties are the ones that are selling because the owners are happy to take a little bit less.
For many people, the interest rates for, for people who are selling in Euros and going back and taking their money back into sterling, it means that, actually, they're able to accept a little bit less than what they thought they were able to, but still go back out into sterling at a sensible price.
ZDH: There do seem to be a healthy number of luxury new-build and mixed use developments stimulating the Riviera market. There's First Croisette in Cannes, One Monte-Carlo and then there's Monaco's very ambitious Anse du Portier project which carries the endorsement of Prince Albert. Edward, this is a big deal for Monaco. Are you seeing enquiries?
EMM: Absolutely. You know, Monaco is always, always somewhere that is a, a slightly transient market, but over the last number of years, it's really been very obvious that Monaco has wanted to really compete with other key wealth hubs around the world and we've seen the investment.
Anybody who spends time in Monaco has seen the investment into the infrastructure, into the road system, into the centre of Monaco in and around, you know, in front of the casino and I think that we've had other fantastic projects that have come through, like Tour Odéon, which, at one stage, I think, was the, the most high profile residential tower, new tower, in, in mainland western Europe, but now Anse du Portier. Anse du Portier, Monaco's got the highest priced real estate in the world.
You know, when you've got an average that floats in and around €48,000 per square metre, but that very top end of the market and that new stock is easily achieving well over €100,000 a square metre and those are huge prices for anywhere, but Anse du Portier is going to be the newest, the most expensive property in Monaco and we will see the most expensive in the world. I, I think this is a huge deal for Monaco.
It's a big deal for Monaco's repositioning, you know, I was talking to a client the other day who was saying that Monaco has, has gone from being a village to starting to evolve into somewhere that is going to look a little bit more like Hong Kong. As we see global fiscal instabilities, we're seeing more clients coming and I, I've actually seen a greater range of people enquiring to buy in Monaco and to get residency in Monaco over the last four months than I probably did over the year previously.
ZDH: Yes, I mean, it really does play a, a huge role, given it's such a tiny principality and, and the Anse du Portier project is, is quite fascinating, really, as a feat of engineering given it’s adding, you know, about six hectares to the coastline of, of somewhere that's only two and a half square kilometres in total. Thibaut, what's the general feeling in Monaco about the longer-term economic impacts of such a landmark piece of real estate?
TL: Zoe 'fascinating' - that’s exactly the, the word for me. Let me share with you some figures on, on Anse du Portier, also known as Mareterra. One of the most ambitious construction projects in Europe, 60,000 square metres, more than 100 super-luxury apartment, ten super-prime villas and also what we less know and is very, very interesting is completely aligned with Prince Albert the Second of Monaco grand plan to ensure the city state is completely carbon neutral by 2050.
It will be, for example, be fully eco design with rainwater recovery, thermal pump, e-bike station, 40% of solar energy. That's really fascinating, very optimistic, good news story for Monaco, will support jobs growth and attract a new kind of resident buyer.
ZDH: Well, I think we've all earned our glass of chilled rosé, although it never quite tastes the same without the, the views of the Mediterranean and the sunshine. Thibaut, you'll have to raise a glass for us in Monaco. Thank you to all our guests for your expert insights. I'll say au revoir to Edward de Mallet Morgan from Knight Frank's International Super-Prime Sales in London.
EMM: Thank you so much, Zoe. It's been a pleasure to be involved.
ZDH: So, a big merci to Thibaut Lambert, Head of Monaco Domestic Market at Barclays Private Bank.
TL: My pleasure, Zoe. Thank you very much for having me.
ZDH: And Thibaut, you and your team will be hosting a real estate webcast in November, I believe. Can you tell us where and when we can find you?
TL: That's right, Zoe. Our next webcast is going to be at 9:00am UK time, 10:00am Monaco time, on the tenth of November. Where? I'm afraid it will be from our home. Anyway, really looking forward to it.
ZDH: And thanks, as always, to Stephen Moroukian, Product and Proposition Director at Barclays Private Bank.
SM: Thank you, Zoe, looking forward to the next episode.
ZDH: Yes, the next episode and, and instead of casting our eyes to mainland Europe, we'll be a little bit closer to home, speaking to the experts about the Crown Dependencies and growing prime property markets on Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Thank you for listening and tune in next time.
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