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Brexit Among Reasons For Rising Real Estate Prices In France

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Paris has become one of the most expensive housing markets in Europe. One reason for the rising costs is Brexit, the U.K.'s long effort to leave the European Union. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley looks at the factors driving the market.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The Gutierrez family has just moved into their spacious four-bedroom apartment in the center of Paris, part of a wave of expats who have crossed the channel from London. Pilar Gutierrez, a Spanish national, is employed by the European Banking Authority. She remembers the shock of Britain's referendum on whether to leave or remain in the European Union.

PILAR GUTIERREZ: I remember on the 25th of June when we went to bed, it was like - still remain winning. But when we woke up on the 24th, it was the other way around, so it was a big shock for us. It was a big shock. Since the 24th of June 2016, we knew that we would have to move.

BEARDSLEY: Aside from EU organizations, international banks and businesses have also left London and relocated to continental cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt in order to stay inside the EU. Gutierrez says it's not easy to move big organizations. It's been hard enough to move her own family.

GUTIERREZ: It's always challenging when you move to a new country, a new city and even more if you cannot to speak the language, right?

BEARDSLEY: But France is putting out the welcome mat. The French government has cut red tape and wealth taxes, and several new international schools are opening in Paris.

MARIE-HELEN LUNDGREN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: High-end realtor Marie-Helen Lundgren says buyers have always chosen Paris for its beauty, cuisine and culture. But now it's also an economic choice. She says in 22 years, she's never seen such a booming market.

LUNDGREN: Oh, no. We have not enough properties. We are in the scarcity market. We sell about three, four properties a day.

BEARDSLEY: According to newspaper Le Parisien, the price of real estate in the French capital has risen 248% in the last two decades. Lundgren says Brexit is not the only reason people are flocking to Paris. She also credits low interest rates and the pro-business policies of President Emmanuel Macron.

LUNDGREN: We saw that many expats - French expats and also international clients came back to Paris and wanted to invest in Paris.

BEARDSLEY: The rise in apartment prices is also pushing some middle-class families out of the city. To stop the exodus, the Paris mayor has introduced new regulations to keep rents affordable. But Thierry Delesalle, head of Paris' Chamber of Notaries, says that won't stop the rise in property prices because people aren't buying apartments to rent them out.

THIERRY DELESALLE: (Through interpreter) Even at these high prices, people are buying to live in Paris. Ninety percent of buyers are buying to live in their new properties.

BEARDSLEY: Delesalle says the Paris housing market is not a bubble waiting to burst. Paris real estate, he says, is a solid, long-term investment.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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