The revival of medium-sized French cities with life-changing opportunities
lille - french cities

That’s right, medium-sized French cities are outpacing large cities with high real estate prices.

Change your life by changing your town! Several French have already done so in the first lockdown triggered by Covid-19. Mainly to enjoy a better quality of life for equal income. And this dream for some has come true in the purchase of a bigger house (an extra room, a garden, a terrace or balcony etc.) just a few kilometres from the old house. But even when they are not buying, many French people are looking online for cities where it is nice to live.

Read more: Urban Land Institute: Emerging Trends in Real Estate: Europe 2021 – highlights

aix en provence - french cities promenade

Mulhouse, Aix-en-Provence et Lille

According to the rankings of Meilleurtaux, a real estate credit broker, and Meteojob, a job search site, reported by Le Figaro, Mulhouse, Aix-en-Provence and Lille are the three cities (among the 30 most populous) where it is nice to move to buy an affordable home, but also to find a job. In drawing up the ranking, permanent jobs have been estimated in comparison with the number of inhabitants and real estate purchasing power ( basically, the surface can be bought with a mortgage of 200,000 euros to be paid over 20 years and based on the average salary within the city).

The big French cities are losing out. Only two of the ten most populous French cities are in the top 10. These are Lille (3rd) and Strasbourg (10th), which are doing well because of a dynamic employment market (1 and 0.8 permanent jobs per 100 inhabitants respectively) and a high-profile university system attracting large numbers of students. However, these two cities, like almost all other big cities, have a low real estate purchasing power (about 40 sqm). This depends on high prices. In fact, we are talking about 3.500 and 3.660€/sqm, compared to a national average price of about 2.700€/sqm.

The mechanism cannot be reversed: the more attractive a city is, the more property prices rise and purchasing power falls. This explains the poor performance of large cities across the Alps: 18th Lyon, 20th Bordeaux, 28th Paris, 29th Nice and Marseille the last. This confirms, among other things, that the Mediterranean basin is not necessarily the ideal “playground” for those who want to combine home and work. It is a market which, in terms of occupancy, is saturating and, as a result, is experiencing real estate prices which, depending on the city, are close to those of the Capital.

mulhouse - french cities

Low prices, high purchasing power (and vice versa)

On the contrary, when the employement market is less dynamic, the lower the prices and the higher the purchasing power. This explains why a city like Saint-Étienne is well ranked (5th) despite offering only 0.38 permanent jobs per 100 inhabitants. The same is true for Aix-en-Provence (2nd), despite its reputation as an expensive city (4145 €/sqm) which, thanks to the High Speed TGV connection (only 3 hours from Paris), is attracting more and more workers and, for this reason too, is recording rising prices per square metre.

The other 8 cities in the top 10 also have a good “real estate/occupation” balance. This is the case of Mulhouse (0.84 permanent jobs per 100 inhabitants and a real estate purchasing power of 85 sqm). But also of Rouen (0.65 permanent jobs per 100 inhabitants and 62 sqm), Orléans (0.66% and 57 sqm) and Metz (0.69% and 52 sqm). In particular, Rouen enjoys proximity to Paris, thanks to the direct connection of the railway service.

The recent rise of Paris among the top three cities with the most expensive lifestyle costs in the world, alongside Hong Kong and Zurich, according to a study by The Economist suggests that medium-sized cities will be increasingly attractive to the French in the future.