How to buy property in Nice

Superb Nice

Nice is the second city of Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region after Marseille, and the fifth largest in France. A metropole made up of 49 different communes, it has over 550,000 inhabitants - it's also a popular tourist destination, second only to Paris with 4m visitors a year.

Its transport links are excellent, with France's second busiest airport and top cruise port, and TGV to Paris. While most of the tourists are heading for the beaches, there's far more to Nice than seaside - it's one of France's major university cities, and its Sophia Antipolis technology centre is home to 1,400 businesses with over 31,000 employees.

Nice is a cosmopolitan place - foreigners have been coming here since Queen Victoria, and buying property here too. Foreign buyers account for nearly half of all sales at the top of the market, though less in the lower and mid price sectors.

While a fall-off in Russian buyers held the market back from 2009 onwards, 2016-17 saw the beginning of a new buoyancy in the property market, with prices heading up at 4.5% a year and transactions nearly back at peak levels. Prices have flattened out in 2018 but properties appear still to be selling well.

A big expat community - among them many execs working at Sophia Antipolis or in neighbouring Monaco - supports a good network of resources including international schools as well as English-speaking estate agents and property managers.

Nice is a delightful place both for the visitor and the resident, and while it's relatively expensive, it's worth pointing out that prices in the city are well below those achieved in the really expensive Riviera locations, like Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

Property prices in Nice

Average prices are high, at EUR 3,650 a square metre joint third in France with Lyon, behind Paris and the Ile de France. For houses rather than apartments, you can add another 10-20% on to the price, and reckon on much more than that in the best quarters of the city. It's worth noting that most properties in the centre of Nice are fairly small; buyers who want a more spacious property will have to move their search out to the suburbs. And sea views are quite rare, fetching a definite premium.

Holiday home owners will find Nice offers great rental opportunities over the summer; the more central a property is, the more likely it is to rent during an extended season and even through the winter. Pure investors can get gross yields of 4-5%, higher than Paris.

Central Nice has two flavours depending which side of the river Paillon you are - to the west is a Haussmannian and very French city of wide boulevards and tall apartment buildings, while the east side Vieille Ville (old town) is Italian in feeling with narrow winding streets and brightly coloured houses. In Vieille Ville, the buildings are older and few of them have lifts, but even so, apartments rent out well.

The other side, the Carré d'Or and Musiciens areas are the most chic areas of the town, and generally more expensive than the Vieille Ville heading well above EUR 5,000 / m2. The buildings tend to be more modern, and if you want an apartment with a lift, you're more likely to find one here. This is prime territory for short term lets, conveniently situated between the old town, the beaches and the railway station.

Further out of town, Cimiez has more of a fin-de-siècle feeling with lovely old houses, and prices are a little lower than in the centre. This is the preferred location for well-off local families, not so chic perhaps and not full of the super-rich, but well established and a great place to live. The most fashionable properties outside the centre, though, are in Mont Boron and Cap de Nice, closer to the sea, where properties can fetch as much as EUR 10,000 a square metre.

If you're looking for bargains, the port area is being redeveloped and offers prices 15-20% below the centre. Also worth considering is the Plaine du Var Eco-Vallée project, to the west of the city; it's still in its early days, but the advent of the airport tram line and new commercial and residential properties should create a thriving new quarter. You can find really bargain basement properties in areas like l'Ariane - but they come with social problems, so you'd really have to be brave.