© Ville de Beausoleil
October 10, 2011
Millions of visitors from around the world are drawn to glamorous Monaco every year, either for business or pleasure. It can be a wonderful base for exploring the Côte d’Azur, and its own merits cannot be overlooked: a fairytale palace once again complete with Prince and Princess; many exclusive (and expensive) bars, boutiques and restaurants; and some of the cleanest and safest beaches along the coast. But with prices for a mere studio in Monaco now in excess of €1 million (about $1.45 million), very few people can or want to contemplate buying property in the principality.
In fact Monaco, which covers less than one square mile—making it smaller than New York’s Central Park, as is often noted— is said to have the highest housing prices per square meter in the world, ranging from €25,000 to €50,000. Another milestone in global terms is the sale of La Belle Epoque—a duplex penthouse formerly the home of the financier Edmond Safra, who perished in a fire there in 1999—that went for a staggering €240 million in September 2010.
Apartments in Monaco come with one big plus: no tax. Residents in the principality live totally tax free, meaning that many businessmen and wealthy families choose it for financial reasons. But the extortionate price tags—tax or no tax—are beyond the realm of most mortals, and without billions in the bank, Monaco is likely to be a no-go area for house hunters.
But literally right down the road lies Beausoleil, an attraction for many people who work in Monaco, or who wish to be practically there without paying exorbitant prices. The coastal town directly adjacent to Monaco has a population of some 14,000. The town is typical of many resorts on the Riviera, built into a hillside that climbs steeply up from the azure blue Mediterranean. “Beausoleil really is the next best thing,” says Phillip Temple, managing director at the Med in Heaven real estate agency. “The border between Monaco and France is very random and jagged, running along certain streets. It is not uncommon for apartments or houses in Beausoleil to have a front door in Beausoleil and a back door in Monaco.
“It’s literally a five- or ten-minute walk to Monaco,” he adds, “and there are even a number of escalators which take you there, so you don’t even have to walk that far. And prices are French, on a par with Nice and Antibes.”
The average price of property in Beausoleil is around €6,000 per square meter, but with excellent infrastructure, good schools and medical care, many buyers feel the town’s real estate offers great value for money.
There are also excellent buy-to-rent opportunities in Beausoleil. Renting Monaco apartments for major events such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Monaco Yacht Show is extremely expensive. But rents in Beausoleil start at around €750 for studios and €1,500 for two-bedroom properties, making them much more affordable.
And there are other positive points for Beausoleil, says Tim Swannie, of Home Hunts real estate agency: “Because the town is built on the hillside above and next to Monaco, many of the homes have as good as or even better views than those in Monaco. You are also likely to find properties with more character.” A one-bedroom apartment in Beausoleil with a magnificent sea view, for instance, is currently on the market for €326,000.
On the other side of Monaco lies the charming town of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, which Temple says is another great alternative to property in the principality. The town is also built into the hillside, and its houses appear to cling to the rocks somewhat perilously. The seafront is particularly attractive, with some beautiful Belle Epoque villas still intact, and the Roquebrune beach is gently sloping and reasonably wide by French Riviera standards, so the resort is very popular for family holidays.
Just five minutes by car from Monaco along a stunning road carved out of the mountainside, it is an easy and enviable commute. “Roquebrune is where a lot of people who want to be near Monaco come to look for houses and villas. You would need a car to live here, but it’s only a short drive. Prices are pretty much consistent with what you would pay for a small villa elsewhere along the coast.” That would be in the region of around €1.5 million, says Temple.
Apartments are more reasonable, with a studio 200 yards from the beach, with the use of a shared pool, currently offered for €184,000. A charming two-bedroom apartment being built in a new residence nearly 1,000 feet above sea level is selling for €370,000.
Another good prospect, slightly farther away from Monaco but still within easy reach by car or train, is Menton, the last French town before the Italian border. Labeled the “Pearl of France” by French geographer Elisée Reclus, Menton has a majestic location, a colorful market, beautiful architecture and a busy port. It also boasts a microclimate often considered to be the best in France, which enables local horticulturalists to grow the exotic plants, lemons, oranges and mimosa for which the town is famous.
Property here is slightly more affordable than Roquebrune, which is in turn hugely more reasonably priced than Monaco. In fact, prices in Menton—which is often referred to as a poor man’s Monaco—have fallen by some eight percent this year, bucking the trend elsewhere on the Côte d’Azur, where real estate prices have risen by up to ten percent.
“It’s slightly farther down the road than Roquebrune, so prices are lower,” says Temple. “It’s popular with people getting ready for their retirement, and also with many Italians.” There are currently a number of newly built apartments a stone’s throw from the sea, with one to three bedrooms, secure parking, sea views and substantial shared gardens, with prices ranging between €150,000 and €210,000.
Originally published in the September 2011 issue of France Today
France Today magazine. A unique insider’s perspective on French travel,
culture, real estate and much more. Subscribe today.