For 75 years Agence Mercure have specialised in the sale of what the French call ‘Demeures de charmes’ or charming homes. And what could be more charming than a castle or a château in Normandy, Picardie, Lyon or Auvergne…don’t the very place names conjure up visions of Versailles modelled living?
“We are the leader in castles sales in France,” says Nicolas Pasquier, emarketing chief at this highest of high-end estate agents. Pasquier is here to report that not only is Asia buying up entire national economies but also buying up their histories in bricks and mortar, literally lock, stock and barrel. Hence the ever over-heated property spending spree when it comes to anything with a drawbridge or towering marble gates.
“With 20 agencies and an extensive coverage of the territory we’ve not only witnessed the arrival of Asian customers over the past 2 years, but we’ve also been able to pinpoint the regions and property types in which they are the most interested” Pasquier notes. “For example, lately vineyards in Bordeaux have raised a lot of interest from Asian customers. Several major sales have been made.”
“In these rural areas our customers show interest for old castles and manors which have been overlooking vineyards or valleys for 200, 300 400, 500 years. This was once the exclusive territory of English customers in the South West of France, but the new interest in that quality Joie de Vivre lifestyle – one of the most tasteful in the world – and sheer acreage is with Asian customers.” The life of a wannabe Sun King demands a budget worthy of the Bourbons, however. “Depending on whether you are looking for a villa, a mansion or a castle, and depending on location, our prices range from 500,000 euros (HK$5.2 million/4.2 million RMB) to 20 million euros with most properties being priced between 1 and 4 million euros. Our most recent sale was a castle in the center of France offering 3,800 square meters (41,000 square feet) of luxury living space.”
With 20 agencies and a wide, weighty portfolio encompassing ceremonial apartments to mansions of irreplaceable historical and architectural merit in Courchevel, it’s all a long way from the 21st century energy of Hong Kong and the technological business bustle of Beijing. Which is, one presumes, entirely the point.