French estate agents brokered record numbers of country homes sales in 2020 as city dwellers chafing under Covid-19 restrictions fled cramped apartments in Paris and other cities for the countryside, statistics showed Thursday.
The FNSafer association, which is in charge of managing the rural property market, recorded 111,930 house purchases by people from outside the farming community in 2020, up 6.6 percent in a year.
The transactions, which covered homes with at least five hectares of land attached, amounted to a total of 23.5 billion euros ($28.7 billion), a 12.1-percent increase over 2019.
FNSafer said the flight to the countryside was driven by a quest for more space during successive lockdowns as well as a mass shift to remote working, which has made it possible to keep down a Paris-based job while living a day's train ride or less from the capital.
In a further sign that metropolitans are on the move, separate statistics published Thursday showed the Paris property market starting to cool, with the number of transactions for previously-owned homes falling 14 percent in the first quarter.
Average property prices in the capital, meanwhile, have stagnated, rising by only 1.7 percent to 10,600 euros per square metre between January and March, figures compiled by the association of Paris solicitors showed.
The real estate market in the rest of France was booming by contrast, with the number of previously-owned homes sold nationwide between March 2020 and March 2021 hitting a record of 1.08 million.
FNSafer president Emmanuel Hyest predicted that the "reverse exodus" of people to parts of rural France that had been hemorrhaging inhabitants in recent decades would be a "lasting" phenomenon.
"It's less of a tsunami than a groundswell. The desire to move is likely to continue for several years," Paris-based solicitor Thierry Delesalle said.
Not everyone is cheering the scramble for a home in the countryside or by the coast.
The facades of several estate agents and homes with "for sale" signs in the southwestern Basque region have been smeared with slogans denouncing spiralling property prices.
The slogans declare "Euskal Herria ez da salgai" -- "the Basque Country is not for sale."