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A Real-Estate Barometer of Medium-Sized Cities in France

Volume XX, Issue 28

Splashpage for Action Coeur d Ville

The Notaires de France release their “Baromètre de l’Immobilier” (text translated from their report):

For the last two years, the French have been settling down in so-called “medium-sized” cities and the reinforcement of this desire following the Covid-19 pandemic has been the subject of numerous articles and studies.

The results of this Barometer 2022, the third conducted since the effective launch of the national program in 2018, confirms the attractiveness of medium-sized cities in France and illustrates that they are unquestionably increasingly recognized for what they offer: more spacious and accessible housing than in metropolitan areas, a pleasant living environment with natural areas, amenities and essential services nearby.

Village square in Mulhouse, France

Village square in Mulhouse, France

The Conseil supérieur du notariat (CSN), through the quality of its real estate foundations, has been providing the National LCA Directorate with a series of relevant and reliable indicators. They make it possible to measure and monitor the evolution and dynamics of the real estate market throughout the entire country, particularly in cities benefiting from the Action Coeur de Ville program.

This partnership, which is a natural part of the notaire’s public service mission, makes it possible to measure the new attractiveness of medium-sized cities.

This third edition confirms the particularly marked recovery in the real estate market in medium-sized cities after two years impacted by the pandemic, with a positive dynamic between 2020 and 2021, both in terms of sales volume and price trends. The two previous Barometers also allowed the Notaires de France to place these results within a basic trend, which was also positive between 2018 and 2021, demonstrating the resilience and lasting attractiveness of real estate in medium-sized cities. As the notaires have noted, the health crisis has revealed new real estate behaviors, including a shift from large metropolitan centers to medium-sized communities, even in neighboring departments. A sign of an abnormal year, the French have, on the whole, accelerated or even anticipated 2021 in their real estate projects. The accentuation of the movement from large metropolitan centers to medium-sized communities is one more element in the composition of the real estate market. This increased mobility may help explain the decline in prices in the major metropolitan areas, particularly Paris, as well as the dynamism of prices in medium-sized cities. All things considered, prices are rebalancing across the country. But, this redistribution is a major issue in terms of regional planning and development of the territory. This desire for greenery, a translation of a “connected disconnection,” can only benefit small and medium-sized cities only if they have they have the capacity to offer all the infrastructure, and in particular very efficient means of and especially high-performance communications.

Volume property sales throughout France

In the context of the extension of the Action Coeur de Ville program for the period 2023-2026, announced by the President on September 7, 2021, these figures highlight the major role of the requalification of the city centers, more than ever a priority of the public action undertaken for the past four years and which will be expanded to meet the challenge of housing for all, accessible and of high quality in medium-sized cities.

In support of the development of 234 medium-sized cities that play central irreplaceable role, Action Coeur de Ville is a comprehensive, interministerial and partnership and partnership program, with the support of three leading financial backers: the Banque des Territoires, Action Logement and Anah. Its implementation is fully decentralized and devolved. Its objective is to bring back inhabitants, shops, services and activities to the city, preserve natural and agricultural areas, to treat the commercial periphery and to improve the urban environment. Thus, the program prioritizes the renovation of resale housing and encourages sustainable construction in order to meet the challenge of access to housing; it supports the redevelopment of public space and develops clean and active mobility. Finally, the program contributes to fight against urban sprawl with the pioneering initiative is making a very concrete contribution to combating urban sprawl through the pioneering “Pilot Territories for Land Saving” initiative, in which 27 volunteer ACV cities are already involved. They are providing proof, on the ground that urban, economic and residential development can be based on virtuous development practices that reconcile land savings and welcome new inhabitants, in areas where the supply of resale housing in areas where the supply of both resale and new housing is often insufficient to meet demand.

Map of France comparing property prices in various cities

The objective of this new phase of the program will be to develop a supply of quality housing at an affordable price, with a focus on combating urban sprawl and adapting to climate change, all of which will contribute to the continuation of the good real estate dynamic already observed in the program’s beneficiary cities.

Housing for all, across all social categories and generations, will thus be more than ever a priority for Action Coeur de Ville 2, in order to maintain the renewed and sustainable attractiveness of cities on a human scale.

Since 2018, real estate developments in medium-sized cities have been positive, proof of the sustainable dynamic in these cities, far from certain superficial analyses describing a disastrous market. Indeed, since 2018, the volume of sales has increased by 17 percent in the cities benefiting from the program and even by 20 percent when considering the entire market. This increase in sales volume concerns 164 cities out of 2001 studied over the period and, in 137 of them, this increase in sales has been correlated with a similar increase in prices, of the order of 16.6 percent for resale houses and 15 percent for resale apartments.

Town square in Aix-en-Provence

Town square in Aix-en-Provence

However, while it illustrates the renewed real estate attractiveness of these cities, this increase is not necessarily synonymous with reduced housing affordability, as the average median price of apartments and houses remained lower in the Action Coeur de Ville central cities than in the rest of their market. For example, the average median price per square meter of apartments in the central cities rose from €1,353 per square meter in 2018 to €1,557 per square meter in 2021, compared to an increase from €1,666 per square meter to €1,832 per square meter in the rest of the urban areas over the same period.

In this context, while the increase in prices shows a similar dynamism to that of the outskirts, central cities and their city centers remain on average more accessible in terms of price, even if this observation must be qualified given the disparities in local situations.

Map of France showing the prices of resale apartments

This dynamism of the real estate market is thus synonymous with a virtuous circle in many medium-sized cities, with positive commercial, economic and social spin-offs on a broader scale, as well as in terms of the vitality of the cities and their centers in general. The detailed figures thus illustrate the need to pursue the actions undertaken, to deepen them and to ensure that private investment is forthcoming in these medium-sized cities in order to continue this dynamic, in a period of economic uncertainty where “insecurity” could be further reinforced.

The trends observed between 2020 and 2021 confirm the underlying trend in medium-sized cities and the recovery and resilience of their real estate markets. This newfound attractiveness is the result of the hard work of the cities and the actions undertaken on all aspects of urban living as part of their Action Coeur de Ville projects, with a global, cross-functional approach that brings together all local partners.

We have seen an increase in sales volume of 12 percent, driven by 156 of the 200 cities in the program, coupled with an increase in real estate prices in 109 cities in the program between 2020 and 2021, a sign of the vitality of the market. The increase in median prices per square meter for apartments is similar to that observed at the national level, with an increase of 7.5 percent, which is also similar to the increase in the price of resale homes (+7.9 percent).



“Nearly half of the French believe that a medium-sized city has fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, while the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies defines it as having between 20,000 and 200,000 inhabitants. Moreover, among the inhabitants of medium-sized cities, only half of them feel they live in a medium-sized city, with 30 percent saying they live in a small town and 13 percent saying they live in a large city. On the other hand, there is a real consensus on the services offered by medium-sized cities. They appear to be functional and structuring hubs that occupy a real place in the French urban framework.” (Source)

“The OECD, in cooperation with the EU, has developed a harmonized definition of functional urban areas (FUAs). Being composed of a city (or core) and its commuting zone, FUAs encompass the economic and functional extent of cities based on daily people’s movements (OECD, 2012); (Dijkstra, Poelman, & Veneri, 2019).

The definition of FUA aims at providing a functional/economic definition of cities and their area of influence, by maximizing international comparability and overcoming the limitation of using purely administrative approaches. At the same time, the concept of FUA, unlike other approaches, ensures a minimum link to the government level of the city or metropolitan area. FUAs are listed below by size, according to four classes:

• Small FUAs, with a population between 50,000 and 100,000
• Medium-sized FUAs, with a population between 100,000 and 250,000
• Metropolitan FUAs, with a population between 250,000 and 1.5 million
• Large metropolitan FUAs, with population above 1.5 million”


“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).” (Source)

Town square in Lille, France

Town square in Lille

To learn more and to read the Barometer report, download the PDF here (in French).

A bientôt,

Adrian Leeds in a lavender field in the south of FranceAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. Next week I will be in Lille taping my 50th House Hunters International episode. Stay tuned to learn more about living in Lille!



  1. Dan Guenther & Tom Fowler - Dallas, Texas on July 21, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    Congratulations Adrian on your upcoming 50th HGTV HHI episode!! My husband and I really enjoy your take on living in France and how frank in a constructive way you are with clients. Maybe some day we will consult with you and your staff about a move to France 🙂

    • Adrian Leeds Group on August 4, 2022 at 11:13 am

      We’re here when you’re ready!

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