The charm of the Old Town of Albi
On July 31st 2010, the episcopal city of Albi became part of UNESCO's World Heritage. The distinguished site encompasses the Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile, Palais de Berbie, Church of Saint-Salvi, the cloisters, the banks of the Tarn and Pont-Vieux. This historic centre draws various buyer profiles, attracted by its character and enchanting life-style.
At the heart of Le Vieil Albi, this building of 581 m2 consists of 10 apartments and a shop. 990.000 €. Cha Immobilier (05 63 38 46 62).
The prefecture of Le Tarn, which gave its name to followers of Catharism, is home to 51,300 residents. It stands at the heart of the "département", a 50-minute drive from Toulouse. At the turn of the century, the city was treated to a facelift. The capital of Languedoc brick is characterized by ancient streets with a medieval atmosphere. The Pont-Vieux, built in 1035 A.D., was fortified in the 14th century. Thanks to the river, trade was flourishing : wine, woad, hemp, saffron and pottery all passed through the town. The Renaissance brought its share of private mansions, starting with those of Reynès, Gorsse and Rivière. 17 factories form part of the landscape of La Madeleine. In the 20th century, Michelin, the brilliant inv-entor of the tyre, designed the covered market, an iron structure housing 35 shops - a butcher's, cold meat merchant and fishmonger, as well as 115 local producers of vegetables, fruit and cheese. The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum and the classic French gardens of the Palais Berbie are essential ports-of-call on a sightseeing tour. Le Castelvieil is the oldest fortified village, while Saint-Salvi developed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Finally, Le Vigan and Les Lices Georges-Pompidou constitute the junction between the historic centre and the modern town.
"The market in Le Vieil-Albi reflects specific and long-established characteristics. Offerings are limited and transactions dissuasively rare," says Bruno Maurel of Pacfa Immobilier. Retirees wanting to be near the amenities of an urban centre appreciate the site. They generally pay 150,000-180,000 € for renovated 2-bedroom apartments. The most ambitious invest up to 300,000 € for generous apartments with 4 bedrooms. The buildings definitely have character. During the great wave of renovation which occurred in recent years, volumes were revised, modern appointments introduced, and certain buildings fitted with elevators for the comfort of older residents. Buyers of all generations, from outside the region or even abroad, also show and interest in the neighbourhood. For equivalent properties, prices may differ by 25-30 % whether they are in the historic heart of town or not. The location does not suffice to justify such wide disparities, largely explained by architectural charm and character. The area contains a majority of apartments, with a few houses. Living space of 240 m2 extended by a courtyard ranges from 600,000 to 800,000 €, depending on its condition and finishing touches.
"The starting price for individual houses is well below that level," says Caroline Chabbal of Cha Immobilier. "A renovated 18th-century building of 80 m2 with a patio, for example, costs 165,000 €." Senior citizens rub shoulders with 18-25 year-olds who rent apartments here. 30, 40 and 50 year-olds are much less represented. A lively shopping area by day, the centre is quiet after nightfall. Investors from the Midi-Pyrenees buy apartment buildings offered for sale in their entirety. One example comprised of three 1-bedroom apartments bringing a monthly income of 1,600 € is on offer between 250,000 and 300,000 €. The gross return on investment ranges from 5 to 6 %, or around 8.5 % in the case of commercial premises. The classification of the site by UNESCO has resulted in more tourist activity and a slight rise in property prices though, so far, no real increase in the volume of transactions. If the effect is positive in terms of image, the fact that the site is now subjected to supervision by Les Bâtiments de France is sometimes seen as a constraint. Among her latest sales, Caroline Chabbal mentions a 1 bedroom apartment of 45 m2 in need of some refurbishment, on Rue du Plancat, at 58,500 €, and a red brick house of 100 m2 on Rue Porta on the other side of the Tarn, opening out to a terrace of 6 m2, at 95,000 €. Crossing the river is often synonymous with lower prices.