The only sheltered harbour between Arcachon and Spain, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a seaside resort blessed with authentic charm. In summer, its population of 14,332 doubles or even triples. Here, holiday homes play a predominant role in the property market.
A very popular destination for holiday-makers, Saint-Jean-de-Luz does not go for ostentatious luxury. Its beautiful Basque houses are far from glitzy, and even the two golf-courses maintain their unfeigned dedication to sportsmanship. Next to the Rhune between Saint Jean and Ascain, the Golf de Chantaco was designed in 1928 by the father-in-law of René Lacoste, the famous “musketeer” of French tennis. Older still (built in 1907), the Golf de la Nivelle lies on the commune of Ciboure. Real-estate professionals say that it is difficult to dissociate Saint-Jean-de-Luz from Ciboure which, in fact, has the same post code. Saint-Jean-de-Luz is also, and most importantly, known for its historic heritage ; Les Halles were built in the 19th century on the former marshland, the small fishing harbour has managed to survive, and the streets are still picturesque. The Church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste hosted Louis XIV’s marriage to Marie-Thérèse of Austria on June 9th, 1660, and on the square bearing his name, facing the Town Hall, visitors can admire 17th-century residences such as Lohobiague-enea, commonly known as the “House of Louis XIV”, or Joanoenia, the “House of the Infanta”. Finally, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is widely associated with several beaches, for the greater enjoyment of both locals and tourists. Three dikes protect the long strip of sand allowing families to bathe in all peace of mind. The one called “La Grande Plage” has 4 clubs, people renting out tents, deckchairs and parasols. The beaches of Laffitenia and Erromardi are more dedicated to surfers. It is all this, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, with a village atmosphere as a bonus.
Here, different generations co-exist without any friction, everyone knows everyone else, and it is precisely this ambiance that attracts owners of holiday homes. Mostly French, buyers are from Paris (70 %), western France (about 15 %) and the south-east (tired of insecurity and incivility). They are sometimes expatriates, born in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, looking to acquire a home when they finally return. “Overall, all origins combined, the town is a family destination. Protected beaches, an environment turned towards nature and the option of having everything within walking distance are its major assets,” says Philippe Thomine-Desmazures of Barnes Côte Basque
. The most sought-after neighbourhood is definitely Sainte-Barbe. It overlooks the Bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, while being in the immediate vicinity of the town and beach. Its houses, mostly family-oriented, display Basque or neo-Basque architecture, stylishness and generous surface areas. “It’s an outstanding area and the cost of houses reflects their rarity and the scarcity of availabilities,” says Caroline Laffontan of Laffontan Immobilier
. Living space of 600 m2, with renovation to the tune of 600,000 € on the agenda, will be offered at around 2,200,000 €. Because in Sainte-Barbe, depending on appointments and the view, more or less clear, of the ocean, prices for houses range from 3 to 6 million euros. Facing north and thus less well-exposed to the sun, Bordagain also overlooks the Bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and offers the same type of houses at prices around 3 million euros. Less of a view also for Aice Errota, which proposes neo-Basque houses of character, built in the 1930’s. From here, the town centre and the beach are within walking distance, and a small house of 150-200 m2 is worth 900,000 €. For living space of 400-500 m2, one can expect to pay from 1,500,000 to 2 million euros. The historic centre draws fans of architecture and those wanting to be very close to all amenities. For 6,000 to 7,000 €/m2, they can acquire an apartment, without a garage but charming, with exposed beams and high quality materials. As exemplified by a renovated example of 183 m2, with a patio of 30 m2, a few minutes from the harbour and beach, on offer at 2,200,000 €.
On the seafront, one finds houses without sea views and apartments. In a recent residence, the sq. metre with sea view is pegged at 10,000 € and can attain 13,000 €. On Boulevard Thiers, 50 metres from the beach, a studio with a small private courtyard awaits a taker at 169,000 €. An apartment of 70 m2 on the first row, with sea view and a terrace of 70 m2, bears a price-tag of 795,000 €. “Les Jardins de Lilazka” north-east of Bordagain are just as highly rated. The estate consists of some 25 recent houses in Basque style, built in 2000. A renovated property of 200-300 m2 with a swimming pool and glimpse of the sea, sold for 2 million euros two years ago. Then, one can hardly talk about holiday residences in Saint-Jean-de-Luz without mentioning Ciboure. At the end of the Pont de la Nivelle, between the ocean and the hill of Bordagain, Ciboure is an artists’ village and the birthplace of Maurice Ravel. People praise its lovely environment, natural and carefully preserved. Malcontents argue that an address in Saint-Jean-de-Luz is more prestigious. The market reflects a more nuanced interpretation. A lovely family home with a view of the sea and mountains, in 4,800 m2 of grounds a 10-minute walk from the beach of Socoa, is up for sale at 2,980,000 €. At the heart of Ciboure, you can acquire a through apartment of 143 m2 with terraces of 44 m2 for 1,450,000 €.
“As a general rule, demand far outstrips supply,” notes Nicolas Descamps of Côté Ouest Immobilier Christie’s
. “The market is bearing up well, particularly as there are not many new developments in Saint-Jean.” While estate-agents have noticed a certain “wait-and-see” attitude due to the presidential elections, and now up-coming announcements of the first measures and reforms to be made by the new Government, they remain optimistic. Real estate remains a sound investment and September will bring the awaited answers.