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Ardennes region experiencing Covid property boom

Illustration picture shows the centre of Durbuy, Belgian Ardennes, Sunday 01 November 2020. (BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM)
09:53 17/11/2020

The Ardennes is well-known as the location for many Dutch-speakers' second home, but in recent months, the trend has accelerated markedly. In Durbuy, a town in the Belgian province of Luxembourg, for example, a real estate project is not even built yet and 60% of the apartments, costing on average €500,000 each, are already sold. Other attractive areas of the region are also seeing an upswing in interest even with properties priced in the €1 million-plus range.

The summer months of July and August are generally quiet for the real estate sector. This year, it has been quite the opposite. Sales have continued at a regular rate, which is almost unheard of.

Experts in the sector identify two main reasons for this: first of all, with the coronavirus shutdown making more and more people claustrophobic, many are looking for more space. Secondly, banks are offering exceptionally low rates of interest. With savings not looking as attractive as they once were, people are now putting their money into property instead. The coronavirus crisis is pushing investors to look for simple, stable, and secure investments; three criteria that characterise real estate buying.

“Everything sells very, very quickly, it is not uncommon, for example, to display a property and that it sells within a few days at the asking price,” says Frédéric Dumoulin, a notary in Durbuy.

Luxury apartments, farmhouses and even small wooden chalets are selling for between €150,000 and half a million euros in the Ardennes region – with mostly Dutch-speaking clients doing the buying. "Essentially most are Flemish, yes, I’d say the vast majority for that matter,” says Frédéric Dumoulin. “We see a few people from Brussels, from time to time, but the majority of those buying property here are from Flanders.”

The demand of recent months is such that a shortage of available properties is now starting to emerge. With this scarcity, prices have increased between 10 and 20%. This increase raises fears of a property bubble; a fear that that those in the sector dismiss.

At the moment, visits to properties are suspended due to the coronavirus restrictions. Upon their resumption, prospective buyers will have to be more patient. As a result of the high demand, a backlog among notaries and administrations means that sales will take a lot longer to process once restrictions are lifted.

Written by Nick Amies