The French are famous for their joie de vivre - in recent times, this is perhaps due in part to being spared the economic woes of some of their European counterparts. According to Aberdeen Property Investors, the French economy remained relatively resilient last year as GDP contracted the least among major European economies. Typically, real estate in France is also less prone to the sharp market fluctuations of some neighbours. As outlined in the France Real Estate Report Q3 2010, published by Business Monitor International, 'unlike many other euro-zone countries, France did not have a housing market crash, as there was not a significant bubble beforehand'. Housing finance is still relatively easy to come by in France, even though it has tightened in other markets. Assetz France business development manager Katy Hepworth believes all these factors have continued to hold the interest of overseas investors. 'France provides the ideal investment opportunity for foreign buyers,' she says. 'Mortgage interest rates are among the lowest in Europe, as the country's banks battle to offer the best rates, while 100 per cent loan-to-value [LTV] mortgages are readily available. This is unheard of in many other European countries, where the average is 60 per cent to 70 per cent LTV. 'The property market in France has also shown remarkable resilience in the last few years, with prices only dipping between 4 per cent and 5 per cent. This compares favourably against much larger falls of 30 per cent to 40 per cent in many other European countries.' Further good news is in store, she believes. 'Market data shows that property prices are continuing to rise in key investment areas, including Paris and the south coast, while the national bank and government have said they are confident that the French economy will continue to gather pace.' Hepworth adds that France appeals to people who are looking to buy their first overseas investment. The country's robust legal system protects buyers from any risks associated with buying property, which is 'not necessarily the case in other emerging European markets', she says. The maturity of the French market also boosts buyer confidence for a safe and sustainable return on investments. But a medium- to long-term investment strategy is advised, she says. Assetz recommends investors buy property 'with a stable, reliable income and using a capital-repayment mortgage which can be repaid over the course of five, 10, 15 or 20 years', Hepworth says. 'This is feasible given the good level of return from French property and continued low interest rates. Favourable tax laws also mean that investors can sell their property in France after 15 years and avoid paying any capital gains tax.' Athena Mortgages reports a sharp rise in overseas investor interest in France, on the back of low interest rates. As evidence of the competitive loan environment, the French mortgage specialist is offering fixed-term rates from 3.3 per cent (15-year term) to 3.6 per cent over 25 years, all at 80 per cent LTV. Athenamortgages.com director John Busby says borrowing conditions are the best in years. 'France is in a historically low interest-rate environment at the moment, with average fixed-rate mortgages at levels not seen since the end of 2005,' he says. 'At that time, though, the TEC10 - the benchmark index against which French fixed-rate mortgages are calculated - was well above 3 per cent. Now, with the TEC10 at 2.54 per cent and predicted to fall even further in the coming weeks, average fixed rates could well hit record low levels in September. 'Borrowing conditions are as good as they've ever been, and with property prices still well below their peak, international buyers have a great opportunity to pick up a property at rock-bottom prices and fix monthly payments for 20-plus years at fantastic rates.' French property expert Patrick Joseph of My-French-House.com says improvements in the exchange rate and good mortgage availability have made this month a prime time for foreign buyers. 'There are some fantastic properties around, particularly in the Loire Valley, the Dordogne and Brittany, where there is a good supply of homes that are reasonably priced,' he says. 'Property prices are low in France now, but they are starting to rise, so anyone looking this autumn should act quickly.'