According to the Pôle Habitat of the French Building Federation, their professional organization, house sales (excluding housing estates) fell by almost a third in 2022 (-31,3%).
The official statistics for building permits and housing starts do not yet reflect this, but it will not be long, warn professionals, as these two indicators have a lag of a few months with sales.
The bankruptcy, last June, of the builder of the emblematic Phoenix houses, Geoxia, had already raised fears, even if this company had already been going badly for years.
“We have entered a generalized crisis”, fears Sylvain Massonneau, vice-president of the Pôle Habitat in charge of individual houses. "Every week, there are members who cease their activity for economic reasons, and now the phenomenon is accelerating. It does not only concern companies which have not adapted", he fears.
On Wednesday, the French number one in the sector, Hexaom, published a net loss of 37,9 million euros for the year 2022.
If this loss comes from a subsidiary outside its core business, the Norman group nevertheless garnered only 6.090 new orders for houses in 2022, or 29% less than in 2021.
The causes are known. On the supply side, construction costs have risen in the wake of the war in Ukraine. The sale price of Hexaom houses has thus risen by 25% in two years. On the demand side, access to credit closed in a few months, with the sharp rise in interest rates.
“When we combine a price increase for customers and the remaining customers who have more difficulty financing their projects, there are fewer orders”, explains Loïc Vandromme, general manager of Hexaom.
But the popularity of the single-family home as a mode of housing remains intact: from survey to survey, around 4 out of 5 French people say they would ideally like to live in a house.
The end of confinement, which had seen the price of old houses accelerate much more than that of apartments, further illustrated this.
The fact remains that the construction of individual houses will be increasingly threatened by the objective of "zero net artificialisation" of the soil, enshrined in law and binding since 2021.
France must indeed halve, every ten years, its rate of nibbling of natural spaces by the city, a deleterious phenomenon for the environment, the climate and biodiversity.
However, between 2009 and 2021, two thirds of this artificialization came from housing construction, according to official statistics.
"It will indeed impact us", judge Sylvain Massonneau, recalling that the mayors are already reluctant to grant building permits, fearing that this will make them unpopular.
"We were not at all against adapting, perhaps starting a decline in production by moving in return towards renovation", he explains. "Simply, the crisis puts us in difficulties which no longer allow this development."
There is however, want to believe the professionals, a way to reconcile construction of houses and land sobriety.
“Today, we build on land that is too big, and customers are interested in smaller ones,” says Damien Hereng, president of the Federation of Individual Home Builders.
Smaller gardens, terraced houses, "division" of land to build a new house... builders, he says, are trying out less land-intensive solutions.
"The French are not necessarily allergic to more density, what they express is that they do not want to live one above the other", he adds.