A growing number of French people own their own homes. Ownership runs at 64% today, and is expected to grow to 68% in the next six years. France is well behind other European countries though in home ownership. The champions are in Eastern Europe. 96% of people own their own homes in Romania. 70% own their own homes in Italy. Seven out of ten French home owners have entirely paid off their home loan. For people purchasing today, the average time to pay off a home is 17 years. This is a situation to dream of for Australian home-buyers, who are only second to Hong Kong's in suffering under a terrible system. The French system discourages land-speculation in a number of ways which therefore deter the flourishing of a malignant property and growth lobby there. This article is based on a France2 news item "L'achat immobilier, une valeur sure plébiscitée par les Français," 29 January 2016.
Five million people in France own more than one property. 700,000 own more than four properties. Bricks and mortar are the preferred investment - more than the National savings account (le Livret A), bank shares, life insurance or gold.
Over the past 15 years, French property values have risen by 62%. [Ed. This is considered to be very high in France, although does not of course compare to Australian or Hong Kong prices. It is a testimony to the underlying stability of the French housing market. See Sheila Newman, The Growth Lobby in Australia and its Absence in France, (Chapter 3 and ff) to understand why.] So, for the French, housing - mostly for rental purposes - is considered a good investment [Ed. even though rents have been reregulated by the State recently, at least in Paris].
The most numerous investors are those who rent their homes out for short-term rental, typically via AirB&B or similar. There are regulations to limit this practice to four months maximum a year. Beyond that permits are required by local government. Profits must be declared but abuses are frequent. Hotels criticise these businesses because they compete with them but don't pay the same taxes and are not subject to the same social responsibilities. Careers are evolving in managing multiple sublets of this kind and in servicing them financially.