A tale of Parisian real estate – 1

MeNativeFrIn 2007, my wife and I (both Australians) had been living in the UK for five or so years. Happenstance has it that my wife’s and my passports and careers allow us to live and work in the EU. For some reason, what we both really wanted was the chance to spend more time in France.

We had recently sold a property in Australia and were thinking of using the proceeds to buy an investment property. One Saturday, a newspaper article pointed out that in the current economic climate, Paris is a good place to buy investment properties. In fact, there are companies in the UK that can arrange things for you. You tell them what you want and what your budget is, and they do the rest. But they are expensive.

While assimilating the options, in the Oxfordshire town where we live, my wife happens upon a notice on a door, tucked away down a side alley. It is a business that helps people buy country properties in France. One evening, we knock on this door. The proprietors tell us that, unlike the companies that we noticed in the Saturday newspaper, they do not deal with properties in Paris and they do not help with finding places to buy either. But they have a contact in Paris, Gilles, who can help if we have a specific property in mind, and they can help guide us through the legal process once we select a place to buy.

So we decide to go to Paris for a long weekend to look at properties. The newspaper article says that the 9th and 10th arrondissements are good-value places to buy in, so we decide to target these.

Our plan is to approach any estate agents we find there and see if any speak English.

We walk up Rue Montmartre, and I am taken with it. It has a section that is bollarded off to traffic, and it has some very interesting shops, including speciality cooking shops. “What a pity the 2nd arrondissement is out of our price range,” I think to myself.

Rues de Montmartre

We proceed up to the 9th and the 10th and look for estate agents. We approach any we find, ask if they speak English and many are helpful. As with anywhere else, estate agents in Paris are keen to sell properties to anyone, and even the most basic level of English, combined with my schoolboy French, is more than adequate for the situation.

We view quite a few apartments over the course of two days, and some of them are interesting. The only one we really like though is under offer from another buyer.

kitchenbeforeBy late Friday afternoon, we feel we have earned the right to relax and enjoy being in Paris. We are walking back down Rue Montmartre when my wife notices an estate agents on one of the side streets. “Let’s try just one more,” she says. I have moved firmly into wind-down-and-enjoy-Paris mode by now though.

“Nah, let’s not. I don’t think it’s worth it,” I say. “Besides, anything around here will be way outside our price range.” But my wife can be very persuasive, and we soon find ourselves entering the little estate agents’ shop.

We are ushered into the office of the agents’ resident English speaker, and we explain to her what we want. She says, “As a matter of fact, there is a place just around the corner that came onto the market today.

It’s on the 6th floor under the roof, but there is a lift. It has had the same owner for the past 20 years. It is very small and it is not in a good condition. Would you like to see it?” We try and hide our excitement when she mentions the asking price.

We soon find ourselves in the lift of Rue Montmartre apartment block. We are ushered in to the apartment. It is dark – the wooden shutters are closed on all the windows. “Madame has a cat, and she worries that it will jump out of the window,” the agent explains. Madame is also a smoker and the place reeks of tobacco.

The ceilings are low – not much more than my head height. But it has potential. As we are about to leave, the estate agent pushes one of the wooden shutters open to reveal a view, over the rooftops, of the Eiffel Tower off in the distance. We decide to make an offer. We contact Gilles and arrange to meet him at the agents in the morning.


You can read Episode 2 of ‘A tale of Parisian real estate’ here

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Dan Smith

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