A tale of Parisian real estate – 2

courtyardThe next morning, we meet Gilles and Madame the estate agent. After some minimal negotiations, the details of our offer are thrashed out.

Later that day, we are notified that it has been accepted. We pinch ourselves all the way back to the UK.

We set the laborious process in motion of arranging a mortgage with a French bank, and the nuts and bolts of the purchase. The company behind the little door in the laneway are as good as their word, and soon we are receiving official letters in French with forms to sign, along with English translations.

In the meantime, coincidentally, I apply for a job in Paris that has popped up. The two processes, the job application and the apartment purchase proceed in parallel. I land the job and eventually, my start date is set down for a week after we are due to complete on the apartment purchase.

The day of settlement approaches – it is to be the day after I am due to finish up in my old job. So when I arrive home from work on my final day, we quickly load up our car and set off for the Eurotunnel.

The next day, after a frantic drive from Calais and then through Paris, we arrive at the advocate’s office where settlement is to take place, with minutes to spare. We are ushered into a room and are seated at a table. The Advocate is at the head of the table, the seller and her friend, Gilles, Madame the estate agent, my wife and I are seated around.

In front of the Advocate is a large pile of documents. “We begin,” says the Advocate as he picks up the first piece of paper on the pile.


Some hours later, we have heard, understood and agreed to the last document in the pile. Gilles is to show us the apartment and explain the necessary mechanics. He hands us a large clump of keys of varying sizes and complexity. There are two particularly large and complex keys in the collection, for the locks on the front door. These look a bit like fish cleaning tools.

eiffelTwilightWe are keen to take a look at one of the items mentioned in the title, access rights to ‘a cupboard in the cellar’. “It’s only a cupboard, but a Parisian cellar, no matter how tiny, has to be a thing of interest,” we think.

After explaining the intricacies of the electricity meter and the hot water system, Gilles says, “I will show you your cupboard in the cave, and then I go.” We descend to the ground floor. Gilles opens an innocuous door and flicks a light switch. The cellar is much larger than we ever imagined. It is split over three levels, and our ‘cupboard’ is a 3 metre by 2 metre room on the second level.

We bed down for the night on our temporary bedding. The next day, we drive to an Ikea just outside the peripherique and buy some basic furniture, including a futon. When we get back to our apartment, I discover that the flatpack does not include a screwdriver, but luckily as well as cleaning fish, the front door key also works as a screwdriver.


You can read Episode 1 of our 2 part series of A tale of Parisian real estate here.

All Images Dan Smith.

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Dan Smith

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  1. Suzanne Cavanagh Nov 16, 2011 at 2:22 PM - Reply

    Dan – great story. I have often wondered how difficult it really is to negotiate the intricacies of the French system when purchasing. I have constant images of foreigners trying to escape a legal morass. Still, from your tale a good ‘avocat’, some persistence and a drop of courage are the essentials.

    Liked the inspired kitchen reno by the way.Enjoy the Parisian interlude –

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