It’s amazing how much six weeks of “experience” apartment hunting has changed my perspective and my ability to chit chat about real estate with realtors, neighbors, and basically anyone who will listen. My pharmacist, baker, the owner of the corner cafe, bankers, and obviously our concierge all know that we’re looking for an apartment. When I pop into agencies it is no longer a 5-minute exchange of information but a 10, 20 minute conversation about “the market,” where we are in the search, interesting properties we’ve seen but missed, past sales, gossip, etc.
Anyways, last week I was talking with my baker* about a listing I had seen on her street, Rue Littré, for a 5 m2 (yes, that’s right, 50 sq ft) apartment for 87k. WTF?! This morning when I went to get my daily pain au chocolat the baker excitedly greeted me and said, “You know what, I was thinking about you, I forgot that Rue Littré is owned by Groupama.” I told her I didn’t understand, because I didn’t.
“Groupama is a company that owns practically every building on Rue Littré, they’re our landlords.”
“Ah, so you mean everyone who lives on Rue Littré is renting from Groupama?”
“Exact. But check with the concierge across the street, she’ll know more.”
Well, I haven’t checked with the concierge yet because I’m lazy. But a quick google search brought me to the Groupama website, a commercial real estate company that owns 244,447 m2 of residential property, 80% of which is in Paris (as of Dec 2008). DAY-UM. This really shouldn’t surprise me as much as it does, since institutional investors are not exclusive to the US. Although they don’t offer any residential properties for sale,** I did browse their rental listings (including one on, yes, Rue Littré). The prices are pretty darn reasonable, the properties look GREAT (most are Hausmannien buildings with elevators in nice neighborhoods), and I’m assuming there would be no agency fee. If I ever have to rent again in Paris this would be the first place I would check.
Later on, I brought up “Rue Groupama” with a realtor in the 6th and he shot right back that many streets around Jardin de Luxembourg are owned by the Vatican. “The Vatican?” I repeated incredulously. “Yeah, you know, like the Pope!” You don’t say. I’m almost starting to enjoy this search, and the encounters with the realtors, because I’ve learned so much about Parisian history and architecture in the process. And not necessarily the stuff you can read in history books!
*18 Rue Littré, 75006, M: Montparnasse. Phenomenal bread (try their multigrain “boules” if you’re feeling granola-ey, or special order some chestnut bread), melt in your mouth crossaints, and the owner is a really sweet young girl. Plus they are cheaper and nicer than any other bakery in the neighborhood.
**There goes my dream of living on Rue Littré! Rue Littré, along with Rue Vavin and Rue du Cherche-Midi, is one of my favorite streets in the 6th. It’s a tiny, quiet street with a bakery, fruit stall, tabac, and a bar or restaurant or two, but just steps away from the shopping on Rue de Rennes, the cinemas and cafes at Montparnasse, and within walking distance to the Jardin de Luxembourg. And on top of that, apparently a smart investment!