Some thoughts on the Paris housing market

Since I have no visits lined up next week (not for lack of trying!), I thought I’d repeat some very sound advice from Paris Real Estate Finders.  Consider this my plea to the housing gods to get another chance at something incredible this week!

Top 10 Tips When Buying an Apartment in Paris

  1. Compromise is the name of the game in buying a Parisian apartment. No matter what your budget, neighborhood or criteria, you will have to make compromises. Prices are higher than you might expect, and often apartments need work–at a minimum “freshening up” and at maximum, major renovations.
  2. Be prepared! The market is very competitive and requires active engagement and rapid decision-making. The best properties sell within 1 to 72 hours of coming on the market. You need to be able to evaluate quickly, and on the spot if a property appeals to you and if you wish to make an offer.
  3. Price negotiation is almost non-existent in the Parisian market. French sellers are very aware of the value of their property, which is calibrated by euros/m2, depending on the neighborhood, charm and amenities. If the price is negotiable, the seller will state this directly when asked. Do not expect the back and forth bargaining that is a characteristic of the American market.
  4. It is essential to have your financial picture clear before you start searching. You are competing with French buyers who have a “leg up” with French sellers, who feel more secure that an “all French” transaction will go more straightforwardly forward. You need to be pre-approved for a mortgage, if you plan on using financing for your purchase.
  5. The Parisian market is closely tied to certain periods of the year. It is strong from mid-September to early December and from late February to the end of June, excepting French holidays (of which there are many.) While property is sold all year, to optimize your time, you need to coordinate your search to those periods when most sellers are available to show their properties.
  6. Choose people to help you who you trust, and then, trust them. Use your skills to conduct reasonable “due diligence” on the persons or companies who you plan to use to assist you in your search. If possible, get recommendations from former clients or professional sources. Once you have decided to go with a company or agent, trust it/him/her and avoid double guessing them or yourself.
  7. Don’t buy a property in Paris unless you are truly committed to Paris. If you are really only looking for an investment property, buy close to home in a market that you know. Owning Parisian real estate is a challenge–both linguistic and managerial. Most buildings are old (historic, if you wish) and have management problems. A Parisian apartment is not care-free; you need to love Paris and have a genuine emotional attachment to the city, or it’s not worth your trouble.
  8. Some people say, “Location, location, location.” We say, “Intuition, intuition, intuition.” You need to have a feeling for the apartment you buy–even if it’s not in the area you originally thought you wanted, or it doesn’t look like what you thought you wanted. If it strongly appeals to you, that’s one of the best indicators you can have, and you should trust your instincts (the “coup de coeur” at the doorsill)…
  9. Commit yourself to your search. Come to Paris with comfortable shoes, a good umbrella, a rational map, your sense of humor and energy. The search should take 3-7 intense days beginning on a Thursday. You need to be available at a moment’s notice to charge off to see another apartment. Avoid social or other appointments that detract in any way from your ability to focus on finding your apartment.
  10. Have fun! Apartment hunting in Paris is work, stressful, emotionally and physically challenging. But it should be fun too! If you’re not enjoying yourself, rethink your approach. Either you’re in the wrong neighborhood, working with the wrong people or not drinking enough champagne in the evening! It’s a wonderful, exhilarating undertaking. You will see some dreadful things and perhaps, something that will steal your heart. But above all, be prepared to have fun, laugh and turn the page for the next one.

I agree 100% with everything they’ve written here.  I also feel better knowing that January and February are particularly slow times for the Paris real estate market, especially right now since prices have slightly declined over the past year and sellers are trying to wait it out.  Slim pickins indeed.  A 3-7 day search seems a bit optimistic; heck realtors seem surprised when I tell them we only have two months!

I was, however, surprised by their assessment of the different neighborhoods:

Walking Neighborhoods in Paris That Still Have Good Values:

  • Avoid the arrondissements that touch the Seine if you want value for your money
  • 8eme — Europe the triangle at the very North end of the arrondissement
  • 9eme — all of it
  • 10eme — Southern portion only near the elbow of the Canal St. Martin; not West of Magenta and not East of the canal; avoid all Gare
  • 11eme — inner 1/3 only
  • 12eme — inner 1/3 only
  • 17eme — western 2/3’s only; avoid Avenue Clichy
  • 18eme — SW quadrant of the arrondissement only; varies street by street — get expert advice
  • Right now, the good areas of the 10th and the 11th are mostly out of our budget.*  Prices have increased 40-50% in the past 5 years in those neighborhoods!   We have a few friends who have bought in the 9th recently and are loving it, but I don’t think it is such a “bargain” anymore – one paid 210k for a ground floor studio on interior courtyard that had to be completely gutted.  On the other hand, it seems like the 5th, a neighborhood that borders the Seine, is actually within our budget – real estate agents quoted me average prices of 7000 – 9000€/m2.

    The 18th is one area I am completely staying away from for the reasons they mentioned, and also because we both kinda hate it.  I know I know, but Amelie, it feels like a village, it offers some of the best views of Paris and has notable private streets/villas that have outstanding properties, yada yada yada.  But dude, Pigalle and Barbès-Rochechouart are scummy neighborhoods.  Prostitutes, drug dealers, pickpocketers – not my cup of tea.  And to get to the cute parts or those chic private villas you have to go through the dangerous parts!

    The 17th is another area we are avoiding, even though there are definitely chic parts of it near Parc Monceau, Rome, etc because we don’t really know it and don’t have the time or desire to get to know it to the level needed to look at property in that area.  It is definitely cheaper than other neighborhoods though so come February if we’re still looking I might just have to eat my words.

    *for the apartment we are looking for: 1 bd around 35 m2, with elevator, old building, high floor with view and preferably balcony.  Ground floor, 1st floor, and walkup interior view 1-bd apartments are a dime a dozen and well within our budget in the 9th, 10th, and 11th.


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    4 Responses to “Some thoughts on the Paris housing market”

    1. Adam Says:

      Good idea for a blog!

      In answer to the question you left on my blog, the building was designed by Henri Sauvage and Charles Sarazin. I mentioned it briefly when writing about their more famous (and very similar) construction behind Montmartre:

      The tiles were used because the building was designed following hygenist principles, mostly as a way to counter tuberculosis. The circulation of air was also a vital feature. Interestingly, the Montmartre building has a swimming pool at its heart, although Sauvage had initially wanted a cinema to be built there.

    2. Struggler Says:

      Interesting; I can’t help but feel that compromise is essential for any home purchase, but some of these others are very surprising and clearly very Parisian!
      I would suggest that the first part of a down-turn in the market is sellers trying to wait it out; usually, that’s followed (by some, at least) realising they can’t hang on for ever, and from that point, prices tend to dip down. By how much, and for how long, is anyone’s guess though! If, as you say, the market is very competitive, it sounds like demand is still very strong and you are right to be prepared to move very fast.

    3. househuntinginparis Says:

      Adam – Rue Vavin is already one of my “dream”/never-in-a-million-years addresses (along with Quai des Grands-Augustins and Place des Vosges), thanks for the background on #26. OMG and I just recognized that building from your other post – there is an apartment for sale in that building, I will have to go through and see if I can find it again and if it is still available (I didn’t know the history behind the building and we have only been looking at Stone buildings, refusing to visit concrete/brick ones).

      And Struggler – The market is very competitive for those “rare pearls” (old building with elevator and view) that seem to go in a matter of hours, but I have seen so many ground floor, interior courtyard view, or walkups that have been on the market for *months* with multiple price reductions. I just met with a real estate agent yesterday who told me that historically there is an upswing around the end of the “soldes” period, the bi-annual sales that end the first week in February. Fingers crossed.

    4. cpr Says:

      I lived near Parc Monceau one rue des Dames for a bit, and it was a lovely area. Best boulangerie ever, great restaurants, close to metro and great park. Oh, and there was a nice market there, and great vendors for every food item you’d need. Maybe you might like to consider that area? The Haussman buildings are there too. It’s lovely.

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