Ecole Militaire

Oh, the emotional roller coaster of househunting!

On Friday I went to visit an apartment that was in a location we never in our wildest dreams thought we could afford.  Rue Cler, in the 7th.  Here’s a map for those of you non-Parisians:

Rue Cler is an adorable, pedestrian, cobblestone market street smack dab between Invalides and the Eiffel Tower, walking distance to the Musee Rodin and the Musee Branly, and in the partie vivante of the very tony 7th.

The apt itself: 5th floor with elevator, concierge, cave, absolutely no work needed.  Wouldn’t you know it, they’d already received an offer at full asking price by the time I arrived.  But not to worry, the young agent reassured me.  “We manage an apartment across the hall for the same owner, I can show it to you if you like.  It’s smaller but it has a better view, you can even see the Eiffel Tower.  We haven’t listed it yet but we’ll probably list it soon.”  I asked if it would be listed at the same price/m2 as the one that already sold and she said it would be a bit more expensive per m2, but still less expensive overall (which was good because the agency had raised the asking price on the now-sold one by 20k between the time I got the email and the time I went to see it!  This should have been my first red flag*).  A few telephone calls were made to see about getting the keys and working around the current tenant, and we agreed to come back to check it out on Monday.

Over the weekend the agent emailed me photos of the apartment and raised the asking price by about 20k, to a price that was fair but the very top of our budget. On Monday off we went to check out the apartment – we had already decided that whether or not we would take the apartment at that price would depend on the view.

Ignore the clouds and imagine the sun!

We could sacrifice 50 sq feet or so and a proper kitchen for that view and the location.  When we outgrew the apartment we would always be able to rent it out, whether short-term or long-term, and the 7th is a valeur sure.  We made an offer on the spot for the full asking price (the new, higher, asking price).

Later that afternoon my companion gets an irate phonecall from the director of the agency.  “What’s this I hear about you making on offer on the apartment at Rue Cler?  That apartment’s not even for sale!  I don’t know what [agent] was thinking showing it to you!  The tenant isn’t supposed to move out until the fall!”

Not a good sign.

Today we receive a phone message from the director.  The owner might consider selling the apartment, but only for the right price.  Which is not the new, higher price the agent quoted us, but the price of the apartment across the hall.  That is 45 sq ft larger and that sold for a price that was already 20k over our budget (so 40k higher than the figure mentioned on Friday).

I don’t feel as bad about losing this apartment as I did the Gobelins one because here we did the most we could as quickly as possible; it was the agency who wasn’t very transparent, to say the least.  “Mais c’est scandaleux!” my concierge exclaimed when I told her the story.  While I like the motivation of the young go-getter agent who took the initiative to show us something not even on the market, I’m not really sure I could trust her or her agency, and I would not recommend them.

I now realize that this whole search is as much about luck as anything else, it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time talking to the right realtor.  We will never have the opportunity to compare two apartments, nor will we have time to think it over before making an offer – as soon as we find one that fits we just have to cross our fingers and take the plunge.  Off I go to meet more realtors to increase our chances and hopefully improve our luck!

*When an agency signs a mandat with an owner, the sale price is fixed, and as soon as the agency receives an offer for the asking price a contract is formed.  As I mentioned before, agencies are not allowed to start a bidding war and go beyond the asking price fixed in the mandate.  But that doesn’t stop unscrupulous agents from doing so.  I’ll have to do some research but our notaire mentioned that buyers who make an offer at full asking price, but who are passed over in favor of buyers who go beyond the price of the mandate, have a right to recourse.


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9 Responses to “Ecole Militaire”

  1. Struggler Says:

    Good grief. I’m amazed the director called you guys to chew you out about it – it’s hardly your fault you wanted to buy something!
    I’m so sorry this one was dangled under your nose and then taken away again. But I really think, as time goes on, you’ll get more and more confident about being able to make on-the-spot decisions and know whether or not you’ve found your rare pearl!

  2. househuntinginparis Says:

    Thanks! I have now spoken with a few other agents (including the awesome American one I mentioned before) and what the agency did is completely, unequivocably illegal. They are not allowed to show an apt without a mandate. That is probably why the director flipped out, but her anger should have been directed at the agent and not us. I’m not going to take it further, but if they call to pressure us about the apartment again I can’t wait to give them a piece of my mind. Absolutely no regrets – except the time we wasted on them.

  3. Adam Says:

    I’m so glad I don’t have to go through the process you’re going through at the moment, but I’m sure it will all be worthwhile in the end.

    Just out of curiousity, what would your opinion be on an apartment like this one? I think it looks great!

    When I bought a property in Paris, my opinion was always that the apartment would be more important than the area in which it was situated, and that for two reasons. Firstly, pretty much all of Paris has character, and secondly the city is small enough to ensure that you will never be isolated or stranded in any of the districts.

  4. househuntinginparis Says:

    Hi Adam,

    I love that brick building and obviously love 5th floor with balcony even more! It also has the ideal “traversant” layout – salon on road, bedroom on courtyard. Electricity and double glazed windows are new – a big plus. But right now we’re not even looking at listings in the 16th-20th. Assuming I was looking in those neighborhoods and liked the location of the apartment, my first question would be if there was an elevator. If not, I don’t go any further. Elevator is a non-negotiable for us. We have lowered the minimum size requirements (in December we were shooting for 40-50m2! ha! but the Rue Cler apartment was a miniscule 28!) because we would rather have a tiny “pearl” than a larger apartment that might be harder to sell in a few years.

    If there was an elevator, my next questions would be about the kitchen and bathroom. Those are the only rooms I care about (who cares what the bedroom looks like) just to see if we would need to redo them or not (for budgeting). The description says perfect condition, but there are no photos and I need to see it with my own eyes!

    Finally, I would ask if there are any travaux prévus dans l’immeuble (if so when and for how much). Depending on the answer, and the condition of the kitchen/bathroom, I might want to make a slightly revised offer (which would fly because this is a larger surface in a district that is not in demand).

    So that’s a really long answer to your question…and how I filter out listings (or pick/reject apartments).

    And I totally get your point about neighborhood vs. apartment – there are so many neighborhoods that we love in Paris where we would be happy. But at the same time we need neighborhoods that are convenient for work, for friends and going out. And right now we are totally spoiled because we work within walking distance and a direct commute from Montparnasse. So we’re not just yet ready to budge on our everything-but-the-16th-through-20th stance, and since we’ve found 2 perfect apartments that were exactly what we were looking for in the past 6 weeks, hopefully we’ll be able to find the third (and final!) one soon! Fingers crossed.

    Oh and one more quick thing – yesterday at Drouot I saw a 2-volume set of the Dictionnaire Historique des Rues de Paris from 1963! I really wanted to get it but I wasn’t able to make it back to the Salle in time. Have no idea what it went for but I’ma keep my eye out.

  5. parisbreakfast Says:

    WOW What a quest!
    Location is everything from what I hear in Paris.
    Somewhere on PB I posted a map with all the rates by sq. ft. ppar arrondissement..but who can find anything when you want it on a blog 😦
    How my sister found a place in the 12th in 3 days I’ll never know, though it was like 8 years ago, so it must have been easier then.
    Iwill not get any work done this morning!
    Too much fun reading here 🙂

  6. Adam Says:

    Ah, Jacques Hillairet’s Dictionnaire Historique des Rues de Paris! You can still buy reprints today, but they set you back over 100 Euros, so perhaps the 63 original could be a bargain too. I sometimes go the Archives de Paris where I can consult the volumes for free, but they disappointed me once by giving me misleading information that sent me on a wild goose chase! They are amazingly complete though, and I really should invest in a copy.

  7. le petit cabinet de curiosites Says:

    I love your experience about buying an house in Paris. The view is fantastic, it will be even more with the sun

  8. Square Gaston Baty « House Hunting in Paris Says:

    […] To this day, I have not seen anything that holds a candle to the Gobelins apartment.  Even the Ecole Militaire one, while in a more posh neighborhood, was not as nice a building and did not have two […]

  9. Mouton Duvernet « House Hunting in Paris Says:

    […] might have made an offer.  It was that nice.  Not amazing like the one at Commerce, nor chic like the one at Ecole Militaire, but just a nice apartment that would make a cosy […]

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