Archive for March, 2010

Yet another one that got away

March 30, 2010

I just lost my appetite.

This apartment was listed last night, too late to call the agency.  In a neighborhood that we like, ok building in limestone, 3rd floor walk up in, cellar but no concierge, 2-bedroom, 540 sq ft, on road and courtyard.  At that price I figured it must need to be gutted so I called this morning as soon as I could.


To a cash buyer.

In perfect condition, no work needed.


The agency is not a Paris agency and must not know the Paris market very well, explaining the rock bottom asking price for an apartment of that size in that neighborhood.  I left my contact info in case the sale falls through but I’m not holding my breath.

Is it too early for a strong drink?


Pernety, Pere Lachaise, Falguiere, Vavin, Denfert-Rochereau

March 28, 2010

4 days, 5 visits, 0 offers, 0 photos for anyone out there.  The theme?  Vouloir le beurre et l’argent du beurre.

Wanting the butter and the money for the butter: is it really so unreasonable to hope for good location, good building, and light?  Apparently so because we’ve yet to find an apartment with all three…I’m this close to investing in a nice Santeria un-jinx bubble bath or air freshener.

If only finding an apartment were as simple as buying a “lucky” bubble bath!  On to the recaps.

Pernety: 2nd floor with elevator in ok condition in ugly 30s brick building in ok neighborhood.  Meh.

Père Lachaise: beautiful stone building with elevator, cave, concierge.  6th floor “courtyard” side but with panoramic views of the 20th and east Paris, in great condition.  The dealbreaker was the location: the listing said République, on the phone the agent told me Parmentier, but it was actually at Père Lachaise on the very border of the 20th.  If it had been anywhere else…

Falguiere: 2nd floor with elevator in nice stone building with concierge, cave.  Apartment was brand spankin new and maybe 5 minutes from our current place so location was perfect.  I’ve seen this listing on seloger for a few weeks but I thought the price was ridiculous.  I just saw it on PAP for a bit lower so I called to ask about view/light, and the owner assured me that even though it looked on the courtyard it faced west and received a lot of light.  You know where this is going: went to go see it ASAP and there was a view of the stone wall about 6 feet away.  “But it gets a lot of light!” she tried to assure me, before giving up and adding “you Americans all you care about is the view.”  Huh what?  NEXT!

3/31/10 update: I should really call this the yo-yo apartment because it was just relisted on seloger for the 10k/m2+ asking price.  Pics of the great view included.  Good luck with that one sweetie!

Vavin: Great location in the north 14th on a calm one lane road.  3rd floor walkup in nice stone building with cave and concierge.  Out of our price range with the work it needed – per usual “petits rafraîchissements” translates to everything – electric, bathroom, kitchen.  Three months in I still haven’t quite mastered the language of real estate agents.  Other negatives were super crappy layout and major vis-a-vis (one can be changed with more money than we have, the other can’t).  Oh plus a loony old woman who lives in the building harassed me and the realtor and told me to go back to America.  Fun times.  Next.

Denfert-Rochereau: 4th floor with elevator in beautiful building with cave and concierge, near 3 metro lines.  Looks on courtyard.  Plus we found it on PAP, which is not a bad thing in itself, except right now with the market the way it is the price listed in PAP is often just the starting price.  Owners aren’t limited to a mandat like an agency is, and by the time we saw this apartment there were already 7 offers on the table.*  I bet it will end up selling for 20k above asking price, more than we would like to pay for a courtyard apartment in that neighborhood.  Bizarrely the third time in a row I’ve encountered anti-American rumblings – the owners complained about a pair of rude Americans that had visited the apartment earlier in the day and said they would never sell to foreigners.  Next.

There were also quite a few apartments that I would’ve liked to visit but that were already sold by the time I called about them.  I got an email for one on Thursday morning, called and left a message ASAP, then called again on Friday morning by which time they already had six offers at asking price.  I asked about the highest down payment, to see if we had a chance at beating the best offer, and the realtor said unlikely since they already a cash offer without clause suspensive.  Holy moly we will never be able to make such an offer.  In fact, I don’t even think it’s possible to trump a cash offer without clause suspensive.*

Today’s lightbulb moments:

*Le vendeur est roi – the seller is king!  one agent exclaimed to me.  How true.  That crappy Square Baston Gaty apartment I didn’t like sold at asking price without clause suspensive in a matter of days – the agent said that now, to be sure to get an apartment, not only must you make an offer at full asking price, but also without the clause suspensive.

*Time is the ultimate luxury, not money – our failure to find an apartment (yet!) has nothing to do with our budget.  Ok, so we had to pass on that most amazing Commerce apartment (still dreaming of that beauty!) because it was out of our price range with the work needed, and of course it would be nice to have an extra 100 grand or even 50 grand lying around, but a successful outcome in this search turns on whether we can afford to be patient and picky.  We might have found a way around the May 31 deadline for the PTZ, fingers crossed…

*The Paris market is fickle – things seem to change from one month or week to the next.  We went out with Céline again recently and of course ended up talking about my favorite topic, the Paris market.  Apparently when Céline was looking one year ago, real estate agencies were going out of business and owners were worried that the housing market would crash, so the market was flooded with owners trying to sell as quickly as possible.  She was even able to negotiate a price reduction of 20k, which is just unimaginable right now.**

And that there ends my missive on the current state of affairs.  As always, fingers crossed for the coming week, even without jinx remover bubble bath.


*Here in France the legit agents can’t sell beyond the price stated in the mandat which is why it comes down to financing methods, not number value.  If I were selling an apartment right now I would totally list it myself on PAP just to open up the possibility of a bidding war which would not be allowed with an agency.  I discussed clause suspensive in the footnote to this prior post.

**For small, non-ground floor apartments.  The market for large apartments above 600k is not nearly as crazy – such apartments stay on the market longer and the prices are often open to negotiation.

Plan B

March 24, 2010

Today I met with an amazing realtor who brought up the topic of Plan B – what if we don’t find our coup de coeur before the end of May?  This woman is on the ball and outlined a few alternative plans, along with the financing options and nitty gritty details.

Plan B: Find something to buy, anything,* before the end of May, keep looking for our dream apartment, and sell the placeholder apartment when we find the dream apartment.  This allows us to benefit from the Pret a Taux Zéro (PTZ).

Plan B-bis: Buy apartment X that this realtor put on the market today, put 15k of work into it, try to resell in August for current sale price + 30k.

Plan C: Forget dream apartment, find an apartment that would make a smart investment: something located close to a metro (any metro), that requires the least amount of additional investment (low maintenance charges, no works needed in the building), not ground floor, live in it for a year or two then use it as furnished rental.**  Purchase dream apartment in 5 yrs (and dedicate at least 1 yr to the search!).

This are obviously very broad brushstrokes of possibilities and we need to sit down and really reflect on our options and what we want.  I am torn.  I’m disappointed in the search and the thought of giving up on “the” dream apartment, but the realtor brought a fresh perspective to the search: think rationally, make a smart investment, try to maximize the PTZ, and build up our equity for a few years while we wait for the coup de coeur.   And let’s be realistic: three months after our first apartment visit, we’re in exactly the same position as when we started.  Except we only have about five more weeks to find an apartment.***  The future does not look bright.

Any ideas for Plans D, E, or F?

*Ok, so not anything, but not exactly la perle rare I’ve been after either: something that would be easy to resell and would retain or increase in value.  Near a metro, not ground floor, not 4th floor or above walk-up.  The idea is not to make money from a quick flip but not to lose any either – and most importantly not to lose out on the PTZ.

**We might not be living in Paris in a few years, though we would eventually return.

***I am KICKING myself for not starting looking in September.  I have no excuses except stupid ignorance.  However eliminating elevator from our requirements has not had any noticeable impact on the amount of visits I’ve been on – pickins are still as slim as ever.

Mouton Duvernet

March 22, 2010

When I called about this one, they already had two offers below asking price.  I wasn’t sure if it was worth visiting because it was a 5th floor walkup in a neighborhood that we weren’t really crazy about, but the realtor was sweet and convinced me to come on down.

Had they not already received two additional offers at full asking price, one without a clause suspensive!* by the time we visited, we 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 home.

Cute calm road, lovely stone building from 1890.  The building exterior was just redone and they are in the middle of redoing the interior and the staircase.  There is a cave but no concierge.

It was the first apartment I’ve visited that has been staged.  The walls are now beige-gray and there are even more accessories and flowers scattered around the apartment.  When you enter the apartment on your right is a coat closet and then bathroom, and on the left is the bedroom, which has original decorative moulding that is not visible in this photo.

After the bedroom is the living room, with the original (non-functioning) chimney.

Both the bedroom and the living room look over the road, with full southern exposure and a long connected balcony.  Just gorgeous, light and airy.

On the right after the bathroom is the kitchen, which faces north over a beautiful private garden.

As with everything else in the apartment, the kitchen is in perfect condition.  This is a truly turnkey apartment, and even though we aren’t crazy about the neighborhood (perfectly safe with lots of shops and groceries and restaurants but as I’ve written before we are location snobs), nor the fact that is a 5th floor walk-up, the balcony and light more than make up for it.

Unfortunately, for all purposes the apartment was already sold by the time we visited it.  The real estate agent was darling, a former architect, and she is definitely going on the best of list.  And the most interesting thing we gleaned from this visit is confirmation that the market is insane right now.  The agent estimated this apartment at 21k lower than the listed price, but because there is nothing on the market right now and the owners insisted she decided to go ahead and list it for the higher price to see if she got any nibbles.  Less than 24 hrs later she had not one but TWO offers at a price she never thought she would get. If this is a preview of what’s to come in April, well, I might just need to rename this blog DREAMING of househunting, or how NOT to find an apartment in Paris.

With only the slightest regret, next.

*A clause suspensive is a clause that allows the potentional buyer to be refunded the 10% deposit if bank financing falls through.  When there are multiple offers on the table the highest doesn’t necessarily prevail.  The realtors will consider the overall package, looking at the buyer’s income, savings, down payment, type of financing and “feeling” in determining which offer to recommend to the seller, even though it is up to the seller to make the final decision.  Making an offer without a clause suspensive is a great negotiating tool and pretty much trumps all other offers.  However, it is risky, and we are not in a position to make an offer without such a clause.

Pick of the day: Passage Verdeau

March 18, 2010

Oy.  My heart hurts just looking at this.

I got the email a few minutes ago, called immediately, and it’s already sold.  4th floor walk-up that looks like it needs a bit of work but do you think I care?!  Stunning.  Check it out while it’s still up here.

Recent conversations with realtors

March 17, 2010

While I’ve stopped actively going out and meeting realtors, I never walk past an agency without popping in to say hello and give them my card.  Today on my way to the shoe cobbler* I stopped by a few agencies on Boulevard Raspail and had some interesting conversations with the realtors.  I was complaining about not having found an apartment in three months and one realtor tried to console me by noting that it usually takes his clients around six months to find an apartment in Paris.  Six months.  Ugh.  That doesn’t really help but at least it’s not just me.  Another one was not surprised by the Commerce apartment price – But it sold at that price, didn’t it? he asked with a smile.  Point noted.  He also said that prices are overall lower than last year and that he really sees the difference – but in the same breath told me that since there are so few apartments on the market and so many potential buyers, sellers are at total liberty to dictate, and wait for, the “right” price.  Finally, one realtor summed up the market conditions, and my experience, perfectly: C’est la folie.

And in the latest bombshell: Elevator is no longer on the wishlist.


Here’s the reality: we have about 6 weeks left to find an apartment.  And while we might be able to find an apartment with an elevator, we are no longer screening or refusing to visit apartments without elevators.  We had a long dicussion about this since it was never a personal requirement but an “investment” choice – we want something that will sell in a few days no matter what the market conditions whenever we have to resell.  But since first-time buyers looking at small apartments are usually young without kids, elevator might not be so important.  Or so we hope.  We’ll see…6th floor walkups are definitely out but 2nd floor walkup (with balcony) would be perfect.

*18 rue Bréa, 75006 (M: Vavin).  Ferragamo at the Bon Marché recommended him and he did not disappoint!  Cheap and cheerful – only 3 EUR to put taps on my ballerinas while I waited.  I pay $3 back at home so I think this is a fair price.

Ghosts of visits past

March 15, 2010

Way back in January I rejected a dark “loft” around the corner from our current place.*  I just noticed it in an agency listing, with a higher price tag to go along with the new photos.

Not just a minor bump, but a whopping thirty grand increase!

It’s true the glass roof over the kitchen looks neat.  But IIRC, there are no windows in the living room.  or bathroom.  and maybe even the bedroom.  And ground floor on a courtyard that is open to the public with trashcans and businesses and other fun stuff.  No regrets about this one despite the location.  You can check it out here – I bet it will be up for quite a while, especially at that price.

*I quickly learned that “loft” is code for “this apartment is highly undesirable for a variety of reasons but if we call it a loft it sounds cool and trendy” – ie ground floor, no light, backward or strange layout, and/or “bedroom” in mezzanine or accessible only by ladder.

Third time’s NOT a charm – Commerce

March 12, 2010

This was originally going to be a pick of the day post, but then I thought what do I have to lose, called to visit illico presto, fell head over heels for it, and made an offer on the spot.

Before you break out the bubbly – no, the offer was not accepted!  But I wasn’t really expecting it to, and the realtor was cool with that, and cool, period.

OK, let’s get back to the visit.  First of all, the building is absolutely magnifique.  Built in 1907 by T. Judlin & P. Gravereaux, it has an incredible glass door, ornate molding, beautiful lobby, stained glass in the interior staircase.  Nothing short of amazing.  This is the first building I have seen that has topped the Gobelins one we missed.*  Just gorgeous.  Oh, and concierge, cave, 4th US floor WITH ELEVATOR AND little balconnets on the living room and the bedroom.  The living room is a rounded room on the corner of the building with full Southern exposure!!!  The apartment itself has original decorative ceilings but needs TONS of work, much more than the “freshening up” the agent described – it has NO heat, and the kitchen, bathroom, electric, and floors need to be redone.

Perfect, basically…except for reality.  It was already at nearly 9k/m2 (just ridiculous!) and the work needed would push it over 10k/m2, which is not only out of our budget but also very high for that neighborhood.  Almost 9k/m2 plus it needs to be completely renovated (20k-40k)?  REALLY?  Who in their right mind would pay nearly 10k for an apartment in the 15th at Commerce, which is certainly a decent neighborhood but far from pulling in 10k/m2.*  Given the amount of work needed and the average prices in the neighborhood, I made an offer at a price that I think is fair – 8k/m2.  This was 35k lower than the asking price, and 10k and 25k less than the other offers on the table, but the agent and I both agreed that it couldn’t hurt because on sait jamais – who knows what could happen, maybe the offers would fall through.

They didn’t.

Even though the third time is not a charm in our case, I am grateful for the mere opportunity to visit something so beautiful.  It has also uplifted my spirits to know that apartments like that really are out there on the market.  The chance of finding something like this petit bijou makes the search and the wait and the phone calls and visits all worth it, and I’m stickin to my guns (and my crazy requirements).  Patience, patience is my current mantra.

*Average prices in the neighborhood are 7k-8k/m2 according to some realtors I spoke with in surrounding agencies, and 7k-9k in the building itself according to  The highest offer at the time I last spoke with the agent was 8500/m2, which I consider a stretch but clearly the market says otherwise!

Rue d’Alencon rage

March 5, 2010

Either I have great taste or I should work for a real estate holding company.  According to the owner of an antique shop on Rue d’Alençon, the entire street is owned by CapInvest (sp?).  Fabulous.

The rage meme pretty much sums up how I’m feeling about the apartment search right now!  Some friends have suggested the following “remedies”: waiting for the full moon; buying a St-Joseph statue; going to see a voyant.  Not there…yet…

Pick of the day

March 4, 2010

How amazing do these windows look?!

Highlights: atelier in old building on US 5th and 6th floor with elevator.  Can you imagine the light this apartment must soak up?!  Definitely a very special listing.

The only reason I’m not interested: the location, in the 17th at the very limits of Paris intra muros.  I’m not gonna lie, I am very very tempted the more I look at those photos!  But it is so. far. from everything.

Otherwise, it looks phenomenal.  Check it out here.