Archive for April, 2010

Pick of the day – Commerce

April 29, 2010

Rue de Commerce in the 15th has become one of my favorite neighborhoods just through the apartment visits.  I had never been there prior to the search, but my companion was very enthusiastic about it and now I am on board as well – there are 3 lines of metro, and the area has tons of shops and restaurants and is very vivante.  So when I received this ad last night I starred it to call immediately in the morning.

And call I did, only to hear that all too familiar refrain “deja vendu.”  Another thing notable about the listing is the agency is located in the suburbs – I’ve noticed going through non-local agencies unfamiliar with the market is one way to get low-ish prices.



Up, up, up

April 28, 2010

go the prices, according to the latest averages from the Notaries of Paris.  The average price in Ile-de-France has increased 1.2% over the past three months.  While this appears to reverse the trend of declining and stagnating prices (average decline of 8.4% observed in 2008 and 2009), the report says that a return to average annual increases of 10-15% is “improbable.”

Just one more factor to add pressure to this search…

Read more commentary in French on this flathunter’s blog.

Or go direct to the source and read the report, also in French, on the Notary website.

Jacques Bonsergent

April 24, 2010

Getting sick, and my computer getting sick, and going out of town are three factors that put the brakes on the apartment search the past two weeks.  It’s ok though (so I tell myself) because it also coincides with yet another official vacation period.  And as one realtor put it, in fact, in the very same words that were used to describe my computer: C’est mort.

That being said, we did put in an offer last week on an apartment a stone’s throw away from the Canal Saint-Martin.  I did not actually visit it, but our discussion boiled down to:

-we love the neighborhood, don’t mind a 3rd floor walkup.

-But.  It was completely Northern exposure, and both the bedroom and living room were on the road – far from ideal.*  Probably a 8-10 minute walk from the metro Republique.  Kitchen needed to be redone.  Water leaks in the building and a crazy neighbor next door.  And the real dealbreaker – 8500/m2.  It was in our budget but I was skittish of paying so much over the “averages” (even though the averages mean nothing) for this particular apartment with all of its defauts.  So we made an offer slightly lower, in the 8200/m2 range.  In this market, making an offer lower than asking price is tantamount to passing, and it sold for full asking price four days later.

I can’t be bummed because I didn’t see it in person so I don’t really know what we missed out on – who knows maybe I would have walked in and loved it – and for my companion it was no coup de coeur either.  Oh and because we’ve been asking about rental values: the realtor estimated 1k for unfurnished rental.  Don’t think it would work as a seasonal rental because there is no elevator, and it is not centrally located nor near any major monuments or museums (even though the neigborhood is great and would appeal to bobos).  Next.

*The ideal layout is traversant with living room on the road and bedroom on the inner courtyard.  Bedroom on the road isn’t itself a dealbreaker because we try to take everything into consideration – the Mouton Duvernet apartment was a 5th floor walkup with bedroom on road but it was full Southern exposure with a gorgeous balcony!

Mais c’est deja vendu madame

April 14, 2010

My least favorite phrase.  That I’m hearing all too frequently.

I’ve realized that the seloger alerts are sometimes sent out after the apartment has already been on the market for a day or two, by which time it’s already too late.  The only way to avoid this situation is to be on the realtor’s shortlist to be called as soon as a new apartment is listed, and the only way to do that is to go in person and meet the realtor.  At the very beginning pounding the pavement was my main strategy – I think I’ve now met in person around 100 realtors.  And every time I call about a listing online with a realtor I haven’t met, I make sure to leave my contact info and my criteria in case they ever have anything else.  But I keep on getting scooped, like with this one today:

A bit smaller than what we’re looking for (with a nice small price to go with the smaller size!), it might be noisy overlooking that metro track, but we love the neighborhood and would have been interested.

I don’t know what else I can do.  I’ve popped in to *about* every agency in Montparnasse, the Marais, the Latin Quarter, Ecole Militaire, Bastille, and République, which are the main neighborhoods we are looking in, as well as countless others, and I receive daily phone calls from the realtors I’ve already met.  But clearly I haven’t met everyone if this keeps happening – back to pounding the pavement it is.

Blanche, St Sebastien Froissart, Place d’Italie, Etienne Marcel twice

April 11, 2010

Visits are picking up once again.  This week’s recap: 5 visits, 1 offer made, 1 offer rejected.  Still as hopeful as ever for the coming week.

Blanche – sooooo tempting.  I know I said I hate the neighborhood, but my companion doesn’t feel the same way and I could make it work for this gorgeous 100 sq ft balcony with full Southern exposure (la cerise sur le gâteau – US 6th floor WITH elevator).

Drooling yet?

This photo makes me dream of summer dinners outdoors, drinks with friends, lazy mornings with tea and the paper, a bit of suntanning.  And actually visiting it on a sunny afternoon was even better!


and a big but.

I knew the apartment would be a wreck, but I was not expecting termites and the dreaded black mold.  Oh, that black mold brought those balcony fantasies to a screeching halt!  Coming from a place with hurricanes I know how hard it can be to get rid of black mold and how serious a health hazard this can be.  Fixer-uppers don’t scare us, but we are not prepared to deal with black mold.  Very revealing is the fact that when I went to see it, it had been on the market for four days and only received one offer – 100k below the price on the mandate.  Regretfully, next.

St Sebastien Froissart – smackdab in the Marais, a neighborhood we love.  But.  Fourth-floor walkup with Northern exposure, even darker than the first-floor Alençon apartment from last week!  Plus the parties communes and the roof had to be redone but were not voted on nor paid, no concierge, no cave, and the real estate agent was aggressive, rude, and unprofessional.  He reminded me of the hotheaded character Christopher from the Sopranos and even if I had been interested in the apartment I would not have made an offer because I wouldn’t want to deal with him.  At the end of the visit I told him my opinion – love the neighborhood, but all the cons outweigh the location.  He started yelling at me on the street that he shouldn’t have wasted his time showing it to me, on peut pas tout avoir etc.  NEXT!

Place d’Italie – Happily surprised by this one.  An agent I had met once way back in February called me and told me about a 4th floor with elevator he had near Gobelins.  I told him we couldn’t afford it but he convinced me to come on down and take a look because the owners were rushed and the price was negotiable.  Well it was really at Place d’Italie, not Gobelins, and I did not like the road, but the apartment itself was perfect.  At 42 m2, it weighed in far larger than anything we have seen.  And a full sized bath!  And a proper kitchen with American size fridge!  Southern and Western exposure!  Cave and concierge!  Not a single sweatdrop of work needed before moving in besides turning the key!  I could get over the ugly 30s brick building for all of those advantages.  We were the first to visit and the agent encouraged us to make an offer at 20k below asking, because that way we would have priority over all other offers.*  We went through the financing with the agent, made our offer, and he communicated it to the owners who countered at full asking price.  Between the time we visited and the time we received the counteroffer we didn’t win the lottery or suddenly discover a 20k error in our bank accounts, and so this apartment remains too expensive for us.  We spoke with the agent again on Friday and the apartment still hadn’t sold – they received one offer 5k above ours that was also rejected.  I would have been satisfied to have it at the price we offered but it was not a coup de coeur for either of us and we have not lost any sleep over it.  If anything it was a good experience with the agent who was wonderful, and hopefully he’ll see that we’re serious and call us if he ever has anything else good!

Etienne Marcel – When I called about this one I asked the location and the agent responded defensively “Rue Saint-Denis.  Mais la bonne partie!”  Umm, is there a good part of Rue Saint-Denis?  Practically every other store on the street is a sexshop/stripclub type place.  Even though we go out in this area frequently – the experimental followed by rice and fish has been our Friday MO lately – I would not feel comfortable living there and I think my parents would die if they knew I was living on such a street.  The apartment itself was fine, 4th US floor with elevator, concierge, and a cellar that would need to be redone, but it looked on the interior courtyard so we probably would have passed it up anyway.  Next.

Maubert Mutualité – US 3rd-floor traversant walkup a block away from the Seine, Southern exposure.  So yeah, the location was to. die. for.  This is the type of apartment that we would always want to hang on to.  When our appointment rolled around on Saturday, we showed up at the agency excitedly a few minutes early because I was sure this would be the one.  Except the agency was closed, and I didn’t have the agent’s cell phone number.  We saw a cleaning lady inside and were able to get her attention and have her hand us a random agent’s business card.  After calling that agent, he suggested we call another agent.  We’re still confused since both agents acted like they didn’t know of any female realtor at the agency handling this sale, but according to the second agent we spoke with the owner had already sold the apartment to a neighbor that week.  What a complete waste of time and I can’t believe the agency didn’t call me to cancel the appointment.

Etienne Marcel – Back to Etienne Marcel over the weekend to visit a by-owner listing on the corner of Rue Saint-Denis.  The apartment itself was interesting, and not in a good way: the kitchen and hallway were plywood.  At first I thought that maybe the apartment was undergoing renovations, but no, that’s just the look the owner was going for.  Ugh.  Plywood notwithstanding the location remains as ever a dealbreaker – the 2nd district is a tricky one and I need to be more discerning when screening listings in that district.  Next.

*If someone came after us and made a higher offer, we would always have priority to match that offer because our offer was the first in line.  This is how we lost out on the Gobelins apartment at the very beginning of the search – the first bidders who had a lower offer than ours had the opportunity to match our later-in-time, higher offer, and they did.  We would never have been able to trump their offer.  Not all agents work like this – if you are serious about an apartment, make sure to ask lots of questions about the agent’s procedures.

It was all so simple then

April 11, 2010

An old roommate is in town and over dinner when we discussed the househunt, she reminded me of our apartment hunt during grad school.  I had totally forgotten about my first experience looking for a place on my own.  We looked at about five apartments together, max, over a period of two weeks, and in making our decision we only considered two factors: location and rent.  We didn’t care about having an elevator, a view, what the building looked like, or any of the other things I now look for and ask about.  We picked the place that was close to campus for a reasonable price and that was that.  The extras like a nice porch with view were just that – extras – and did not enter into our decision at all.

This is relevant to the current search when asking about the valeur locative of an apartment: location trumps almost everything else.  In our budget we can buy an apartment that will rent out from 800 EUR to almost 2k EUR a month, all depending on the location.  The type of building and whether there is a cave or concierge have little to no impact on the rental value of the apartment.  View and elevator matter for seasonal rentals but not for corporate or longer term rentals.

Just more factors to take into account when visiting and evaluating an apartment – oh to go back to the easy days of grad student apartment hunting, ignorant and mad young!

Pick of the day: République

April 7, 2010

It’s always a good sign when I literally gasp out loud at a listing.

OMGZ I'll take it!!!

I got this email last night, and this morning at 8 a.m. my companion was already bugging me to call about it.  I had some appointments and errands and was not able to call before noon.  I called a few times, left a message, never heard back, called back around 4 pm, and it was already sold.  Not even 24 hrs on the market this one!

So what’s so special about it?  Great location near République.  Pretty stone building.  Ok, it’s a 5th floor walkup…but hello, did you see the view?!  From the photos it doesn’t seem like any work is needed besides a fresh paint of coat, not sure about the condition of the building itself.  It’s also located around the corner from an apartment we rented a few years ago, so we know the street and surrounding streets very well and would have loved to return to the neighborhood.  Hélas it was not meant to be.  Fingers crossed for the week!

Ca bouge!

April 6, 2010

Maybe it’s an Easter miracle, maybe it’s because the sun is out and shining, maybe it’s just because April is usually the start of the prime selling season in Paris, but my phone has been ringing off the hook today and I’ve got three visits lined up tomorrow already.  Fingers crossed this isn’t a fluke but the sign of good things to come in April…

Rue d’Alencon

April 5, 2010

Yes, babycakes, you read the title right.  When I saw the ad for a one-bedroom apartment at Montparnasse, I called immediately to ask the address.  The agent hedged* and said it was a one-lane street in between Avenue du Maine and Boulevard du Montparnasse.  “Rue d’Alençon?!” I screeched in response, and she laughed and asked how I knew.  We got in a long conversation about the neighborhood, the street, our search, and I made an appointment to be the first to see it the next morning, humming I believe in miracles as I called to tell my companion the good news.

Rue d’Alençon

I love this street because it is tiny – 4 buildings on one side, 5 on the other – cute, and in my mind the perfect location.

That same night I posted this to my tumblr:**

Currently mulling over an apartment that meets almost everything on our wishlist except the floor – it’s a US 2nd floor/ FR 1st floor.  In the past we have only visited US 3rd floor and above apartments because of concerns about noise and light.  With this apartment, noise is not a problem since it’s on a tiny one lane street, but we are concerned about the lack of light.  Living room faces east on the road and bedroom faces west on the interior courtyard.

Buying an apartment in Paris is all about compromise – and here we have everything we wanted (love the neighborhood and have been dreaming of this street forever, beautiful stone building, cellar, no concierge but close enough to our current place to use our current concierge for mail/dog/life emergencies etc, elevator but it doesn’t really matter for 2nd floor) – EXCEPT light.  The problem is we only have one month left to find a place, and we’re going to have to compromise on something.  Should we sacrifice luminosité to have everything else we wanted?

The short answer: No.

We had a long discussion about this, we spoke to each of our families about it, but it didn’t really sink until I asked if I could turn all the lights off.  At 10 a.m., all the lights were on in the apartment, not for staging purposes (the interior is kinda a wreck) but because it so dark without them!

The bedroom - believe it or not this photo was taken during the day!

Photos of the rest of the apartment, which needs a bit of work but nothing too major:

Living room - need to redo the floors and paint the walls.

Kitchenette - would need to be redone.

Bathroom - good condition, but ugly and en suite to the bedroom.

I haven’t followed up with the realtor who showed us the apartment but I wouldn’t be surprised if it sold that day.  Despite its darkness it would make a great pied-a-terre for someone commuting from the southwest of France (most trains from that direction arrive at Montparnasse), or investment property for such rentals.  Unfortunately my dream of living on this street is officially killed – that building is the only building not owned by an investment company, and the first floor is the only floor with small apartments.  Every other floor is an entire 1000-2000 sq ft apartment in itself, with starting prices in the 1M range.  Next.

My 2nd visit last week was a by-owner listing catty-corner to that amazing Commerce apartment.  30 m2 3rd floor walk up in crappy limestone building with no cellar and no concierge.  Unfortunate shotgun-like layout with a 5’8″ wide bedroom that you had to pass through to get to the kitchen.  And it was the same price of the infamous Gobelins one so I think I would be physically incapable of signing an offer at that price on such a clearly inferior apartment.  Next.

*Many realtors wait until the day of the visit give the exact address out of fear that you are another agent trying to poach their listing.

**Where I post photos, inspiration, my picks and purchases at the Drouot auction house and brocantes, and random thoughts.  Check it out here.

Worst photos ever?

April 2, 2010

What the heck.

Is the plant included with the apartment?

Out of 9 photos the realtor posted, there is not one of the kitchen or bathroom, but a close up of this fabulous succulent, and an “artsy” shot of a mirror.



That being said, absent major problems with the bathroom or kitchen, the price seems right for that location.  If we could afford it I would be on the phone with the realtor right now.  Check out the listing here.