Archive for May, 2010

Pick of the day: Saint-Sulpice

May 25, 2010

I’ll let this listing speak for itself:

Exceptional area St. Sulpice: A house of 183m2 on the rooftops. From the 4th to the 7th and last floor of a 17th century building renovated. Magnificent views over the rooftops of Paris and the Church of St. Sulpice. The 4th and 5th floors are served by a private lift and consist of two bedrooms on the street, bathroom and shower room with WC (with window) on the 4th floor and a wine cellar, fully equipped kitchen / dining, living room with fireplace on the 5th floor. The 6th floor is composed of a laundry room, bureau-bibliothèque/Salon TV. On the top floor a large bedroom with bathroom and terrace. Views on the Church St. Sulpice, Paris rooftops and bell tower of the church St. Germain des Pres. Full sun, very bright and renovated, 6 underground storage and a box complete this unique property.

To put it simply: to. die. for.  If our budget could magically multiply by ten, I’d so be there.

View the listing here, on craigslist of all places.


On the meaning of vis-a-vis

May 24, 2010

In my many French classes over the years, I never learned about the particular dialect spoken by real estate agents.  This week, five months into the search, I finally learned the official definition of vis-a-vis.  I always thought that vis-a-vis meant anytime there was no view (i.e., a view of a wall), but actually, vis-a-vis only refers to lack of privacy when other windows look onto your apartment.  Moreover, looking on a stone wall does not technically count as vis-a-vis, and even street-facing apartments can have vis-a-vis with the apartment buildings across the street.  What I should be asking realtors is not whether there is vis-a-vis, but whether there is a vue dégagée – a view.  The more you know!

Let’s go through the visits that illustrate this vocab lesson.  When I saw this listing for a 2nd floor walkup one-bedroom just steps away from Canal Saint-Martin, I called immediately.

Killer location?  Check.  Beautiful building?  Check.  As to the rest . . . well, not so much.  The realtor was upfront about the condition of the apartment, as it needed major updating, but she sidestepped the issue of view.  When she said it was over the courtyard I asked if it received light or if there was any vis-a-vis.*  Her response?  That it was a huge courtyard and there was nothing choquant about the view.  I should have followed up right then and there to ask her to clarify what she meant by “shocking.”  Because we clearly have different ideas of view:

"View" from the living room

Moreover, the apartment didn’t even look on the “huge” courtyard, but a little courette.  I apologized and said that it wouldn’t work and the visit was over about thirty seconds in.

Later in the week, an agent called me about a US 4th-floor walkup near Cambronne in the 15th.  I couldn’t really talk at the time so I agreed to the visit without asking many questions.  I don’t think I even asked the price!  We met at the agency beforehand to go over things and I told him straight up, if there is any vis-a-vis or wall it’s not even worth going over to see it, I don’t want to waste your time or mine.  He smiled and said that there was un petit peu of a wall and a little bit of vis-a-vis.  Which amounted to this:

Ok, so technically there is no vis-a-vis, and I suppose the “view” is an improvement over the Canal Saint-Martin one.  But we need a real view of the street or the rooftops, not just a partial view of the building next door!  Next!**

The final visit of the week was in the 5th one block away from the Pantheon, at a teeny studio apartment with no work needed and a very nice view (SouthEastern exposure!):

Now here's a view!

It was priced at 12k/m2 – 10-20k/m2 is the average on that street, the view and light is worth it, and the neighborhood is great even if the apartment is probably a 7-8 minute walk from the nearest metro.  This apartment would be a smart investment for anyone looking for a pied-a-terre or a seasonal rental, and it is probably one of our overall favorites.  But we really need about 5-10 m2/more and a separate bedroom (or at least sleeping area) so we had to regretfully pass.

Here’s to learning new vocab…and hopefully finding an apartment along the way!

*At the beginning of the search, courtyard-only apartments were an automatic dealbreaker for us.  However, courtyard-only is not necessarily mutually exclusive with view; it just depends on the building, what floor the apartment is on, the courtyard, and the surroundings.  We are now open to visiting courtyard-only apartments but I clearly have a long ways to go before I will be able to efficiently screen apartments based on the realtor’s description alone.

**Adding salt to the wound, this was a third-floor walkup with no view in an boring lime stucco building without concierge in a less desirable neighborhood than the Gobelins one from the very beginning, plus it was in worse condition and 7 m2 smaller, and yet the Cambronne one was more expensive!

Pick of the day – 8 blvd de la Madeleine

May 17, 2010

Remember that amazing art deco building at Madeleine that I raved about here and here?  Well it seems there’s a completely renovated studio with balcony for sale in the building.  The listing mentions that it looks on a “calm road” which worries me – if it overlooks Rue de Seze with all its prostitutes and sexshops, forget about it.  Otherwise I would 100% recommend this, even sight unseen, just because the building is so incredible and unique.  View the listing here.


May 16, 2010

Somehow this post never got published.  A while back we were the first people to visit this apartment at Bastille:

And boy oh boy was this an interesting experience.  The ad says it is 5th US floor with elevator.  But actually it’s a bit more complicated than that – the owner didn’t want to contribute when the elevator was installed in the building, so to use the elevator you have to use a badge.* And if we wanted to buy into the elevator, we would have to pay the part originally due by the owner, somewhere in the ballpark of Twenty Thousand Euros.  But the realtor wasn’t sure because apparently there is bad blood on the homeowner’s association and they haven’t responded to any of his requests for more information or a direct quote.  Plus the apartment is currently occupied by someone who has a year or so remaining on the lease (and this is a delicate area of law, very pro-tenant, and having a sitting tenant would disqualify us from the Pret a Taux Zero), plus the electricity needs to be redone, plus there is a sanibroyeur** that needs to be replaced, plus there is no concierge nor cave.  And the kitchen and the bathroom would have to be redone/”updated”.

On the upside the apartment is conveniently located in the 4th just steps away from the Bastille metro,***  while looking out on a small one-lane road with no noise or traffic.  And the realtor was awesome and talked about lowering the price, but we don’t love the apartment enough to deal with the accompanying hornet’s nest.  As much fun as it would be to navigate the homeowner’s association from hell, evict a tenant, and deal with the upgrades, we’ll pass.

It also seems like it only makes sense to buy an apartment that is NICKEL or needs to be completely gutted – because the discount for other “minor” headaches like redoing a bathroom or electricity is minimal to non-existent.


Update: The apartment sold for 310k, which was 20k below asking (but the asking price was calculated before the realtor was aware of the elevator issues and under the mistaken assumption that the apartment was 45 m2 when it was actually around 35 m2).  We both think that is ridiculously high *for this apartment in light of its many problems.*

*Who are these people?  What are you supposed to do when you have guests? 

**macerator?  Because there is no direct sewer line to the apartment.  Awesome.

***the same building as the famous Dalloyau bakery!  Which actually is awesome!

Pick of the day: Sevres-Babylone

May 14, 2010

This could be an interesting listing for anyone looking for investment property in one of the most sought after areas of Saint-Germain.  This is apparently a parcel of three maid’s rooms, and work is needed, so I’m assuming some walls would have to be torn down and a bathroom might need to be created.  The location is perfect for Sciences-Po students, as it appears to be right at the corner of Rue St-Guillaume and Rue Grenelle, and I bet you could rent it out between 700-900 EUR/month.  It probably wouldn’t work for tourist rentals because it is a US 6th floor without an elevator.  Please note that it is only 15 m2 according to the legal loi carrez measurements, which makes it 14k/m2!!!  You can view the listing here.

Pick of the day: Pigalle

May 13, 2010

Look at this beautiful building.

The interior doesn’t look too shabby either – original wood floors, decorative molding, and chimney.  Were it not for the location, I would be on the phone scheduling a visit right now.

Check out the entire listing here while it’s still up.

Rug included

May 12, 2010

This apartment is sold “furnished.”  I guess it depends on your definition of furnished – is this supposed to be the bedroom?

View the rest of the listing here.

Pick of the day: Republique

May 11, 2010

Here’s an example of something I would have been ready to make an offer on sight unseen:Great location smack dab at Republique (one of those rare occasions where the listing location is accurate – this was near the Club Med on Rue du Faubourg du Temple).  US 6th floor with elevator and balcony, original chimney and decorative molding, cellar.  Would need to be completely renovated but for us that is actually a plus.  But of course, it was listed last night and sold this morning on the first visit, so by the time I received the email alert it was already too late.

Unfortunately I think this week will be pretty dead – Thursday is a holiday and so on Friday many will faire le pont as well.  Still stupidly optimistic here, though, fingers crossed as always!