Thoughts on the Paris housing market, summer edition

July 8, 2010

My latest 100% anecdotal, completely unscientific observation: I’ve noticed, and maybe this is just wishful thinking, that lately the market appears to be more favorable for buyers.  The first sign was that apartment down the street that had to be reduced €15k before selling.  Now I’ve started getting emails with subjects like “just reduced!”  This seems to contradict the latest findings from the Paris Notaries that prices have increased 5% over the past year, but actually I think it has more to do with timing.  It’s the soldes, it’s summer, many people are or will be on vacation, and so perhaps fewer buyers are actively (and reactively) looking.  Or so I hope.

Relatedly, apartments are staying on the market for longer than we’ve been accustomed to – ie, more than an hour.  A few months ago it would be rare to receive multiple email alerts for the same apartment unless it was undesirable (ground floor, no light, etc), but lately I’ve seen the same listings pop up in my inbox repeatedly.  For example, last week a realtor called me about two apartments she had for sale in the 9th, in the same building.  One sounded great, except for the asking price.  At 9500€/m2 I politely refused, got off the phone and exclaimed to my companion “elle est tombée sur la tête!”  She’s nuts!  9500€/m2 would be the deal of the century for an apartment in the 6th, but not in the 9th on a street where the average is 7300€/m2.  Lo and behold, a week later I get an email alert – both apartments are still for sale. View the listing while it’s still up — and it will be up for awhile at that price! — here.  I wonder what it will eventually sell for and if someone will suck it up and pay the asking price.

Arts et Metiers (again), Saint-Augustin, Ile Saint Louis

July 4, 2010

I’ve been a bad blogger.

What can I say?  The heat of June, the soldes, the thrills of the auctions, the World Cup and ensuing French soccer drama, travels and weddings and real life have all gotten in the way of our boring old apartment hunt.

Yes, we’re still looking.

Over the past two weeks I’ve received at least one phone call from a realtor every single day.  This is a great sign.  Unfortunately, these phone calls are often for apartments that are too expensive or in a neighborhood we don’t want so they don’t often result in visits.

So a quick recap to bring you up to speed:

Arts et Metiers – Last week I came full circle and went to visit a one-bedroom a few buildings down from one of the very first apartments I visited back in late December.  The street, Rue du Vert bois, remains as charming as ever.  This apartment was a 2nd floor walkup in a very rundown building.  The visit was doomed from the start – I asked the realtor about the price and how long it had been on the market, and he explained that he had sold it a few days before on the first visit.  The owner, unfamiliar with the Paris market and thinking that if it sold so fast it must be underpriced, refused the offer and raised the asking price by 20k.  Sound familiar?  This is exactly what happened to us way back when with the Ecole Militaire apartment.  As with us, the potential buyer ran ran ran as fast as she could from the seller and the agency, and now the poor agent is back to square one.  He seemed unhappy with the situation – it puts him in a bad position and reflects badly on him and his agency – and was clearly upset enough to tell me all about it.  Regardless, the small size of the apartment (barely 30 m2), the work needed (new kitchen, bathroom, toilet, floor, electric), and the poor condition of the building with no work on the agenda would have been dealbreakers.

Saint-Augustin – This morning I saw a very complete PAP description – 3rd floor walkup overlooking street with cave and concierge, completely renovated, and the address of the street.  I had everything I needed to decide I wanted to visit and when I called the owner to ask when the visits started she said “now!” and so I was there less than an hour later.  The neighborhood was great and the apartment is not even a block away from the beautiful Saint Augustin church with its neighboring park and lively square.  True to the description, the apartment didn’t need any work.  But.  27 square meters is just not possible for us.  Note to self: stop visiting apartments under 30 m2, everytime we walk away saying they feel too small.

Ile Saint-Louis – this one, I did not visit, but I have to share anyways.  Some realtors send texts instead of calling, and last week I got a hilarious text, “If I told you I had a 22 m2 one bedroom, 5th floor walk up, on Quai d’Orléans, that needed to be renovated, for only 370k euros, what would you say?”  Well, I didn’t reply to that one!  I’m not sure which is crazier – paying nearly 17k/m2 (or nearly $2k/sq ft!) for an apartment that needed to be renovated, or thinking that a 230 sq ft space is a one-bedroom.  Honey, where I come from, that ain’t even a closet.

Next!

Pick of the day: Butte aux Cailles

June 23, 2010

I think this listing looks really interesting.  First of all, it’s truly in the heart of the Butte aux Cailles, which is an adorable village-y feeling street not far from Place d’Italie (so close to 3 lines of metro, a mall, an open fresh market, and my favorite Asian supermarket Tang Frères).  And then look at that huge veranda and terrasse, can you imagine the light it must get!  It’s not exactly what we are looking for but it seems neat enough to merit a visit.  Unfortunately my companion nixed it, poopoohing that it’s bizarrement foutu – it looks odd.  My loss, your gain – check out the listing here.

Pick of the day – mannequin included?

June 17, 2010

Hmm…interesting choice for the sole photo posted with this listing.  So many questions.  Why does the owner have a mannequin in the kitchen?  Why didn’t the realtor move the mannequin out of the way when taking the photo?  Or is the mannequin included along with the cuisine équipéeMystère et boules de gomme!

Oh, and today I realized that gmail had been sending all my seloger alerts to the spam folder.  For the past two weeks.  I had been receiving alerts from other realtors and websites so I just now caught on.  Going through the old alerts, there was a decent sized one-bedroom apartment listed on Rue Notre Dame des Champs last week for a laughable 260k.  Of course it’s already sold now.  FML.  and gmail.

My latest dream address

June 13, 2010

Behold, 82 rue Notre Dame des Champs.

The first time I walked by this building I stopped dead in my tracks.The details KILL me.

Cherubs above the door - it must be heavenly to live there!

Impressive wrought iron door (and an even more impressive lobby I imagine)

Constant Lemaire, Architecte 1904-1905

A building like this is most certainly one of grand standing and I guarantee there is an elevator and concierge.

The building alone isn’t what makes this a dream address; the location also helps.My personal preference for the Montparnasse neighborhood aside, the building is just a few blocks away from the Jardin du Luxembourg.  More importantly, the building faces the direction of the park, and I bet the fifth-floor apartment (which is on an angle so gets both eastern and western exposure!) has a gorgeous view.  Plus look at all the light it gets – that top photo was taken around 8 or 9 pm!

A stunning building in a great location in one of the most expensive districts in Paris doesn’t come cheap.  According to MeilleursAgents.com apartments in the building range from 8k-15k/m2.

Well, a girl can dream.  In the meantime I’ll be the one drooling as I pass in front of it on my way to the park.

Montparnasse, twice

June 6, 2010

We’ve been apartment hunting for about six months now and have not come across anything on our street in our budget in that time, but this week two very similar apartments just a few buildings down from us were listed!

Apartment #1 – ~32 m2 US sixth floor walkup in stone building.  Plan “étoile” – when you walk in, the kitchen and bedroom are on your right, the bathroom is straight ahead, and the living room is on your left.  Living room faces the Montparnasse Tour,* kitchen and bedroom have panoramic views of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower.  Bathroom and kitchen would need to be redone.  I didn’t visit this one, but my companion did not like it and thought it was too expensive with the work it needed.  Price was later reduced by 15k,** but still not really interested.

Trust me, the sunsets must be glorious.

Apartment #2 (in the building next door to Apartment #1, 5k more than the newly-reduced price) – ~32 m2 US sixth floor walkup in stone building.  Plan “étoile” – when you walk in, the kitchen and bedroom are on your right, the bathroom is straight ahead, and the living room is on your left.  Living room faces the Montparnasse Tour,* kitchen and bedroom have panoramic views of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower.  Kitchen needs minor work, floor needs to be redone in entry.  Bedroom is really tiny and not even sure it would have enough room for our current double bed.  Absolutely no closets and don’t know where you would have room to put them anyways.  Maybe you could knock down the wall between the bedroom and the kitchen to make an open kitchen/living, and make the current-living room the bedroom?

Most importantly, the thought of a sixth-floor walkup makes me want to cry.  We have rented a sixth-floor walkup before and it sucked, there’s no other way to put it.  A balcony would make it worth it, but for just a normal apartment in a normal neighborhood, I was not feeling it.  It would be impossible to rent for seasonal rentals, rental value for long term rentals is not great (maybe 900 eur unfurnished), and who knows what the market will look like when we want to sell?   Plus, the realtor was incredibly rude to me.  It was the same one who showed me the Square Gaston Baty apartment way back when and when I expressed my concerns about the size of the bedroom and the fact that it was a sixth-floor walkup, she hissed at me “I’m so annoyed with you.  You’ve been searching for an apartment for six months and you have nothing and you wonder why?  Look how picky you are!”  The visit was over right then and there, and her outburst cemented my doubts about the apartment.

Maybe I am annoying, maybe I am picky, maybe as an American I expect too much, but when we are plunking down so much money in an apartment can you really expect me to be anything but?

*Whether or not that is a good view is a personal opinion, the majority would say no!  But it is pretty neat to look right up at it.

**This is pretty incredible, and the first time I have ever seen a price reduction on a small apartment.  Maybe this is a good sign of things to come?

Pont Neuf, Ecole Militaire, Oberkampf

June 1, 2010

Last week was quite a whirlwind.  By noon on Monday we had two offers pending, one of which had been faxed over sight unseen, and on Tuesday we made a third one.  About that time I posted this to my tumblr:

3 options currently on the table:

-super central location at a killer price (like, bargain of the century yo, because the seller is rushed), but 6th floor walkup without a view (M: Louvre-Rivoli)

-posh neighborhood with a nice view of a church and concierge, but smaller than the other two and 5th floor walkup (M: Ecole Militaire)

-young/trendy neighborhood with balcony (but not a great view or anything, just a 3rd floor walkup overlooking a normal street).  The only “but” is the neighborhood, which is young and trendy and fine but would not be as good as an investment as the other two (in terms of resale and rental value). (M: Oberkampf)

So let me backup and explain.

Offer #1, Pont neuf:  Sight unseen.  On Saturday night I got a seloger alert for a 5th floor walkup on Rue du Pont Neuf (I die, I die, I die) that needed to be gutted.  Nothing exceptional…until I notice that it is listed with a non-Parisian agency at about half the market average for that street.*  I call my companion, who is out of the country, and ask him to fax an offer immediately.  Even though we are not looking for a 5th floor walkup overlooking a courtyard, we would be fools to pass up such an opportunity.  When my companion gets back in town Monday morning he calls the agency and asks if they received his offer and how to proceed.  “Which offer?” the agent asks.  Over the weekend they received over twenty offers at full asking price, also sight unseen! Wow.  The agency says they won’t accept any offers without a visit, and that there is an open house on Thursday.  We are tentatively hopeful, because we know that we have no chance against a cash buyer.  On Tuesday we call with some more questions only to be told that the apartment has already sold.  “What?!” my companion asks in surprise.  “The owner already sold it on her own,” claims the agency.  As is often the case, the transaction is shrouded in mystery and we are left with the impression that we’ve been scammed.

Offer #2, Oberkampf:  I was the fifth person to visit this third-floor walkup with balcony.  The building was in great condition: beautiful stone building that had just been redone, cellars that had just been redone, an interior staircase that had been voted on.  The apartment interior was also great – the seperate bathroom/WCs had been redone recently and the seperate kitchen was completely equipped.  The current owner had turned the one-bedroom into a studio, tearing down the wall between the living room and the bedroom, so we would need to put it back in (and possibly tear down the existing closet in the living room and add closets to what would become the bedroom).  No biggie, though, and I quickly made my offer at full asking price.  The agent says she’ll call back by Wednesday, but she doesn’t.  I am out of the country and my companion is not able to get in touch with her until TUESDAY of the next week, when she informs us that the sitting tenant has also made an offer and thus has priority over us.  Eff me gently with a chainsaw.

The apartment is the windows with the balcony and the one window to the left of the balcony.

Offer #3, Ecole Militaire: This was a by-owner listing on PAP, and though it was tiny, and nearly 12k/m2, we were really excited about the view.  There was only one photo in the listing, of the view to the east:

Eglise Saint-Pierre du Gros Caillou

But it was the Western view that took my breath away:

Dying. No caption needed =)

The apartment was tiny, and now that I’ve had time to think about it, not really functional.  Even though it was just redone – new floors, windows, heating, kitchen, and bathroom – there were no closets.  Not a single shelf!  And I don’t know where you would put a fridge, oven, or washing machine.  Still, we made an offer at full asking price on the spot.  But as usual, the owner was looking for a cash buyer, and we were informed a few days later that he was only considering the offers that did not have a clause suspensive.  Yes, an apartment with no closets had received multiple offers without clause suspensive.

At the beginning of the week, I was so optimistic – three offers by Tuesday, can you imagine?  But the reality of the Paris market is that an offer means nothing, and a week later here we sit with our hands empty.  So sick of this ish!

*I’ve posted here before about the crazy deals I have seen listed with non-local agencies who are too lazy or don’t care enough to figure out the actual market price of the apartments they’re listing.  When I see a non-local number now my ears perk up and I play a little closer attention to the ad.

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.