Answers to the Most Asked Questions About Buying Your Dream Apartment in Paris

Answers to the Most Asked Questions About Buying Your Dream Apartment in Paris
Madelyn Byrne and husband Philippe are passionate about Paris.  They own, a vacation apartment rental company that specializes in beautiful apartments in Paris with unforgettable views.  Their apartments have been featured on The Fine Living Channel, have recently been recommended by Rick Steve’s France 2006 and were recognized by BusinessWeek and the Wall Street Journal  for Paris vacation rentals. Before starting their business, Philippe practiced as a Cardiac Surgeon in the leading hospital in France; Madelyn, an MBA from Stanford Business School, spent most of her career as an investment banker in London and Paris before she turned her interests to their Paris business, allowing her a chance to work from home and spend more time with their two children. My husband Philippe and I have been investing in Paris real estate for almost 25 years.  We love Paris and are lucky enough to have realized our dream of having a business that allows us to share our passion with others. In the process we’ve learned a lot about the Paris real estate market, having bought and sold a number of apartments over the past 25 years; we have made money on some and also lost our shirts on others.  Several of our guests at feel the same way we do about Paris and have decided to buy their dream  pied a terre in Paris, spending part of each year savoring life and this beautiful city.  On occasion we have assisted  guests to help locate, purchase and manage apartments. It can be a lengthy and complex process but they were thrilled with the results and they savor every minute they spend in Paris.  In this series of articles, we share key principles we recommend when investing in Paris rental properties. Included will be what we look for in terms of location in Paris, what to look for in an apartment, real estate tricks, remodeling tips and disasters, furnishings tips and mistakes and more.  Where to Buy: Our Most Important Rule Is To Think Defensively When the real estate market is buoyant and interest rates are low, it’s easy to buy and sell an apartment, any apartment.  There are plenty of choices in Paris, lots of new, ‘emerging areas’ and many agents who are eager to help you buy your dream pied a terre.  But, as anywhere, there are very few excellent apartments which will sell in any market, good or bad.  Before you buy, ask yourself if, “In a slow real estate market, will this apartment ‘fly off the shelves’ or sit there with dozens of other ‘nice, but …’ properties?” 1.)    The right neighborhood The first step is to identify the neighborhoods that you want to live in.  There are many beautiful neighborhoods or arrondissements in Paris and each one has unique characteristics and charm. A number of arrondissements  are ‘colorful and emerging’ as described by real estate agents — where apartment prices tend to be cheaper as a result.  A few neighborhoods, such as the 4th, 6th and 7th are more expensive, unquestionably the most sought after and highest priced.  It’s hard to find a balance, but we advise clients to think long and hard about the price versus defensiveness of the purchase.  Our advice is to think of all scenarios; in a weak market, which arrondissements will still be sought after by Parisians themselves as well as foreigners? As in any city, the best neighborhoods tend to hold their value when prices decline.  Most importantly, when transactions numbers shrink you want to be in the neighborhood that is still experiencing buying activity. For example, we read an interesting article last summer in a leading US newspaper about the 17th arrondissement; the price per square meter is more affordable than in some Left Bank neighborhoods; it’s a large area and there is a lot of choice.  We enjoy the 17th, particularly the area around the Park Monceau — there are some beautiful buildings and apartments there. But we suggest that it is not the first choice for a foreigner searching for that special pied a terre in Paris, which can mean a trade off of current lower price/square meter for best liquidity should you need to sell. If you plan to live in Paris for many years to come, by all means consider the 17th for the value it offers and the lovely apartments you can find.  But, as anywhere, make sure it’s the choicest location, not in a ‘dead zone’ with crowded apartment buildings far from the village feel of good market streets and specialty stores.  Emerging neighborhoods are another option; they offer a lot of charm and prices are obviously lower than elsewhere.  For pioneers, it can represent an excellent long term investment; but we stress long term.  It’s great to buy there if you plan to ‘buy and hold’.  But we ask our clients to consider the unexpected; if they need to sell, are they in a neighborhood that still attracts conservative foreigners and Parisisans?  Philippe’s grandfather owned a small building in the 19th arrondissement in the 1920’s.  It was a constant problem; the neighborhood was marginal, many tenants refused to pay the rent and could not be evicted due to protective rental laws.  Finally, in the 1970’s Philippe’s father, Pierre, made an appointment with the building manager and drove from Normandy to visit the building.  Pierre is an extremely old fashioned and conservative person; he still talks about his shock when he met the manager, who wore a floor length fur coat…
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