Visiting Paris/Renting Out An Apartment In Paris/Marche Aux Puces

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The Most Romantic Place On Earth

“I walked over from my office, along the river and then across the Pont des Arts,” explained my friend as I sat down beside him for our meeting at the little café on the corner of rue du Bac and the river.

“The lights of the Louvre and the other buildings along the Seine, glowing along both sides of the river and reflecting and shimmering on the dark surface of the water,” he continued. “The view…all around…it’s perfect.

“When you get to that point in your life when you appreciate beauty and romance, you realize that there’s just nothing like Paris. Nowhere in the world compares.”

My friend didn’t have to sell me on his position. I’ve been savoring our Paris experiences these past 10 days, storing up impressions and memories for when we’re elsewhere.

We’ve spent most of the week preparing our apartment in this city for rental. Paris must be one of the most expensive places in the world to carry a piece of real estate. Syndic (building) fees, insurance, taxes (as a property owner in France, you’re liable for two)…plus we’ve been paying electric, gas, phone, and Internet charges, keeping the place ever-ready for any chance we might have to pop over for a visit.

The truth is, though, we finally had to admit, we won’t be able to get to this part of the world more than once a year for the next few. We’re fully occupied elsewhere. Silly to leave it sitting empty 11 ½ months a year.

No problem in Paris. In this town, an apartment in a central location will always rent.

In fact, this past week’s experiences have reminded me that a Paris apartment can be one of the best long-term real estate investments you ever make. Because it’s versatile. You can use it yourself and, if you enjoy Paris as we do, yield an incalculable return. And then, whenever you decide you’re ready, you can arrange to find someone who’ll pay you for the chance to enjoy it for a few weeks or a few months himself.

Paris sees more tourists than any other place on earth, and it’s hard to imagine this changing anytime soon. Good times and bad…bull markets and bear…people come to Paris.

“I had a client in October who came to town for a month while her kitchen in Los Angeles was being remodeled,” explained a friend over lunch today. “She rented an apartment in Paris for four weeks, an apartment in Rome for two, and another in London for two more.”

My friend works for a custom tour agency. “Here in Paris,” she continued, “I organized personalized shopping days for her. I don’t think the current global market downturn has affected her. People with her kind of money ride this stuff out…and, no matter market cycles, come to Paris.”

They come to Paris…and they need a place to stay.

So, when you buy a Paris pied-a-terre of your own, buy first what you like. This is my first rule of real estate investing: Buy what you like.

Then, here in Paris, buy what will rent easily, global market conditions notwithstanding.

Again, an apartment in the 1st, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th arrondissement of this city will always find a renter.

What kind of return can you hope for? You’re not going to get rich off a Paris apartment rental, but, with the right rental manager, you should be able to yield 4% to 6% net (assuming no mortgage) on a short-term, less if you rent long-term (three months to a year at a time).

Remember: Foreigners can finance in France. You could buy an apartment in Paris with as little as 20% down. If you’re buying to rent, you won’t cash flow with an 80% mortgage. However, you could borrow up to say, 60% of the purchase price and make enough through rental fees to cover the mortgage, the management fee, and other expenses from day one.

And my friend Henley Johnson at Flat Hunter can help you find the Paris flat with your name on it.

Flat Hunter is the oldest property search service in this city. And it specializes in helping English-speaking buyers (like you) shop.

The challenge when looking to buy real estate in a foreign country is to break through the international market and access the local one. In Paris, this is critical, because the best apartments never make it to the international market–that is, the market of properties advertised in the windows of “international agencies.” The apartments you find this way are the leftovers.

The best apartments in this town never appear in any agency window. They change hands on the word of a friend of a friend or the recommendation of an old classmate of a neighbor. That’s how we were lucky enough to find our place four years ago.

Henley’s group operates at this “private” level and plugs you in locally.

Furthermore, as in most places around the world, there’s no Multiple Listing Service in Paris. Typically, you’ve got to meet and see properties with as many agents as possible operating in the area where you’re interested in buying.

Not so with Flat Hunter, which boasts an extensive and market-wide network of contacts and resources. The agents, notaries, developers, private owners, and friends they stay in touch with call them first when a good apartment comes up for sale. I know of no other agency in this city operating this way. Henley can tell you more; reach her here: ParisFlats@LiveandInvestOverseas.com.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. So far, this Paris rental experience has been our most successful to date. We’ve found competent, experienced, professional help all the way down the line, from the tenant-finding agency to the property manager, from the movers to the “One Room More” offsite storage people. (If you’d like to be put in touch with any of them, send me a note: Publisher@LiveandInvestOverseas.com.)

To maximize our return, we’re converting what has been our home-office to a third bedroom. For me, this has been the best part of the deal, for it necessitated a trip out to the Marche aux Puces at Clignancourt yesterday to shop for a bed. We took Metro line 4 all the way to the end, climbed out of the Metro station, then braved our way through the hordes of tourists, shoppers, and sidewalk hawkers that congregate here always. Onward, we continued, for 15 minutes, through the stalls of clothes, shoes, electronics, and DVD’s to the furniture.

Clignancourt is the largest flea market in the world, covering 7 hectares and seeing, on average, 180,000 shoppers a weekend. I think 170,000 of them were there while we were looking for our bed yesterday afternoon. Moving among these enthusiastic market-goers, you’d never know the world was ending…

We found a 200-year-old Louis XVI two-person bed in perfect condition for 550 euro. A great deal, especially given the current strength of the dollar here in euro-land.

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