Guest Notes for Episode 341: Buying an Apartment in Paris

Categories: France How To, Moving to France, Paris

I can only speak to my experience 7 years ago when I purchased and renovated an apartment in Paris.

WHY PARIS?

Spent the summer before college in Paris and Brittany with relatives and studied abroad in Paris my junior year in college and consider myself a bit of a Francophile.

Purchasing in Paris seemed a better investment than purchasing a country house/villa or chateau in France. Paris is the number one tourist destination in the world and properties in the city appreciate more than those in the country.

There are several companies that can facilitate the purchase of a Paris apartment for a fee but this episode is dedicated to those who want to try and navigate the murky waters of the Paris real estate market themselves.

WHY ARE YOU BUYING?

As a rental?   HAHHAAHHHA – good luck!  The current restrictions regarding vacation rentals are quite onerous.  The mayor of Paris has implemented strict rent control regulations hoping that this will open the rental market to more Parisians.  Of course, it hasn’t but that Is not part of our discussion today.   Apartments must have a commercial license to be allowed as a short-term vacation rental.

Talk to your accountant in the United States regarding tax consequences of purchasing a property abroad.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

  • Have a budget
  • Remember that there is an exchange rate that may affect your budget
  • Make a list of what is important to you: view, location, size, elevator etc.
  • Is it important that the apartment is near an RER and/or metro station/ bus line?
  • Do you want to be in a residential area? What type of neighborhood?
  • Commercial area?
  • Is there a farmer’s market nearby or park nearby?
  • Are you comfortable with purchasing a “fixer”?
  • Keep in mind that there is not as much negotiating room
  • Find a few arrondissements that you like and start looking on line.
  • Also visit a site called particulier a particulier (for sale by owner).
  • You will have to make compomises.
  • Keep in mind that not all buildings have elevators, some might need renovation and be mindful of neighborhood noise issues like bars, nightclubs etc.

Real Estate Agents and Listings

Completely different system than in the US. The MLS (multiple listing service) does not exist.

The large real estate agencies have multiple offices in Paris.  Real Estate agents  rarely have exclusive listings so one often sees the same apartment listed with several different offices.  Once you find a neighborhood(s) you like, dress nicely and visit each agency and introduce yourself.  Keep in mind that they have been dealing with American “lookie loos” for their entire careers so they won’t take you seriously unless you prove yourself  –  that’s when your on-line research will benefit you.  Make a follow-up appointment, email them etc.  You can also work with more than one agent, one in each neighborhood to increase your chances of finding the perfect pied-a-terre.

PRICE

Prices are not negotiated as much as they are in the US.

For apartments, price is measured by the square meter.  The average price per square meter of each arrondissement is well known and therefore the value of an apartment is fairly easy to calculate.  There are always variables that can affect the price such as view, ceiling height, amenities etc but sellers have calculated these into the asking price and therefore there is very little negotiating on price.  Sellers rarely “carry paper” and a good apartment will not last long on the market.  There are usually several buyers ready to make an offer so if you find a great apartment – don’t wait.

The prices listed in advertisements include the sales commissions for the real estate agents and should include the letters FAI after the price.  The advertised price does not include the notaire fee or the 19.5% VAT tax.

Making an offer is not the formal process as in the US.  My offer was written on a napkin!

Once price is agreed upon, the actual contract and documents are handled by the notaire.  There are two main contracts to sign.  The Compromise de Vente and the Act Authentique.  The notaire’s fee us usually 2-8% and varies within this range depending on the cost of the property.  The more expensive the selling price, the less one pays in notaire fees.  These are usually split between the buyer and seller – but find out!

I always had a translator with me when in these meetings and the notaire had all the documents translated into English.

ROLE OF THE NOTAIRE

They have been around hundreds of years and are appointed by the Minister of Justice and the fact that a document is drawn up by a notaire gives it guarantees its legality.  In other words, the state give the notaire legal authority and therefore the documents with the stamp of the notaire, guarantees their legality.

The notaire acts as escrow and title company in the US.  They control the “escrow “ account, and also oversee “recording.”

LOANS

Good luck.

There are American companies that can help you secure a loan but they charge a fee.  After several attempts at securing a loan through broker I was referred to an agent at Credit Agricole and FINALLY got a 15 year fixed rate loan which is better than products that were offered in the UAS at the time. Because we chose to finance the purchase, the bank required life insurance with the bank as beneficiary.  That added about 800euro to the loan L

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Categories: France How To, Moving to France, Paris