Life in the Languedoc and CHIP Off the Old Leaseback
Living in the Languedoc, Photo by Norm Hartman
(FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY)
August 11 , 2005, Paris, France
Bonjour French Property Insider Subscriber,
We have lots of great news to report.
First off, we’ve discovered an alternative to the French Leaseback investment that rivals it with a vengeance. Just as hassle-free, with almost a high a return and very limited restrictions, it’s the perfect solution to the downside of the French Leaseback. We call it "Corporate Housing in Paris — the FPI Leaseback Solution."
Next, we take you to the sunny southern part of France — Languedoc-Roussillon, which offers the same sun, surf and moderate climate as Provence and the Côte d’Azur without the high prices. Read all about the advantages to life in the Languedoc and be sure to check out the Hot Properties in this HOT SPOT.
Yesterday was an intensive day of presentations followed by Q’s and A’s from a long list of professionals that came from Europe and the U.S. It was punctuated by a sumptuous three course lunch with Kir, wine and coffee and a closing cocktail.
The subjects dealt with were centered around the purchase of property in France as in investment and included all legal aspects of purchasing property in France, how to find your dream home, what you need to know about Paris apartments and renovating French property, how to get a mortgage, how to reduce your currency exchange risk, how to minimize your tax liability and even where the best off-shore banking can be done.
Anyone thinking of purchasing property in France would benefit from the overview a seminar of this kind provides, to warn of the pitfalls and plan for a successful venture. One attendee wrote "This seminar was very well planned and executed. Even if the presentations run long, this indicates a high level of interest. I feel so much better informed. Thanks!"
In the midst of yesterday’s event, I received very exciting news…that the Harvard Club of New York City at 27 West 44th Street has accepted our request to hold the Invest in France Seminar on Wednesday, October 26th in one of it’s elegant conference rooms! The Clubhouse itself, designated a landmark in 1967 was designed in an architectural style popular at Harvard in the late 19th-century and completed in 1894.
The one-day Invest in France Seminar follows our traditional three-day Living in France Conference in San Francisco October 21 – 23 at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf. So for West Coast folks, or those wanting more comprehensive information on all aspects of living in France, the San Francisco conference would be perfect.
And if you miss both of those, you can plan on attending the Invest in France Seminar here in Paris December 28th!
For more information on any or all three of the events, until we have our Web site up with more complete information, contact Schuyler Hoffman, Projects Manager, at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org/parlerparis to be put on a special mailing list to be notified when the details are in place (very, very soon!).
Editor, French Property Insider
P.S. Not related to property, but still worth mentioning, are two upcoming workshops here in Paris: The 4th Edition of the Paris Poetry Workshop in early October and the Art of Trompe l’Oeil Painting with Yves Lanthier over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays. Scroll down for more information and to read another great issue of FPI.
Volume III, Issue 29, July 21, 2005
In this issue:
* Tips for Planning Your Own Croatian Adventure
* France Friendly to Physically Challenged
* Just ONE Day to Your France Dream…Plus Get ONE HOUR FREE with Adrian Leeds
* "Welcome to France Fair" — FREE Tickets Available!
* European Real Estate Boom
* Quality of Life Question: France vs. U.S.
* Long-Term Apartment Rentals
* Leaseback News: Get Back to "Nature" at Le Cap d’Agde
* Complete Property Consultation and Relocation Solutions
* Today’s Rates of Exchange by Moneycorp Currency Brokers
* Next Parler Paris Après Midi: September 13th
* Hot Property Picks: Côte d’Azur Comforts
* Need a Mortgage in France? We Can Help!
* Save on Insider Paris Guides
* FPI Subscribers: Things You Need to Know
* Helpful Real Estate Conversions
* Classified Advertising: Monte Carlo Seaside Apartment Rental
Lazy Way to a Holiday Home
Duncan Farmer, Daily Mail
August 5, 2005
THE TOUGHEST question for anyone buying a holiday home is: how do I pay for it? Letting it to holidaymakers is the obvious answer but finding guests, handing over keys and cleaning can be costly, risky and troublesome.
An alternative is to lease it long-term to a tour firm that will not only pay a guaranteed rent year-in, year-out, but will also look after the place – and let you use it for your own holidays.
For almost 40 years, French property buyers have taken advantage of a generous government scheme that allows them to buy cut-price homes in holiday parks and lease them to tour operators and hotel groups for a guaranteed rent.
Under these so-called leaseback schemes, the tour firms take care of all maintenance and service charges. These deals have caught the eye of foreign buyers, especially the British and developments are now spreading beyond France to Spain, Italy and even the Caribbean.
But property experts warn that while the deals are simple and convenient, they are also inflexible and pay a poor return. You have little use of the property, your choice is limited to specific developments and you may earn a better income by buying and managing a traditional property yourself – if you can be bothered.
The schemes were launched in 1967 by the French Government to improve tourist accommodation and boost visitor numbers. The first development was an apartment complex built in 1967 by Pierre et Vacances at Avoriaz, a ski resort above Morzine in the Portes du Soleil.
Since then, properties have sprung up not only in the mountains but by the sea and in cities. Many have extensive facilities including pools, tennis courts, golf courses, spas and even riding stables, while others are more like urban hotels.
The scheme has changed little since it started. In France, the Government gives buyers a rebate of the 19.6% VAT charged on new homes and the developer pays an annual income equivalent to, on average, 4.5% of the purchase price.
So an owner, who buys an apartment for £100,000, will earn £4,500 a year, rising in line with inflation. In return, the buyer hands over the keys to their home for an initial term of at least nine years and it is let to holidaymakers. Owners can use it for three weeks a year.
John Howell, a solicitor, says leaseback is a simple scheme. "These are investments that can be selected from your armchair and which require no work," he says. "They are for the lazy and unsophisticated investor. And there is nothing wrong with being lazy or unsophisticated."
"I paid £49,000 for a flat in Argeles, near Perpignan, in the south west of France, and they are now selling identical flats for 30% more," says Russell, 59, who began investing in property in 1993. Though the apartment is on a holiday complex, I didn’t buy it to use myself – its a long-term investment for us and our daughter, Alicia, who is 18. The yield is 5.5% a year, which just covers my mortgage payments."
The complex was built by Cerencimo, the biggest leaseback developer operating in France, who will build 35 resorts this year. Russell, who is entitled to a 25% discount if he wants to stay at the resort has also bought a £41,000 one-bedroom apartment at Marne la Vallée, near Paris. "Its very close to the EuroDisney resort and I think the leasing company will let it to Disney staff," he says.
The schemes have now spread across the French border and Pierre et Vacances has just launched in Spain and at Calarossa on the Italian island of Sardinia. The latter resort, which comprises 328 flats, has a shop, restaurants, swimming pools, tennis courts as well as an amphitheater and a private beach.
Investors can buy a furnished studio flat with a view of the Mediterranean from £69,800; a one-bedroom apartment from £86,450; and a two-bed starting at £113,000.
Owners can use their flat for three weeks a year, the rental yield is 4.5% and the minimum lease is nine years. However, unlike in France, there is no VAT rebate.
In Canada, Le Grand Lodge at Mont Tremblant, runs a rental pool. Buyers of apartments, which start at £83,000 and are marketed in the UK by Premier Resorts, can use them for 36 days a year, but at other times they can be used by the resort’s four-star hotel. Owners will only be paid if the flat is used, but annual yields of 6.5% are predicted.
Linda Rano, who runs Couleurs de France, a property agency, says leaseback is unsuitable for most of her customers. "Much of it is new build and our clients are looking for old stone houses with character in quiet rural areas, not holiday complexes," she says. "A lot of the people who contact us are thinking about living in France permanently."
David and Victoria Taylor from Chester bought The Olives, a three-bedroom house with a large garden in Bagnols, near Ste Maxime in the South of France, two years ago. "We paid £140,000 and spent another £30,000 putting in a pool and renovating it," says Victoria, 34, a nurse. "We spend about three months of the year there and let it to tourists between April and October. It is pretty much full in the summer."
With an average weekly rent of £800, the couple are earning a yield of almost 10% – and can use it for six months themselves.
The most generous leaseback scheme, at Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic, is promising a guaranteed rent of 15% a year and gives owners the option to end their ten-year lease annually. However, unlike other schemes it is not guaranteed by a bank.
Mark Lynn, Cap Cann’s sales manager, says the scheme pays such a high return because demand from tour operators is so high. "Beachfront hotel rooms on Cap Cana cost up to $1,400 a night," he says. The price o
two-bedroom apartment at The Harbour starts at £324,000.
The most creative deal has been launched in Paris. Under a 50/50 scheme, buyers pay half the price of a flat and hand it to a management company for 18 years.
In that time the owner receives no money, but at the end of the lease is given the remaining 50% equity and can do with the flat as he pleases. A half-share in a one-bedroom flat was selling for £47,200.
Although investors could probably do better elsewhere, the scheme was extremely popular and Russell Carpenter was one of the first to buy. He was not alone: "They sold out in a day," says Nigel Morton of Leaseback UK.
Better Than a Leaseback
By Adrian Leeds
We finally found it — an alternative to the French Leaseback that maintains the assets of the Leaseback and converts the liabilities to assets for the investor who wants a hassle free investment in the city of Paris. Not sanctioned by the French Government, but offered by a private company who has developed the concept over the last five years, purchasing an apartment in Paris is now relatively hassle-free, comes with a guaranteed return on your investment and affords you an easy exit plan.
We call it "Corporate Housing in Paris — the FPI Leaseback Solution."
In John Howell’s French Leaseback Report (John Howell & Co., http://www.EuropeLaw.com), published on French Property Insider at http://www.adrianleeds.com/frenchproperty/insider/members/content/leasbackreport.pdf (you will need your username and password to download the pdf file), he notes the three good points and nine bad points to investing in the French Leaseback.
Point by point, let us compare the two investment programs:
THE GOOD POINTS
The three main benefits of buying leaseback property are:
1. The discount that you receive by not having to pay the TVA.
2. The fact that your rental income is coming from a hotel operation rather than from the individual tourists and that it is contractually guaranteed.
3. The fact that someone else is doing all of the hard work. You do not have to appoint managing agents. You do not have to find tenants. You do not have to collect the money. You do not have to arrange for any necessary repairs.
By comparison, Corporate Housing in Paris (CHIP) comes close to matching these Leaseback benefits:
1. The property you purchase via CHIP is not new construction. These are properties in particular parts of central Paris (specifically arrondissements 8, northern 16th and western 17th) in buildings of good standing that will appeal to the corporate housing market. The taxes associated with the purchase are identical to the taxes and Notaire fees associated with any resale property purchase. As with any other purchase you would make, allow for approximately 7% to 8% of the purchase price
2. Your rental income is guaranteed by CHIP, a professional run licensed rental agency that is contractually guaranteed.
3. Exactly as with a Leaseback, someone else is doing all the hard work. You do not have to appoint managing agents. You do not have to find tenants. You do not have to collect the money. You do not have to arrange for any necessary repairs.
THE BAD POINTS
Unfortunately, Leasebacks have a number of bad points. These mean that the leaseback is not right for every investor.
Generally, Leasebacks are best for the lazy or the inexperienced and unsophisticated investor. There is nothing wrong with being lazy. Some people will value the simplicity of the deal. Usually, however, you will make more money both in terms of rental income and capital growth from an apartment that you own yourself and rent out in the normal way.
Anyone thinking of buying a leaseback property must be comfortable with the bad points:
1. The guaranteed rental return is not as generous as it appears. The percentage is based on the amount that you have paid and not on the full value. If you spent 200,000 Euro on a unit that would, if you had been buying a non-leaseback property, have cost you Euro 240,000 including TVA. A 5% return on your 200,000 Euro would only be a 4.1% return on the full value of the property. If you had bought a good general investment property for letting directly to tourists we would expect you to have generated at least 6% net rental income and, in central Paris, probably more.
CHIP: Each property will yield a different return, however, you can expect a CHIP property to return approximately 4.5% including the expense of the Notaire fees and taxes.
2. The amount of time for which you can use the property yourself is never generous. Your 5% deal might have permitted you to use the property for two weeks. If you had been renting out your own property in the normal way you would probably only have rented it for about 25 weeks in the south of France or 35 weeks in Paris. This would have allowed you either 17 or 27 weeks use for you, your family and friends. That is a great perk. If you do not want to take advantage of it, it can also give you the opportunity of trying to rent out those spare weeks (probably quite cheaply) and so increasing your normal yield. Remember that this personal use is not only a great fringe benefit but it is also usually tax deductible, both in your home country and in France. Remember, you are not on holiday. You are inspecting your property and doing essential maintenance and redecoration. So your traveling expenses and incidental expenses should be capable of being claimed back from any tax that you might owe on the income generated by the property — or any other investment properties in
CHIP: There are several options. You can rent any property from the pool of apartments offered by the agency, including your own if available, at a discount of 25%. You lose nothing in your guaranteed return on investment. If you want long term usage of the property, it can be written in your contract, however, you will receive no rents during your usage, nor one month prior nor one month after and a fee of 200 euros will be imposed to cover maintenance. Your return on investment will be affected, naturally.
3. You are tied in for a minimum of nine years. But it is worse than this. At the end of the initial nine (or ten or eleven) year period your hotel tenant will have the right to request a renewal of the lease for a further nine years. Most leaseback companies now routinely request renewals, so you are in effect tied in for eighteen years. At the end of the eighteen years they have the right to request a further renewal for a further nine years. You can refuse that request, but if you do you will have to pay the hotel company compensation as French law views this situation as one where the hotel company has built up a valuable business in your premises. You cannot contract out of this situation. French law does not quantify the compensation payable but, in Italy (where they have a very similar program), the compensation is fixed at 21 months rental. If your rental is 5% of the value of the property this compensation is 8.75% of the value of your property, which is a great deal of money.
CHIP: You are obligated to sign a three year automatically renewable lease, but with written notice, the lease can be broken with six months notice at any time. The
4. The leaseback contracts are quite complicated and so your legal expenses for buying a leaseback property will be a little higher than they would be if you were buying a simple apartment.
CHIP: You should not incur any additional legal expense as the contracts are quite simple.
5. If you pull out of the leaseback program within 20 years you will have to repay a part of the TVA discount that you received at the outset.
CHIP: You may pull out at any time and there is nothing to refund.
6. If the development ceases to qualify as a Residence de Tourisme at any time within the 20 year period (for example, because other people have pulled out reducing the numbers below the minimum permitted) you will also have to repay part of the TVA.
CHIP: Not applicable at all.
7. The property may well be licensed as a hotel and not as an apartment. This would mean that even at the end of your 27 years, you would not be able to live in the apartment full time.
CHIP: The property was purchased as an apartment and will remain as an apartment. You may live in it at any time, part time, full time or otherwise.
8. When you come to sell your property the exit route is much more complicated. If you own your own apartment that is not part of a Residence de Tourisme then you can sell at any time. Here you cannot sell for the first nine years. After then you will probably be, in effect, limited to only selling to an investor and not to someone who wants to live in the property or to use it for their own exclusive holiday use. This is because the property is a hotel bedroom, not a private apartment. It is also because the property may still be let to the hotel company and be burdened by the possibility of having to pay them compensation if you want to break the lease at the next renewal date.
CHIP: You can cancel your lease and sell your apartment or propose it to another rental agency at any time, given the six month advance notice. It is free for you to do whatever you wish with it.
9. Because you are limited in your choice of buyers you may well receive less for the property than you would receive for a similar apartment not in a leaseback program. They are buying a property generating a fixed rental income. Today, with low inflation rates and low interest rates, 5 or 6% looks quite reasonable but if we were in an era of interest rates of 10 or 12% the proposition would look a lot less attractive. The leaseback property has some features in common with a fixed interest bond where, if prevailing interest rates are lower than the interest rate fixed in the bond, the price of the bond goes up and if prevailing interest rates are higher it goes down.
CHIP: There is no limit to your choice of buyers. In fact, because the property has been a successful rental property, you may have more buyers than you anticipated. You will dictate the price and therefore your capital gain.
So the simplicity and the contractual guarantee comes at a price. Over many years we have seen that our clients who buy a sensible apartment in a sensible place and rent it out reasonably efficiently make more money than they would make under the leaseback program. That is fine providing the enter into the program with their eyes open, putting the simplicity above higher returns in their scale of importance. It is not fine if they have not been told about these potential drawbacks by the agent selling the property.
CHIP: While the Corporate Housing in Paris program is a perfect alternative to the French Leaseback, it still does not completely replace ownership of an apartment you can call your own and call home that you have total jurisdiction over its rental offerings. Those we know who do take on the added effort to own and manage the rental of their own property can gain much more than 4.5% — easily up to 10% under the right circumstances.
For more information about CHIP, contact Yolanda Robins
Big City With Small Town Appeal
By Schuyler Hoffman
A thousand years of trade and intellectual activity have made Montpellier one of the largest and most popular cities in La
doc-Roussillon. Sold to France in 1349, and despite near total destruction in 1622 for its Protestantism, and depression in the wine trade during the early years of this century, its growth and popularity has continued. Today it competes with Toulouse for the title of most dynamic city in the south of France. With the TGV (Train de Grande Vitesse) traveling from Paris to Montpellier in only 3 hours 15 minutes, Montpellier has easily stepped out to take the lead.
Capital city of the region, the center of Montpellier — the old town — is small and compact, architecturally homogeneous yet full of charm and bustling with life…except for July and August when the students are gone and everyone else is at the beach on holidays. Old town is mad up almost entirely of pedestrian streets. You can easily walk the narrow streets without looking anxiously over your shoulder. Let’s take a quick tour of the city, shall we?
At the center of the city’s life, joining the old sections to the more recent, is Place de la Comédie…or "L"Oeuf" to the locals. This immense, oblong square paved with cream-colored marble, has a moss covered fountain at its center and cafés on either side. At one end is the Opéra, an ornate nineteenth-century theatre. The other end opens onto the Esplanade, a beautiful tree-lined and flower garden walkway which ends at the Corum Concert Hall — dug into the hillside and topped in pink granite, offering incredible views from the roof.
From the north side of L"Oeuf rue de la Loge and rue Foch carve through the heart of the old city… Montpellier’s own "Haussmannificationizing" in the late 1800s. On either side of the streets, narrow lanes slope away to the surrounding modern boulevards. Few buildings in existence before the 1622 siege survive, but the city’s bourgeoisie quickly made up for the loss, showing off their financial status by building a number of seventeenth and eighteenth century mansions. Known as "Lou Clapas" (rubble), the area is rapidly being restored and gentrified. It’s a stroller’s delight to wander through and come upon little hidden squares like Place St-Roch, Place St-Ravy and Place de la Canourgue.
Place Jean-Jaurès is the focal point for the city’s student life. On most evenings you get the impression that the half of the population not in Place de la Comédie is sitting here and in the adjacent Place du Marché-aux-Fleurs. Close by is the Halles Castellane, a stylish, iron-framed market hall. A short walk from Place Jean-Jaurès, the Hôtel de Varenne, on Place Pétrarque, houses two local history museums of specialized interest. The Musée de Vieux Montpellier focuses on the city’s history. The Musée Fougau, on the top floor, presents a view of the folk history of Languedoc, things Occitan, and is more interesting. On rue Jacques Coeur you"ll find the Musée Languedocien, which houses a mixed collection of Greek, Egyptian, and other antiquities.
On boulevard Henri-IV sits France’s oldest botanical garden, the beautiful– though slightly run-down — Jardin des Plantes. This is where "…the pensive, the careworn and talkers-to-themselves come towards evening." The words of the poet Paul Valéry. Across the road is the cathedral, with its massive porch and a patchwork of architectural styles from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Inside is a memorial to the bishop of Montpellier who sided with the destitute vine-growers who came to demonstrate against their plight in 1907…and were subsequently fired on by government troops.
Above the cathedral, in the university’s prestigious medical school on rue de l"école-de-Médecine. The Musée Atger, found here, has a notable collection of French and Italian drawings, while the Musée d"Anatomie displays all sorts of, some might say, revolting things preserved in bottles.
South of place de la Comédie stretches the controversial quartier Antigone…a series of postmodern squares and open spaces designed to provide a mix of low-rent housing and offices. The area is aligned along a monumental axis from the place du Nombre-d"Or, through place du Millénaire, to the glassed-in arch of the Hôtel de la Région. It’s more interesting in scale and design than most attempts at urban renewal, but has failed to attract the crowds away from the place de la Comédie. It is often virtually empty. You will find the best central food markets are Halles Castellane, on rue de la Loge, and Laissac, place A. Laissace (open daily 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.).
Montpellier is renowned for its cultural life as well as its educational insitutions. The city hosts a number of annual festivals. Le Printemps des Comédiens (mid-June to mid-July) is a theatre festival hosting new circus, fairground and theatre groups each season. Montpellier Danse (from the end of June to mid-July) is a festival of dance in existence for over 20 years. There’s also the music festival, Le Festival de Radio-France et de Montpellier, held in the second half of July, that offers audiences famous works performed by artists who are as yet unknown, and forgotten works performed by some of the world’s greatest musicians. The Festival du Cinéma Méditerranéen takes place in the second half of October.
What can Montpellier offer you, as potential home buyers? For anyone interested in a dynamic, city lifestyle in the south of France, it is ideal. The university and its associated schools insure an ongoing infusion of money and youthful exuberance. Easy and fast access from Paris and its proximity to the beaches and other areas of interest in the region make Montpellier a good location for investing in property you can rent out.
The real estate prices in the Montpellier and surrounding areas slumped during the 1990s. It was not until late in the decade that they began to come back. In the last report for second quarter 2002 to second quarter 2003, prices in Montpellier rose 22.1%, the highest in France! Still, real estate prices can be more reasonable than one might think for such a city. For a period there was an in
crease of development of detached homes and newer apartment buildings. Much of the market these days, though, had been returning to older village homes and apartments in and around the center.
It is much easier to find a good buy in newer construction. For as little as 70-80,000 euro you can buy a one-bedroom apartment with a "terrasse," or 121,000 euro for a larger two-bedroom. These are not charming old town flats, but are worth considering, especially if you intend to use it as a short-term rental property.
Because of the growth in the market for older properties, bargains are less plentiful. But prices are still reasonable. Old town apartments with south of France charm are occasionally available for less than 100,000 euro. Realistically, you can expect to pay 125,000 and up, depending on the size, the location, and the charm.
The south of France appeals to many foreign buyers. Most seem to want to buy in smaller towns and villages. All well and good, but larger cities should not be overlooked. Montpellier ranks at the top of that list…for its location, its lifestyle, and its real estate market, you"ll find few other large cities that can compete.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Schuyler Hoffman was the first editor of French Property Insider. He now resides in Seattle, Washington. His event planning company, Schuyler Event Services provides experienced planning and management services for events, corporate meetings, and conferences and seminars internationally, including the Invest in France, Living in France and Working and Living in France Conferences and Seminars.
THE COMPELLING CATHAR HERITAGE
by Terry Schoen
Photos of the Languedoc-Roussillon region taken by Norm Hartman during an the Discovery Tour October 2002.
The area of southwestern France that we know as the Languedoc has inspired popular imagination for centuries. Troubadours, heretics, Knights Templar, aristocratic women whose life styles and freedoms were centuries ahead of their time: Their spirits still inhabit the mountain aeries and fertile valleys of this fabled land. Legends of lost treasure and lost causes permeate the air, tantalizing the curious, whispering questions, withholding answers. An ancient beauty, the Languedoc guards her secrets jealously.
The first recognized troubadour, William IX of Aquitaine, called this region home, as did his granddaughter, Eleanor. Better known to some as the mother of Richard the Lion Hearted, she was a formidable presence in her own right. Eleanor was married first to a king of France and later discarded him to marry a younger man who would become king of England. A patroness of the arts, she established the fabled Courts of Love at which amorous disputes between aristocratic ladies and the knights who paid them homage were judged by assemblies of their peers according to complex rules of conduct. In the halls of the nobles, troubadours sang songs of courtly — and presumably unrequited — love. Aristocratic women, the trobairitz, countered troubadour songs with tensos, tongue-in-cheek musical retorts of their own. The origins and significance of troubadour lyrics, the conventions of courtly love: These are topics vigorously debated by scholars. Few would argue though that the often ambiguous troubadour verses and the legends they"ve inspired have informed Western culture for eight hundred years.
By the 12th century, the Languedoc boasted one of the most highly developed civilizations in Europe. A wealthy and sophisticated society, it was diverse, cosmopolitan, and receptive to learning.
Although blood and suzerainty tied its leading families to both the kings of Aragon to the east and the Capetian rulers of the Ile de France to the north, the Languedoc was an independent region. More than physical distance separated the north and the south. Northern society was feudal and rigorously Catholic. In the Languedoc, the ties between the nobility and their subjects were more tenuous. The south was both culturally and linguistically closer to Aragon than to Paris. A tradesman from the south would need an interpreter to do business in the north. Where the French were almost uniformly orthodox, many southerners were tolerant of religious diversity.
The people of the Languedoc shared a common language and culture, but were politically diverse. The feudal system that bound aristocrats to one another and the people to their lords in most parts of Europe was weak and fragmented in the south. A fierce sense of independence, compounded with a reluctance to bow to any authority, were hallmarks of both the nobility and the wealthy southern burghers. Perhaps more pernicious was the jealousy and distrust that existed among the leading families of the region.
The Good Men and Women
For many years, preachers espousing a form of ethical dualism had walked among the people of the Languedoc. By their living example of humility, purity and charity, they stood in stark contrast to the Catholic clergy of the time. Various forms of the dualist faith they espoused had long been considered insidious heresy by both eastern and western Christian orthodoxy. To the horror of the Catholic hierarchy, this heresy had taken root in the fertile soil of the Languedoc. By the end of the 12th century its proponents had become numerous, and worse from the perspective of an embattled Catholic Church, its clergy were highly respected as Good Men and Women. Too many of the Roman clergy, by contrast, were seen as greedy, lascivious and derelict in their duties. There were churches in the Languedoc where Mass had not been celebrated for decades.
The adherents of the rival creed were variously called Albigoises, after the town of Albi on the River Tarn, or Cathari, from the Greek katharos meaning pure. Others claim that Cathari derives from the German, Ketzer, meaning heretic. The heretics called themselves, sim
They taught that the good God created the realm of the spirit but an inferior deity whom they identified with the God of the Old Testament created the physical world. They taught that human souls were angelic spirits trapped in matter by the trickery of the lesser god. Liberation from an evil world and the cycle of reincarnation would come through personal enlightenment. Man needed no intermediary to communicate with God. Churches, sacraments and the priesthood of the established Church were all superfluous. Their church, the Church of Amor, was antithetical to the Church of Roma. Adding insult to injury from Rome’s perspective, the Cathari included women among its clergy. Both were known as Perfects and the people venerated them for their goodness and simplicity. They owned no property. They abstained from meat and dairy foods. They ate no food that they perceived to be a product of reproduction. They were celibate. The Roman clergy were no match for the Perfects. They railed against the Cathari, but the heresy spread.
The Albigensian Wars
It’s ironic that the most obvious result of the Crusades was the proliferation of trade between East and West. Commerce with the East would introduce much more to the Languedoc than the silks and spices prized by its citizens.
Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire and the center of Eastern Christianity. Perhaps because the Byzantine emperors and hierarchy were experienced in dealing with heresy, reaction to dissidents in their midst– iconoclasts and dualists — differed from that of their Western counterparts. Even though many dualists were military men who guarded Byzantium’s frontiers, the emperors did not hesitate to persecute them and banished them to the Balkans, the western fringes of the empire. Future rulers would have reason to question the wisdom of such decrees.
From the Balkans, dualism spread to the West. While active in northern France, Germany and other parts of Europe, the Perfects found that the relative social and political independence in the Languedoc and parts of northern and central Italy provided a receptive environment for the flowering of their dualist faith. The spread of Catharism from the 12th to the early 14th century created a crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. The threat posed by a well-organized rival movement induced panic in its hierarchy.
The nobles and people of Christendom had long resented the tithes they were required to pay to Rome. The Perfects taught that the Church of Rome had perverted Christ’s message. It was therefore undeserving of obedience or support. To the established hierarchy, the systematic diversion of tithes from their coffers to those of secular rulers, who not only tolerated heretics but challenged the authority of the ecclesiastical overlords, was as threatening as the heresy itself.
Like his predecessors, Pope Innocent III tried persuasion with the southerners. He sent legates, themselves men of the south, to preach to the people and to engage the Perfects in public debates. Many parish priests of that era were barely literate, often knowing little theology and only enough Latin to celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments. Ordinary people received much less in the way of religious instruction. The thundering sermons and theological arguments presented by the Pope’s men did little to lure the laity from the teachings of the Perfects. Even that stalwart of orthodoxy, Bernard of Clairvaux, admitted that no sermons were more Christian than those of the Cathari. Little wonder the Roman hierarchy was alarmed by the threat posed to their power by the unruly Languedoc. By the early part of the 13th century, the Roman Church and the orthodox barons of the Ile de France each had pretexts to justify an invasion of the south.
In January 1208, papal legate Peter of Castelnau was murdered as he was leaving the Languedoc. A man of harsh and litigious nature, he aroused hostility wherever he went. He had argued bitterly only the night before with the most powerful aristocrat in the Languedoc, Count Raymond VI of Toulouse. Outraged by the assassination of his legate, Innocent laid the blame for the murder squarely on the shoulders of the notoriously anti-clerical Raymond. The count protested his innocence, and there is reason to believe that he was telling the truth. The legate had many enemies. The count was loved by his people but distrusted by the Lateran. Forever promising to persecute the dissenters among his vassals, but always reluctant to do so, Raymond’s recent arguments with Peter had resulted in excommunication on two occasions. Why would the Count antagonize Rome further by killing one of the Pope’s men? Innocent was in no mood to listen. For him and especially for his advisors, Peter’s death finally provided the provocation they needed to convince the men with the swords that something must be done about the heretics and the southern nobility who protected them. In March, Innocent declared war. King Philip Augustus of France declined to join the northern armies, but allowed his some of his most powerful barons to answer the Pope’s call. The Crusade against the Albigensians had begun.
The invading army consisted of aristocrats and recruits from what is now northern and central France, Flanders, the German provinces and a few fanatics from England. To the land-poor younger sons of the northern nobility, an area so attractive by reason of its commerce, natural resources and proximity to the trade routes of the Mediterranean was an irresistible prize, ripe for the taking. The combined force, granted Papal forgiveness for all sins, as well as remission of all debts, descended on the Languedoc, 40,000 strong. The fighting and carnage would continue for decades.
The south was wealthy but badly fragmented politically. Especially dangerous was the ancient rivalry between the Count of Toulouse and his 24-year-old nephew and nominal vassal, the Trencavel viscount of Béziers, Raymond Roger. Early in 1209, Count Raymond had appealed to his nephew to join with him in presenting a united front against the crusading army. The younger man might have felt that Raymond was guilty of the legate’s murder and therefore to blame for the approaching storm. He might have suspected that his uncle wanted to use the Crusade to weaken his rivals. Whatever his reasoning, the Trencavel viscount refused the offer.
In June of 1209, with the
northern army on the march, Raymond VI made a desperate attempt to spare his people and his lands the scourge of war. He professed his loyalty to the Roman Church, promised to correct the errors of which he was accused, and as a pledge for good behavior, he placed seven of his castles in Church custody. He even agreed to a public scourging at the hand of another of the Pope’s legates. Raymond then donned the Crusader’s Cross and reluctantly joined the crusading army for the minimum commitment of forty days.
Raymond Roger Trencavel had no illusions about the practical effects of the count’s reconciliation with the Church. The viscount had as bad a reputation for tolerating heresy as his uncle. The military objective of the crusade had now shifted from the extensive holdings of the Count of Toulouse to the lands of the viscount of Béziers.
The town of Béziers had been essentially autonomous for years. When their bishop, Renaud de Montpeyroux, appealed to its burghers to turn over two hundred twenty-two heretics to ensure the safety of their city, they refused. Béziers was strongly fortified and well provisioned. Its citizens, a tough lot, were confident that they could resist the inevitable attack. Raymond Roger knew that after Béziers, the northern forces would set their sights on Carcassonne. Left with little space for maneuvering, he hurried to his most remote and strongly fortified city. The local Jewish population knew what to expect should the crusaders breach Bézier’s walls. Demonstrating a sense of compassion that would have been unthinkable outside of the Languedoc, Raymond Roger took them with him to Carcassonne.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The second half of this compelling true story of knights, lords and ladies, counts, princes of the Church and dark intrigues continues next week.
Trompe l’Oeil in Languedoc-Roussillon
By Claudia Smith
In December 2003, I commissioned an American designer who is looking to create a part-time career in France as his own "rêve" to do three projects during his two-week working holiday. Even though I still lacked the basics, such as a dining table and real furniture and a car in my garage, he made me an offer I couldn"t refuse to launch his dream.
As my new home is in a wine-growing village with a lovely local co-op, I already knew I wanted a grape-themed stained glass window in the wall separating the garage and guest bedroom. It would be back-lit from both sides. He sent antique glass he had been collecting for years to use.
I had also noticed during my evening walks that I was the only kid on my block who did not have a tractor or some vinicole equipment in their garage/"cave." As the main entrance is through the garage to an entry hall, I wanted "curb appeal." Especially as the local Mairies are so strict as to what is allowed to the exterior of a building. I had tractor envy.
The new back wall of the garage was a blank canvas and he designed a mural of an antique steam engine tractor so that when I pulled my car in, I would be parking in tandem behind it…a guaranteed smile every day.
There was also a bricked-up original window in the third level master-bedroom. Here he painted a trompe l"oeil of a typical local landscape with lemon orchard.
My neighbors all think I am truly the mad "Americaine," but are nevertheless anxiously looking forward to the official house-warming garage dance.
Amicalement, Claudia Smith
San Diego, California and Tourbes, France
Editor’s Note: Claudia Smith was a participant in the Working and Living in France Conference of October 2002 and Discovery Tour to Languedoc-Roussillon during which she started her hunt for her dream French country home.
THINK NÎMES, MONTPELLIER, NARBONNE, PERPIGNAN, CARCASSONNE…. AHH!
By Max Bachellerie
Think Nîmes, Montpellier, Narbonne, Perpignan, Carcassonne…ahh! From La Camargue to the east, the Pyrénées Mountains to the west, from the Hautes Terres to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Languedoc/Roussillon vineyards lie quietly in an arc around the Mediterranean Golfe du Lion. This area covers the regions of Gard, Herault and Aude for the Languedoc and Pyrénées Orientales for the Roussillon.
The main grape varieties for the red and rose wines are: carignan, consault, grenache, syrah and mourvedre. The main grape varieties for the white wines are: marsanne, roussanne, maccabeu, bourboulenc, rolle, clairette and muscat.
The Languedoc wines are: Corbières, Fitou, Limoux, Cabardès, Malpère, Minervois, Saint-Chinan, Faugères, Clairette du Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc (with it’s 12 different soils), the 4 Muscats (Lunel, Frontignan, Mirval, St. Jean de Minervois), Costières de Nimes plus the numerous "Pays d" Oc" wines.
Roussillon wines are called: Côtes du Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Village, Collioure, Maury, Rivesaltes, Muscat de Rivesaltes, Banyuls and Vin de Pays Catalan.
This huge area produces more than one third of all French wines and has become in the past few years a fantastic experimental region for wine makers who dare to try new grape varieties in their wines (pinot, zinfandel…) or new blends (cabernet and syrah, or chardonnay and viognier…).
Languedoc/Roussillon wines are powerful, but with not too many tanins; always fruity and "sunny." You will have the opportunity to discover wines with great "ratio/pleasure" prices.
"2" face="Verdana">Two Languedoc "appellations" to try:
Red, Rose, and White wines, this is one of the most produced appellations in Languedoc (23,000 Hectares). This area is south of the line between Carcassonne and Narbonne, and the wines are very different because of the "micro-climates" and different soils in play. Generally speaking, these are strong wines with high alcohol content and a "keeping" time of 5 – 6 years!
Producing red and white wines in a large area (18,000 Hectares) north of the Carcassonne/Narbonne dividing line. The red wines are dark with typical aromas of red fruits, spices and licorice. Tanins are soft. Some of the white wines can be extraordinary. Keeping potential: 3 -4 years!
Get your tickets to the "Welcome to France Fair" today!
At the Expatica Welcome to France fair you will get the information you need from companies and agencies specialised in expatriate services.
You’ll find information on house hunting, finding a job, immigration and permits, staying long-term, and much more.
Meet the people who make expat life great, including the top clubs and associations, travel agents and sports teams.
Welcome to France
October 16, 2005
Carrousel de Louvre
Tickets are FREE before September 16 if you sign-up online. Click here
Editor’s Note: Adrian Leeds of French Property Insider and John Howell of EuropeLaw.com will be at booth #17 during the fair. Be sure to stop by and say hello!
LIVING IN FRANCE
October 21 to 23, 2005
Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf
Our popular three-day Living in France Conference will give you all the information you need to make your Paris dream a reality! The line-up for the conference includes seminars, discussions, dinners, cocktails with well-known Paris, Europe and U.S.-based experts. For West Coast folks, or those wanting more comprehensive information on all aspects of living in France, the San Francisco conference is a must.
INVEST IN FRANCE
October 26, 2005
Take just one day and learn from some of the finest experts in French real estate about the best ways to make your money and real estate investment grow. Join us at the prestigious Harvard Club for this power-packed one day event.
INVEST IN FRANCE
December 28, 2005
Enjoy your Christmas vacation in Paris, and set aside JUST ONE DAY of your busy schedule visiting museums and dining on foie gras to learn how to make your money grow, while building a portfolio of some of the most desirable real estate in the world.
For more information on The Invest in France Seminars or Living in France Conference, until we have our Web site up, contact Schuyler Hoffman, Projects Manager, at email@example.com/parlerparis to be put on a special mailing list to be notified when the details are in place (very, very soon!).
FRENCH PROPERTY EXHIBITION
September 23 – 25, 2005
National Hall, Olympia
Now in its 16th year, the London French Property Exhibition gives you the opportunity to learn about all aspects of buying property in France. Visit the John Howell and Co. booth to meet John Howell, and Adrian Leeds of Parler Paris and French Property Insider.
FOURTH PARIS POETRY WORKSHOP
October 2 – 6, 2005
This is your opportunity to spend five days in Paris as a poet among poets. Over the past several years, the success of each Paris Poetry Workshop has contributed to the creation of an expanding international community of poets writing in English, who come together from all parts of the world to generate new work, hone their craft, share and support one another’s creative endeavors. This is your chance to become part of this exciting and vibrant community.
THE ART OF TROMPE L’OEIL SEMINAR
December 29 – January 2
Join a unique community of artists, engaging in hands-on painting and conversation with internationally renowned trompe l’oeil muralist and educator, Yves Lanthier. An award-winning artist, Yves has created large oil paintings and elaborate trompe l’oeil that adorn the ceilings and walls of many East Coast mansions and Palm beach estates, including Celine Dion’s estate in Jupiter, Florida
Apartments for Rent: Long-Term
The term "Long term" applies to furnished or unfurnished apartments available 1 month to three years. FPI provides a service to assist you in finding apartments in Paris or the adjacent suburbs based on your preferences, budget and needs. Our rental professional will provide an interview with you, an apartment search and selection, provide photos when possible, arrange up to five visits, assist you to negotiate the lease or on your behalf and do a final walk-through visit with you.
Long Term Apartment Search: $1450 Paid in Advance
To book your apartment search, click here: http://www.adrianleeds.com/frenchproperty/insider/booking.html
LEASEBACK NEWS FROM IMOINVEST
LEASEBACK PROPERTYRESIDENCE LES OCEANIDES
France, Atlantic Coast, Ondres
One Bedroom 28m² to 35m² Euros 97,000 to Euros 108,000
Two Bedrooms 38m² to 39m² Euros 120,000 to Euros 120,000
Three Bedrooms 44m² to 44m² Euros 134,000 to Euros 134,000
Chalets/Villas 40m² to 43m² Euros 145,000 to Euros 145,000
Chalets/Villas 49m² to 52m² Euros 179,000 to Euros 179,000
GUARANTEED RENTAL INCOME UP TO: 4.50%
2 km of Golden Beaches on the French Atlantic Coast
Nestled perfectly between Bayonne and the Basque region, within walking distance of golden sand beaches is Les Oceanides. The quaint village of Ondres is situated 10 km North of Bayonne on the border between Basque and Landes regions and 40 kms from the Spanish border. It boasts 2km of beautiful Atlantic beaches and superb scenery, including the hills and valleys of the Basque region and Pyrenees Mountains and the vast forests of Landes. From towns like Bayonne, Biarritz, Saint Jean de Luz or Hossegor to the smaller villages inland, a visit to this part of the world is an unforgettable experience. There are so many places to see and even more things to do. The climate is mild and sports and leisure activities like golf, tennis, horseback riding, swimming, surfing, hiking or cycling, can be enjoyed all year long within breathtaking surroundings.
Luxurious and modern, Les Oceanides, is located 30 minutes from Biarritz airport. Its architecture is welcoming and typical of the region’s tradition, with white facades, exposed wooden beams and covered terraces.
Take advantage of this sensible investment opportunity, reporting an approximate 15.4% price increase in 2003. With Residence Les Oceanides, you’ll enjoy a good mix of investment and leisure — use the property during your vacation, and benefit from the security of a guaranteed rental income while you are away.
FPI Property Consultation, Search and Relocation Solutions
Let French Property Insider expert property consultants find your dream home in France for you. We consult with you to help you make the best decisions, ferret out the finest properties to meet your criteria, schedule the visits and accompany you, negotiate with the agencies and owners, recommend the notaires and other professionals, schedule the signings and oversee the purchase with you from start to finish! You could never do it so easily on your own. Let us take the time and effort off your hands.
FPI Offers More Relocation Solutions!
Let our experienced relocation expert help make your move easy and hassle-free. We offer complete property and relocation services normally only provided by employer hired relocation firms…but at a price much more affordable for individuals.
Solution #1: Property Consultation and Search Services
Solution #2: Purchase Assistance
Solution #3: Getting a Mortgage in France
Solution #4: Property Appraisal Service
Solution #5: The "Après Vente"
To book your services, click here:
TODAY’S CURRENCY UPDATE
Visit the FPI Web site and click on the link on the left panel "Click Here for Currency Convertor by Moneycorp Global Money Services" for up to the minute conversions of all major currencies.
Compare currency values easily and quickly by visiting: http://adrianleeds.com/frenchproperty/loan/moneycorpconvertor.html
Charts http://www.Moneycorp.co.uk/members/charts.asp The charts below are updated every ten seconds.
The prices shown are "inter bank" exchange rates and are not the rates that you will be offered by Moneycorp. Your rate will be determined by the amount of currency that you are buying. Please speak with an Moneycorp dealer or your consultant for a live quotation.
Parler Paris Après-Midi
NEXT MEETING: September 13, 2005 AND EVERY SECOND TUESDAY OF THE MONTH, 3
p.m. to 5 p.m.
This is your opportunity to meet every month, often with local
professionals who can answer your Working and Living in France questions. You are invited to come for drinks and share your questions and comments about what it takes to create a life here, own property and enjoy what France has to offer. It is also an opportunity to network with other Parler Paris readers.
Upstairs at La Pierre du Marais
96, rue des Archives at the corner of rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris
Métro Lines 9, 3 et 11, stations Temple, République or Arts et Métiers
HOT PROPERTY PICKS: Languedoc-Roussillon Lovelies
Each week French Property Insider features a range of properties which we believe are on the market at the time of writing. These properties are featured in order to give readers a sample of what is currently available and a working example of prices being asked in various regions of France and districts of Paris.
As we are not a real estate agency. These properties do not constitute a sales listing. For those readers seriously interested in finding property in Paris or France. you can retain our services to do the whole thing for you. For more information, visit http://www.adrianleeds.com/frenchproperty/insider/propertyconsultation.html
*** Montpellier, 3 rooms, approx. 100m²
Lots of charm in the center of Montpellier! 3 room duplex in excellent condition. On the third floor of a "hôtel particulier," with terrace and 2 bedrooms. Southern exposure with panoramic view.
Asking Price: 360,500 Euros + 2.5% Finder’s Fee
*** Carcassonne, 8 rooms, approx. 260m²
This beautiful villa, perched on a hilltop outside Trebes, is located in Villedubert, a small village about 15 minutes from Carcassonne. It offers 260m² of living space on 4,322m² of land with a swimming pool, gardens, and lots of trees to shade you from the hot summer sun.
The fitted kitchen was remodeled about 3 years ago as was the shower room. The house is U-shaped with kitchen and master bedroom with en-suite in one wing, lounge and dining room opening onto a terrace that faces the pool, in the middle, and 4 bedrooms, a shower room, and a laundry room in the other wing. The master bedroom and one of the guest rooms have French doors that open on to the pool terrace.
The house is in immaculate condition, and is designed to make the most of outdoor living. There’s a built-in barbeque on the pool terrace and a summer kitchen on the south side of the house. The lounge and dining room are large and made for entertaining. It offers terrific rental potential.
Asking Price: 527,500 Euros + 2.5% Finder’s Fee
*** Béziers, 8 rooms, approx. 240m²
Charming 1863 Maison de Maître, located at the edge of an historical village, includes 6 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. The kitchen has the original grilling languedocienne fireplace. The lounge/living room of about 60m² features an original, traditional fireplace and built-in wooden cupboards. It has a pretty, large, sunny and private courtyard and a former stable that could be converted into an independent apartment. The house is in excellent condition and offers space, comfort and character with enchanting exteriors, plus original tiling, sculpted ceilings, wooden beams, doors and original stairs. Village with all amenities at 15 minutes from Béziers, 20 minutes from the motorway, 25 minutes from the beaches and 10 minutes
from the Orb r
iver. An ideal property for a bed and breakfast.
Asking Price: 566,500 Euros + 2.5% Finder’s Fee
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THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
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HELPFUL CONVERSIONS FOR REAL ESTATE
1 square meter = 10.7639104 square feet
1 hectare = 2.4710538 acres
For more conversions, refer to: http://www.onlineconversion.com/
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