The New Orleans-French Connection
Volume III, Issue 7
Just back from a wild carnival ride down to New Orleans, we have lots to report on…
After a fun-filled carnival celebration during several days of Mardi Gras parades and partying à la Nouvelle Orléans style, we settled down to business.
The Living and Investing in France Conference was a huge success where we all learned a lot while having lots of fun together in “The Big Easy.” Scroll down for a full report and pick up some of the tidbits of our presenters’ expertise. There are five more conferences of this kind scheduled for 2005 both in Paris and the U.S., so now’s your chance to mark your calendar for the one that best fits your needs and schedule.
Moneycorp currency brokers provides us with a way to hedge our bets against a fluctuating rate of exchange and a new way of calculating the rates at any given moment. Further down, we advise on how to best open a bank account in France — no easy task for foreigners. ParisMarais starts a newsletter specifically for Le Marais you will surely want to subscribe to and Leslie Ellen Ray tells her tales of life in Provence along with her fabulous photos.
Two recent articles worth a reprint will peak your interest — luxury loft living in Paris proves to be profitable and how an effort to alleviate smoke in Paris restaurants goes “up in smoke.”
All this plus a listing of hot Paris loft properties will whet your appetite for more.
Editor, French Property Insider
Email: [email protected]
P.S. We can easily put you in touch with any of the professionals who present at the conferences or with whom we work and recommend. Write me for more information about our one-on-one consultation services at [email protected]
Reporting on the Living and Investing in France Conference
February 11 -13, 2005, New Orleans
By Adrian Leeds
I caught so many beads thrown from the floats Mardi Gras day that we added them to the “Goodie Bags” at last weekend’s Living and Investing in France Conference in New Orleans. During the opening remarks, I asked the attendees to drape at least one pair around their necks so that while I read their reasons for participating (in 25 words or less), a sense of camaraderie would permeate the room.
It was an easy task — never before have we had such a homogeneous and convivial group, almost all with the same goals in mind — to find a home in France they could enjoy for part of the year, rent out the rest to mostly cover the mortgage and expenses and then later to retire to.
The conference opened with a light-hearted look at the New Orleans/French Connection by actress and comedian Adriana Bate (did you know that the Baroness Pontalba designed her famous apartments adjacent to Jackson Square based upon the Palais Royal and the Place des Vosges of Paris!?) and young Jean Xavier Brager from the French Consulate with his Southern French accent (from Marseille!) charmed them all into thinking learn French would be “du gateau!”
The conversation turned more serious when Laurence Daurignac and John Howell from Europe Law in London took center stage to explain how to have the right to live and work in France, a complicated and tedious subject that often touches on the American value of honesty — how many Americans are in France illegally we wondered? They call it the “golden passport” — we can do no wrong and illegals are overlooked, as long as they pay their taxes!
Cocktails the wrap up the first afternoon were a perfect way to network with the other attendees. By the time all the wine was drunk and the cheese and crackers eaten, we had made lots of new friends.
Saturday was a long and arduous day beginning with minimizing your tax liability with Marcell Felipe, international tax advisor from Miami. John Howell went through what it takes to start a new business in France before he and Laurence attacked the heart of the conference — how to buy and own property in France. In detail were discussions of the advantages of buying property in the name of an “LLC”(U.S. company) or “SCI”(French property company), changing your marital regime to community property (“tontine”) or other structures that would minimize inheritance and capital gains taxes.
After lunch, Property Search Consultant, Yolanda Robins, who had a surprise from more than a dozen American friends who showed up in Paris for her birthday, gave her presentation by audio feed direct from Paris. With me on the PowerPoint keys and Yolanda giving the verbal presentation, she outlined the best ways to find property in Paris and the best neighborhoods to buy in, plus showed a variety of available properties in the key areas of the city. She had us drooling over a few very luxurious apartments we all wish we could afford.
The rest of the afternoon was spent discussing property in France from an investment point of view with John Howell and Laurence Daurignac along with Claude Nédérovique from France For Rent and Paris Luxury Rentals. There is still no doubt that even with a weak dollar, when you minimize the loss in the exchange rate by maximizing your mortgage at today’s low interest rates, taking even interest-only loans, with the current appreciation of property Paris is experiencing of more than 10% annually, and year-round rental potential, an investment in a property in Paris is more sound than most, especially than the stock market (which isn’t nearly as much fun!). Claude professed the importance of purchasing a property in the right locations and furnishing it in luxury and with good taste to maximize the occupancy rate and therefore insuring a better investment.
On that note, we headed down Decatur Street for a five-course New Orleans Creole dinner at Tujague’s, the city’s second oldest restaurant. Several local residents joined us for the festivities and we celebrated our new friends over Shrimp Remoulade, Brisket of Beef, Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffée, Lamb Shank with Red Beans and Rice and Bread Pudding. Yum!
Our final day of conference opened with Ruth Mastron’s (“Au Contraire: Figuring Out the French”) funny and poignant account of why and how the French are so culturally different with pointers on how we can cross the cultural divide more easily. Then, Valerie Guillet, Director of the French-American Chamber of Commerce, stepped in for the President, Damien Regnard, who was called to France suddenly on personal affairs, spoke about how organizations such as ours can assist those wanting to start a business in France.
Moneycorp guys Doug Johnson and Mark Rickard then tied it up together with their program on reducing the risk of currency exchange by “Forward Buying” or “Spot Buying” at a particular rate of exchange — a way of minimizing your loss in the exchange when transferring large sums of money. New to our conference, this topic is now of prime interest.
We concluded the conference with an hour-and-a-half long panel discussion opening the floor to questions about anything directed to any one of the presenters. This was the attendees’ chance to wrap-up all they learned. It was a great way of insuring we had covered every topic.
Attendee evaluations came in loud and clear with ratings of 4’s and 5’s (on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 the lowest, 5 the highest) given to almost all the presenters:
“As a marketing and real estate professional, I am very impressed and look forward to working with professionals of this caliber. Another worthwhile day — well done.”
“Great first day! Very excited about what lies ahead.”
“This was the most valuable conference I have attended. Well organized, delivered and the content above average.”
“All excellent! Excellent! Excellent! Thank you.”
We packed up our projector, computer and headed out for dinner in the Faubourg Marigny knowing we had done our jobs and helped fulfill some dreams, as without a doubt, we’ll be seeing many of these same smiling faces on this side of the Atlantic sometime in the very near future.
Opening a French Bank Account
by Adrian Leeds
In the U.S., you can walk into almost any bank and find a smiling Account Manager behind a desk just waiting for you to plop down in a comfy seat and say “I’d like to open an account, please.” The more money you wish to open the account with, the broader the smile on his or her face. Within about 10 minutes, the appropriate documents are presented, you’ve signed on the dotted lines, an account number and temporary checks are handed over to you. You’re in business.
Such is not the case in France.
>When I first moved to France, by sheer coincidence, a French friend in the U.S. connected us with her friend, an Account Manager at CIC (http://www.cic.fr/ ), who amazingly worked at the branch one block from our new rental apartment. This connection along with our new long-stay visas, opened accounts for us just about as quickly, along with Carte Bleue debit cards and free checks.
I had no idea at the time what privileged folks we were — it all seemed
so standard and normal. Now I realize that without that connection, opening accounts would have been much more difficult…they don’t hand them over to just anyone regardless of how much money you wish to deposit. Remember, everything you do in France is based on an established relationship — so the banks want to know with whom they are doing business, just like any other establishment — and believe it or not, money DOESN’T talk.
If you have are legally residing in France with a Carte de Séjour or Carte de Résident, then you prove your intention to stay in France and will have a much easier time opening an account at a commercial bank. If you are a property owner, but not a legal resident, the challenge is more difficult, but not impossible. If you are not a property owner nor a legal resident, then opening an account in next to impossible.
To open an account in a French commercial bank, I make the following recommendations:
First, it is best to bank with the branch nearest your Paris or France home. It is important to establish a relationship with the staff there to make facilitating your financial needs easier and simpler. If you have a contact person or friend at a bank, this is the best way to get an account. The second best way is if a friend already banking there can introduce you. If neither of these is possible, you’re on your own…
To start, go into the bank and very politely ask if they will grant you a future appointment with an account agent. They will ask the nature of the visit and you will explain your reasons for wanting an account. It is very important to let them know at this point that you will be a new resident of the neighborhood and compliment them on what you’ve heard about their bank and services, plus how you want to do business in your own special “quartier.” Lay on the charm, show them lots of respect and humble yourself. If you don’t get this right, you won’t get the appointment!
Once you have the appointment and you meet your new account agent, don’t forget to lay on the charm all over again. Every drop of relationship-building will make your life easier. You can open an account without one centime to put in it! Remember, it’s not how much money you have, but what kind of person you are and if they will want to do business with you.
Don’t forget to ask for your checks, a Carte Bleue debit card, if the bank has Internet banking capability, if you want a safety deposit box — do they offer this?, if they can give you “cash advances” using your U.S. debit card in the bank for higher amounts than the ATM allows (a great way to draw money from your U.S. accounts) and several “RIB’S” (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire slips) that enable your utilities bills to be automatically debited. The printed checks take about one week to get, and usually they are free. Be sure you provide them with the correct name and address to print on the checks. The Carte Bleue may take a little longer and will be mailed to you with a PIN (personal identification number).
The following is a list of France’s most popular commercial banks. Look for the one nearest you, ask your friends which they recommend and with which they can be of assistance and then you’re on your way to being an account holder in France.
COMMERCIAL FRENCH BANKS
Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP Paribas)
Crédit Commercial de France (CCF)
Crédit Industriel et Commercial (CIC)
Crédit Municipal de Paris
Special note: One final solution, if all else fails, is to open an account with an international bank such as Barclay’s or Citibank. BNP Paribas owns Bank of the West, which has an international department in its San Francisco branch. Contact Pierre Videau at [email protected] to open an account.
Photos and Story By Leslie Ellen Rayhttp://www.leslieellenray.comThe buttery light in the evenings illustrates why the artists have come to this place for years — it is truly exquisite! In the apricot-colored sunset, I have just returned from Aix, where, when I boarded the bus at La Rotonde and looked up to see the magnificent fountain out the window, I had to bite my tongue not to allow the tears in my throat to make it into public view. A little voice made itself known from deepwithin, reminding me:
“You live here now!” Although I do not feel as though I am fooling anyone into thinking I am anything other than a foreigner, I am a foreigner who is making a home in France. It was a good decision…for many reasons…some shared in the following:
Bittersweet was the parting with my sister at the airport in Minneapolis, just as it had been with the friends I was able to see in San Diego. Although both of us are excited for this new adventure (my sister also has her own love affair with France going) the distance will be felt as well as the expense in international calls!
After a short layover in Amsterdam, the flight to Marseilles landed and all passengers (a very international group we were: a French couple who were returning from Africa with a newly adopted baby, a young man returning from three months in Taiwan bringing his Chinese girlfriend home to meet the family, several of middle eastern descent, and several other French along with myself and two other Americans) deplaned onto the tarmac and were bussed to the terminal where we entered a facility that reminded me of the airport in Hawaii in the 50¹s – much smaller operations than we tend to see now – certainly in the major metropolitan areas. No customs, no passport stamping – just straight to baggage and that was it! Whew!
Joann, my new landlady, had offered ahead of time to pick me up and was waiting for me. So with two large carts we rolled my baggage to the car. (I was later to learn that she was very surprised to see the amount of baggage I had! She did not reveal that at all from her welcoming expression!)
She had prepared lunch for me back at her house: a lovely green salad with fresh garden tomatoes and vinaigrette, delicious chicken sautéed with onions, garlic, courgettes (zucchini) tomatoes and herbes de provence, a bit of bread and cheese and a glass of local wine and I was reminded once again why I had made this move!
Another first run: with the oven this time (stove and oven here are on propane tanks filled as necessary). When I was staying here last, I couldn’t figure out how to get the oven lighted. My success this time resulted in a lovely roasted chicken with crispy herbed and buttered skin (the inside being moist perfection) and roasted new potatoes and garlic. Topped off with steamed haricots verte (yes, with more butter!) and I think it’s clear: I’m a pretty happy camper so far.
I know there are days ahead of me where I’ll probably wonder how I got myself into this mess and what to do to navigate the decision in the moment, but even anticipating the inevitable difficult times that lurk, I am happy. Very few moments go by that I do not look around at the green promises forming on the olive tree outside my garden door, or the hear the unique and persistent wail of a police vehicle in the streets of Aix, or catch the delicious blend of pungent scents at the outdoor market, or look directly into the eyes of one of the lions surrounding that magnificent fountain at La Rotonde that I don’t stop for a second and take it in: I did it! I live in France!.
The appointment at the local bank in the village of Luynes went swimmingly! Entering many of the banks here is a bit different: Bank customers press a button on the outside door to be “buzzed in” to the space between the doors – another button is then pushed by the customer wishing to enter and, once again, after a brief wait, one is buzzed in, the door lock releases and the door is free to be opened, allowing the waiting customer to enter the bank for business. The same process is repeated to exit – lots of button pressing and buzzing going on for bank business. A bit different from the bank-in-a-supermarket one finds in the states! And as result of my appointment, I now possess a checking account at Société Générale – yippppeeeee!
It’s not exactly “la vida loca” but life in France is good!