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FPI—a Flash from the Past

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When our Thursday property Nouvellettre®, “French Property Insider,” was in its infancy way back in 2001, when the Internet was just a baby, too, it wasn’t yet called that, though—it was called “French Property Digest” and we published it as a downloadable PDF online by our company named “Chez Frog” and it was by paid subscription only. Then, I went to work for International Living which adopted the publication, changed the name and sent it out to many thousands of subscribers—more than I ever dreamed was possible.

When I left International Living to venture out on my own in 2004, I took the publication I had created with me. For a long time it continued to be a paid subscription only, just as before. Then, one day we decided to make it free and broaden its horizons. It’s stayed that way ever since, always published on Thursdays, 50 issues a year (exclusive of the one week of summer vacation I take and Thanksgiving Day).

You might not even know what French Property Insider is…if you’re not subscribed. Internally, we call it “FPI.” Don’t confuse that with FPI France—the Fédération des Promoteurs Immobiliers de France! What a funny coincidence that the Federation of real estate agents in France has the same initials.

And that’s why I’m writing you today…to encourage you to subscribe to our French Property Insider with weekly insights, recommendations, tips, and discoveries about property in France.

Just for kicks, I went deep into the archives and found the first issue from February 13, 2003. The original photos were missing, so I’ve added some new ones for illustration purposes only, but here are some excerpts (edited slightly to fit today’s world) that I hope you will find amusing:

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Thursday, February 13, 2003
Paris, France

Bonjour French Property Insider Charter Subscriber,

Welcome to the first edition of FPI!

Thank you for your interest in France…specifically your interests in living here (part time or full time) and buying property here, AND for becoming a charter subscriber of this new and exciting publication. Each edition of FPI will build a library of reference material to educate and inform you on the myriad of issues involved with buying, owning, renting, selling, and living in France.

This issue gives you the heads up on the “greening” of Paris, a movement that includes both creating green spaces and an increasing awareness of environmental issues in the city.

We’ll take you on an exploration of the city of Troyes (pronounced ‘twah’), a bustling little city just an hour-and-a-half from Paris by train and bursting with property opportunities. And perhaps most importantly, we’ll introduce you to a variety of real estate opportunities in Paris and throughout France. Don’t miss our “Hot Property” of the week, available only to you, our readers, for first consideration.

So pour yourself a glass of Côte du Rhône, sit back, and enjoy the read!

Salut!

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Volume I, Issue 1, February 13, 2003

In this issue:

*** Come to Troyes for the Bargains
*** Invest in the Euro
*** Paris is Springing Up Green
*** Average Rent in Paris is Affordable
*** Hot Properties for Sale in France
*** The Conference is a Must-Attend [deleted]
*** Short-Term Rentals for a Great Stay

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Schuyler Hoffman in his apartment in Paris toasting the completion of a French Property Insider edition

Schuyler toasting the completion of an edition of FPI

*** TROYES—A BUBBLY ESCAPE
By Schuyler Hoffman

On an impulse really, I decided one Friday night to just head south to Troyes, a little town southeast of Paris. I showed up at Gare de l’Est bright and early Saturday morning, bought my ticket (only 34 euro round trip) and was off on a new adventure.

As with many cities and towns in France, Troyes has quite a history… especially for a small town (today its population is a little over 60,000). Dating back to the Celtic tribe of the Tricasses sometime in the 2nd century B.C., the story of Troyes involves Dukes and Kings, would-be Dukes and Kings, and skirmishes between a number of foreign invaders, including the British.

In 1420, the treaty of Troyes designated Henri V as the legitimate heir to the crown of France… at the expense of the “Dauphin” Charles VII. On July 10, 1429, Joan of Arc and her troops reached the ramparts of Troyes. Joan held up her flag and directed the preparations for the assault under the frightened eyes of citizens. The city opened its gates even before the battle, allowing Joan and Charles to enter Troyes and hear mass at the cathedral.

Troyes sits in the heart of the Champagne region of France. At the end of the 13th century the Counts of Champagne, in fact, brought about the commercial expansion of the city which pushed the ramparts of the walls surrounding the city out and into the shape of a Champagne cork. The main part of the city retains its cork shape to this day, topped off by the Seine River.

The town was famous for its bells (more than 120) at least until many were melted down or destroyed during the Revolution. It has, though, guarded eight historic churches and the main Cathedral, which are fine examples of styles from early Gothic through to the Renaissance. The city is full of narrow pedestrian streets, like the well-known rue des Chats (well-known, but hard to find), all lined with countless charming half-timber buildings. Many of them have been or are being restored and maintained in their original state (unlike Rouen, further north, where most of the half-timber homes were destroyed by bombings during the war). Some of them use plaster and such to fill the spaces between the timbers, while others use intricate patterns of thin bricks to fill the spaces. Troyes is also known for a number of elaborately and colorfully tiled rooftops.

A cathedral bell tower in Troyes France

Not the least of its attractions are Troyes’ five main museums: Maison de l’Outil, the tool museum—a look through time at various trades and the tools of those trades (believe it or not, very interesting!); Musée d’Art Moderne, museum of modern art; Musée Saint Loup, museum of fine art and archeology and natural history of the area; Musée de Vauluisant, history museum for Troyes and the Champagne region; and the Apothicairerie, museum of pharmacology, housed in the ornate Hôtel Dieu Le Comte.

Troyes is also the “capital of commercial tourism” with a total sales area of 81,679 square meters. Designer outlets were set up after the war for the traditional textile industry. In the course of the last 10 years, they have acquired great popularity. Every year, three million visitors from the north and east of France, the Parisian region and from other countries go through their region just to discover great bargains.

The fact that leading brands of relatively up-market women’s, men’s and children’s clothing and also accessories, leather goods, cutlery and decorative items are sold at a cut price (30 to 70% lower) has led to the success of the concept. There are two major centers of brand outlets, Marques Avenue in Saint-Julien-les-Villas and McArthur Glen in Pont-Sainte-Marie.

The town center was so fascinating that I stayed another day exploring all the nooks and crannies I could find. And although this was a chance to just relax, I couldn’t help but spend time looking in real estate agency windows. Real estate prices are amazingly low in such a well-known little town, with plenty of tourist attractions, so close to Paris.

Colorful half-tember houses in Troyes France

Not one apartment was more than 90,000 euro, and most were in the 50-75,000 euro range. Most of those were at least one-bedroom flats, charming, in charming buildings. Apartments that looked in need of renovation or less charming were even less expensive. Homes and houses, in and outside the city, with a bit of land, older and newer, were in the 100-150,000 euro range.

A good investment? It could be, depending on what your goals are. Short-term rental would probably provide minimal return. You’d be competing with a number of nice hotels whose rates are less than 100 euro a night. There is better opportunity for mid to long-term rental. Rents are very reasonable compared to Paris—one and two-bedroom apartments rent for 300 to 600 euro per month. Not a lot, but when you consider the cost of the property here, that could make it a viable investment.

Lovely courtyard for a hotel in Troys France

On a property of 75,000 euro the cash needed upfront would amount to approximately 30,000 euro…calculating it at a 30 percent down for the mortgage and up to 10% for Notaire fees and other costs (you may be able to obtain 80% financing, thus reducing the upfront cost). With current interest rates in the 4.5% to 5.25% range, your monthly mortgage is going to be fairly low. Working the numbers with a lender would give you an idea of how much of your mortgage could be offset by renting the apartment out mid or long-term.

If you’re looking to buy for your own use and not necessarily concerned about rental value, Troyes may indeed be a place for you to consider. For a town of its size, it has a lot to offer someone wanting to live in France. It is full of history, culture, and unique architecture. It is larger than a quaint French village, but still small enough for you to feel at home in… the kind of town where you will know your neighbors. It is of course not big city life, but Paris is not far away either by car (Auto Route 5) or train, nor is Dijon, should you need to experience a faster pace for a day or two. And a plus – the luxury of champagne every day of the week!

There are many interesting towns and areas in France to explore before you decide where you want to purchase, whether for a home or investment. Troyes is one that should be on your list of considerations.

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*** TODAY’S CURRENCY UPDATE

A chart of currency fluctuation in FranceRates as of 2003.02.12 22:35:21 UTC (GMT). Base currency is USD.

CURRENCY UNIT USD PER UNIT UNITS PER USD
USD 1.00000 1.00000
EUR Euro 1.07123 0.933503

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can hold up to $10,000 in a foreign account without reporting it to the IRS. Banks in Europe pay as much as 4.1% interest on savings accounts. Now is a good time to take advantage of high interest returns on savings, low mortgage rates and to own property valued in euros.

 

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*** THE GREENING OF PARIS
By Adrian Leeds

Bertrand Delanoë’s Paris is teeming up for a greening up.

Even if the press weren’t reporting it and even if the Mairies (city halls) weren’t sending out their pretty glossy printed propaganda about it, there is no denying that Paris is getting greener by the moment.

Former mayor, Jean Tiberi first created the idea of “les quartiers tranquilles,” to improve the quality of life by diminishing the number of cars, increasing public space and reducing pollution and noise, in certain areas of the city.

Then, out with the old, in with the new and Delanoë reclassified the program as “les quartiers verts”—a hot new program promising to be better…to modify the traffic patterns, enlarge the sidewalks, redesign the “places,” green it up, warm it up and plan for a Paris of tomorrow.

Propoganda map for the greening of Paris and its parks

Certain “quartiers tranquilles” were always in the plans before the “changing of the guard,” but others were newly scheduled to be transformed into “quartiers verts” such as: Sainte-Marthe (10th and 11th [arrondissements]), Forge-Royale-Aligre (11th and 12th), Peupliers (13th), Rébeval (19th), Belleville (20th). Soon following was the: Marais (4th), the Faubourg-Montmartre (9th), the Faubourg-Saint-Denis (10th), la Voûte – BelAir (12th) and the porte de Ménilmontant (20th). Scheduled for 2003: the Sentier (2nd), the neighborhoods of Bretagne (3rd), Saint-Germain (6th), Château-des-Rentiers (13th), Commerce (15th), the Jonquière (17th). In 2004: the Roquette (11th), Boileau (16th), the Butte Montmartre (18th) and Sorbier (20th).

Photo demonstration of the Greening of Paris

Not everyone is happy about it.

Not long after Delanöe took office, bus and taxi lanes were installed on major streets all over town reducing the lanes for cars and speeding up the access for public transportation. Motorists were quick to complain about the increase in traffic jams, but the hope was that it provided incentive to reduce usage of cars and increase usage of public transportation, thereby reducing pollution, traffic and noise. As a result, more than half (55%) of Parisians do NOT own a car.

What’s more in store?…enlargement of sidewalks, planting of trees, more pedestrian-only streets and bike lanes in an effort to create a better balance between the cars, bikers, skaters and pedestrians. Enlarging sidewalks reduces the number of parking spots and designated delivery spots and because people generally want to park their cars as close to their homes as possible, motorists are certain to be less than pleased.

Photo demonstration of the Greening of Paris

In my own neighborhood (at the time of this writing), rue Béranger is losing one side of its parking to make way for a wider sidewalk and trees will be planted every few feet along the way. I’ve been watching them lay the large rectangular stones, spotted by “holes” making way for the trees. What type of trees is impossible to guess.

My own street is designated to become one of the pedestrian-onlys from which I hope the value of my apartment will increase. It may follow suit, since the change in the direction of the traffic flow of rue de la Tombe-Issoire in the 14th, merchants claim to have lost 25% of their business, but apartments there and on neighboring rue Père-Corentin have increased in value 20%.,

To create more green environs, the reduction of space for cars means traffic patterns must change. Expect to encounter a disorientation of the drivers – be prepared for frequent horn-blowing and occasional fender-benders. After a few months, things should be back to normal.

Moreover, the committees are encouraging the populace to do its part wherever possible and to plant their balconies, terraces, roofs and windows. I did mine last spring when I filled the window boxes with red geraniums and started a flower “war” among my neighbors. Color sprung up everywhere!

Some fear that Paris risks becoming a tad too residential and will lose its diversity. But I don’t see how a little more green in our lives and a lot more oxygen in our lungs will lead to conformity. Do you?

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*** AVERAGE RENT IN PARIS

Particulier à Particulier reports 669 euro is the average rent the 4th semester of 2002 in Paris.

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*** FOR SALE: FPI HOT PROPERTIES OF THE WEEK

We are constantly looking at properties for sale to offer to our charter subscribers only. Each week we will be bringing you several properties we believe are especially worth your consideration. As a subscriber, you will have an exclusive first look at these before they are added to the listings on our website.

* RENOVATED INCOME-PRODUCING STUDIO IN THE MARAIS

This superb studio, of 25 square meters, has been decorated by an interior designer in a mix of French Provençal with Italian Florentin style furnishings and antiques, and is available for sale fully furnished, AND with short-term bookings already arranged through the rest of 2003… guaranteed income the day you buy it!

There are three windows providing lots of light overlooking a quiet, peaceful and romantic courtyard. The kitchenette has a fridge, 2 electric stove-top rings, microwave oven, coffee-maker and toaster. The main room is fitted with two large, high quality single beds that can be fitted together to make a super king size bed for two. There’s a TV and VCR, iron and ironing board, telephone and answering machine, and a stereo system. The bathroom, decorated with high-quality blue and green Italian mosaic tile, has a shower, a sink and WC, big mirrors and drawer space.

Located in the northern part of the Marais, an area where property values are continuing to climb faster than other parts of the city, the apartment is within walking distance of the amazing Place des Vosges built in the 16th century; Hôtel Carnavalet (the historical museum of Paris); the Picasso museum, Centre Pompidou, Les Halles shopping area, and Notre Dame de Paris. The neighborhood surrounding the apartment contains food stores, design shops, art galleries, tea-houses, cafés, bars and restaurants. There are three bakeries for your croissants, a cheese shop, three “boucheries” for your meats, and an open-air market just round the corner.

Price: 175,000 euro

* MOVE-IN-READY COUNTRY VILLA

In a village in the Haute-Garonne region, near the Spanish border, ski resorts and other leisure possibilities, this beautiful older villa comes with a garden and garage…a pleasant to live at a very good price! On the main floor you’ll find an entrance hall with beautiful stair, equipped kitchen, bathroom with WC, large well illuminated living room with fire-place. The upper floor has 3 rooms with fireplaces and a bathroom and WC. Services include telephone, electricity, and water. The villa is move-in-ready with and attic that can be converted to livable space, and a large cellar. Living space: 150m²; land surface: 600m²

Price: 130,000 euro

* SPECIAL ONE-BEDROOM APARTMENT IN A CASTLE

Apartment in a former chateau for sale in Lizy sur OurcqSunny one-bedroom located in a renovated CASTLE! With stunning views, this beautifully finished apartment is ready to move in. The corner apartment is situated on the first floor of an elegant castle from 1864. Respectably sized at 58 m2 (545 square feet), in addition to the bedroom it consists of a living room area, tiny state of the art kitchen, and bathroom. Accoutrements include use of Italian marble, 2 marble fireplaces, central heating, double glazing, and high ceilings with French ceiling ornaments. Included in the price is the use of the walled private estate, heated luxury swimming pool, tennis court, orchard, French kitchen garden, and safe parking. This Castle apartment is suitable for 1 or 2 persons. At present the option exists to purchase another room (to be renovated) on the same floor (not adjacent). Located in Lizy sur Ourcq 67 km East of Paris, close to the Champagne region and Euro Disney.

Price: $249,000

* RARE AND UNIQUE STONE BUILDING WITH 600 M2 GARDEN

This unique structure is a renovated Aveyron barn, which is very rare and very sought after. The inside of the building is in its original state. You don’t have to renovate anything, only create whatever you wish. There are 2 floors of 112m2 open space each, with electricity, water, telephone and new sewage connections. Structurally the building is in mint condition with new roof and doors. A swimming pool could easily be built in the garden. Views face south. Located 10km from Espalion in the Lot Valley—peace, beauty, space and sun.

Price: $98,000

The bridge crossing into Espalion

* TWO-BEDROOM IN THE MARAIS, PARIS

A delightful 2 bedroomed apartment, 70 m2, on the 3rd floor of an elegant town house of the Directoire period, built about 1860. The original interiors have been well conserved including attractive parquet flooring throughout, fireplace and intricate ceiling moldings. The apartment consists of: Entrance hall – with 3-point secure door lock. Bathroom – large corner oval bath and shower, 2 individual hand basins with fitted mirrored cupboards/lighting and wardrobe, lowered ceiling concealed spotlighting, fully tiled. WC – separate, hand basin, lowered ceiling concealed spotlighting. Living room – spacious 28 m2, well polished oak parquet flooring, 3 French windows, is very light and has practically uninterrupted views. Kitchen – spacious, well arranged and fully equipped, fully tiled floors, walls and work surfaces. Main bedroom – 15m2, with door to balcony overlooking courtyard to south, built-in closet. Bedroom 2 – 9.3m2 overlooking courtyard to south, all usual points, built-in closet. Wine cave – large vaulted space, about 16m2, in excellent dry condition.

Price: 460,000 euro

* TWO-BEDROOM IN THE 4TH ARRONDISSEMENT

Located on rue de la Verrerie in a primarily pedestrian area. The apartment is in a beautiful 17th century building for which renovations have already been voted with this expense paid by the seller. The apartment of 61.30m2 on the second floor, and is situated with rooms on the street and interior courtyard.

Price: 270,000 euro

Oldtime phot of rue de la Verrerie in Paris

Photo of rue de la Verrerie from days past

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*** FOR RENT: FPI’S BEST LISTINGS

==ADVERTISING-APARTMENT RENTAL==

Located in a renovated 18th-century building, near the Opera Bastille, only minutes to some of Paris’ most famous sites. The living room is furnished with a comfortable double sofa-sleeper, dining table, cable TV, VCR, high speed Internet access, and telephone. The kitchen includes fridge, cooking facilities, microwave, grill and oven in one, coffee-machine, and toaster. The Bedroom features roomy double bed and closet for your clothes. The bathroom has a big bathtub, sink and WC, washing machine and drawers for personal belongings. Offered at 960 euro per week.

==ADVERTISING-APARTMENT RENTAL==

Rent this entire charming apartment or share it with owner. As a guest, you’ll have your own bedroom and open access to the bath, living room and kitchen. The room comes completely equipped with 24hour/day Internet access, CD/Cassette player and cable TV. Rent the entire apartment and you’ll have two bedrooms with a double beds to sleep four. The apartment is located just 10 minutes from the heart of the Marais and Notre Dame. Guest Room offered at $575 per week ($250 deposit required). Entire Apartment is offered at $875 per week ($350 deposit required). References are mandatory.

Example interior of an apartment for rent in Paris

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A la prochaine…

Adrian LeedsAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

Sara Somers speaks at the Adrian Leeds Group October's Après-MidiP.S. Be sure to visit our website to read all about yesterday’s Après-Midi with Bill Diem and Sara Somers, author of Saving Sara!

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