Beating the Decline of the American Dollar
Over a scrumptious lunch at Café Guitry, we learned how to beat what seems like the decline of the American Empire…the weakening dollar.
The elegantly decorated restaurant in red velours, adorned in photos of French celebrities, is situated in the lower level of the Théâtre Edouard VII, named in honor of Sacha Guitry, the French film actor, director, screenwriter and playwright. John Rule, our staff Mortgage and Rental Manager, and I were the guests of Mary Fort and Stéphane Denner, the two people who were responsible for my personal good fortune to not only own a family apartment in Paris, but a rental studio apartment called “Le Provençal” and a “Viager” (life annuity) apartment with a terrace overlooking rue de Saintonge that closed on the title deed just a few weeks ago.
In the time I’ve know them both, Mary moved up the ladder as the Director of the International Department of Banque Patrimoine et Immobilier (BPI) as well as did Stéphane, Expatriate and Non-Resident Service Manager, a short time after our first encounter in 2000. The lender was known as “Woolwich” then, one of the very few British banks offering loans to non-residents. It was a relief at the time that they were willing to take the risk to lend me money to buy the apartment, while their competitor, “Abbey National,” refused me. They’ve taken a special place in my heart ever since.
Over the years, many other lenders have discovered the non-resident market and competition has gotten fierce. It drives the resourceful ones to becoming ever more creative in their approach to the ever burgeoning and changing foreign buyers market. We’re working with five other lenders (much to their chagrin), but the competition is healthy.
This year is a bigger challenge than ever as Paris property has steadily increased in value and the euro has gained so much strength against the dollar. Those who have dreamed of owning a “pied-à-terre” in Paris have seen their dreams wan as the stretch to make it a reality len
gthens like an old piece of chewing gum.
Lots of new loan products have been added to the line-up since coming in contact with that first application for a mortgage in France, which was a standard variable rate with a static monthly payment and a term that lengthens and shortens with the disparity. Now there are every sort of configuration of fixed rate, variable rate, interest only and combinations of the above to choose from. Yes, they’ve come a long way, baby.
But, what Mary and Stéphane had to reveal, beat them all. It’s the answer to the big question: “How to invest in a real asset in the strengthening euro without losing dollars due to the rate of exchange?”
Normally 20% is required as a down payment and normally, this is the amount of money that must suffer the transfer from dollars to euros. The rest is provided by the lender (80% loan to value), with the exception of the Notaire fees (closing costs), about 7% to 7.5%. So, in a normal situation, about 30% of the purchase price of the property must be transferred in to euros. If you use a currency broker, such as HiFX, you can save quite a lot on the transfer, but still, you’re at the mercy of the rate of exchange. (See /frenchproperty/loanmoneycorpconvertor.html for information on HiFX.)
In this new scenario, 20% is held in an interest bearing bank account — not an account in euros, but an account in dollars! That means that there is no exchange to be made and nothing is lost. As they say in French, “en plus,” a loan of 100% (!) is offered…utilizing any of the various kinds of loan products BPI makes available.
Sounds unbelievable? Maybe, but it gets even better. As long as 20% of the outstanding capital is held in the interest bearing account, the mortgage can be repaid without penalty using the funds from that very same interest bearing account! So, your principal keeps reducing while your money just keeps growing.
Of course, your monthly mortgage payments will be in euros, but if what you own is a rental apartment designed to self-finance the property through its euro-value rental revenues, then there is not a “centime” to lose, but everything to gain. If you work with HiFX to set up their “Regular Payments Abroad” program, then you save when you transfer money to make the payments, too.
This is exciting news for all those who think their dream has vanished into thin air due to circumstances beyond their control. Now there is a way to beat the fall of the American dollar and have your dream to live and invest in France, too.
Editor’s Note: Stéphane Denner will be joining us at the Living and Investing in France Real Estate Conference February 16-17, 2008 in Miami Florida. Stay tuned for details on how to register coming soon. And meanwhile, for more information about the new mortgage program, contact Stéphane Denner and/or John Rule by clicking here [email protected] or visit /frenchproperty/loan and be sure to tell them Adrian sent you.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
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