“Find It, Buy It, Renovate It!”
I have friends, living in London, who decided to buy a
Paris apartment after spending a summer here in a rental.
After several weeks of looking, an agent showed them an
apartment that he had just taken on. A good location, a
good price, and best of all… totally renovated and
beautifully so, they bought it.
It was a lucky find. You will rarely come across a property
you want to buy that does not need work. This week we take
a look at the renovation side of buying an apartment in
Paris with the help of interior architect, Derek Bush…
There are two points at which Interior Architects are asked
by clients to get involved in projects, before and after
buying the property.
* BEFORE BUYING
Banks and other financial institutions do not need a
professional report before a property is purchased and upon
which funds are lent. You buy what you see and in the
condition in which it is. The problems you may discover
would have to be substantial before a court of law might
make an award in your favor.
Preparing a check list of things to look out for is a good
idea for evaluating apartments and other properties. The
check list should include the structural condition,
services such as plumbing and heating, electricity and the
extent of re-decoration works.
If there isn’t a bathroom, or you know you want to put in
more bathrooms or put them elsewhere, it is important to
make sure that common services for waste water are
available near where they will be required. If heating is
electric, it will be advisable to make sure windows and
walls are reasonably insulated to avoid heat loss…
electricity is expensive here.
If heating is common to the building (not individually
controlled), then be aware that if you wish to remove or
reposition radiators, this will probably have to be done
when the heating is off (May to September). Make sure
electrical plugs are grounded. If not wiring will almost
certainly need re-doing.
* AFTER BUYING
Once you have the keys to your flat (the Queen’s English
for apartment, often used here), an architect can be hired
to survey the property, provide ideas on how the space can
be improved, and produce plans. They evolve and develop the
project and explore administrative, technical and
decoration issues in order for the project to be contracted
They can help you with formalities such as obtaining
permission from the Syndic (the building managers) for any
structural work or work that affects common parts of the
building. Planning permission (rarely needed in apartments)
for change of use (if the apartment was used for other
purposes than residential previously), any modifications to
the exterior aspect (this could be changing windows) and
finally any increase in space (this might involve creating
a construction within a courtyard or roof terrace) can also
be obtained by your architect.
You also need to think about insurance. Special Owner’s
insurance is required when structural building works are
carried out in larger projects, where the structural
integrity of the building may be affected. In these cases
you will need "Maître d’Ouvrage Assurance."
An apartment owner needs to take out standard owner’s
insurance. All contractors used must have insurance. They
are required to have civil responsibility insurance and two
and ten years insurance for their work. Any works that
concern the structure of the building are guaranteed for
ten years and other works are guaranteed for two years.
If you use an architect, he will prepare contractor
consultation documents (plans, specifications and any other
details that define the scope of work). Work is estimated
and work packages contracted out. Work on site is
controlled by regular meetings. Minutes for meetings are
prepared and costs and payments controlled. Work is handed
over upon completion and controlled in order to ensure
conformity of work, adherence to specification and correct
quality of finished work.
You are not obliged to use an architect and general
contractors, separate tradesmen can be used directly.
Clarification of the scope of work, agreement on the
quality to be achieved, and the duration of work need to be
agreed prior to starting any project. Inspection and
supervision of works should be organized and agreed on.
Value added tax (VAT) has been reduced to 5.5% for
residential work. It is ill advised to use non-declared
workmen. Foreign labor can be found for very low costs and
there are a number of contractors who specialize in the
renovation of apartments. It is important to check on their
insurance policies and pay them with bona fide bills. A
contractor must prove that he is paying social security
holiday stamps, and that all of his workmen are
legally allowed to work here. Under French law, you, the
client, are considered responsible for the compliance wit
regulations and the status of workmen on site.
You should have a clear agreement about payments with the
contractor to insure a good working relationship.
Contractors are concerned that the client will pay for the
work done. Clients are concerned that the contractor may
not finish his work, will do it late, or that it will not
be done well. An agreement to make periodic payments for
work done, can often keep everyone happy. You are also
allowed to retain 5% of the overall contract payment for a
period of 12 months to insure work is done properly.
It is important to think about maintenance work on all
items. Make sure that services contractors supply drawings
showing installations, circuits and equipment used.
Guarantee and after sales service documentation should also
be supplied. All contractors should supply advice on the
maintenance of services installed.
Finally, it is useful to think about added value in an
apartment. If you decide to spend money on improving an
apartment make sure that the work you do improves its
value. For example, adding air conditioning may add up to
10% to the value of your apartment. Your architect can
advise you on things that will help increase the value.
Editor’s Note: Born in London, Derek Bush came to France
in 1976 and started his own interior architecture practice
in 1988. His Paris firm, DSB, specializes in offices,
restaurants, retail, and private residential, providing
full service (surveys and pre-purchase advice, advice on
improvement works, cost of works estimates, preparation of
projects, tender and consultation documents and management
of work) as well as working in conjunction with other
teams. Derek will be discussing home renovation at our
upcoming Working and Living in France Conference this
weekend. For more information on DSB, send an email to:
Editor, Paris Property Insider
E-mail: mailto:[email protected]
*** SPECIAL CONFERENCE VIDEO AVAILABLE
If you can’t attend our Working and Living in France
Conference here in Paris October 18 – 21, you haven’t
TOTALLY missed out. Both a two-hour events souvenir video
and a ten-hour multi-tape set of the entire conference will
be available from International Living and Prime Cut
Productions in both U.S. format (NTSC) and European format
See and hear for yourself the important real estate
information provided by the professionals speaking at the
Conference, as well as the how to’s of creating your own
TO ORDER YOUR VIDEOS, you may go directly to our online
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Come to the next Working and Living in
France Conference in Paris scheduled for June 2003. To be
placed on a special mailing list for the conference, please
send an email to:
*** JUST IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Renovations recently complete on this large studio that can
accommodate up to 3 people. Located in one of the most
charming Marais neighborhoods, it has been completely
redone in a medieval style, yet with all the modern comfort
you expect : extra large shower for 2 with hydrojets, TV,
DVD stereo, dishwasher , washer/dryer, big fridge,
fireplace, brightness and pure silence… facing the
landscaped courtyard. (pictures available soon)
Available from December 14 and offered at $900 per week.
For more details and availability, e-mail:
*** CHARMING CHALET OVERLOOKING THE SEINE
Only a half hour from Paris, this 60 square-meter chalet is
located on a small hill, overlooking a garden, trees and
the Seine in Herblay. It boasts a large fully equipped
kitchen which opens directly on the dining-room, furnished
with rustique furniture, large windows, one bedroom and
another small bedroom which can be used as an office, plus
a bathroom, toilets and wardrobe. It has also a large
terrace on which you can have lunch on the sunny days.
Offered at 1,200 euro per month or 1,100 euro per month for
a minimum stay of three months.
Pictures and additional details available at:
FOR OUR FULL LIST OF SHORT-TERM APARTMENT RENTALS,
AVAILABLE YEAR-ROUND, CLICK HERE:
*** RUE VAVIN CHIC
Located just a few minute walk from St. Germain des Pres,
Montparnasse, Saint Sulpice and the French University
Assas, this apartment is ideally located for many of the
left bank attractions. Facing the courtyard, this fifth
floor apartment (with elevator) is bright, sunny and very
quiet. The apartment has recently been redone and is
Pictures and additional details available at:
FOR OUR FULL LIST OF UPSCALE PARIS APARTMENTS, CLICK HERE:
*** YOU’LL FIND OUR LIST OF PRIVATE HOMES AVAILABLE TO RENT
*** FINDING YOUR OWN PIED-A-TERRE…
…or other property in Paris and France. Many people don’t
have the time nor the resources to look for their own piece
of France, especially if they’re located in the States or
other foreign country. Our office offers you assistance to
do the things you can’t do unless you are here. We have a
specific service to help you find your property. Using our
personally selected professional locators and real estate
agents, we work with you to find the property that is worth
coming to France to look at. Or if you are already here,
all the better. After getting a basic idea of what you are
looking for, we will spend the next month searching for
just that. You’ll receive weekly reports with suggested
possibilities and pictures that will help to further narrow
down what you want.
The fee for this service is $500. Should we find the right
apartment for you, there will be a finder’s fee of 2% on
the price of the property if you make the purchase, with a
minimum of $5000, maximum of $20,000 (the initial $500 will
be applied against the finder’s fee).
For more details and answers to your questions contact: