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Flaming Liberals in France?

Several people sent me an article on “The Week” titled “Apartment hunting in Paris reminds me why I’m a conservative” by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry.

It cracked me up. Why? Because it struck home.

Even I can confess now of becoming a ‘flaming-liberal-turned-conservative’ thanks to the extreme socialist side of thinking that create laws that benefit NO ONE by trying to benefit SOME.

The funny thing is, however, that we have a “raison d’être” because it’s so difficult to find an apartment for rent.

Don’t get me wrong. There are benefits to both sides, as long as there is a balance, proven by the apartment-hunting dilemma…for tenants who are ‘protected’ by the laws in a way that hurts them more than helps. Let me explain.

Many of my once liberal-thinking friends, who were young adults in the 60’s and 70′, wearing blue jeans, protesting the Viet Nam war, smoking dope and professing free love, turned to the right when they got rich and wanted to protect their money. (It’s so much easier to be generous when you don’t have much to give.) It’s a natural course of capitalism.

In France, the bulk of the voters are either working for the State (civil servants) or in ‘cushy’ jobs that provide all the benefits (paid vacations, social security, etc.), so they have no money to protect, but their benefits are golden and need to be protected — it’s a natural course of socialism.

This is one of the reasons we in France have a Socialist at the head, and why “capitalism” is as scary a concept to the French as “socialism” is to an American. Neither side understands the plusses and minuses of the other or that the extremes of each do no one any good.

As I was wandering around the hilltop towns of the Luberon in Provence this past weekend, I was struck by the numbers of big, beautiful houses, known as “mas,” that the average French family can no longer afford to buy, much less maintain. Châteaux and manor houses for sale are a dime a dozen as the so called ‘aristocracy’ (the wealthier) have headed for the hills of countries where taxation is lower. These magnificent structures, built centuries ago by French aristocracy are sure to crumble away to nothing leaving no heritage behind for which the French can be proud…except of course, if some foreigner scarfs up a bargain with money earned outside of France…something that’s been happening for a while now.

I doubt this is what they want, but this is what they are getting. Their own citizens can no longer afford to enjoy the fruits of their own labor. We have an expression for this: “Cutting off the nose to spite the face.”

In the article, Gobry writes, “Why is apartment hunting in Paris such a chore? In a word: socialism.”

The funny thing is that thanks to this kind of socialism, we capitalists have work…helping people find apartments and get them happily ensconced in their new digs.

An American friend, who is a management consultant to firms that want to improve their performance and reduce their costs, was expounding last night on his good fortune. His primary work, booming at the moment, is restructuring a company to remove them as much as possible from France and French taxation. Sadly, the numbers of jobs and tax revenue loss in France is staggering and he claims he’ll be very busy for many years to come unless the French wake up and embrace a bit of fresh capitalistic ideas.

Another article came my way this week, in “Quartz” titled “Quelle Horreur: Why there’s no Silicon Seine: venture capital in France is broken” about one of France’s best start-ups — Dailymotion. According to the editor, Frédéric Filloux, “The incursion of politics in the destiny of a tech startup sends a terrible message to the VC [venture capital] community —- especially to non-French investors. If a startup becomes successful, it is likely to become a political issue in such a way that financial considerations become secondary, at everyone’s expense: employees, founders, and funders.
Such government-induced repellent is the last thing the French economy needs. When it comes to supporting innovation, France already has an image problem—unfair in parts.”

He’s right. “The country does not really like entrepreneurs.” We all feel it in a myriad of ways. The French are suspicious of entrepreneurship, startups, etc. and no one wants to hear about success stories. He’s also right that the tax system isn’t really worse than anywhere else and there are tax incentives for start-ups, but the overall perception is one of a high tax environment. The biggest problem entrepreneurs face are the “scores of complicated taxes and paperwork requirements” the tax audits and “super-rigid French labor code that imposes the same obligations on a 10-person company as are held by a big corporation.”

Filloux notes the size of the French venture capital ecosystem compared to the U.S.:

 

Meanwhile, simple folk like you and me can’t find a place to live (particularly in Paris) for much of the same reasons. The laws designed to protect the tenant make landlords reluctant to rent their properties — hence a big reason for the shortage of housing. A tenant must prove capability and willingness to pay the rent as it’s almost impossible to evict a bad tenant. This means one must have a lot of money with which to guarantee the rent.

In addition, the landlord is required to provide a property built to code and therefore the costs associated with refurbishment make it even less attractive, making a vacant property more profitable than an occupied one. In effect, “housing regulations hurt the very people they are intended to help.”

Long term rental apartments are so scarce that they fly out the door — a tenant can sign a lease within 24 hours of the property being advertised. Landlords prefer to minimally furnish an apartment so it can be offered with a one-year lease, rather than a three-year lease (unfurnished) to avoid eviction hassles, plus the rent is slightly higher for furnished properties.

Once a suitable apartment is found, the tenant must pounce on it, so his “dossier” should be prepared and ready to submit immediately for approval by the landlord. If you’re really lucky, the landlord will be a foreigner, as they are less suspicious of other foreigners and generally make reasonable landlords.

No wonder those originally on the left have moved to the right. And fortunately this presents an opportunity for us. If you wish to live in Paris for three months or more in an apartment at an average rent (approximately 35€ per square meter per month), you will not find that apartment or be able to secure it long distance without a whole lot of luck or someone knowledgeable to assist you and make it happen.

This is not an ad, but this is what we do. If you are considering a move to Paris or the Riviera, permanently or temporarily, and need a place to hang your hat, get conservative. Have fun perusing the real estate ads, but don’t expect to secure your place without someone’s help…ours or someone else’s.

A bientôt,

Adrian Leeds

Editor, French Property Insider

(in Provence)

Email: [email protected]

 

 



P.S. Let us help you find the perfect apartment for long term living. Visit our Long-term Apartment Rental page or contact us at [email protected] for more information.

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