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Paris Lives in New York City

Erica and I spent all of Sunday afternoon looking at New York studio and one-bedroom apartments from Chelsea to Union Square to the Village. Like many parents, it seems a reasonable concept to help purchase an apartment for your ‘child’ who is young, struggling and in need of a place to live. We, as parents, provide the down payment and the ‘child’ pays the rent or mortgage, as they would to a landlord. Everyone wins as there is the usage of the property plus the investment potential. We’ve had lots of clients in Paris doing the same, to much success.

It was a role-reversal for me — being led on property visits by a real estate agent, meeting with a lender, speaking with an attorney, narrowing down the list of criteria, and doing all the due diligence one of our own property clients would do searching out a great pied-à-terre in Paris.

The search is equally as challenging, unless one has ‘beaucoup bucks’ to spend on a perfect apartment. Like in Paris, there isn’t one. At any price, everything is a trade-off. Agent Klara Madlin (http://www.klaramadlin.com/index.asp) and her assistant, Mary Ann, has been educating me on the ins and outs of New York real estate and the co-op system which is not too dissimilar from our own “copropriété.” One major exception is that the board has a lot more control than the association of a Paris building. One story they told was about a potential new owner’s dog going through the interview process to be accepted into the building! I joked that in France, the dogs would be gladly accepted, but likely the children would not! (Yes, this IS a joke, but one that can have a lot of truth in it.)

The apartment we liked best was a loft-like open space in a triangular shape in a gorgeous pre-war building on 11th Street near Union Square with a view on Broadway. The apartment was one flight up just above street level (here that’s 2nd floor and in France, 1st floor) and the main window was one large panel, but lower than our own physical heights, giving one the impression we were inside a fish bowl and everyone was watching us from the street.

If it weren’t for that, we would have grabbed the fab space. The one redeeming feature of what was virtually like living directly on the sidewalk of Broadway, is that the view was of the “Place des Vosges,” a reminder of home, but it wasn’t of my favorite park in Paris, but an antique dealer with the same name (http://www.placedesvosges.us/). We laughed at the coincidence.

Learning about U.S. mortgages was a fascinating switch from the appeal of variable-rate loans in France vs fixed-rate loans Stateside. I met with Countrywide Financial (http://my.countrywide.com/) thanks to our GE MoneyBank contacts in France (https://www.gemoneybank.fr/ge-money-bank.do) who have friends there. The pros of working with the U.S. lender is that the mortgages I hold in France don’t show up on a U.S. credit report. The downside is that interest rates are a bit higher than in France…about 6.25% compared with about 5.75%, depending of course on the type of loan. Believe it or not, there is a possibility that a French lender with which we work closely will be able to finance the New York property based on an equity release from our Paris property, saving again, ‘beaucoup bucks.’

With no perfect New York pied-à-terre for which we could get excited, we will continue the search on a long distance basis, just as many of our own clients would do. The learning experience from the other side of the oceanic fence has been enlightening. I understand a little more fully what it’s like to be on the receiving, or not receiving end, of the property quest.

Meanwhile, New York is New York, and no matter how many businesses have French names trying to look ‘chic,’ New York isn’t Paris. From our table at “Modern,” a “fine dining restaurant located at the Museum of Modern Art featuring the original French-American cuisine of Alsatian-born Chef Gabriel Kreuther, with desserts by Marc Aumont,” the stunning dining room overlooks the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden of the Museum of Modern Art surrounded by typical mid-town apartment blocks. One in particular is pretty ugly, constructed of red brick, with box-like air conditioners suspended from the windows (outlawed in France) and not a single flower box or stone detail to make it more friendly or charming. Another, however, has a series of round carved windows at the top, resembling many buildings in Paris along the Seine, and acting as a much more pleasant backdrop to the sculpture garden. Oh, how I wish more of New York could take example of it. The meal was excellent and the decor, yes… sophisticated and stunning, but it was tough not to think of Paris even from this very New York setting. (http://www.themodernnyc.com/modern/modern.html)

The exterior of the Guggenheim Museum is undergoing a face lift, but that didn’t stop us from ogling the permanent collection of French impressionist works including an 1867 landscape by Camille Pissarro and having recently added almost 100 works from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection from Venice. Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiral design is America’s contemporary architecture at its best, so I never get dizzy from circling up to the glass-domed ceiling and then down again, while enjoying the temporary and permanent collections. (http://www.guggenheim.org/)

From the serenity of the white walled gallery, we had no time to spare to hop a taxi and take our seats at “Young Frankenstein,” Mel Brooks’ musical based on his film from 1974 — my favorite of all his nutty comedies. Luckily, it was one of eight Broadway plays NOT on the stagehands’ strike! A full house laughed until they cried and applauded Mel and his brilliant troupe who clearly loved every minute of being on stage performing some of history’s silliest lines, such as Igor’s “Walk this way” or “What hump? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” (http://www.youngfrankensteinthemusical.com)

Tomorrow we’ll all be talking turkey, along with all the friends I left behind in Paris who will be cooking up their French birds (the tastiest you’ve ever eaten) for their own Thankgsiving feasts. We’ll be downing stuffing and sweet potatoes from the top of a West Side apartment with a view on Central Park. Not too shabby. And on Sunday, I’ll be back in the City of Light where I belong.

A la prochaine…and a happy Turkey Day to all.

A la prochaine…  

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

 

P.S. Discover everything you need to know about purchasing Paris real estate or buying French property at the Living and Investing in France Real Estate Conference, February 16-17, 2008 at the Alliance Française in Miami. For all the details and to register, visit: /frenchproperty/conference/ or email Schuyler Hoffman at [email protected]

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