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Pretty Properties and Valuable Views

Re-entry is a culture shock. One minute I’m ogling the Christmas windows at Macy’s at Herald Square and strolling up Fifth Avenue and the next minute (or so it seems), I’m winding my way through the hordes of shoppers at the annual Christmas “Brocante” (rummage sale) on rue de Bretagne. A holiday in New York City almost seems like a dream, except for the photos as proof of the week-long event-filled stay.

As for most of you Americans who celebrated Turkey day, an extended family of friends of my daughter’s cooked up
a 20-pound organic bird along with enough stuffing, sweet potatoes, fresh-made cranberry sauce, vegetables, pumpkin pie and another dozen or so dishes to sink a battleship and our bloated bellies. It was an all-day affair from the 37th floor overlooking Central Park. Sadly, we arrived too late to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the windows. Our loss — as it was an unseasonable stunningly warm sunny day in Manhattan — perfect weather for the massive helium balloon characters.

Yes, we did make an offer on an apartment in the West Village, but it’s doubtful we’ll be chosen as the prime buyers with other offers on the table that require no Co-op Board approval nor financing. It was inside information that the apartment was for sale thanks to a friend who lives in the building, a few weeks before it will be listed with an agent, if it ever gets that far in the process. Property in this Manhattan district is as hot as a pied-à-terre in Le Marais, so anything worth buying is being fought over.

It’s a converted studio/one-bedroom on the 14th floor of a relatively modern brick doorman building with not a drop of renovation to do and a ‘million dollar view’ of lower Manhattan, which at one time included the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Prices in the West Village are comparable to Le Marais, at about $1000 per square foot compared to about 9000€ per square meter, not taking the rate of exchange into account. (1 square foot = 0.09290304 square meters.)

In France, when a potential buyer offers asking price, the seller is MORALLY obligated to accept the offer. Not so in the land of free enterprise. Bidding wars are common. If you’re the seller, you win. If you’re the buyer, there are no rules and are more likely to lose.

We have a client at this very moment that made an offer of asking price on an apartment in the historic and magnificent Place des Vosges at the very same moment that another potential buyer did the same. The battle between the agents and the two prospective buyers ensued. “Which had viewed the apartment first?” we queried. It was touch and go, but last word was that our client had won the ‘Mexican Standoff.’

Over dinner Friday night with an old friend from Los Angeles who frequents Paris and now lives on the 31st floor with expansive views of Times Square and midtown, we learned about “Air Rights.” Foreign in concept to France, the scheme was developed in the 1980s to transfer the air rights of one building to another as an alternative for investors to replace “undersized” buildings with taller, larger capacity and more profitable buildings. The idea is to transfer unbuilt volume to an adjacent plot of land, enabling the construction of a taller building. Trump Tower used the air rights of the nearby Tiffany & Co.

Air rights are fetching up to 80% of land values these days! The value of air rights is measured on behalf of the seller by the use of comparable sales, but also by how much extra value is generated by the air rights. Air rights allow developers to build taller by buying the space over low-scale buildings and transferring it, at least on paper, if not in reality, to spaces over adjacent buildings. Although such transfers do occur in other cities, the prices do not run as high as they do in Manhattan, which often provides developers with one option: up.

Just last week, the debate over building heights in Paris was re-ignited when Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanöe presented plans for several skyscrapers (within the city limits and within sight of the city’s center), breaching a bylaw he himself introduced last year setting a maximum inner-city height limit of 37 meters. Parisians traumatized by ‘ugly’ Tour Montparnasse are averse to the same mistake being made, but M. Delanoë argues that the “architectural ambition is clearly not all about height, but to forbid it is to bridle creativity I want us to be able to make exceptions [to the 37 meter rule] on precise sites,” as he told Le Figaro. And President Nicolas Sarkozy said, in a congress of mayors on Tuesday, that “There shouldn’t be any if they’re ugly. If they’re beautiful there should. It’s not an ideological question.”

A la prochaine…  

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

 

P.S. Don’t forget that this Saturday, December 1st, James Navé is here with a creative writing workshop that crackles with passion, fun and spontaneity…WRITING FROM THE IMAGINATIVE STORM WORKSHOP! 3 hours (3 to 6 p.m.), 30 euros at the door (La Pierre du Marais). Visit /frenchproperty/conference/ for details and to reserve your place, email [email protected]

P.P.S. Don’t delay, if you book your stay with Parler Paris Apartments by this Friday, November 30th, get 10% off any apartment rental in December! (Four night minimum, subject to availability). Scroll down for more information or visit /parlerparis/apartments for availabilities. Email [email protected] to reserve your stay.

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