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Setting Sights on the Sea

It was a very enlightening three days while sampling Salades Niçoises and visiting about a dozen properties in Old Nice and along the Promenade des Anglais, including an abandoned 500 square-meter villa on the water and a multi-level “pied-à-terre” five flights up with no elevator (perhaps that would have been safer?), but spectacular views of all of Nice.

Joe Wallace, our Property Consultant based in Monaco, set up the full day of visits with several of Nice’s best agencies. The goal was to find properties that would make great short-term vacation rental apartments with a good return on investment, particularly designed to meet the needs of the American/Canadian/Australian/New Zealand travelers. The British are prominent visitors of Nice and environs and clearly have their own network and are culturally quite different from us — satisfied with quite different standards and rules.

I learned all too well how the rental agencies work in Nice while renting one of their apartments — what their approach to a “luxury rental” is: “give them as little as possible for the money.” The French-run agency which is one of the most prominent in Nice, spent more time arguing why we had only one towel a person for a three-day stay, and why the apartment was not equipped with a hair dryer or trash can, than trying to make our stay as pleasant as possible, except for the nice note I received upon my return — “We hope that we have satisfied your requirements in terms of the comfort and location of the apartment, as well as our effort to be as professional and accessible as possible during your stay.”

It was clear there is room for improvement on the Riviera. Even the agencies haven’t come across people who understand that when you ‘make a higher investment you can achieve a higher gain’ — such as doing the nece

ssary renovation, decoration and amenities improvements, which cost little in comparison to the increased revenue possibilities. No one’s ever even approached them before with this idea.

I chose Nice because while there are many fabulous spots along the Riviera in which to invest and enjoy, Nice, and particularly Old Nice, will have the least seasonality for strong year-round rentals…the key to a better “ROI.” Even the apartments along the Promenade des Anglais don’t personally thrill me. Sure, they have a perfect sea view, but most of them are in charmless industrial-type buildings with no character and the noise from the busy street below drowns out the sound of the waves. (I would be interested to know how many of you are willing to endure the din of the traffic in order to have a large terrace with a perfect view of the sea.)

At the end of a long day of walking up and down the coast, winding through the old streets, climbing stairs and getting stuck in elevators, we narrowed our choices down to three properties we felt would achieve our goals. They won’t last long. The good ones never do, but the agencies await our news that perhaps we’ll have a buyer for one or two or even all three.

#1. Heart of Old Nice one block from Cours Saleya. Asking price 225,000€ (but the agent believes the seller will take less than 200,000€). “Loi Carrez” (legal habitable space) 33m2, but surface space about 40m2 — because it’s on the top floor under the eaves (with elevator that works). It has six small windows, some with great views, some with views of the courtyard. The configuration of the apartment is entirely wrong, but not irreversible. With renovation and reconfiguration (about 70,000€), I believe this apartment could be a “cash cow” — meaning that it would stay rented with an occupancy rate of at least 60% and likely much higher. It’s not a place to live in for long periods of time, due to the lack of large windows and views, but for a week on the Côte d’Azur for up to four people…perfect.

#2. Eastern end of Old Nice one street in from the ocean. Asking price 350,000€ non-negotiable. Loi Carrez 52m2, but you’d swear it was much larger. The Art Deco building is currently under complete renovation, already voted and paid for by the seller. Being only one flight up (with elevator) on a quiet street, there are views of the ocean and Nice, but not totally unobstructed. It has no balcony, but the one main large window when open still affords the feeling of being ‘there’ and the apartment is loaded with 1920s charm. It is also reconfigurable to allow for a luxurious bathroom on an outdoor patio, or possibly a second bedroom, so that it could sleep four to six. Plan on a total renovation costing about 100,000€ to get it to the standard it deserves. This could have been my favorite apartment with its high ceilings, French doors and incorporated green spaces.

#3. Far eastern end of the Quai des Etats-Unis next to the Hôtel Suisse. Asking price 535,000€. Loi Carrez 60m2 for a studio apartment — the main room is more than 35m2. It’s on the 3rd floor with an elevator (great so that when the elevator isn’t working, walking up is a sinch). The views from the two large windows in the main room is THE BEST view of Nice possible and the location is superb. Everything in the apartment is brand new and beautifully done. The only reason this apartment didn’t sell long ago is that no one realized that the main room could be reconfigured to add a bedroom turning a studio into a one-bedroom with the possibility to sleep four (about 35,000€ to renovate and decorate).

Of the three apartments, #1 will be the easiest to rent (lower rental yields) and therefore will achieve the highest occupancy. #2 is the apartment to live in on a longer-term basis and #3 is likely the best for future appreciation, if not the best rental return on investment.

None of them fulfilled my own vision of Nice, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth owning. We are learning more all the time and acquiring the necessary contacts to make it happen for us…as well as for you. If you are interested in any one of these properties (they sell fast!), or would consider investing in other properties on the coast, write me!

Besides, this would give me another perfect excuse to head south to where the sun shines brightly most days of the year over the red tile roofs and I can order a Salade Niçoise at every meal.

Adrian LeedsAdrian Leeds
(stuck in the elevator)
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. If you have any interest in purchasing a “pied-à-terre” in Nice or environs that you can enjoy yourself while renting it out to visitors when you’re not there, taking advantage of the revenues and the sure-to-appreciate investment…all while knowing someone you trust can manage it…Click here to send me an email: [email protected]

P.P.S. If you are an American/Canadian/Australian or New Zealander living in Nice or environs looking for ways of earning a few ‘shekels’ by spending some time in the field of ‘hospitality,’ please email us at [email protected]

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