Last year we were lucky enough to be asked by a client to assist him with the purchase of an apartment in Paris. He had found himself overwhelmed by work and needed help to fulfil this lifetime ambition; owning, as he put it, ‘his own little piece of the Parisian sky’.
As a jumping off point, we put him in contact with Barbara Heslop at Heslop & Platt, a law firm specialising in French law. The team there was able to talk our client through the legal process and advise of any potential pitfalls. I would say speaking to a lawyer to find out the lay of the land is essential before embarking on this kind of project, principally to find out the differences between buying in France vs UK, so that there are no surprises further down the track. Some differences are outlined here.
Our client had made an initial search of properties on Se Loger and asked us to create a shortlist based on phone calls to the various agents to arrange appointments for viewings for us to make on his behalf. This was tricky. As it was in the middle of August, most of Paris had shut down for the summer holidays (Les Grandes Vacances).
It was difficult to get hold of people and often the apartments were already under offer even though there was never any indication of this on the websites. We had to stick with this schedule as our client wanted to try and secure a property before 31st October 2019 which was at the time, the Brexit deadline. A lesson from this…do not attempt to buy property in France in August!
In the end though, everything turned out just fine. We were able to secure an appointment with the contact for the apartment that our client had set his heart on and set off on Eurostar for an initial viewing. Luckily, on the basis of photos, videos and reports that we sent back and after arranging a viewing for the client, an offer was put in, accepted and the purchase was able to continue full steam ahead.
If possible, it would be a very good idea to use a company such as 56Paris to help buy an apartment in Paris. They are super helpful and know everything there is to know about buying property in France. A key learning for us was that you definitely need somebody ‘sur place’ to be able to get the viewings in the diary and to be able to act quickly if these fall through and to make new appointments on the spot. They can also rule out any obviously unsuitable properties immediately thus saving time. Unfortunately, our client’s apartment was slightly under 56 Paris’ minimum price threshold, otherwise we would certainly have engaged them to draw up a shortlist of viewings for us to attend.
One aspect of making substantial purchases overseas that can very often be overlooked is the possibility of exchange rate losses. We were able to help mitigate any such losses by using the experts at Smart Currency Exchange to help our client for which he was very grateful.
Key dos and don’ts for buying an apartment in Paris:
- Don’t attempt to do this in August!
- Do hire a personal concierge for all round liaison and short-list viewings
- Do engage a law firm specialising in conveyancing in France
- Do engage a company such as 56Paris to help navigate the Paris property market
- Do look into using an foreign exchange company to help mitigate losses or maximise gains
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