Friday, June 11, 2010

Spring property investment in Nice and on the Riviera

Spring and early summer is traditionally the time for visitors and buyers to arrive on the Cote d'Azur. The property market is picking up considerably from my persepctive as a buyer's agent. My property-savvy clients realise there is investment buying, and then there is smart investment buying, and that means using someone with local knowledge and contacts who is not an estate agent. I live here and know the market. This means I have a handle on the areas that are prime location (and up and coming) and which properties will reap the best returns. In addition, I know which agents will take the initiative and work hard to seal a deal with their clients (and their client is the seller, not the buyer, remember) rather than lose a deal by sticking to an unrealistic price thinking they can squeeze more from a foreign buyer.

Writing in The Telegraph in February this year, Zoe Dare Hall reports that the Côte d'Azur, and Nice in particular, is one of France's 'Hot Spots', with buyers returning to the market again. Dare Hall writes that: "Property prices on the coast fell by about 15 per cent last year, but St Tropez remains the most robust of resorts, with planning laws banning building within 300 metres of the sea constraining supply. The investment-minded head to Nice, where sales to English buyers so far this year have included a £450,000 studio flat on the Promenade des Anglais, purely for high-end corporate lets and a small holiday flat in the Musicians Quarter for £225,000, reports Kirkor Ajderhanyan from Agency 107 Promenade."

The Côte d'Azur is not a bargain region, so making a mistake when investing in property here is an expensive one people can't afford. The current flurry of interest will mean buyers being shown a range of properties from bad to good opportunities by agents who traditionally don't try very hard. An essential part of my job is to remove this random element and guide clients to the best options, saving them costly mistakes.

Nice and the Côte d'Azur is always a sound investment area, but taking away the gamble should be a buyer's prime objective in an unfamiliar market. And that is what a buyer's agent does.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Daily bread

Spring. It's been a hectic few weeks with clients arriving, viewing, and needing everything to be sorted for them now or yesterday (which is never easy in the south when everybody else thinks it can be done 'demain'). But that is what I'm here for and my clients rely on me to work through the bureaucracy and all too frequent 'it can wait' attitude of agents, notaires, utility companies, and such.
My Nice clients always ask the same question. 'Where should I buy?' So, I have decided to start an occasional series, handing over a guest-spot to people who live here which will give a flavour of Nice and the different quartiers and life. Nice is small but it has distinct neighbourhoods. My step-father and mother live in a downtown area of Nice called Les Baumettes. It's a bit of a secret hideaway and only 5 minutes from the Promenade des Anglais. It's worth visiting the Musee des Beaux Arts there which is housed in a grand mansion built originally for Russian royalty. The area has beautiful Belle Epoque villas which are now mainly apartments. Prices are dear, but the advantage is having the city (and beach) on your doorstep and also a bit of peace and quiet around you.

But over to George and his dilemma ...

The Problems of Living in Nice

We live in les Baumettes – about a kilometre from the centre of Nice on the Western side. My problem – too much choice …. of bread.

Within 400 metres there are four boulangeries, each one with its own specialities and between the two of us we can’t eat it all [but you try - Ed!]. My favourite for the last year or so has been Gosset at the beginning of Rue de France. Their baguette “tradition” is unbeatable – made with a sour dough, crisp and addictively tasty. They also do a mean line in pain au chocolat – no not the petit pain (pastry with a piece of chocolate baked inside) but a bread that is more like chocolate cake.

Round the corner in Rue St Philippe is Au Bon Pain. Their bread is not much to my taste but on Wednesdays and Saturdays they produce their gougères – choux pastry flavoured with cheese. I’m there without fail Wednesday and Saturday.

Then on Saturday when Gosset has their weekly day off I go to Fragole on Rue Dante. Their Pain Pio comes in a huge loaf of which I buy a tranche. Sough dough wholemeal, light and moist and dangerously delicious.

But now I have a real problem. A boulangerie in Rue de France which has been shut for a year has reopened. On the 16 May it was the fete de St Honoré – the patron saint of boulangers - and to celebrate they threw open their kitchen to the public from 5.30 am onwards and offered free samples of their wares. I went with my 8 year old grand-daughter. She declared the petit pain au chocolat the best she has ever tasted. I vote their croissants as good as any I have eaten in Paris. And their boulanger (who gave up his profession as avocat (lawyer) to follow his true love) produces 15 different varieties of bread. On the way home we discussed whether I can betray my other favourites.

Before we got home we dropped into the market at Rue Buffa to buy a pomegranate. There we stopped for a coffee and fruit juice in the market’s café. Though I am a non-smoker I was delighted once again to smell the smoke of cigarettes. The sign on the wall says “Il est interdit de fumer” and someone has added “du mauvais tabac.” (Smoking is forbidden (of bad tobacco)). So the French revolutionary spirit is reasserting itself.