Saturday, November 19, 2011



To renovate or not to renovate, that is the question I am often asked. Buying a place that needs work is the less-expensive option and usually allows you to gain more from your investment. It also lets you put your personal stamp on an apartment. However,  for many the thought of working on a renovation project in a foreign country is neither practical nor fun. 

In the past couple of years on the Côte d'Azur - in Nice and Cannes in particular - there has been a glut of renovated apartments on the market. Suddenly everyone thinks they can be a property developer. Most of these apartments, I have to say, are poor, and I tend to avoid them for my clients. Typically, they are small, done on the cheap and then priced far too high.  Eventually they sell - but usually considerably under the asking price (or if not, then to a foolish buyer). 

However, recently I have had to stifle my sniffy tendencies towards new fit-outs as I have seen some rather good examples. One in particular impressed me in Nice. The location was perfect on an upmarket shopping street close to the beach. Although the space was small - 30 sq metres - the developer had thought about the design (he works in the fashion world) and had used quality fittings. I have a real aversion to mezzanines, but this time even I had to admit it had been done exceptionally well. 

Price-wise, the difference between a renovated and an unrenovated apartment can be as much as double. Thus in Nice in a good neighbourhood, you will be looking at paying around €4,000 to €5,000 per square metre for place that needs work. This then shoots up to anywhere between €7,000 and €9,000 per sqm for a renovated apartment. What they ask for and what they get, of course, are often not the same. But a smart developer will know the market, know the clientele he is aiming for and make a handsome profit.

I usually still come down on the side of renovation when looking for clients on a tight budget - even if it means having to cost in the extra for hiring someone to supervise the work. But if your heart is set on a ready-to-rock rental investment apartment, then I am beginning to waver slightly after seeing my latest batch of viewings.