In preparation for our recent move to Paris, my husband Harry and I had a plan.
Because we were already visiting the City of Light for work, or passing through on the way to other destinations, we decided to stop by as frequently as possible—even if it was just overnight.
Half of this strategy was to bring over extra suitcases (stuffed with not-often-needed mementos, books, winter clothing, and other things we didn’t think we’d miss for a few months) and store them here until we could join them.
The other half was to house hunt.
We hope to make our first home purchase in the next few years, but, for now, we’re still renters.
In Paris, though, the rental process is so arduous… the commitment so great… that a long-term lease feels closer to buying than anything I’ve experienced before.
To be honest, anywhere else I’d lived, I’d never put much thought into comparing locations or buildings. If the price was right and they allowed pets, I pounced.
Here in Paris, where we’d like to stick around long-term, I knew it was time for a more scientific approach.
We spent weeks ahead of any trip scouring Airbnb, and we’d book one apartment for three days at the most. A two-week trip could have us in five different units. We wanted to see and experience as much real estate in Paris as we could before it came time to commit.
This method wasn’t convenient or enjoyable. It’s no fun to move apartments three times on a 10-day vacation. When here for work, our location-switching meant commutes changed every couple of days—a new hurdle to contend with twice a week.
But it paid dividends.
We discovered problems in some places that we’d never have thought to look for before. Bath drains that sound like a jackhammer when the tub is emptied, anyone?…
We now know that we want an apartment on a street as opposed to an interior courtyard. And it has to be a quiet street. The ground and first floors are fine in winter, but in summer with windows open (no air conditioning here), it gets loud…
Floor-to-ceiling windows are great in summer, but make a home impossible to heat in winter…
With our commute practice, we got to know all the major routes that would get us to work on time… and where we had to draw the line…
A 15-minute walk to the train, two metro switches, and a bus at the end?
One train switch per commute is our limit, we decreed. (This in itself was a breakthrough for me. Up until then, I’d been stubbornly sticking to a direct line.)
Although we’re still far from buying, we now have a better idea of what we want to look for in our first home than we ever could have before. And, as first-time buyers in probably the most bureaucratic country in the world, it feels like a good place to be.
While on the prowl, I took a leaf from property maven Lee Harrison’s book. Lee is famous for his spreadsheets (you’ll know this if you’ve sat through any of his talks at our events). Ask him any question and he’s likely to pull out an Excel sheet to help answer it. He lists every number, every variable, every comment and question, every bit of minutiae he can collect on a place… and it all goes into the report. He does this for every property he visits in a market. And when he’s done, he can easily compare each against the next.
We make fun of Lee’s cerebral approach to investment at conferences. In fact, this is one of the fundamental issues in property buying: whether to be led by the heart or the head.
For pure investment, it’s all about the numbers.
But if you’re buying for lifestyle, your heart has to come into the equation.
Either way, Lee’s spreadsheet strategy is a useful one.
My spreadsheet was probably less number-based than Lee’s. It included things like “storage space,” “good things,” and “bad things.” I made comments like “Harry doesn’t like the furniture,” “worst kind of washing machine invented,” or “dingy bathroom.”
Sure, these notes weren’t going to make the cut for a true investment guru, but they helped me remember what was most important to me about each place. Trust me, after seeing a dozen properties, you’ll muddle them all. You need to keep some kind of record.
Harry and I got lucky this year. We managed to get the apartment we liked far better than all the others we had seen. And when it comes time to move again—likely next year—I’ll have a handy list of going prices in various neighborhoods and the kinds of spaces I can expect in them.
All this legwork is laborious, of course. But it’s the best way to get to know a single market.
In a way, we had it easy. We knew we wanted to settle in Paris…
But what about you? If the whole world is your market, how do you decide where you’re going to buy?
Whether you’re looking to buy a home for your own personal use overseas… make an investment… or something in the middle… the experts at this year’s Global Property Summit, June 24–26, in Panama City can help.
This is overseas real estate investment broken down in the most practical (and fun) way… and given from a number of sides. Because there are so many ways to build a global property portfolio, it’s important that we share different perspectives.
Lief Simon and Lee Harrison will both be in the house… along with our wider team of international property experts… all to share their own views… and to tell you about the best current opportunities (for short-, medium-, and long-term investments) from their own regions.
VIP seats for this 2019 Global Property Summit sold out weeks ago… but, this last week, we opened up just 10 more VIP Packages as a special offer to Live and Invest Overseas Confidential readers only…
Already, a handful of these packages have been snapped up. But, today at least, there’s still time to join us as a VIP and get access to:
- Private Discussion Session with Lief Simon. Lief started property investing with just US$5,000… 20+ years later, he’s been able to turn that into a multimillion-dollar portfolio. He’ll discuss not only how you might do the same, but also how you could do it better and quicker. That is to say, we’re going to discuss his biggest failures—and how you can avoid them—in an intimate and interactive sit-down session…
- Reserved VIP Front-Row Seating… get the first-class treatment with exclusive, front-and-center seating in the event room…
- Private Consultations with our experts, available to you on a priority basis… our team will be standing by to book your appointments as you’ll also have access to…
- Elite, VIP Concierge Service… We’ll take care of your every need, from the moment you register until the closing ceremonies. From property tours to help with your airfare, our team will be at your service as soon as you register for the event…