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How to fall in love with a apartment – it’s not as easy as it looks
You might imagine that it would be easy to fall in love with an apartment in . Well, it is…and it isn’t. I’ve watched clients go through the process, but only recently done it myself. Now I understand the torture and the terror. Torture, because the market moves so swiftly in that there is often not time to deliberate thoroughly before a place sells – to someone else. And terror because singling out THE ONE, means giving up on the shimmering dream and settling on a real stone and mortar place.
Both require more bravery than one might think. From one moment to the next I veered wildly between euphoria and nausea. I desperately wanted a place, and then when it looked like I might get it, I focused obsessively on everything that might be wrong with my choice. What first went right out the window is all the advice I give clients – but eventually, I centered myself and realized I’d been right all along.
I was writing up ’s 2017 real estate market update when it dawned on me that I should be following my own advice: this perfect storm of low interest rates, favorable currency exchange rates and falling prices between 2011 and 2015 had created a boom year in 2016 that was continuing into 2017. It was as good a moment as ever to buy my own place.
The first place I fell in love with ticked all the boxes for me: it was listed in December, so I could negotiate a great price; it had a private garden larger than the apartment itself, 10 foot high ceilings and was in my favorite part of the 16th arrondissement, near Ranelagh Park. Perfect right? I was on my way.
But two weeks before I was due to sign the contract I learned that the garden had been the subject of litigation by the neighbor above, who had won concessions that restricted it to “occasional” use. I balked at the prospect of years of contentious disputes with a jealous neighbor. I pulled out.
From one moment to the next I veered wildly between euphoria and nausea. I desperately wanted a place, and then when it looked like I might get it, I focused obsessively on everything that might be wrong with my choice.
In the months following I lost a top floor apartment with a terrace in the 6th and a gorgeous Haussmannian with a long balcony near the top of rue des Martyrs in the 9th. My full-priced offers within a day of the listing were … too slow.
I finally landed an apartment that was in process of being renovated, in the fashionable North Marais near rue de Bretagne. It was overpriced and tiny, but within my budget. I loved the neighborhood, and decided I could downsize my belongings to fit. But the time passed and it was difficult to get answers: what was included in the price? What was planned for the kitchen? Would it have a dishwasher? Would a staircase to the sleeping mezzanine fit, or would I have to use a ladder? They pressured me to sign and “work those details out later” … yeah, right. Reluctantly, I started looking again.
In real estate, as in romance – don’t look for perfection. You won’t find it. Look for magic instead: that thing that makes someplace feel special to you.
So where did I land? On the 6th floor in a lovely building (with an elevator!); a one-bedroom place with a large balcony in the coveted Marché d’Aligre neighborhood in the 12th arrondissement. From the photos to the first visit, I felt that spark. It was smaller than my original target size, but laid out to maximize every square meter. It didn’t have a fireplace, but was bright and charming. The wraparound balcony on a high floor meant open views and real, useable outdoor space. Just a block from one of ’ loveliest covered markets, and the bustling Bastille nearby, it felt like a great new location to discover, and still offered the vacation rental potential when I travel. My initial crush turned to love; I closed my eyes and made the leap.
It was a harrowing journey – but easier for me than for most. I learned about my apartment through my real estate connections, an invaluable resource. Agents who knew I was looking sent me options; but even so, the process was fatiguing, and I visited a lot of frogs to find my prince. What’s more, half an hour twice meant the difference between getting a property, and missing out.
Even knowing what I know and having the connections I have, I probably should have followed my own advice and hired to manage my search. It’s invaluable to have an independent person running interference for you and following up on every lead, getting you in the door first, and managing the twists and turns of the quest.
In real estate, as in romance, don’t look for perfection. Look for magic instead: that thing that makes someplace feel special to you. Focus on that and see if you then fall in love. Some clients look for a long time, disregarding ‘great’ in search of ‘perfect’, only to find themselves months or even years later regretting the ones they passed on before.
For me, like for any of my clients, buying a place in requires a determined effort, a giant leap of faith and the mindful, and deliberate decision to embrace your own love story – warts and all.
Kathryn Brown is Director of Operations for