We’re not invisible any more

A balloon, flying over my neighborhood. That’s new. This summer and last I have seen a lot of things that suggest that the Vendee tourist board is looking to attract better-heeled visitors.

I have to decide what to do with my rental house. I bought it thinking it would be a nice little hobby. It would pay for itself and give me, in my isolated widow’s condition, a little social interaction. What a crazy idea. With that money I could have done a zillion other things.

It does some of what I hoped for, to be sure. Most renters are nice people who relax and enjoy the house. The ones that don’t can be a real nightmare, though, and of course the social interactions are only superficial. However I travel and spend more time in Paris than I might like — not isolated at all — so Julien is the one on hand to deal with guests. Of course that means he makes all the money.

This is not a winning proposition, not for me, anyway. So I have had the house on the market for a while now, with little result.

At dinner with friends the other day, we talked about the changes in the area. With satellite TV, the Vendee Globe has become a more interesting race. The Tour de France just brought some attention to the area. We have a new crop of music festivals, serious restaurants and the like. And, they assured me, the real estate market is picking up.

People want a house near the beach. With global warming, that coastal breeze is becoming ever more welcome. Prices in cities are high enough that folks think of a smaller apartment in town and a weekend house in the country, so they have room to breathe. Prices on the Ile de Re have long been sky-high and other nearby resort towns, such as La Rochelle and Sables d’Olonne, are headed that way. So folks are looking at adjacent areas. And note, they are looking, which has not happened for a long, long time. That’s good news for me.

Maybe it sounds counterintuitive, but I’m thinking seriously of taking the house off the market. By now it’s an old listing, which can scare people off. Prices rose 5% in the last year, after years of stagnation, and they look set to continue that rise. So do I do what I’m doing now, which is netting zero results, or wait a bit and hope the market heats up enough to make the place more interesting to potential buyers? It’s hard to say.

I’m doing what I didn’t do,when I bought the house. I’m mulling it over. Jacques will have a little more time to wonder how birds got into the fireplace insert.

21 thoughts on “We’re not invisible any more

  1. I think it’s a sound plan to take it off the market for a while if it’s not moving. It’s a shame you haven’t benefitted much from the rentals

    1. Yeah, I’m leaning towards doing that. Actually I have enjoyed owning the house. The financial cost is high, no question, but I have learned a lot. On balance, money aside, it has been a good experience.

  2. Even if you aren’t making money on the house, you aren’t losing it either. Put it back on the market when things heat up a bit more. I am seeing lots of progress around here, too. It has along been a poor man’s Provence–the movie stars and millionaires head to the Côte d’Azur, driving up prices to the point that local teachers and police officers can’t afford to live in the towns and villages where they grew up. I wouldn’t want that to happen here. But the market was so sluggish after 2008 that many places were just left unmaintained. Now I see places getting spruced up.

    1. Yeah. Seeing things spruced up is gratifying. Around here there is a huge stock of those tiny, icky lotissement houses. Not many outsiders are going to want those but many locals live having everything all plastic and new. I’m being mean, I know, but my central point, that they’ll be able to get what they want for the foreseeable future is valid. I think the locals will be okay — and if they find themselves priced out of central Luçon or Fontenay, where they have refused to live for decades, it serves them right.

      I should say that locals who have lived elsewhere and return often like the older houses and do a great job of renovating them. My lotissement neighbors are generally very nice and have plenty to do besides wonder why the roof leaks, which is fair enough. They like my house and are glad I fixed it up, even though they would never do it themselves. I’m finding excellent traditional craftsmen who speak no English, so my guess is that their client base is French. So fortunately it’s a mix.

  3. I used to advise clients who had been on the market for many moons to remove the house. Let it relax for a while (whilst doing anything to it that might benefit a sale – in your case, that is probably nothing at all because it is a lovely house). Get fresh photographs and then remarket at whatever market price is at that point. Autumn can be a good time for sales as can just after Christmas. Either way, people will want a house like this to be all boxed up with their name on the deeds by the time summer comes around … it is after all, likely to be a weekend retreat rather than a forever home. Are you doing the majority of your marketing to Parisiens? It would seem likely that your buyer will come from a well-heeled double income demographic in the city, no?

    1. Interesting. My thought was just that, that I’d let the listings run through autumn, then pull them. Yes, Parisians are buying here. The English buyers are gone. My realtors have beach town offices and I have a listing on PAP. It’s a solid, three-season house. Thermopane windows would make it a year-round one. One of my realtors mentioned that nowadays folks buy weekend houses with the idea that they’ll retire there, so I hope that will do it. New windows with the character of the old ones would cost a bundle that I don’t care to spend. So we’ll see. I like the house; if I didn’t want to redo my garage and garden — major bucks and none of it DIY — I’d just hold onto it.

      1. I know the feeling of attachment to a place but common sense and your lifestyle must rule the heart here. In terms of leaving the house on or taking it off. It is a leap of faith and it can feel like jumping into a cavern. But remember, there hasn’t been a queue beating down the door thus far, so how likely is it that you will have a queue in the next three months. If you do want to wait a while longer I would leave it no later than the end of September. By then, the vacationers have gone home. You can also always ask the realtors to market it ‘discretely’ for the moment. In other words, no active advertising but if they get an enquiry that fits your house, they can share the details (with the caveat that it is not an advertised house which can add to the piquancy for a potential buyer).

  4. Take it off the market for a few months and then revamp the photographs. Pics last a long time on the internet…
    Check the ads in, for example, Le Figaro or the Nouvel Obs to see which agencies are good for houses of the style of yours…and think of advertising in Belgium as, despite the football world cup, the money there likes France and if the area is becoming more attractive in terms of festivals, restaurants, etc., it will be on their radar.

    1. There is a Belgian flag flying just down the road from me. How did you know? You guys are amazing. I have a whole game plan, now.

      1. I’m with Helen. I change property pictures regularly whenever we have anything for sale or rent. And believe it or not sometimes silly pictures, like a well set table with pretty porcelain and crystal, go a long way in getting the right sort of person’s attention.
        The Vendee has always attracted an important chunk of the affluent bourgeoisie. In France the trend is normally for that sort of place to become ever more exclusive (and expensive.)

        1. Yeah, the wine bottle picture is such a cliché, but people love it. The super-wide-angle-lens photos, even without distortion correction, eew, but it works. We have renters through mid-September, so it can’t be shown now, anyway. I’ll pull it and give the photos a shameless makeover.

          Do you flip houses, here in France? My take on that was that capital gains tax rules made it impractical. I’d love to do that in Vendee. So many houses there need just the tiniest cosmetic tweak and the whole area is taking off, not just the beach towns. Punishing taxes aside, now is the time.

          1. We’ve started with rentals (two seperate immeubles) but we’re studying buying/selling now.
            Where real-estate is concerned they’re still ages behind the times in France. I think even with the high taxes there’s a huge market just waiting…

          2. With prices rising in the cities, I think the market has to be growing. Given the reactions I have had to the work on my house — the neighbors love it but are apprehensive about taking on such a project themselves — the interest is there. But the capital gains taxes, oy. My initial reaction is that they were set to discourage speculation. Essentially it looked like they deliberately taxed capital gains on short-term owners to the point that, essentially, your earnings were close to zero. Big developers do it, though. I see whole apartment buildings in Paris being purchased and renovated, then sold on. So there must be a way to make decent money on this. I know a pretty sharp tax attorney. The next time I talk to him, I’ll ask him about it.

          3. Our tax guy is brilliant. When we arrived I was frightened because people are always talking about how terrible taxes are here – he sat me down and went through everything with me (real number examples) and it turned much better than I’d expected.
            In talking about the property gains matter he highlighted that the tax was a percentage of the *profit* 🙂 and roughly for every 10k made, 3500 goes to the government, the rest to you. So in some cases I can see it working quite well.

          4. True. If you have a good tax guy, you can do okay. Mine worked a miracle. In terms of capital gains, in the States, 35% is what you pay on ordinary income. Taxes on investment income runs about half that. So I still get a little sticker shock there. If I had bought my rental as an investment and had it sit on the market for a couple of years, I’d be having fits about the government taking no risk, giving me no social benefits and snatching a third of the profit. Of course if it sits long enough, the tax rate goes down. Hmm. Another reason to pull it from the market.

  5. I’d highly recommend you list it on the local real estate website in Rancho Cucamonga. No, it will never sell through that listing but you will be able to tell your friends in Paris that you have it listed in Rancho Cucamonga and that alone will be worth beaucoup free drinks and meals.

    1. Oh, now, you just want the fun of hearing French people try to say « Rancho Cucamonga. » After a few minutes of that, I think I’d be buying them a drink!

  6. Thank you! Paris is lovely but honestly, it’s kind of falling apart. There is the touristy, Haussmanian thing that fills the city with the 1%, busy buying their sixth home, plus hotels everywhere. Then there is the challenge every major city is facing, that everyone wants to live there, rather than some smaller city — something to do with synergy, I suppose, but it’s hell on affordability and pollution-related issues. Then there are the refugees, who want jobs and safety like everyone else, but who are often resented and who don’t have the resources to help themselves. Moving to the countryside is kind of the easy way out, but it does make for a great life.

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