Wednesday, May 24, 2017

French Property Portfolio Valuation

Office condo near L'Arc de Triomphe

This was an investment portfolio of 8 properties scattered across France, acquired at various stages between the years 2008 through 2017, for which a nonprofit organization needed an update on portfolio value. The portfolio consisted of residences, office condominiums and a fractional interest in a motel.

Needless to say, real estate prices in France became quite volatile after 2008, with some areas recovering shortly, others experiencing a second recession, and the prices in far northeastern France, in Lille and Hauts de France, seem to have never recovered, with Lille having precipitously declined in the last year. This area north of Paris is known as France's Rust Belt, and Lille was particularly dependent upon the textile industry.

There were also certain metropolitan areas, Paris and Bordeaux, which had some 20+% price gains during their holding period. This has been attributed to foreign buyers. Paris is one of those world cities that attracts “flight capital”, money brought in by foreign investors who fear their own governments. London, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are other examples. Bordeaux has also attracted foreign buyers through its increasingly attractive quality of life and beautification, with accelerating price appreciation over the last year.

Overall portfolio value increased 4.1% over the holding period, with the winner being Chatillon, a southwestern suburb of Paris, which appreciated by about 25%, and the loser was Lille, a northeastern industrial city, with a depreciation of 18%.
Loser: Lille

Winner: Single family dwelling in Chatillon, suburb of Paris
PS: It seems that the French and American peoples have been the best of friends during the worst of times -- The American Revolution, World War 1 and World War 2. In more recent years there have been complaints that Americans are rude and that French are rude. In 5 days in France I encountered only 2 rude Frenchmen, but one taught me an important lesson -- that I had failed to learn the rules of French courtesy.

I walked into a Parisian bar and asked for a glass of Armagnac. The bartender looked indignantly at me and sarcastically said "Bonjour!" It seemed that I had offended him, so I asked "Pardonnez-moi, je suis américain. Qu'est-ce que c'est le problème?"

He then explained that in France, bartenders and waiters are considered professionals and expect to be greeted as equals, not servants, and the proper greeting is Bonjour or perhaps Bon Soir.

That's good to know, and I will henceforth greet all servers in whatever nation I am working in.

On the other hand I have seen more than one American tourist boorishly ask "Where's the Eiffel Tower?" The French refer to this landmark as "La Tour d'Eiffel." It seems that the French would like us to learn a few words of French before we visit their country.


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