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  • Writer's pictureCarsten Sprotte

Just under a million

If that's your budget, don't despair!

Americans used to have the expression:

“I feel like a million bucks."

But these days nobody is quite sure how you feel when it’s only a million. Is anyone feeling like a billion bucks? We seem to be losing count along with our composure, and the future just ain’t what it used to be!

The good news is that just under a million bucks can still fetch you a two-bedroom apartment in Paris. The other good news is that I can find it for you! Don’t imagine it’ll be just any old apartment under a million. If that were the case, my resources would be of little added value. Those “under a million” clients require just as much of a home as those with a five million budget. They come with a handsome list of criteria (albeit less than a million), including the classics such as high ceilings, tall windows, moldings, original wood floors, marble fireplaces, and nice views. 

Clients for whom I performed a search last month were a case in point, so Iet’s peek inside their story. I’ll refer to them as Jocelyn and John, an American couple ready to retire in Paris. John liked the 6th, and Jocelyn the 5th, so their obvious terrain d’entente was around the Luxembourg Gardens. Their price target was set at 850 000 Euros, so I would have to up my game to meet this particular “under a million” challenge. 

I was upfront with them: 

“At current price levels, your dream apartment doesn’t exist in the 5th or 6th.”

Not wanting to stomp out all hope, I added:

“It might exist on the outer boundary of the 5th, but it’ll be one of those properties requiring a total renovation.  In the present buyer’s market, it is possible to steeply negotiate decrepit property."

“On the bright side," I continued, "your desired apartment will exist in a neighborhood you have yet to discover. Are you open to new places and do you have good walking shoes?”

“Yep, we’re good walkers! And I think we could consider the 14th or 15th, for example” suggested Jocelyn.

“But not the 10th! We don’t want an edgy neighborhood!” interjected John.

“OK, not the 10th, and nothing too edgy, I understand” and I took good note.

“How would you describe a neighborhood where you’d be happy to live?” I inquired.

“I’d call it a typically Parisian neighborhood with all the features that make it feel like Paris: a wide choice of cafés and shops, a local market, and beautiful architecture” suggested Jocelyn.

“With a cosmopolitan population that still feels very French. We like to see children and not just tourists,” added John.

With this starting point, I set out to find them a few decrepit but promising properties in the 5th; but more importantly, to introduce them to other less expensive neighborhoods that would match their description of an ideal Parisian living environment. 

Here’s a peek inside what we saw. I won’t reveal locations until later, so that you guess which one is best for them based only on the intrinsic qualities of each apartment. As Jocelyn and John required, all apartment buildings have an elevator. None are located on the ground floor and none are split-level. All have two bedrooms and one bathroom with a separate toilet. They also considered it important to have one quiet bedroom, excluding most apartments with only street views. Inversely, they insisted on having an interesting street view of Parisian life from the living room. The kitchen was also an important consideration. If not open to the living room, it needed to be big enough for the two of them to be together.


Selection #1

990 000 Euros. 80m2. 1st-floor.
Elegant, corner apartment with all rooms street-side. Noise level OK for living, not sure for sleeping. Excellent condition, well-proportioned. Spacious, and well-appointed separate kitchen with table, looking out on a pleasant courtyard. Good light and acceptable views.
Building in excellent condition.
Estimated 10% negotiation margin.


Selection #2

975 000 Euros. 76m2. 4th floor.
Elegant in the photo, but in need of so much work. New kitchen and bathroom required. The small kitchen is opposite the living room. A narrow corridor leads to the bedrooms with old carpets glued to the wood floor. Pleasant, quiet views from the bedrooms. The living room looks onto a six-story building across a one-way street. The building reveals some worrisome exterior water damage.
Estimated 8% negotiating margin.


Selection #3

850 000 Euros. 64m2. 6th floor.
Tight on space but very well-designed and recently renovated. One bedroom on the courtyard side. Small kitchen, open to the living room. Open views, and a nice balcony to top it off. Located on the corner of a noisy avenue and a smaller street.
Cleaning of building facade expected.
Estimated 4% negotiating margin.


Selection #4

860 000 Euros. 70m2. 1st floor.
Well-proportioned, recently renovated angle apartment with one bedroom on a relatively quiet pedestrian passage and the other on a one-way secondary street. The main windows look out over a covered market and several cafés. South-facing kitchen, large enough for a table, looks out onto a quiet, green courtyard.
The apartment and building are in excellent condition.
No estimated margin for negotiation.


Selection #5

892 000 Euros. 67m2. 4th floor.

Brain-wracking apartment requiring a total recongifuration of space. Decrepit kitchen and bathroom, unchanged since the 1950s. Nice open views from the east side, including the modern block apartment buildings on the horizon. Estimated 120k€ required to renovate. The apartment is listed by three separate agents in the context of an inheritance.
Building common areas recently renovated.
Estimated 10% negotiation margin.


Selection #6

920 000 Euros. 85m2. 2nd floor

Spacious living and dining area. East-facing with good light in the three front rooms. Views are ordinary. The back room is dim, with a single-window over a small courtyard. The apartment hasn't changed since 1970.
New kitchen and bathroom required. The separate kitchen can be partially opened to the dining area. Total renovation budget around 80k€. Building in good condition.
Estimated 8% negotiation margin.


Selection #7

915 000 Euros. 71m2. 1st floor

An apartment can always be repainted. This one featured many unique historical features, both in the apartment and the building. Tall, elegant windows look out upon a small one-way street with mostly pedestrian traffic. The back bedroom looks over a charming courtyard. Even imagining white paint, the apartment seems dim.
Worrisome structural cracks are visible in several places. From outside, the building seems to buckle forward.
Estimated 6% negociation potential.


These are only half of the apartments we visited, but sufficient no doubt to exhaust you, even from your armchair. I haven't provided you enough information here to make an informed decision, but you can get a sense of all the variables involved...and a sense of the quirky price variations. Objectively, the apartments that best meet the stated criteria are Selections 1, 3, and 4. Selection #1 would require a formidable negotiation but did remain an option. Selection #3 came with a kitchen that was just a wee bit too small for comfort.

Selection #4 was therefore the winner, except that we haven't yet discussed location!

Here are the exact locations of the seven apartments:

Selection #1: 2, rue Ernest Renan, 15th arrondissement

Selection #2: 21 Rue Henri Barbusse, 5th arrondissement (next to Luxembourg gardens)

Selection #3: 65, Avenue Philippe Auguste, 11th arrondissement

Selection #4: rue Bouchardon, 10th arrondissement

Selection #5: 3 Rue des Feuillantines, 5th arrondissement

Selection #6: 9, rue Laucée, 12th arrondissement

Selection #7: 12, rue Ferdinand Duval, 4th arrondissement

Surprise, surprise. The best-suited apartment at the right price was located in the 10th arrondissement, which was exactly where John said he did NOT want to live!

I made no arguments to change anyone's mind. It occurred quite naturally. The tricky matter of deciding which arrondissement you outright exclude is that you tend to brush too broadly. In each arrondissement, there are neighborhoods of interest, where you just might feel at home. What Jocelyn and John liked about this neighborhood in the 10th was the lively atmosphere around the Marché Saint-Martin, the interesting cafés and shops on the rue du Château d'Eau, and the remarkable walking proximity to the Marais and the center of Paris. I also pointed out that it was only three RER stops away from the Luxembourg Gardens!

Time now for you to play the "just under a million" challenge while conditions last!


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