Monday, November 30, 2009

Backstory 1

My friend Bill suggests that we need to fill in the backstory.  He is right.  But backstory is kind of hard to fill in on a blog, because you wind up with time running in two different directions.  Blogs want to be about today, with today's post pushed down by tomorrow's.  Telling the backstory starting from the beginning, the reader will get everything in the wrong order. 

Anyway, we have always been francophiles.  C. (my wife, cam on her posts) spent a chunk of her childhood in Paris when her father was assigned to run a subsidiary of the auto company he worked for.  C was maybe 10 at the time.  They lived in a huge apartment on Avenue Bosquet in the 7eme.  Safe to say it was a peak period in C's life.  In those days, anyway, even a preteen could have the run of the city.  C. always describes it as a wonderful and free place to grow up.  She speaks near-perfect French (she wouldn't say so, but she does).  Natives listen to her and after a while get a quizzical look and ask if she is Swiss or something.  She knows the city like the back of her hand, the buses and the metro, collects restaurants and hotels as a hobby, remembers every one she has ever set foot in.

My parents lived in Paris after the war.  I think I was conceived there.  They put me in French class when I was a kid, though come to think of it we never went there as a family.  Didn't have the money, I guess.  Anyway I speak passable French myself though I am far from fluent, and have always felt an attraction to the culture, especially the food and wine.  C and I have traveled to France as often as we could over the years, taken the kids a few times, went on a wonderful trip back to Paris with my mother just a little while before she died.  So we always thought about the possibility of buying something there.

We almost did it in the Spring of 2006.  We decided to work with what is called a "chasseur," or a hunter.  Chasseurs are informal real-estate agents, they scan the market for apartments and communicate with foreign buyers, helping them through the process of finding, purchasing, and closing.  More about that later.  In fact we wound up putting an offer down on an apartment in the 17th arrondissement on the border of the eighth.  One of the oddities of the French real estate system is that you can put an offer on an apartment that freezes the seller, but which you can withdraw for seven days with no penalty.  That makes it easy to put an offer down, and easy for a chasseur to pressure you to put an offer down.  Just go ahead, you can always withdraw it.  It was a nice apartment, but we weren't ready, and hadn't really thought through our finances, so we ended up withdrawing it.  We wound up terminating our arrangement with the chasseurs also.  They were good in a lot of ways:  they were aggressive and energetic, and knew the market very well.  But they were only interested in apartments on the right bank, and mostly within a couple of parts of the right bank.  And the operators of the company, the aggressive and energetic ones, were very aggressive and energetic, they ended up driving us a little nuts, and were prone to pressuring us to buy something, quickly.  Chasseurs are working for a percentage of your purchase, and they don't get paid until you buy, so it is always tempting for them to put the squeeze on you to get something done.  Anyway, we weren't ready and put it aside for a while.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. I sense that there is another frame for this plan: your and Carol's looking at how you will live when work -- or at least your professorship at UVa -- winds down. Would love to hear more about that.