Interview by Peter Lebaron

Do you love the idea of owning a pied-à-terre in the Marais, but don’t want to deal with upkeep and repairs, nor the worry over generating enough rental income to cover your mortgage? Are you apprehensive about spending weeks or even months looking for the perfect place, and then dealing with renovation and furnishing from thousands of miles away? Do you love the services of luxury hotels, but dislike living out of a suitcase? You’re not alone.

For most people, buying property in another country usually entails some headache, and the whole process can be exhausting, whatever the budget. The fantasy would be to own a beautiful, professionally decorated and furnished apartment in your favorite neighborhood, and have someone else deal with upkeep and maintenance thus making your ownership trouble-free. The great thing is that this scenario is no longer a fantasy, there are companies offering exactly this. Called fractional ownership, this new kind of property ownership allows you to have it all without the stress normally involved in buying your own property abroad.

Already popular in the United States and gaining steam abroad, fractional ownership is the vacation home solution for busy professionals or travel-bug retirees looking to maximize vacation time while building a solid investment portfolio. And now fractional ownership has arrived in Paris.

Peter Lebaron of Parismarais.com recently sat down with Miranda Bothe, Managing Director of Paris Property Finders, to discuss fractional ownership and a new fractional project that her company is marketing in the Marais.

PL: So what exactly is fractional ownership?
MB: Fractional ownership is essentially partial ownership of a property. With fractional ownership, a property is owned and shared by several individuals. The owners each get a share of the use of the property, and share in the costs of management, maintenance and upkeep. The price is but a fraction of the cost of buying a property on your own, which leaves buyers with more cash available for other investments, whether in property or otherwise.
PL: How does it work?

MB: To understand fractional ownership, think about a large, and expensive, property that may be difficult to purchase and maintain on your own. Instead of becoming the sole owner of the property, you purchase a share along with a group of other people. Now, you own a fraction of the property, with a proportional right to use it, and a proportional share in the maintenance and carrying costs. What was once not attainable is now fully affordable since you share the purchase with others. What’s more, for most folks, the use time correlates with the amount of time you would normally use the vacation property anyway, and frees you from the responsibility of renting or managing the property for the other 40+ weeks a year.

PL: Isn’t a fractional property just a timeshare?

MB: Fractional ownership and timeshare are both common ownership structures for vacation properties, and both allow their owners to use a certain amount of time in the property each year. However, with timeshare, buyers own the time, not the underlying equity in the property. With fractional ownership, you actually own the property with your fellow co-owners. Now you’re building equity on every vacation, and each fraction is owned outright, meaning you are completely free to sell the share or pass it on to children and grandchildren.

PL: How does this differ from destination clubs?

MB: Again, the key element is ownership: with a travel or destination club, also called “non-equity clubs,” members own the right to use the club’s properties, but do not own them. Membership fees are partially reimbursed if you leave the club, but members are not benefiting from the growth in equity of the properties. Moreover, the risk that the membership is worth nothing cannot be avoided; as has happened before, if a destination club goes out of business, the membership is worth nothing at all. With fractional ownership, the property belongs 100% to its owners.

PL: How does the management of the project work?

MB: In our fractional properties, calendar management, maintenance and administrative details are in the hands of a professional manager acting on behalf of the owners. Everything is managed behind the scenes, which leaves more time for shopping, dining with family and friends or otherwise enjoying the world’s most beautiful city. The management is paid for by low monthly dues, which also cover housekeeping, flowers, and even champagne. Luxury concierge and spa services are available at an additional cost.

PL: Tell me more about the Marais fractional property that you are marketing?

MB: We’re really excited about our newest offering in the heart of the Marais: an 800 square foot, 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment in the historic Saint Paul district, steps from the rue des Rosiers and a 3-minute walk to the Place des Vosges. Located on the 1st floor (2nd floor US) of a 200-year old building, its crown mouldings, original fireplaces and chevron wood floors are the epitome of French sophistication. The apartment’s best feature is a beautiful 100 square foot, professionally landscaped private terrace which gives onto a secluded courtyard – it’s very exclusive and secret garden feeling. As you know, outdoor space is extremely rare in the Marais.

We have a fantastic design team that is going to deliver an extremely luxurious product. Our architect, Anne Jacquet, designed the Chanel boutique on rue Cambron as well as Karl Lagerfeld’s personal studio; and our interior designer, Monte Laster, has decorated exclusive apartments and homes all over Paris and Provence.

We’re offering 12 shares in rue Malher for €120,000 each. Each share comes with the right to use the property for 4 weeks a year, in perpetuity, or until you sell your share. All the details and the usage calendar are at www.fractionalparis.com.

PL: Who chooses what weeks each owner uses? How are time disputes resolved?

MB: What’s great is that each owner chooses for themselves. With our Marais property, owners can select either four fixed weeks, the same calendar weeks every year; four floating weeks, which rotate through the seasons on a fixed schedule in perpetuity; or, a combination of the two. There are no usage time disputes, since the floating calendar is set at the get-go, meaning that each owner can see their weeks years into the future. This clarity allows you to plan for your Paris visits well in advance, or to trade time with your fellow owners, with other vacation properties through our membership in a trade to travel network, or to give your use time to family and friends.

PL: Fractional sounds great but really, why should someone go for it?

MB: First of all, it’s extremely interesting because it’s a real equity investment, yet one where you only pay your share of the upfront and ongoing costs. You benefit from the capital appreciation and have satisfaction and pride of true ownership, but the capital outlay is much less than if you were to own the same thing yourself, and you don’t need to worry about renting it out or making use of all the time when you are not using the property. And, what’s key for most folks is that someone else takes care of the headache and hassles of management from abroad while you simply jet in twice a year to enjoy your time in Paris in your very own pied-à-terre.

PL: It can’t all be great - what should people watch out for?

MB: As with any real estate investment, make sure the asset is truly something special - whether that means an exceptional view, spectacular architecture, or rare outdoor space - be certain that the unique features set it apart from the standard market fare. Of course never forget the real estate maxim for any property: location, location, location.

The investment value with fractional properties is a function of both the quality of the product, its furnishings, its amenities, as well as its continued management over the years. So it’s important to examine exactly what is on offer. Also, make sure that any ownership agreement clearly lays out rules and regulations and makes provisions for eventualities.

What you give up with fractional versus sole ownership is clear: you do not have full control over the property, and must share the rights and responsibilities with your fellow owners. This shared approach is not for everyone, and each buyer needs to decide for themselves how the benefits and drawbacks of fractional ownership weigh out for them personally.

PL: Why did your company get into this?
I am often approached by international buyers looking for a pied-à-terre in Paris that they will use a few weeks a year and then rent out on a short-term basis to tourists the rest of the time. The reality is that the market of studio and one-bedroom apartments in the Marais and Saint Germain des Près is saturated, and only a fabulous, standout property of this size will have a chance of generating a significant income. For budgets less than 500,000€, we can find you a property in these popular areas, but it would most likely not generate enough income to cover your ongoing costs.
If you are looking for a sole ownership solution with solid rental income in the current market, your minimum size needs to be a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment. For that, the minimum investment all-told is going to be at least 800,000€ in the Marais, and 1 million plus in Saint Germain.
What was exciting about fractional ownership for me was to finally be able to give buyers a viable, intelligent option: a solution that met the desire to own a sizeable, elegant property in the heart of Paris, yet at a fraction of the cost of full ownership. The fractional solution has been extremely popular thus far, the first two projects we marketed in Saint Germain des Près sold out before renovation was even completed, and interest in our Marais property is extremely strong. We are about to sign the purchase agreement on the third Saint Germain property and are excited to continue bringing special properties to Paris lovers.
About Paris Property Finders and Fractional Paris
Fractional Paris is a division of Paris Property Finders, the first licensed real estate buyer's agent in Paris and the market leader in France.
With over 15 years of combined experience in real estate and construction, we've spent years assembling the best teams to find, renovate and decorate the ideal property in Paris. Whether for private or fractional ownership, our highly competent design, construction and management teams ensure that everything is done right and that your purchase is hassle-free.

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