Friday, October 1, 2010

The best and worst of properties in Nice, all in one week

It's been a long day. It's been a long week. I've been working flat-out looking at apartments for clients who arrive in a couple of days. The notice they gave was short (a week) but this can be a good thing in their price range (under 200,000 euros) as too far in advance, the chances are good apartments will have been sold by the time they arrive. The studio to one bedroom market moves quickly in Nice.

I have viewed over 20 apartments in four days. I wear out shoes at an incredible rate. Most of the apartments were dire (and that is even after the pre-selection process whereby I interrogate the agents in advance with the kind of technique that would make a Stasi agent look kind). Indeed, I was feeling rather glum mid-week after seeing one apartment in particular. It  looked promising on paper and in the photos (large studio, Old Town, with balcony). But the visit, even by my sanguine expectations, was a shock. The communal areas were so bad that the agent (it was a first visit for her) could not hide her dismay. How do you explain hundreds of wires running along and hanging from the ceiling of the communal area? Water leaking from the ceiling? Bits of plaster falling on your head? It looked as if we had stepped into a scene from a Mad Max movie. The apartment block had been divided into numerous small flats. The corridors were a warren of doors. Some had signs of being broken in with bits of wood nailed on to protect the bashed locks. Agent M who was showing me the property did her best ('look how lovely, it has a balcony', Oh, the kitchen is not so bad...'). 'Oh pleeease', I cried! 'Stop right there' I can cope with tatty interiors, but not downright dangerous looking shared hallways. This was mugging zone. A classic example of prime location but an apartment that will never be worth anything like the asking price (150,000 euros).

The Old Town in Nice is very mixed, there's no doubt. It's slowly becoming gentrified (actually, quite rapidly, to the dismay of locals as the sushi bars move in), but the reality is that from building to building the standards vary enormously. I always pay attention to the communal areas as it says a lot about who your neighbours are, if they are paying their charges (or not), and will it have re-sale value.

So after that rather depressing visit (among many this week), my expectations certainly couldn't be lower. And then today it all changed. I had made an arrangement to a view a small studio off Nice's main shopping street (Jean Medicin). My hopes were not high. I nearly missed the ad (in French, of course) as it was merely one line, no photos. But the fact that the location was good, and more important, it said 'top floor, with terrace', was enough to make me think it worth a punt.

What can I say. It's a jewel, and it makes my job a pleasure. This is the kind of apartment that an estate agent would love to get their hands on but probably won't. It is being sold through a 'Syndic' (body corporate or building management company) who have the authority  to act as agents. They have no interest in 'marketing', they have no website, and probably don't even own a camera. They want to sell the property quickly at a fair price. The owner is not interested in paying high agent's fees. To find something like this is truly rare.

It's a stunning top floor apartment that needs just a little make-over. Small (around 30 sq metres) but the glorious terrace runs along two sides and overlooks the rooftops of  Nice. There are French windows leading on to the terrace. Even the bathroom has a view and a terrace. It's the best view from a loo in Nice. The building is in a-turn-of -the-century block, elegant and with a lift.  I beamed when I saw it.  

Finding a property for clients on a small budget is probably the hardest work I do, but it is also incredibly satisfying when you unearth such treasures. I know that someone from outside the area would never have found this apartment (and even locals might not, given how the 'marketing' is so discrete). So, I start next week with a spring in my step (and a new pair of shoes after this week's marathon).

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