John Doran’s own love affair with Paris started with Maigret and ended with owning a share in a shared ownership property on the Rue de l’Université in Paris’ chic 7th arrondissement.
Belgian born French novelist Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was one of the most prolific of modern authors, publishing more than 500 novels translated into some 50 languages with sales over 600 million copies worldwide.
He is best known for his detective novels featuring the world-weary, pipe-smoking Paris police Inspector Jules Maigret, solving murders with his unique combination of experience, intuition and ruthlessness, and usually found along the quays, canals and in workmen’s bistros along the back streets of the city. In addition to entertaining millions, Simenon’s stories have helped fans throughout the world to build a real relationship with Paris through his masterful story-telling and lively descriptions of Parisian life and eccentric characters.
Miranda Bothe, Managing Director of Paris Property Finders and Fractional Paris, sat down to talk with John Doran about his purchase and his Paris.
MB: Tell us a little bit about yourself first – your work, your family.
JD: I’m an urban real estate developer in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. I started out over 30 years ago renovating private homes. My current focus is on building high-end midrise apartment buildings, mostly residential. We also have a rental portfolio of urban retail properties. I’m married with three children: my 23 year-old daughter is on a world tour, currently in Central America; my 20-year-old son is at university in Halifax, and my 16 year-old son is still at home battling it out with his parents.
MB: Why Paris?
JD: My relationship with Paris isn’t rational or objective – I am sure I am not alone there. Paris for me started as a place in books – as a kid, I read a lot of George Simenon’s Inspector Maigret novels, many of which take place in Paris. Simenon painted a vibrant, colorful world. Images of a woman in hair curlers at 5am, sweeping the patio of her bistro in time for the morning crowd; Parisians of all ages and social classes bumping elbows at the espresso bar, or having mid-morning cocktails in the corner tabac. This is Paris in a different era than the Paris today, but it was vivid, and I was intrigued.
MB: So did you find what you were looking for?
JD: I have yet to find the woman in curlers! But there is a real joie de vivre, a different sensibility than ours in North America: an appetite for the tactile, the sensory, a love of food and wine, of dressing well on even the average day, that defines the daily life. Ultimately, it was everything I hoped it would be. For me, it’s walking aimlessly and always finding a new corner you’ve never seen before, seeing the smartly dressed Parisians in their daily lives, exploring museums of all sizes and tastes, experiencing the city without a sense of rushing.
A relationship with a place is like a relationship with a painting. In the first instance, it either draws you in or not; and only after spending more time with it do you know if you love it. Well, I love it. And Paris is a painting with a lot of layers of paint, so with each moment you spend there you discover something else.
MB: How did you end up with a property in Paris?
JD: I had looked into Paris real estate a while back – I love the city, the urban feel, and thought it would be a nice contrast to life in Ottawa, where we live in both the city and a country home on a lake. But, for the size, quality and location of apartment I would want, it was just too big a financial commitment for the amount of time I would ever use it.
I had been researching fractional ownership on the Internet, for ideas I was exploring about a possible development project in the Ottawa area. I found Elite Destination Homes and their Paris properties during my search, and realized fractional could be the answer for me for a property in Paris.
I did my homework on the fractional ownership properties available in Paris, and Elite’s Rue de l’Université apartment was the clear choice.
MB: Why was Elite the clear choice for you?
JD: First, what I found in the market were a lot of fractional apartments in Paris with interiors with little style, a sort of tacky faux-Louis XV look. It’s difficult enough to give up the right to style a property that you own, but when the quality and taste is low quality then it’s really not worth it. There is a markup for fractional, and it is annoying how many developers don’t put that extra investment into making their offering more attractive. In contrast, the style of Elite’s apartments for me was a hit: it is simple, smart, elegant, and not over the top. A good mix of modern and antique that fit my concept of Paris without making me feel like I was living in a museum.
Second, Elite’s ownership model was right on target. First, Elite’s properties have either five or six shares, a clear distinction from the other offerings – all with 12 or 13 shareholders – which feel more like a timeshare to me.
Flexibility of time – absolutely key. With the smaller owner group, Elite is able to accommodate the owners’ varying usage schedules year to year. Doesn’t mean I can get what I want every time, but it’s very democratic system. What’s more, if time comes up unexpectedly, I can use the property if it’s available, which is great. I run my own company, which means I have good flexibility in my work schedule and don’t usually want to plan my vacations around an imposed schedule. Year by year the best time for us to travel changes, and the Elite model was the only one that really accommodated that flexibility.
Last, the financing option was a real draw. With the smaller owner group and quality property this is still a sizeable investment, and I am not sure I would have done it without the financing.
MB: With all the options explored, why fractional ownership?
JD: Besides the much smaller financial commitment as compared with buying a similar property on my own, the key is that it’s a hassle free purchase. That’s nearly impossible in real estate generally, and it’s even more difficult to buy in a strange city, in a foreign country, and to make a prudent decision.
They manage, they rent it, they do the whole thing; the process is seamless for me. You are paying a premium, but I know the headaches of buying, renovating and renting property. For me this was an emotional buy, so that premium was well worth it.
Elite’s got the little touches that go a mile: one of my favorites is having private lockers for the owners – you can leave your things there, no fussing. I’ll use mine for leaving some clothes, toiletries, wines etc.
MB: Why did you choose the rue de l’Université apartment?
JD: I have stayed in both of the other Elite Paris apartments. They are all within blocks of each other, but each neighborhood has it’s own feeling, and each apartment its own style.
Elite has done a great job with their Paris products thus far. The apartments are done with imagination. They are intimate with high quality fixtures, finishes and first class linens, and the concierge services are superb. They haven’t scrimped, and have made a big effort to make you comfortable. You’ll have a great time once you walk through the door at any of the Paris properties.
What I liked about RDU in particular is the features of the building and the particular neighborhood. First, it is in a striking building. It has great light, windows on both sides, and the living room gives onto the secluded courtyard of a private mansion – you literally hear only birds singing when the windows are open.
Second, there is nothing finer than that particular corner of Saint Germain des Près – close to everything, but secluded and residential and classy. In Ottawa I happen to live across the road from the former French ambassador, and he and his wife were surprised that the apartment was in the very best part of the neighborhood – they themselves have an apartment nearby. You are steps to the river, and even closer to the Musée d’Orsay – from its back you can see the front door of our building. Okay, I admit, it’s an emotional hook. Anyway it’s a very chic neighborhood – far tonier than we need.
Of course there’s a premium for that very special quality of location; this is not an adventurous or up and coming neighborhood. In my work I sell high end product in locations on the cusp of change, and I draw people there. Elite focuses on established neighborhoods, strong locations that hold value and where it’s nice to spend your time in Paris.
MB: How do you see the investment side of Elite’s offering, through your eyes as a real estate developer?
JD: We didn’t buy into Elite as an investment – I make my real estate investments in my own company. This was an emotional buy for me. It still had to make financial sense, but it wasn’t about turning a profit.
I got into it with the attitude that they have the right elements in place for the property to appreciate in value and the possibility that one might make money along the way. So if I make money, I am glad of course. If not, anyway I have the experience of ownership of a great property, and effective and seamless management.
Still, it is equity, not timeshare, and Elite has a formula built in for selling in ten years, so there’s the high probability of getting your money back and even making a profit – or, at worst, limiting losses and having the benefits of ownership along the way. It’s not liquid, but it’s sustainable.
Finally, RDU is a superior product, so it will sustain value in a good or bad market. It’s not an adventure: this is for people who want a hassle-free purchase, entirely managed for you – you are paying a price for that but you know it’s being done well.
MB: What are your impressions of the management team?
JD: Elite and its parent company have financial horsepower, successful business people with a strong background of real estate management and development, and – as you’d know after going through a negotiation with them – will not be pushed around. Once you are signed on, that toughness is your team now – and I am confident that they will be vigilant about protecting their investment and mine when it comes to building management, rental income and the like. That seemed to be the right partner for my investment.
On the ground, the concierge service is stellar, and the staff has a great attitude. They really stood out with the unexpected things: we wanted a guided tour for my two youngest for their first trip to Paris. The concierge arranged a great tour guide, so bright and knowledgeable, humorous, spoke 5 languages, really great. They not only find you what you need but it’s tops.
For anyone looking to purchase a fractional ownership property, first and foremost they should get to know the developer and the key management players going forward – beyond signing the purchase contract, they are the ones that will make or break the experience for you
John is “still exploring” the immediate neighborhood of RDU; but he shared his favorite eatery and gourmet grocer, each a stones throw from one of Elite’s other properties.
In the heart of the left bank, the Grande Epicerie is a must-see for Paris food lovers. The buyers for this gourmet grocer hunt down the beautiful and the tasteful wherever it is found: the shelves are lined with more than 5000 authentic and extravagant products from throughout France and the four corners of the globe.
In the heart of the shop, the market offers only the best fresh fruits and vegetables, cut flowers to put on the table or in a salad, over 200 cheeses, chickens from Brest, freshly caught fish and a fine selection of wines. Is your mouth watering already? Sushi platters, pasta, Greek salad…Enjoy a gastronomic voyage that you can eat at home or on the go.
The Property at Rue de l’Université
A stylish, 3 bedroom apartment centrally located in Paris’ 7eme arrondissement, steps from many of Paris’s most popular attractions, best shopping, and exclusive art and antique galleries. Visit the Musee d’Orsay everyday if you wish, it’s at the end of the street!
The building, nestled between a private mansion, a large cobblestone courtyard and a French Ministry, is located on the chic rue de l’Université (which counts Karl Lagerfeld amongst its illustrious residents). The apartment was selected only after an exhaustive 24 month search search to find the perfect property in this very exclusive area. The property was purchased from a former American Ambassador (and widow of a former CIA Director) who spent many happy years in the apartment, if only the walls could talk!
- 3 bedrooms with 2 bathrooms
- 1225 square feet
- Designed by renowned Parisian decorator Gisela Trigano
- Southern exposure, great light throughout the day
- Parquet floors and ornate mouldings
- Gourmet, eat-in kitchen with designer stone countertops
- Living room with working fireplace
- Luxurious modern bathrooms with designer fittings
- Full size washer & dryer
- Extremely quiet apartment with chirping birds and light breezes when the windows are left open – a truly relaxing retreat
- Secure access with door code and concierge
- Wireless Internet and Satellite TV
- Unused weeks are rented for you
- Secure, individual storage
- And much, much more…
As an owner you will experience all of the benefits of your vacation home with none of the worry or drudgery that home ownership traditionally entails. You will also have the option of pampering yourself with an assortment of concierge services. Many of our co-owners tell us that the greatest benefit of our vacation home offerings is the level of care and service we provide. Owners love having no worry or responsibility for the maintenance of their home or the management of their investment. The privacy and small size of the group, and the fairness of all of the systems we have developed for vacation time, rental income and cost allocation make this a carefree and equitable real estate investment.
Our fractional ownership homes different from traditional fractional ownership homes in some fundamental ways:
Privacy. Our co-ownership groups are small, typically no more than five owners per home. desirable, exclusive, and private locations.
Investment Quality. Because we buy smart and have a fair fee structure, the appreciation on the property goes to you.
Unique Co-Owner Selection. We have a unique mutual due diligence process that assesses whether co-ownership is right thing for you.
Property Management and Concierge Services. We not only take care of all aspects of property management and administration, we will pamper you with a comprehensive suite of concierge services to assure that your vacations are memorable, meaningful, and totally trouble-free.
Rental Income. We rent out the weeks that you’re not there to create an income stream for you.
Take a look at Elite’s previous private, co-ownership projects: