Today is the day I view the first income property. I must continue to remind myself throughout this process that the property must be an INCOME PROPERTY. I must not get carried away by my romantic fascinations with any property unless it has serious income potential. That being said, I am still going to see a few dilapidated chateaux, because, when in France!
My adventure begins at 5:45AM. I had trouble sleeping last night so I finally just decided to get up instead of waiting for my 6:30AM alarm. I step outside of the apartment and within 30 steps I am at the Ménilmontant metro stop. I jump on the number 2 and head towards the Pigalle stop where I will transfer to the number 12. I depart the number 12 arriving at Gare Montparnasse.
My Eurail pass needs to be activated so I hear towards the SNCF counter and am greeted by a very friendly woman around 50 years old. I slowly explain what I need in French and she, smiles at me after I finish talking. My face turns beet red, “Oh god, what did I just say to her?” I was terrified that I made a fool of myself. She then ask me if I was American. I said yes and she told me that my French is impressive, however she advised that I spend more time at coffee shops talking to random strangers so that it would flow easier. I was relieved. I thanked her for the advice and she then drew me a map and explained, in French, where I needed to go.
I board the train, and because I was smart enough to book my seat before, was very relieved that I had a single seat by the window. Observing the countryside as we barrel down the tracks sparks a number of emotions for me. I am viewing everything with rose tinted glasses, metaphorically speaking. We passed an old run down soccer field and concession stand that was barely standing, I laughed to myself because this reminds me of any small town in Texas where you can pass similar fields (only american football) in the same condition. As we continue further I gaze across the freshly harvested fields and wonder how luscious they must have looked just before harvest. In contrast, I imagine winter just ahead and how gorgeous the landscape will look blanketed in pure white snow.
I arrive at Flers at 10AM. I am not supposed to be in Passais until 2PM for the showing. I take this leisure time to stroll around Flers and see what all this vibrant village has to offer. There are plenty of bistros, tabacologist, and shops up and down the blocks. I start wandering around and I notice a beautiful cathedral down the block. I take a quick photo of it and continue exploring. I was using this time to try to forget that I was going to have to hire a taxi to take me to Passais. There are no public transport services to the town where my property is, this is the first red flag. I am walking down the street headed back to the train station when I see a small store front that says “Sofi-Taxi.” What luck, and sitting inside was the driver. I go in and explain to her in my broken French, which she claims was quote good, I’m just saying, that I needed to get to Passais. We jump in her car and hit the road.
We are flying down the road at 90-115 whatever per mile. It felt fast. She is talking to me about her family in Vegas and how her iPhone is part of her family. I laugh to myself not wanting to challenge her in an iPhone/Android debate as she is driving me and I have to pay no matter what. We get halfway through the drive, through the picturesque medieval town of Domfront, it was stunning. I was sad I didn’t have time to really explore this town, but I had to keep forward. We arrive in Passais 10 minutes later. My driver points out the grocery store to me, which looks smaller than most bodegas in New York City. I see the property ahead on our left and I point it out to her. She says how beautiful it looks and knows that it will be great once I get my own touches on it. I lived her support. I get my wallet out ready to pay her, but she says that I’ll need to get back somehow. So she gives me her card and tells me to call her when I’m ready to be picked up. Although we barely understand each other, she has made a friend in me.
I get out of the car and survey they exterior of the building. It is quite charming, a freestanding building that is long and narrow. The town center is just 20 steps away as is the town’s church. I walk the entirety of the village, which takes 20 minutes total. I was enjoying the small French town feeling, however there were about 10 other store fronts all with the fore sale signs in their windows…red flag number 2. The good news is that there is a post office, bar and 2nd hand book store, that’s everything I need.
I stopped inside the supermarket to grab a sandwich to eat. Inside the cashier is socializing with a customer, I say Bonjour to them both and they return the greeting. The market is small, but is well stocked with necessities. I choose the ham sandwich because there are no other options available and head to the front to pay. My French accent keeps getting stronger the longer I am here, and when I was checking out the cashier thought I was French. With my pride and ego larger than life I take my lunch and head to the font of the church to sit on a bench.
I was incredibly lucky to find free public wifi from the Crédit Agricole (bank) across the street. I haven’t had service since I left the train station this morning and I was dying to know any news I might have missed.
Finally 2PM had arrived. I walked in to meet Lyn, the realtor I had been communicating with about this property. I go in speaking French and she responds in perfect French then I stumble and slip in to English and she responds with a lovely British accent in perfect British English. We go into her office and she asked me what I am looking for out of my property search. I explain it has to have commercial value as I want it to pay the bills while I finish my novel. She says, oh I’ve got plenty of places to show you. I was a little scared as getting to Passais was not the easiest journey for me, and now we are leaving it to other villages I have never heard of.
5 properties! Lyn took me to see 5 separate properties in 4 separate villages. The funniest part about it all was that the place I originally went to see is at the bottom of my list. Below are the 5 properties I viewed and a few pros and cons to help me decide.
1. 5 Bedroom, potential for 2 additional bedrooms. BnB possible, short term rental possible, long term rental possible. Thriving village, a mayor who wants businesses to succeed and grow. This place had me the minute we drove up to it. It’s move in ready, gorgeous private yard, quick walk to the lake, gardens, park, camp grounds, town square. Con is that it’s the higher end of my budget.
2. This property is going to need some work. The place is nice, however the staircase has been enclosed and makes it feel dark in the house. Also the store front has been entirely emptied aside from the tiles, so it will require additional work. It does have a huge garage though.
3. This property is the original one I came to see. I didn’t like the extensive amount of work that will be required to make it profitable. It’s a great size with 8 bedrooms and commercial store front, but it would require too much work.
4. This place is emaculatly decorated. The owner is a designer and he has transformed the living quarters in to their own beautiful rooms of art. This place also has a commercial shop that opens in to the square where they have a weekly market. Some updating will be wanted, but nothing is necessary at this time.
5. This place is actually right next door to property #3. It’s a nice 4 bedroom with an additional 1br apartment over the garage. This place has a small walled garden between the house and garage and it looks to be kept up well on the inside. The actual garage is completely tiled and could easily be converted into an additional apartment as well. There is a very small storefront commercial space in the house, but it used to be a butchery and I have no interest in that, so it would require more work.
Of all these 5 properties, number 1 is by far my favorite. The potential for this property is really quite limitless. Lyn was telling me how the Mayor is working hard to get business in the town and to keep them thriving. There is a beautiful park, lake, camp ground, hiking trails, miniature golf course, local bar, and gardens. The gardens in this town are quite remarkable. The entire village works hard at keeping them vibrant and enchanting. Even as we were driving through on a chilly autumn day, we saw plenty of people out enjoying the outdoors, playing in the park and drinking and eating on the deck of the bar. Lyn informed me that at Christmas time tour busses with Parisians are brought to town to view the extensive Christmas lights display. How could I say no to that?! She did inform me that it is rare to get snow because of how the area is situated, but with global warming I could get lucky.
So after all of the properties were viewed, my head was spinning around a kilometer a minute. I had asked so many questions, I hope I hadn’t exhausted Lyn. I think I asked everything I needed to know. I’m sure I’ll have a few hundred more questions as the minutes drag by. I want to send a giant shout out to Lyn for helping me with all of this, she was incredible. If anyone is looking for property around the Passais area, she is the one to contact.
Now I am going to take the cab back to Flers and hopefully sleep on the train ride back to Paris. It is Friday night after all, and I can’t go out with a little nap first.