French House Hunting 04

Welcome back! I am now 20 days in to my expedition to find a piece of French property to run as an income property. Either as a bed and breakfast, an AirBNB or a commercial space to lease. I have seen some interesting places with charm, appeal and fabulous rooms, unfortunately location has been one of my biggest challenges. (You can read those journeys here: 1, 2 & 3) Although I was born and raised in a small farm town far away from a big city, I have always been drawn to big cities. After living in Boston, San Francisco, New York city and Paris…I don’t think I could do the rural, country living again. At least not until I meet my husband and we settle down with kids. So, my new goal is to find a place in a larger village/city that has events happening year round and with easy access to Paris. Over the last couple of weeks I have been looking at apartments directly in Paris, but a 2+ bedroom apartment is just not within my budget at this time.

Today’s journey is taking me to the city of Tourcoing France. Tourcoing lies on the Belgium border, has a population of over 94,000 and is joined by the cities of Lille, Roubaix, and Villeneuve-d’Ascq to form a major metropolitan area with over 1.1 million people. This area has universities which means there are younger people, it is also popular with Belgium’s, Dutch, Germans and British people for travel and holidays.

I begin my trip at 7:45AM catching a train at the Gare du Nord. There is a direct train from Paris to Tourcoing that only takes 1 hour and cost only 10 Euro. I love that already. But, as I have never been to this region before, I am going to go to Lille first and check out the city center hub to see how I like the feel of the town. I am supposed to arrive in Lille at 8:45AM.

Gare du Nord is a completely different experience for me than Montparnasse. Everybody here seems to be running to catch their trains. There are giant lines for the trains to Brussels, Amsterdam and London. As with air travel, I am always gob-smacked by people who form lines after security. Your ticket should have an assigned seat. Why are you standing in an uncomfortable line surrounded by others all over-anxious to get on to the train. I can see 6 separate bistros from where I am standing that have open seats, and no wait. The train for London doesn’t leave for  over an hour, but the line has at least 40 people in it. I understand the greedy and annoying people on planes who take too many carry-ons. I suppose it could be the same reason here. I don’t have to leave for 30 minutes, so I sit down at a cafe and order an espresso with an iced tea back.

Getting off the train and out of the station in Lille I instantly took a liking to the city. Beautiful old buildings, cobblestone streets, and people. Not as many as in Paris, but a good amount. The city is alive and buzzing, but still calm and picturesque. I started walking, no specific direction or reason. Everything was so beautiful. I walked down a few dozen smaller alleys admiring all of the local shops blended in with the giant corporate stores. Lille has so many large open squares, that you’ll never feel claustrophobic here. In one of the squares was a statue but it had been vandalized and she was wearing a pink brassiere. I looked at a placard near it, and the Pink brassiere was actually put on the statues for Breast Cancer Awareness…I instantly loved it and wondered why the US doesn’t do that to the Statue of Liberty every October. I was really enjoying myself, but I had a schedule to keep. At 12:00PM I head to the train station and jump on the 10 minute train to Tourcoing. The real estate agent will meet me there at 12:30PM. In our correspondence, I told him that I would be the one in the bow tie. He told me he would be the 6 foot 1, bald, black man…we couldn’t miss each other if we tried.

The first one we looked at was the reason for my trip. It was a 3 bedroom, 1 bath. It had a backyard as well, but it was somewhat removed from public transportation. Overall, it was a nice place, but would require some work to be done. To get to the third bedroom, you had to use a staircase that was in the second bedroom. Putting up a wall to make this private wouldn’t have been to difficult, but I’d prefer to not have to worry about it.

The second house was ideal. It is located closer to the Belgium border in a town called Croix. A 4 bedroom 2 bathroom with a brand new remodeled kitchen and it comes furnished. The place is only a 3 minute walk to the metro station that can take one directly to Lille in less than 15 minutes. The current owner has taken great care of it, and it’s ready to be moved in to. The layout has on the ground floor a large living room and dinning room. The gorgeous kitchen, a small outdoor area, and a full bath with washer and dryer. The first floor has two bedrooms, one larger and one smaller, both good-sized with large windows. The second floor has the other 2 bedrooms one larger, one smaller and a bathroom with shower and toilet. On the same block was a butcher, a grocery store, a bar, a pharmacy and a boulangerie. It’s perfect. Here is the advertisement for the house. Photo of the exterior via Google maps is pictured below.

The third house made me sad. To be fair, the real estate agent informed me that the wife is 8 months pregnant and the husband is something of a DIYer. He said that the house had potential, but you had to look past the clutter. Hey, I’m here to look at properties, I won’t say no. So we went to see it. The place was a pigsty. The husband hasn’t finished all of the walls in the place and to access the third bedroom, again you had to go through the second, only the staircase was in an awkward location. It did have a solar panel which I was fond of, but that was about it. The place looked as though it were being held together by tape. To add insult to injury, it would be a 25-30 minute bus ride to the nearest metro station. Hard Pass. Out of respect for the agent attempting to sell this place, I won’t link it here.

All in all, number two is the real winner. I need to check on AirBNB, MisterBnB and a few other sites to make sure I can get renters. The neighborhood is very friendly and inviting and again, you can be in Lille in 15 minutes and in Paris in an hour and 15 minutes. I think we have a winner.

The place is listed below market and was only listed yesterday, so if I do want it, I need to hurry with an offer, and quick.

Wish me luck my dear friends.

Much Love ❤🇫🇷

 

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