PROPERTY LETTER – 25th January 2005.

Posted by admin in Property Letters | January 25th 2005

Dear All,

Runners World magazine billed this as the year of “2005 and thrive”. Corny? Perhaps…. but I go along with the sentiment, and everyone I know, and the people I see around here feel it.

Cannes – Le Plan Vert.
(Cannes – The Green Plan.)
A 32 page brochure turned up in our office entitled “Cannes – Le Plan Vert” and I liked it so much I rushed off to the municipal offices – “L’Hotel de Ville” – and collected a whole pile which I am sending and giving to people who express any interest. It’s an outline of the improvements planned for Cannes in 2005, with an introduction by the Deputy Mayor Monsieur Brochand in which he details the plan to uplift our city.

After an exhaustive environmental impact study, 135 specific projects have been identified, and the brochure shows page after page of photos of particular parts of the Cannes we know today, and “photomontages” of the same view as it is planned, before and after images. Without wishing to bore those who don’t know Cannes as yet (many do), Ave. de Lerins, Place de L’Etang, Boulevard Gazagnaire, Ave. Isola Bella, Boulevard de la Republique, Boulevard Carnot, Le Suquet, Boulevard du Midi, and even the Voie Rapide, and many more are going to be uplifted.

Vicky and I stay in one of our apartments overlooking the Place de L’Etang, and it is very pleasant and traditional. It is the centre for boulle (petanqu) and buzzes with village life at all times of the year, however it occupies an entire block and is treed, but as with all boulle venues has nothing but rough earth under foot. Work has started and a half of it is being excavated for, I am told, the installation of ponds and fountains and gardens, and we are delighted. (There is plenty ground left for boulle which can never be taken from the Place de l’Etang). The roads and parking, which has always been a bit chaotic, are being completely overhauled with pedestrian areas, benches, and I foresee attractive cafes and restaurants. The adjacent Ave de Lerins which runs in front of our apartment, and the Boulevard Gazagnaire which we see behind us, along the eastern coastline, are to be transformed with flowering trees, flower gardens and broad friendly pavements.

In general it looks like a very clever plan, well researched, which uses what we already have and improves it without major structural work beyond road resurfacing and paving – but a lot of care and attention, and the introduction of a great deal more greenery and colour, and people friendliness. Those who know the Croisette and the quality of the gardening, and the streets and pedestrian facilities, in that most famous part of Cannes will have a feel for what the Plan Vert envisages for the rest of the city.

Why am I so happy about Le Plan Vert?
o The values of the properties we have already bought for investors have every chance of improving.
o Cannes as a city is already the flagship of the Riviera, and it will be even more so with the improvements planned. People come here and invest here because it is so good, safe, clean, beautifully gardened and so on. Not to mention the climate. (A fellow investor and friend told us the other day that he and his wife met a wealthy Hollander who has traveled everywhere, but lives here. Our friend asked him why? His answer was, “because it is the best place in the world to live.” We may not all agree with him but very many do.
o And finally, no city can afford to rest on its laurels. Most of us as investors here need the rentals we can generate through visitors to the region, as well as the annual increases we can see in the value of our investments. We need Cannes and the Cote d’Azur to shine and to prosper. Other cities in Europe and around the world would just love to have our visitors for themselves, and we need to stay ahead. Le Plan Vert will help us to do that for a good long time to come.

Expansion and development are a mixed blessing. They are a sign of confidence, and where money is being poured in to an area, it is good for business and for property values. But there is a tendency to miss and regret the loss of “the way things were”. We feel a bit like that after only 3 years in Cannes.

Beyond “Le Plan Vert” there is a huge amount going on, and particularly in Palm Beach. There is no doubt that it is the area of Cannes that is increasingly being referred to as “prestige” and “exclusive” – we are hearing those adjectives frequently. Part of that is geography, as the Croisette spills into Palm Beach seamlessly, and there is nowhere left to develop in the centre. It is lovely, safe, and a little quieter and it feels “exclusive”.

Wherever there is a space big enough, building is in progress. I believe there are 4 new blocks going up in Palm Beach, and I must say that they are being carefully planned and in each case look to improve the area. Two very close to us are nearing completion and they are very good buildings, although we are pleased to see the end of the cranes, heavy machinery, and the noise. The valuable and viable older houses and villas are the subject of renovation wherever we look.

Constant improvement is a way of life here, and I suppose it could be said to have been the same since Roman times.

The business of property is quite difficult and has been for a couple of years – as relative newcomers we are assured that in the 1990’s and in 2000 it was quite different. I can believe that because the world has changed since 2001. Good property is hard to find, and the prices reflect the fact. We still look at everything we can with a variety of the best and most energetic agencies in town, but all share the same problem – not much stock. We select the best from all of them and will not recommend any property that we don’t believe is a) a good buy from the point of view of position, rental potential and capital appreciation, and b) reasonably priced in the market. We continue to search out good buys, full time.

This makes it hard for new buyers, but in spite of that we have more people interested in buying here than we ever have had before, and we are actively engaged in trying to find for each of them what they are looking for – and we will find it, but some patience is sometimes needed.

On the rental side Lao has made great strides, and a huge improvement in his pool of contacts, and let me just say that we are optimistic that 2005 is going to be significantly better in every way, and for every investor, than 2004 was. He absolutely hates me raising expectations so I will stop there!

With kind regards to you all,

Guy.

Properties that we would recommend are only a few, but I may be able to follow this letter up in a week or two with some more, and will if I can. We are hoping to see some smaller and more affordable studio apartments too, and have had one that we liked recently which was quickly bought by an investor. When we find them we will let interested people know immediately, because inevitably it is necessary to move quite fast to secure them.

Avenue Reine Astrid – Palm Beach
One bedroom apartment.
Newly renovated
4th floor.
Asking price – 292 000€
Living area 60 sq.m
Terrace 8 sq.m

This apartment has a spacious entrance hall leading into a lovely living room with a brand new open plan kitchen. Both the living area and kitchen open onto the balcony through glass doors, and there is a small dinning area, all open, between the kitchen and the balcony door. The balcony is wide enough for a small table and four chairs, and runs the length of the apartment.

The bedroom also opens through glass doors to the balcony, and has good spacious cupboarding.
The bathroom has been redone in a very modern style.
There is a large walk-in cupboard off the hall, which is currently used as a laundry.

The view is special. The balcony faces north, but offers a lovely open view to the east of the bay leading across to the Cap d’Antibes. To the West you look out across the remaining small villas around the place de L’Etang, and opposite is another apartment block. Therefore the view comprises one third seascape, one third apartment building and one third village.
It is 50m from the beach.

Palm Beach is good for holiday letting, and performs well during conferences, although it is less easily rentable than the apartments which are in the centre.

View Californie
One bedroom apartment
Needs renovating
7th floor
Asking price 215 000€
Living area 40 sq.m
Terrace 26.4 sq. m

The apartment has a wonderful view. It is on the 7th floor of a building looking out across the pleasant suburb of La Californie and onto the hills beyond. It is actually on the top of the building. The lift goes as far as the 6th floor and so one must walk up the final flight to the seventh. Because it is on top of the building it has a much larger terrace than normal, and the attraction of this added living and entertaining space, combined with the view gives this apartment something special.

It is situated just behind the Martinez Hotel, so from a rental point of view, it is excellent.

The apartment needs renovation throughout.

Petit Juas.
Two bedroomed apartment.
Completely renovated.
3rd and top floor.
Asking price – 320 000€
Claims to be 80 sq.m. (to be checked)
Terrace claims to be 37 sq.m. (to be checked)
It is the top floor apartment with 2 bedrooms in a lovely old building, with a great living area, and wonderful terrace.
The apartment sits on top of a 1900 (or earlier) Art Deco building. The building was quite magnificent in its day with ornate filigree arches over the windows, and pillars. It is in an old part of town which is seeing a rebirth. Apartment blocks and old houses are being done up and prices are rising, and it is becoming a very “chic” place to be. Petit Juas is now “an address”.
From the apartment you look out over old houses with their gardens with some really majestic buildings beyond – some in need of renovation, but there is evidence all around of that happening.
The building itself is eye catching. It was beautiful.
Now the reality……there is some graffiti (one piece) on the wall outside which needs to be cleaned off and there are two little shops on the ground floor – one is occupied (upholstery I think) but looks sad, while the other is empty with “to let” signs in it.
One enters the building through a huge old front door into a run-down hall with peeling paint. There are marble stairs to the first floor where there are two apartments which are not looked after – you can just sense that they are neglected. The stairwell looks run down (but safe and complete because it is so well and solidly built)
On the second floor landing are two more apartment doors. The impression is that someone cares, and the doorway on the left is clean and tidy and newly painted. Through the second door one enters a stairwell of polished wooden stairs ascending through white pristine walls in a spiral to the apartment on the 3rd floor. As you come up it is open plan and light without another door to the 3rd floor – you simply arrive in this huge loft like room with double skylights a meter square (both open up if one wants) and old wooden beams. The floors are of large terracotta tiles and a real and welcoming old fireplace dominates the room. The front sliding glass doors open up onto a very spacious terrace. It is gorgeous with huge terracotta pots containing a mass of greenery (which needs some taming!) and a real custom built stone braai (barbecue). It is invisible from the street or any other building, and the view from it is over a landscape of 19th and early 20th century rooftops. It is wonderful.
Back indoors, and off the main room under the sloping roof is a separate toilet on one side (near the stairs) and wide corridor with two bedrooms off each side and the main bathroom ahead. All three rooms have the wooden beams in the ceiling, and the bedrooms are on wooden floors which are raised slightly above the teracotta tiles which cover the rest of the apartment and terrace. Each bedroom has good cupboards, and a window looking out over the rooftops, and each has its own skylight, as in the main living room. The bathroom is in white tiles with a blue floral fleck – very pretty. There is a bath and basin with cupboard and it is plumbed for a washing machine although one is not in place. The floor is in lavender blue tiles.
I missed the kitchen! It is also above the stairs and is new with genuine granite surfaces. It is fully equipped with fridge, freezer, 4plate stove (no oven), microwave, dishwasher, double sink, and a window looking out to the terrace.
There is an interphone to the ground to allow people in by remote.
AND there is an underground garage in a private parking garage across the street. This is a huge asset in an area of small streets, and the garage is worth 20 000€. It is on separate title and can be sold or rented out if one wishes.
So what needs doing to the apartment?
Install a washing machine in the bathroom.
Paint and touch up the terrace area which just needs tidying.
I would see if I could interest the people on the 2nd floor, and if not then I would simply pay myself (maybe 3000€) to get the graffiti off the exterior and tidy up and repaint the entrance hall and stairwell.
Then I would watch and wait for the opportunity to buy myself, or get friends and colleagues in to the rest of the building in time.
The position is five minutes walk to the Palais des Festivals, where the conferences are held. It is perfect for rentals and in an area where there is much excitement, much development, much character, and it is up and coming.

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