PROPERTY LETTER 14th DECEMBER 2007

Posted by admin in Property Investment, Property Letters | December 14th 2007

Dear All,

Vicky and I have arrived back in Cape Town to celebrate Christmas, the New Year and a family wedding but will be back in Cannes on 10th January. It is beautiful here, and lovely to get a “whiff of Africa”, even if the Cape isn’t “real Africa”.

We would both like to wish all of you a very happy Christmas and festive season, and we wish you a happy and successful 2008.

 

The Market:

Last week Sylvana (who so many of you have met in the Agency Azur Eden) had an Italian client with €3 million to spend on an apartment, and they wanted it right on the Croisette. For that price it had to be spectacular of course, spacious, with big views and terraces and very well appointed. She couldn’t find one. Needless to say she was very highly motivated, and phoned or visited every agency she could think of, but nobody could help her. Can you believe that?

Also just over a week ago Delphine took me to see an apartment she’d found in the centre of Cannes, very well positioned for rentals, in a good building, just what many of our investors are looking for, and priced to sell. It was small, with a useful closed in balcony and the asking price was 214 000€ (affordable for many). It had come onto the market that morning so I immediately sent the information to a couple of people who I thought would be interested, and planned to go back in the afternoon with Vicky so she could see it. In the afternoon it was gone – sold!

What are these stories telling us?

  • We are not finding it easy to find good properties.

  • There is not much on the market.

  • Good properties are selling – not all in a day, but the market is alive and well.

The French Riviera is different – it is a “brand” that goes back long before Dior, or Rolls Royce were thought of. Some of you will already know about the area, but for those who need reminding, here is what keeps the Côte d’Azur ahead of the competition:

 

The French Riviera…

…extends from Menton on the Italian border, through Monaco, Nice and Cannes to St Tropez in the west.

It stretches from the beautiful Mediterranean to the mountains and enjoys its own special micro-climate, warmly protected from the vagaries of European weather by “les Alpes Maritimes”.

The history of the region stretches back to ancient Greek times with Antibes and Sophia Antipolis being two surviving examples of ancient Greek towns.

More recently Roman influence and ruins include the impressive “Trophee” of Emperor Augustus still soaring today above Monaco at La Turbee, and the Roman port of Frejus which is now 3 km inland.

Mediaeval villages top many of the hills and mountains and are fascinating to visit today, examples being Eze, St Paul de Vence, Gorbio, Mougins and Bairols. (If anyone thinks of planning a visit to Bairols please contact me first for advice on the most wonderful restaurant – not expensive but an experience to remember.)

Over the centuries the region has attracted some of the world’s most renowned artists:Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Renoir, Picasso and Van Gogh all lived and worked in the area and it’s easy to see what attracted them. Artists “wax lyrical” about the quality of the light, but to the rest of us it’s just the natural freedom and beauty of the place that is irresistible.

Arguably the best food and wines in France are proudly served in even the most modest restaurants, while for connoisseurs the choice is greater than anyone could sample in a lifetime.

Throughout the year the most stunning and prestigious golf courses in Europe offer golf which is affordable. There are 15 major courses on the Côte d’Azur, the most well known perhaps being the Royal Mougins, Claus Amic, Chateaux de Taulane, and Monte Carlo Golf Club. Contrary to popular belief they are not all impossibly expensive, and all except one offer special rates and incentives at all times of the year.

World renowned ski slopes such as Isola 2000 and Auron are within an hour and a half drive of Cannes and only an hour from Nice. During the season buses leave every morning from the Old Port of Cannes and return in the afternoon, the ski-pass included in the bus fare, providing a terrific service to those who would rather not drive.

It goes without saying that boating and yachting are a major attraction for those who love it, there are famous casinos for those who like to play the tables and the nightlife and shopping are legendary. The Rue d’Antibes is probably France’s second most famous shopping street after the Champs Elysée.

Security is taken extremely seriously as you would imagine, and cleanliness is demanded by the class of people who live and visit there. Rubbish is collected every day before dawn, and streets and pavements are washed with high power hoses. Frogmen clean the waters at day break, the beaches are spotless by the time ordinary people get up for breakfast, and the lovely gardens are a source of local pride.

Businesses from around the world choose to meet on the Côte d’Azur, and mostly in Cannes, for all the reasons outlined above. The CANNES FILM FESTIVAL is the best known each May, but there are many congresses held in Cannes, Nice and Monaco throughout the year. To name just a few of them:

Real Estate on the Côte d’Azur has been sought after since Victorian England, and then the Americans and the Russians recognised the wonders of the climate and lifestyle more than a hundred years ago.

The Rothschilds, Queen Victoria, Edward and Wallis, and their wealthy friends bought huge estates and built fabulous homes up and down the coast and we can visit some of them today – those that are open to the public. The Russian aristocracy did the same. The latter perished during the Russian Revolution in their thousands, but their castles, villas and churches stand as monuments, it could be said, to their excesses.

The Côte d’Azur is the destination of choice for discerning individuals from around the world.

 

An Interesting Read.

(From an article by Ian Fife in the Financial Mail)

Although the article refers mainly to British property and investments, one can safely extrapolate to include Europe, and France in particular.

.Mike Watters, CEO of SA-owned London-listed fund Ciref, says: “The UK’s economic fundamentals are sound. Yet the British have not seen a financial wobble in many years and they’re behaving like rabbits caught in the headlights of a car….I wouldn’t say there’s panic,” Watters adds “but it is a wonderful buying opportunity.” He, Rabinowitz and other fund managers point out that South Africans are uniquely positioned. They’ve been through these sudden collapses in the market a number of times in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.

Where the British see threats, battle-hardened South Africans see opportunity. Recent international research shows that South Africans are the most willing to take risk, while the British are most risk-averse. “It’s a brilliant time for South Africans to buy,” says Fortress Asset Management director Craig Hallowes. “The rand is strong and the offshore property returns are around SA fund returns.” He, Rabinowitz and Watters see the market remaining stunned for at least three to six months….

“Don’t underestimate the gravity of the subprime problem,” adds Rabinowitz. “But the property fundamentals in Britain and Europe are sound over the medium term.”….

Despite the gloom, Capital Economics remains confident that the UK property market will continue to grow. Says Mora: “We expect GDP growth to slow from 3% this year to 2% in 2008, a little weaker than previously forecast. This revision will not be enough, however, to undermine the occupier markets, and in any case, we expect sustained economic expansion up to 2011.

Here is the link to the original article: http://free.financialmail.co.za/07/1130/moneyinvest/cmoney.htm

 

Another Interesting Read.

This time extracted from the quarterly newsletter of Credit Foncier, the lending bank that has been most helpful to us and our Southern African investors over the last 5½ years.

  • The French property market’s appeal has shown no sign of fading. In fact it is attracting more overseas buyers than ever. The non-resident market represented more than €7 billion in 2006 compared to €6 billion in 2005 – this share has been steadily growing over the years.

  • Britain dominated the non-resident market accounting for 43.1% of sales, followed by the Benelux countries with 13.5%, Italy with 12% and Ireland with 7.3%.

  • Senior executives and directors topped the list accounting for 36% of British buyers, followed by professionals (21%) and retirees (15%).

  • Dordogne was the most popular destination for the British buyer, accounting for 6.5% of transactions, closely followed by The Côte d’Azur and Haute-Savoie at about 6% each.

  • 85% of Credit Foncier’s clients chose repayment loans to finance their purchases, with the option of fixed or variable rate loans or a combination of both, over a period of six to 25 years – with the added option to decrease or increase monthly instalments, and make early repayments free of charge.

The Web:

Please have a look at our main websites from time to time.

The rental website is on www.azur-online.com

Our property website is on www.azur-accom.com

I was invited to contribute a guest column to “realestateweb” a subsidiary to “moneyweb” which publishes articles including those from the Wall Street Journal whom it represents in S.A. We are published under the heading “Postcards from the Riviera”.

www.realestateweb.co.za (click onto “guest columns” and “property talk” to get there)

or www.moneyweb.co.za and follow the link to realestateweb.

 

Down Under.

A good friend who like us farmed in Zimbabwe (in another life) is also involved in property now, but in his case in Perth, Australia. He recently wrote a covering letter with a full and detailed proposal on a development there, and I quote:

.…It is the logical result of our own search for property investment options overseas, in which we were looking for a way to bank our hard earned cash and provide for a future pension. Our view was that the uncertainty of the international monetary system and the complications of living in Africa made the offshore option, within the law, more attractive than ever. We also wanted control over our investments, as well as the opportunity to borrow and create enough leverage to invest where there are good prospects of real capital gain.

We have teamed up with a very old friend (of 30 years standing!) who is a property developer in Perth, and he has given us sole rights in Africa to their latest development in that booming city. The development is a stunning 26-floor building called EQUUS, and comprises 139 luxury apartments above 7 floors of offices and shops. EQUUS is flanked by pedestrian malls and is located next to the Cathedral and park in the central CBD; it has stunning views over the Swan River and hills, and is the first apartment development for young professionals in the central city. This development has offered us a spring board from which to launch the new business, and since the building will only be complete in 2011, we (and every other buyer) have the time to find the balance of the deposit. The local banks there offer a 70% bond to Non-Residents, and every aspect of the deal is within the terms of South Africa’s foreign exchange regulations. The rate of rental return is also remarkable, and certainly appealing to those of us who want an assured future….”

If you are interested in what he is doing please ask and I will immediately refer you to Ian, or ask him to mail you with details of the project.

I urge you to have a good look at the properties below. Some of you will be actively interested, and for others the exercise will be purely educational – but I hope that from it you’ll gain some insight or inspiration.

Once again, all the best to you and your families for the festive season, take care on the roads, and we wish you health and happiness in 2008.

With kind regards,

Guy.

 

 

Some Properties to Consider:

  • PLEASE don’t hesitate to get back to me with queries.

  • I will send fuller descriptions and photos on a “by request” basis.

  • Don’t forget – most sellers will consider offers.

Please also remember that this is a selection from hundreds of properties, and we have only included those that we consider to have some merit for the investor.

 

Jean de Riouffe. Large Studio Apartment. In the Centre of Cannes.

  • 37 sq.m. of living space.

  • Fully renovated and ready to work as a rental unit.

  • Double glazed.

  • View of streets leading to the Palais des Festivals.

  • Price is 230 000 Euros.

  • The apartment is being sold furnished.

This large studio is a perfect rental property. It is on the first floor of a very good building so the entrance and common areas are modern, light and spotless. If one leans out of one of the large front windows and looks right, one can see the Palais des Festivals 200m away at the bottom of the street. If one looks left, the Cannes central railway station is 200m away at the top of the street.

This apartment is in an absolutely ideal situation for the rental market.

 

Rue d’Antibes. Studio Apartment.

  • 31 sq.m. of living space.

  • 6 sq.m. terrace.

  • Renovated and ready to work.

  • Double glazed. Air conditioned. Electric shutters.

  • 5th floor so good views over the city.

  • Price is 235 000 Euros.

  • The apartment is being sold furnished.

This apartment is on the Rue d’Antibes but at the top end. It still classifies as “in the centre” and will be a good renter. The building is good, clean and modern, and because we already have apartments in the building we know it is well cared for. There is a cellar in the basement.

 

Alexandre III. Two bedroom apartment.

Easy walking distance to the centre.

  • 84.82 sq.m. of living space.

  • Large (23 sq.m.) south facing terrace overlooking extensive gardens.

  • First floor.

  • Price is 410 000 Euros.

This is a large apartment in a very good development. The sunny terrace is lovely and light and overlooks immaculate gardens, the two bedrooms (both with bathrooms) and kitchen overlook the street to the north. It therefore traverses the building, and has a garage and a cellar in the basement. The position on Alexandre III is just a couple of hundred meters from the Croisette and the beaches of Port Canto. For rentals it is within a walkable radius of the Palais des Festivals although it is just out of the centre. The apartment requires renovation as it is years since anything was done to it, and at the price it is well worth doing. (One might budget 50 000 Euros for the renovation.) We have ascertained that the entire complex is about to undergo an external paint job and renovation, and that will immediately add value to the block.

 

Place de l’Etang. One / two bedroom apartment.

In the heart of Palm Beach.

  • 66 sq.m. of living space.

  • Overlooks the Place de l’Etang.

  • Modern building (1997).

  • On the 3rd floor of 5.

  • Aspect full south with a small sea view.

  • Terrace 19 sq.m.

  • Price is 555 000 sq.m.

 

 

This is a wonderful apartment. The building dominates the Place de l’Etang which is the world centre of Boules (Petanque to some). It is a constant hive of activity and village life with five restaurants, little shops and all the character in the world. From a rental point of view it is excellent for summer, and similarly for conferences. We have other top-end apartments on the Place and they perform very well for those to whom rentals are important. Beaches are a mere hundred meters away, and for anyone preferring a bus ride to the 20 minute walk through gardens and seafront to the centre, the “Number 8” passes under the apartment every 20 minutes – the fare to the Old Port and the Conference Centre is 1.30€ return.

This apartment which traverses the building from south to north (and so enjoys a through- flow of air) was a two bedroom apartment and the current owners have opened it up to make a double living room onto the spacious balcony. One can re-establish the second bedroom with a simple dividing wall if required. It has a bathroom and a separate toilet. Of course the apartment is air conditioned with electric shutters and blinds, and it comes with a garage and a cellar in the basement.

 

Basse Californie. Two bedroom apartment.

Easy walking distance to the centre.

  • 100 sq.m. of living space.

  • 100m from the Rue d’Antibes.

  • Classic Bourgeois building from the turn of the 20th century.

  • On the 5th and top floor.

  • Aspect south with a sea view.

  • Price is 645 000 Euros.

 

 

This large two bedroom and two bathroom apartment on the top floor of a classic building has been entirely renovated with luxury finishes. The living room alone is 50 sq.m. and the open plan kitchen is fully equipped. It is double glazed, air conditioned and has a lift (not always the case in older buildings). The position is very good for rentals.

These few apartments were in my last Property Letter and have not been sold. I am entering them again because they are GOOD.

 

Village Sablons.

The charming little shopping centre in Palm Beach is called Village Sablons. This apartment is on the first floor of an old building and is entirely and beautifully renovated and furnished. It is ready to rent.

  • Small one bedroom apartment.

  • 35 / 38 sq.m. living space.

  • Small balcony at front and small closed in balcony at back.

  • Aspect – east and west.

  • Fully furnished.

  • Asking price – 260 000€.

Marachal Juan.

Just a hundred meters from the Rue d’Antibes and the centre of town – excellent rental property with high quality finishes and fully furnished. It is on the second and top floor of a small building. Ready to go.

  • One bedroom apartment – spacious living.

  • 45 sq.m. living space with a large entrance hall and annex.

  • The entire 2nd floor of 2.

  • Aspect – north and south.

  • View – over gardens.

  • Air conditioned and double glazed.

  • Fully furnished.

  • Asking price – 275 000€.

Louis Grosso.

This quality building is in the block which is on La Croisette, but in the second row. The apartment is “traversant” with balconies off the living room on the east side and off the bedrooms on the west side with views of La Croisette and the Port Canto between the handsome buildings which form the front row. The apartment has been completely renovated and is sold attractively furnished and ready to go – a very attractive and important opportunity.

  • Two bedroom apartment.

  • One bathroom with toilet, separate shower and toilet.

  • Balconies east and west.

  • 57 sq.m. living space.

  • 1st floor of 5.

  • Air-conditioned and double glazed.

  • Fully furnished.

  • Private parking.

  • Asking price – 450 000€.

Isola Bella.

In the gardens of a beautiful old villa in the centre of Cannes low apartment buildings were created around the villa and its beautiful gardens and pool. The complex is quiet, secure and residents have the exclusive use of the gardens and pool area. The villa itself now comprises four luxury apartments. We have a two bedroom and two bathroom apartment on the first floor of one of the new residences on offer. Lovely garden and pool views, and quiet. The living area is very spacious and the apartment has been fairly recently renovated, and is being sold furnished. However, there is the option of opening up the kitchen and hall to bring them into a greatly enhanced living area, and renovating the bathrooms while giving the apartment a freshening to raise it from a quality product to a luxury one.

  • Two bedroom, two bathroom apartment.

  • Large east and south facing balcony.

  • 78 sq.m. living space.

  • 1st floor of 2.

  • Fully furnished.

  • Air conditioned and double glazed.

  • Garage and cellar in the basement.

  • Asking price – 550 000€.

Rue Mace.

In the heart of Cannes and a stones throw from the Palais des Festivals. Perfect rental property. The apartment is on the 4th and top floor of a good building, and is entirely and well renovated and furnished.

  • Three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

  • 100 sq.m. living space.

  • 10 sq.m. of roof top terrace.

  • 4th floor of 4.

  • Aspect – east and south.

  • Air conditioned all rooms.

  • Fully furnished.

  • Asking price – 745 000€.

 

 

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