“It sold.” Her voice sounded so drained of its usual contagious energy, I thought she just might pass out on the phone. “It sold from under us.”
I felt like I had been hit in the stomach. I couldn’t believe my ears and I kept hoping I’d heard her wrong. Of all the exciting things I had dreamed my agent would tell me in the morning, the sublime apartment selling from under me was not one that I even considered, especially after all the assurances that it was mine for the taking. “How could this happen? “ I shrieked, “I thought we were the first?”
“We were the first with Robert,” she told me, “but another agent got the keys too. He brought an offer with him and it was accepted on the spot.
And thus we plunged from the sublime to what I think of as the ridiculous way the real estate market works in Paris.
First off, the fact that there is no multiple listing service means that realtors are all competing against each other. And therefore it behooves the seller to list their apartment with more than one agent. So you never know until it happens whether another agent will undercut you in your offer. And as a result, there is no winner here: Not the buyer, the seller or the agent.
And then the whole Parisian pricing structure has completely mystified me from the very beginning. If the market is as hot as it is, and if the good properties sell for full price before they even go on the market, why don’t they just raise the prices? Instead, they group properties by “Arrondissement” and determine that all apartments in one arrondissement will sell for 10,000 euros per square meter, while another neighboring arrondissement can fetch up to 12,000 euros. But what if, like the sublime, you’re in the 3rd arrondissement, which is typically about 2,000 less than the 6th or 7th, but you’re in a great location next to the Place des Vosges, and your apartment has great bones, and is highly desirable? Wouldn’t you price it higher than the going rate, if there is more demand for that type of apartment? And what if your apartment sells to the first buyer even before it officially goes on the market, for full-price? Wouldn’t that possibly imply that it was underpriced?
I was so deflated by the loss of the sublime that I couldn’t think of anything else for days. Don’t get me wrong: I knew that this wasn’t a life sentence, or anything remotely as significant. I’ve always known that my idea of buying a pied-a-terre in Paris is a complete luxury, but it has been my dream for years, and I’ve made a lot of concessions to achieve this dream. So losing the best one that came my way was a huge loss. Nothing too serious, I realize, but still … enough hurt and sadness and loss that it has taken its toll, and a long while to recover.
And then I started wondering about the whole price thing. Perhaps I was the one who was ridiculous here, because hadn’t I agreed to pay full price for a shabby, dusty, dirty apartment that needed to be renovated from scratch and was a third floor walk up? What if, for sake of argument, I took the money I was about to throw at something sight unseen and spent it on a house that I could actually see in Atlanta? What kind of house would that buy me in Atlanta? And that led me to a very interesting comparison. Who’s being ridiculous now?
Le Sublime: Trash filled, one bedroom, needing a major facelift
And what the same dollars would buy today in Atlanta
The kitchen at Le Sublime
The kitchen at the Atlanta equivalents
The 17th century beams at Le Sublime
The beams in Atlanta
The 10 foot ceilings of Le Sublime
The 20 foot ceilings in Atlanta
The “back yard” view from Le Sublime
The backyard of Atlanta
All Atlanta photos courtesy of Atlanta Fine Homes
This house, located on one of the nicest streets in the fanciest neighborhoods of Atlanta, really spoke to me (and I’ve always had a soft spot for a pool, especially onethat you can just walk out to from the main floor). And I can hear all my French friends questioning my sanity for even considering a dusty, noisy 3rd floor walkup apartment in a creaky, 17th century Parisian building in the 3rd Arrondissement, over a pristine house in perfect condition on Valley Road in Atlanta.
Here we sit in beautiful sunny Atlanta with more houses on the market than ever before and with surplus inventory for years to come. And in Paris, I can’t even be the first bid, even when I’m ready to pounce with a fulltime offer before the apartment goes on the market. Is there something wrong with this picture? Have we indeed gone from the sublime to the ridiculous?
This whole game has not been about price but about realizing a long-time dream. So no matter how beautiful a house might be in Atlanta, or Phoenix or Dallas or Boston, it’s not what I’m going after right now. In many ways, this exercise has helped me with a dose of reality. Maybe it’s time to relax a little, and let things follow their course. Le sublime wasn’t meant to be, but maybe it was meant to slow me down. Was it really worth my getting so worked up and upset over something as basic as … an apartment? Surely, there will be others. And surely, I need to get a grip on reality. Maybe even get my priorities refocused.
I think I’ll take a break for a while, to smell the coffee, consider my priorities and be appreciative of the things in life that really matter. Like my sublime family, my friends, and my gallery.