Franklin and Don, a retired pharmacist and a Certified Public Accountant, hail from Seattle, Washington and fell in love with France for the language, the food, the art, the history and the cheery sunshine of the Riviera. A newly married couple thanks to the voters of the State of Washington, they show us around their pristine penthouse in Nice.
Tell me about the property
Rebecca Russell of French Entree helped us find an affordable (53 m2) one-bedroom 1920’s penthouse in the Musiciens area of Nice. French doors from the living room, kitchen, and bedroom open to little terraces that overlook the red-tiled roofs of the quarter. It’s a dream come true.
What was the factor that most influenced your choice of area?
Top factors in our choice: Europe and sunshine. We live in Seattle, Washington, and experience our share of grey winter days. We also wanted a place rich in art, culture, and history. Hard to beat Nice there!
What led up to the decision to buy the property?
It happened so fast! It was the third property we saw on the very first day of viewing. Rebecca took us there the day it was placed on the market. We met the selling agent whose name was Ange (French for angel). A sign? The apartment was on the 6th floor and was a penthouse. Heaven, we were thinking. We rode the small elevator to the top while Ange used the stairs since there was no room. He arrived seconds after we did- must have used his angel wings.
Did you use any financing?
We used the FrenchEntrée Mortgage Services to help us find a lender. They were very helpful and things went smoothly. Advice would be to get organized and do it electronically. We created a private folder in an internet cloud account that FrenchEntrée Mortgage Services could access to retrieve the information. When they needed a document I could scan it here in Seattle and post it on the site for immediate access. If originals were needed, I could then just drop that in the mail.
What was your experience with paperwork/bureaucracy?
Frankie’s an accountant and laughs when he looks at the size of the folder that he has concerning the purchase of the property. We did find it amusing when we sat in the Notaire’s office and the notaire dictated in French what had to be handwritten into the document in French. Fortunately, there was a cheat sheet to copy, but in fact there was a lot of handwriting in a foreign language involved. We really liked that formality.
How did you manage with the language?
We did all right. We had been studying French for about 4-5 years by the time we made the purchase. Rebecca speaks French so we had no problems with the language barrier. For sure Frankie was happy to have some general knowledge of was he was signing and what was being said. It all went smoothly.
What was your best day in France?
Absolutely the day we walked into the apartment the first time. We both knew immediately that this was it – the quiet location, the penthouse in the beautiful old apartment building, the French doors, the terraces, and the room with a view.
How did you manage the renovation process?
We were introduced to Bjarni Breidford who manages Luxoria, a company involved in high-end renovations on the French Riviera. We thought our project might be too small, but he took it on and managed the project for us. Basically we ripped out the entire kitchen and replaced it with a look more in keeping with what would originally have been there, painted the walls throughout, laid new wooden floors, and tiled the entryway. It’s beautiful.
What was your experience with local workers?
Of course you can’t supervise anything from so far away. We are happy with the quality of the work done and everyone involved in the project including the workers were very nice. I guess the major difference to what we’re used to in the U.S. is the sense of urgency in completing a project. It’s a cultural thing!
What’s your favorite room in the house?
Probably the living room with it’s French doors opening to the terrace and view of the top of the Negresco.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re there?
Relax, read on the terrace with a glass of wine, stroll around and people-watch.
What’s there to do in the area?
We’re very well-located and Nice is pretty flat so you can walk everywhere. There are museums and shops, the opera, the beach, the old town with its wonderful twisty street and bistros, casinos and nightlife, for those interested. It’s all here.
What was the worst thing that happened related to the purchase or renovation?
Things went quite smoothly with the renovation with only minor bumps. However, the project that was supposed to take 6 weeks ended up taking almost 6 months. On our first visit (supposedly 2 months after completion) there were no kitchen countertops and the new hot water system didn’t work. For the bath we heated the water … in the coffee-maker.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Perhaps were just lucky, but things fell into place. Advice would be to do your homework and anticipate problems with repairs and maintenance. Begin immediately looking for resources. Establish a good relationship with someone who can help you out. Rebecca was a great help to us and could point us in the right direction when things went wrong.
If you hadn’t bought the house, what project might you have done instead?
This has been our dream and focus. We actually did consider buying a vacation rental in U.S. but it wouldn’t be the same!
What would you say to someone who is considering buying a property in France?
Don’t be afraid. If it’s your dream, do it! Just be patient as it most likely will take some time to find and finalize your perfect purchase. We were in contact with Rebecca about buying a year prior to actually doing it and met her in person 6 months prior to flying there to buy. By that time she had a feeling for exactly who we were, what we were looking for, and was able to line up over ten possibilities for us to view. She is the best!
Would you consider living in France full-time?
Absolutely! We have property in the U.S. and we love Seattle too. However, if we could afford it we would probably find a way to stay in France for a longer period of time each year. Perhaps when Frankie retires we can do that. It’s another dream to make come true!
•With thanks to Rebecca Russell, Property Finder in Nice
Photos courtesy of ©Corliss-Reed
For further information about any of the above properties or for help with your property search, please call our consultant at +44 (0)1225 463 752 or email [email protected] or contact one of our local property finders with expert knowledge of the area.