We decided several years ago that we wanted to invest in a second home outside of Canada, as a way to nurture our personal and professional lives abroad. We both have academic backgrounds, and had an opportunity to travel extensively over the last few years, presenting scientific papers in Turkey, England, France, Norway, Italy, and Germany. The milder winter, cafe culture, outdoor markets, antiquity, history, and museums really appealed to our desire to live well and good. However, time would tell whether or not our dream could become a reality. First, we knew that property prices in places like Rome and Paris were steep. We discovered that by looking beyond central Paris to the near suburbs, significant savings were to be found, without having to give up access to the metro line, shopping etc. Second, we did not have the cash to outright buy, but rather needed to finance our purchase. We enlisted the help of Adrian Leeds, Property Consultant and were successful in obtaining financing and a property in Saint Denis for ourselves and two furry companions.
Next we had to consider whether we ship everything to furnish our apartment via ocean container, or shop for everything on arrival? For us the decision came easier, as we are both avid collectors and relish scouring second-hand markets. We wanted to furnish our second home with books, unique collectibles, kitchen linens, teak and bamboo woods, furniture, rugs, bikes, etc. that we handpicked ourselves over time. We did that in Winnipeg and stored our second-hand purchases in our garage, basement and closets. We ended up spending at least 80% less than we would have done if we had bought new, leaving only the larger electrical appliances to purchase in France. Even factoring in the several thousand dollars it cost to ship across the ocean, we still think we were better off. We were able to transform our apartment from drab to fab, with the help of a superb handyman, in just three and a half weeks.
This approach might not be for everyone and you definitely need to plan well in advance. You will need to compile a complete inventory in Excel down to every cup and saucer, assign your purchase value, convert that to Euros, translate into French and provide this to the shipping company. An added advantage is that in case of fire you have this for insurance purposes. Have sufficient time to envision your decorating scheme, pack your items well to prevent damage or loss, and ensure that you have all parts needed to re-assemble your furniture pieces readily. For a bamboo wardrobe that we shipped, I took pictures of it before tearing it down, making it easier to re-assemble. Most important is to take the time to get moving quotes for every step of the way, including loading from garage to container, and from container to your apartment. In many apartments French elevators will be too small or simply non- existent, requiring a portable escalator to deliver through a window or balcony.
We will now be able to relax and enjoy our surroundings in France right away, but most appreciative will be our two four- legged companions who we transport to Paris with us later this month.