18 March 2012

Let's Dance

Several months ago, I told you I was making an offer on a store space. Would you believe I never heard back on it? Only a demand from the real estate agent representing the current tenant for an outrageous amount of money for his part in brokering the deal. I don't really understand what happened once I put my offer in and why the owner didn't respond, but it was a demoralizing experience and one I have tried to learn from.

I've always been a believer in karma and like many people I spoke with, believed that this space was probably not meant to be. I've spent the past several months chasing down various property agents and visiting a number of available stores. Two weeks ago, as I was on my way to visit another space, I happened by an empty restaurant with a for lease sign in the window. I called and made an appointment for the next day. Despite the agent being almost 40 minutes late to our RDV and it being a very very cold day where I found myself out on the sidewalk waiting with my 4 year-old daughter, I just had a feeling about the space. And when I walked in, I "knew." All the weeks of agonizing over that original space, the months of frustration with the real estate process, all the times I had almost thrown in the towel thinking I would never find a space, it was all worth it for here was the space I had been waiting for. When I say it was perfect in every way, it's no lie (okay, maybe it could be a little farther away from some of my "competitors" but I'm hoping that there will continue to be a large enough market here in Paris for cupcakes so that we can each have a piece of the pie.). This one was "the one."

Here's what I have learned in the almost year that I have spent looking at commercial retail properties:

1) Brokers here are not looking to form relationships with you. If they have some inventory that interests you, great, but don't expect them to come up with other properties that fit your criteria and don't expect them to chase you down when they get a new property in that would suit. I spoke to about 30 different brokers during my search and not in one single instance did one of these brokers call me after the initial contact to propose a new or different property.

2) If you visit a few different properties with the same broker (almost unrealistic to expect) and after you have seen 2-3 different things, if you haven't found and made an offer on one of those properties, they will lose interest in you as a client and discontinue to make any efforts for you. This happened to me with 3 different agencies. In one case, I had visited 2 sites with a broker, neither of which would permit my particular activity (baking on-site) yet he felt they would be perfect for me! When I saw a new listing on his site and called him to arrange a visit, his response was: "That store is owned by ABC company, check their website for opening hours, go visit the store and if you like what you see, call me and we can talk about the charges." Really? REALLY?

3) If you see an ad for a property and you are not able to visit within the next 48 hours, don't even bother calling; the agent will make an appointment with you but in 9 times out of 10, the property will no longer be available once that window has passed. Now I don't know if this kind of thing is a scam but on at least 12 occasions I called to see a space several days - 1 week in advance and a few hours before the scheduled visit, the broker would call me and say either there had been an offer made so they weren't showing it anymore OR that they had been unable to reach the owner, get the keys, etc.

4) Persistence, persistence, persistence. I consulted a variety of real estate sites on an almost daily basis. Any time I saw a new listing that fit my needs, was within my budget and would allow my activity, I would call. (I learned early on that filling in and submitting the contact sheet provided by the agency on their website electronically or emailing for more information was guaranteed to go without reply in the great majority of cases). Even when calling, I found that I would get my call returned in maybe 2-3 out of 10 cases. I am not kidding when I say that I inquired about maybe 100-130 different locations since last summer and actually spoke to a live body about the space only about a quarter of the time. Of those, I visited maybe 12 properties total to give you an idea of how difficult the process can be.

Have you looked for commercial property here in Paris? If so, I would love to know how your experience compared to mine. I worked for a big real estate holding company with multiple properties in Battery Park City for about 6 months when I was just out of college and I can still remember how much we bent over backwards to appease our clients and close the deals. The Paris market is a total 180 from that and I am still quite shocked about how trying it is to navigate.

So that space I was telling you about....PLEASE CROSS YOUR FINGERS FOR ME - I made an offer last week and unfortunately I'm not the only one to have made a bid. I am trying to stay positive and hoping my bid will be accepted - I'm also hoping this will bring to a close my tangle (or should I say tango) with the commercial property agents here in the City of Light. More to come soon.....

PS That original space? I walked by it last week and shuddered. It's still filled with all the junk the previous tenant left behind when she fled including a number of rotting plants in the window. They say hindsight is 20/20 and I just consider myself extremely lucky that one never panned out!

05 March 2012

I'm Coming Out.....

Baby Shower by Sugar Daze
Baby Shower, a photo by Sugar Daze on Flickr.

Storm cupcakes for a baby shower. The couple doesn't know the sex yet. Best of luck for a smooth and quick delivery this week!