Expert Interview with Miranda Bothe on Investing in Real Estate Internationally

Investing in real estate internationally

Have you ever dreamed about investing in real estate in a foreign country? Wonder no more. Miranda Bothe, the founder of Paris Property Group, chatted with us about investing in real estate internationally and why more people are buying luxury properties in Paris. She also shared with us what she thinks contributed to the success of her company.

What is your professional background? How did it lead to your position with Paris Property Group?

I was an attorney in California before moving to Paris in 2003. We wanted to buy an apartment when we arrived, but it took us nearly a year and 40+ apartment visits to find the right place - despite the fact that my husband and I both spoke French and lived here full time. The closing process was vastly different from the one I was used to in the U.S., with formalities and a tax structure totally unfamiliar to me. The closing took 2 months, which was another big surprise.

The biggest challenge we faced was the frustrating lack of good, consolidated information about the market; so there was no way to ensure that you were seeing all the apartments that fit your criteria. In the U.S., we call this a multiple listing service (MLS) in which all the local agents share their listings and commissions, so that any one agent can show his client all the apartments for sale in that market. There is no MLS in Paris.

Therefore, a comprehensive search in Paris is about visiting agency after agency, searching website after website, and then visiting countless properties. I realized there was an important need for a custom real estate search service in Paris for international buyers for whom navigating the Paris real estate market is particularly challenging. I founded the company 10 years ago.

Please tell us more about Paris Property Group.

Paris Property Group is a full-service real estate agency that assists clients with both buying and selling property in Paris. Our initial focus was on property search services for buyers; we work with the client through a detailed interview to define the exact apartment they are hoping to find. We source properties through agencies, notaires, developers, and private sellers - about 1/3 of Paris properties sell without an agency involved - and prepare a comprehensive property report so our client sees in detail the good and bad features of each property. We oversee the negotiation, research the financial and legal situation of the building, and lead our client through the signing of the initial purchase agreement and through to close.

Through the first years, we had a number of sellers approach us to see if we could service their needs as well. Like buyers, many sellers were also frustrated that they were not getting a comprehensive services or true advocacy from their agents.

Our philosophy is the same when we work with sellers: we are your advocate in the market working to ensure your best selling price and conditions and representing your interests entirely from list through to close of the sale. Paris Property Group is unique in listing all our properties in MLS-style from the start; we share our listing fees with any agency that has a buyer to bring. This ensures that our listings get maximum exposure in the market and that they are sold quickly and at the best possible price.

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Why should people purchase property in locations other than their home country?

Purchasing property where you don't live is a personal choice that's a challenge under the best of circumstances. For most of our clients, it's a mix of investment opportunity and a love for this beautiful city that inspires their decision to buy property in Paris. The key to success is to be aware that the purchase process will be a learning experience that is best approached with an open mind, flexibility, and a sense of adventure. Ultimately, owning a piece of Paris allows you the privilege of owning your piece of a historical and architectural gem - which itself is the reward.

What are some reasons that international investors should buy luxury real estate in France?

In the last years, luxury properties in France - particularly outside of the capital and a few mini-markets like the Cote d'Azur - have dropped significantly in price.

Do you think someone should focus on buying real estate in only one foreign country, or is diversity important?

I would definitely say one country at a time. The experience you have in one will still be different from the one you will have in the next, but you can figure out the approach that works best for you and then be an even better buyer in the next market. Building a portfolio of international properties will be exciting, but it can also be time-consuming after the purchase to make sure that these are managed correctly. Make sure you have the right resources on the ground to oversee the renovation, decorating, or upkeep of the property going forward.

What do you think most people should know about real estate?

I think it's important to really understand the market you are investing in: the prices, the investment opportunities, the architectural uniqueness, the profile of other investors, the tax and regulatory landscape, and the initiatives that are happening in that city and/or country. Knowledge is power. Understand how the process does - and doesn't - work. Know what you are - and are not - going to get out of your investment. Those are the key components for success.

Through the years, Paris Property Group has built a reputation as a key source of news and information about real estate in Paris. I think it's important that this take on its own identity separate from the real estate agency, since it should inform the public not just about my agency and my perspective, but about the wider market. I am moving those resources to a new website.

What are your future plans for Paris Property Group?

Paris Property Group has always been focused on doing only one thing: buying and selling real estate in Paris. We don't do mortgages, renovations, decorating, rentals, or anything else. What that means is we have a fantastic network of partner companies that we have cultivated over the last decade, each with a specialty that complements our own and with whom we work to give our clients all the services they need through and after the buying process. At the moment, I am exploring ways to enhance the value of these partnerships - in particular, looking to build a "best practices" label for the Paris real estate market under the PPG brand.

Separately from that, I continue my quest to solve the wider market information challenge that we discussed before: that good information about the Paris real estate market simply doesn't exist for international buyers. I have been playing with this idea for years, and am heading toward a solution. Stay tuned...

Please share with us anything that you think has contributed to the success of Paris Property Group.

Our company has been built on trust and confidence with our clients, as well as diligent work. My work philosophy can now be distilled into one idea: I want to work with good people. That means the people on my team, my clients, and my partners. That doesn't mean we don't have our hiccups, but it does mean that we are continually heading in the right direction to reach a goal that challenges us and makes us proud.

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