House Hunting in … France

This 125-foot houseboat is anchored on the Right Bank of the Seine in central Paris, steps from attractions like the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre.

Built in 1920 from iron, teak and mahogany, and once used for transporting sand around France, the houseboat currently houses a two-bedroom apartment and two studios, totaling about 2,000 feet of living space. It was renovated in 2013.

“When you’re outside on the terrace, upstairs, it’s like you’re living in a postcard,” said Leandra Choay, an agent with Belles Demeures de France, a Christie’s International Real Estate affiliate, which has the listing. “You have the Assemblée Nationale, you have the Musée d’Orsay, you have a view of the Eiffel Tower, you have a view of the Grand Palais.”

A ramp from the dock leads to the 1,290-square-foot main apartment. Down a short staircase is the living space, which includes a living room and dining area and a kitchen in the rear.

The sunken living room has teak floors, built-in bookshelves and a skylight. The dining area is two steps up, with several windows overlooking the river, another skylight and a table for six. (The furnishings are available to buy, Ms. Choay said.) The enclosed kitchen has open shelving, counter seating for two and a pass-through window to the living area.

The two bedrooms are down a small hallway from the living area, and share a bathroom with a tub and shower.

Behind the kitchen is the smaller of the two studios, which is 215 square feet and includes a bathroom and a kitchenette. The studio in the back, which is 430 square feet, is rented for about 10,000 euros ($11,200) a year. Each studio has a private terrace.

Ms. Choay said the setup suits families with teenage or grown children. “Both studios have outdoor independent access, but they could be opened up to become part of the main apartment,” she said.

Two parking spaces are next to the houseboat, and access to the dock is private. Many of central Paris’s attractions are nearby: The Petit Palais and Grand Palais are across the street; the Louvre is a short walk away; and the Musee d’Orsay is directly across the Seine. The nearest metro stop is a five-minute walk, and Charles de Gaulle Airport is about 40 minutes away by car.

The average price for an existing apartment in Paris (as opposed to new development) surpassed its 2011 peak in early 2019 and continues to rise, said Kathryn Brown, the director of operations for the real estate agency Paris Property Group.

According to the city’s association of notaries, the average sale price in the most expensive area, the Sixth Arrondissement, climbed from about 11,300 euros a square meter ($1,165 a square foot) in January 2015 to about 14,000 euros a square meter ($1,450 a square foot) in January 2019. In the most affordable district, the 19th Arrondissement, the average sale price rose from 6,500 euros a square meter ($675 a square foot) in January 2015 to 8,350 euros a square meter ($860 a square foot) in January 2019.

The rising prices can be partly attributed to the perpetually high demand and limited supply in the Paris housing market, where new developments are scarce, said Charles-Marie Jottras, the president of Daniel Féau and Belles Demeures de France, a luxury real estate agency. Other recent factors, agents said, include low interest rates and Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, which has spurred French people living in Britain and British people with ties to France to buy property in Paris.

President Emmanuel Macron’s administration has also enticed luxury buyers by reversing taxes on the wealthy enacted by his predecessor, François Hollande, said Alexander V.G. Kraft, the chairman of Sotheby’s International Realty France-Monaco. Many affluent buyers, who had left France or opted to wait, returned in great numbers under Mr. Macron, causing “almost a frenzy,” Mr. Kraft said.

“Last year, we have seen big properties sell within 24 hours, like in London and New York many years ago,” he said. “It’s something that was unheard-of in Paris or France.”

While there are many studios and one-bedroom apartments in Paris, family-size units are scarce and tend to sell quickly, Mr. Jottras said. Homes in the “bourgeois arrondissements” — the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth, as well as the calmer, more family-oriented 16th — are always in demand, he said. But with buyers getting priced out of the center and western parts of the city, he added, the definition of a desirable neighborhood is expanding.

“Paris is becoming a big, bourgeois city. There are less sociological differences than before,” Mr. Jottras said. “If you want to live in Paris, you have to have money — almost anywhere.”

Mr. Kraft said he expects the market to begin leveling off as buyers balk at rising prices — although not in the gentrifying neighborhoods: “We’re just at the start of this curve, so there’s still time to get in there. And I think prices will go up in those quarters.”

But Pierre-Alain Conil, a partner with the Paris notary firm Morel d’Arleux Notaires, predicted that prices will continue to rise across the city, because of low interest rates and limited housing supply.

“Five years ago, we thought we were already at the peak,” he said. “Two years ago, we thought we were already at the peak. It seems like it’s going to stay like that at least for some years.”

Buyers in Paris have historically split evenly between French and foreign, Mr. Kraft said. But in the past two or three years, there has been a shift toward domestic buyers, who are “playing catch-up, so to speak,” he added.

As for foreigners, Mr. Kraft said that in the past year his agency has had clients from the United States, China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Switzerland.

Mr. Conil said he has seen an increase in buyers with ties to Britain. “They fear they will not be allowed to stay in the U.K. after Brexit,” he said. “Or they fear that the pound will drop after Brexit, so they want to invest in Europe.”

Ms. Brown works with English-speaking buyers, most of them from the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. Those buyers are not relocating, she said; they are investing or want a pied-à-terre, or both.

There are no restrictions on foreigners owning property in France. Notaries with legal training, rather than lawyers or real estate agents, handle transactions in France, Mr. Conil said.

The total fees paid by the buyer, including the notary’s fee, are on a sliding scale, so the percentage decreases as the price of the property rises; they typically run about 7.5 percent of the sale price.

It can be difficult for nonresidents to obtain a mortgage, Mr. Conil said. The process takes around two months, and banks tend to limit loans to 50 to 70 percent of the sale price.

“Only a handful of French banks still work with U.S. citizens, because of the FATCA regulations,” he said, referring to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, American tax laws with which foreign banks must comply. So planning ahead for a mortgage, he said, is essential.

French; euro (1 euro = $1.12)

There is no property tax on this home, although the owner pays approximately 1,050 euros ($1,170) a month, which includes a habitation tax, as well as dock and parking fees, Ms. Choay said. Water and electricity run about 200 euros ($225) a month.

Leandra Choay, Belles Demeures de France, 011-33-6-9803-4624; christiesrealestate.com

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