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Local Matters / Architecture & Landmarks

A secret rooftop garden behind the Paris opera Bastille : what makes some real estate in Paris “priceless”?

flower terrace

Perched high atop a building,  and tucked away on a quiet street in the 12th arrondissement, is a rare find that defies attempts to value it based on market comps. Is it “priceless” – or any man’s guess?  

The apartment wasn’t always such a special place. The French / American owners originally discovered it by accident during an art walk in this atelier-filled neighborhood near the Bastille. That day they happened upon the developer, who was selling the newly-renovated spaces in a 20’s era seven story building. At that time, the apartment was half its current size and had no terrace at all.  It would take the owners years to acquire the property next door, and then gain permissions to build the terrace that would ultimately cover almost the entire rooftop.
living roomlivinf room

The owners patience and vision eventually paid off. Today the apartment is a generously sized 60m2 one-bedroom apartment with a large planted terrace.  The apartment is located in an up and coming area of the 12th, just a 5 minute walk from Bastille and the same distance from the promenade plantée, the elevated garden atop a re-purposed railway that now houses artist ateliers and high-end design shops in the vaulted spaces beneath.

Whatever else, there’s no question it’s the lush 70m2 garden that covers the roof that sets this place apart. Fully grown trees sprout from giant pots, and a trail winds its way across the densely planted terrace connecting spaces designed for congregating with friends, or contemplating the views.  Generally, when trying to price additional space that doesn’t fit within the legally defined interior space of a property, a weighted average calculation is applied that assigns some value to the extra space, whether it is an attic space or a terrace such as this.  In this way, you might value the space by taking 30% to 50% of the bonus space and valuing that at the market price for the rest of the space.  But what to do when the terrace is bigger than the apartment?  As Paris Property Group‘s Jerome Cacarié points out “it’s hard to say if a really big terrace is worth many times what a smaller terrace would be worth.”

terraceflower terrace flower terrace

Last month the owners decided to sell. After approaching a number of agencies they discovered that estimates on its value varied widely. How exactly to price a rooftop garden larger than the apartment itself? To the right buyer, the apartment would be a needle in a haystack, something truly unique.

In today’s market, where good properties are selling within days at asking price, it can be difficult to value even “ordinary” properties. When a property sells quickly, the seller wonders if they should have asked for more. But overpriced properties can languish on the market.  One smart approach is a two-step process that allows for a ‘soft-marketing’ period to test the waters on pricing with partner agencies before settling on an official, advertised price. “Entering the market with thought and precision gets the most value for the seller without diluting the interest in the property at an overreaching price point,” says Kathryn Brown of Paris Property Group.

On the buying side, Brown says that it is important to check prices against comparable properties and to get objective historical sales data for that building and street – adjusting for renovation, floor level and other factors that affect value. Taking time to do some homework before buying or selling can often help avoid costly mistakes.


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