Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Monday, April 30, 2012

What (Not) To Wear

Now one of the major questions that I had before heading to the big soirée was - What was a girl to wear??  I mean, really, what does one wear to a château?

The invitation said "Tenue de ville", but that really didn't help me much. I did a quick google search and most Anglo websites said that tenue de ville meant business-wear, but some French sites also said it meant "street clothes", so which one to go with?

I had a hard time imagining people wearing street clothes to a fancy soirée, so I decided to rule that one out.  Now that left business-wear.  I don't really have much business wear because of the nature of my work, so out it all came on my bed.

After trying it all on with various combinations of belts, shoes and other accessories (and making a complete mess of our bedroom), I decided to go with a black sheath dress, a colorful belt and my most comfortable heels (for all that walking I was planning on doing).  I have this uber-soft fur shrug that I was dying to wear with it, but C advised me against it, saying I should try to be as "discrete" as possible.

As a side note, this whole idea of "being discrete" is such a French concept.  It plays into so many factors of life, and will often slip into conversations where people are about to ask a question they know they shouldn't be asking. As in "Sorry to be indiscreet, but...."

So my lovely shrug went back on the hanger and I instead took out a sensible black blazer and my pearls. And in the end, C was totally right, fur really would have been out of place with what everyone else was wearing - ie a black suit, and I ended up fitting right in with the rest of them. Leave it to a Frenchman to be able to give a girl clothing advice!

Just in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here is the breakdown of the different "tenues":

Tenue de ville: Business formal - a suite & tie for a man, and a pantsuit or a skirt/blazer for a woman.

Tenue de cocktail: The same as tenue de ville for the men, and for women, this means a shorter dress, like an LBD and some nice jewelery.

Tenue de soirée: We're getting a little more fancy here, with a Tux for the men and a long fancy dress for the women accompanied by some elegant jewelry.

Tenue de mariage: Still talking about a suit for the men, and usually a colorful dress plus a hat for the women.

To sum it up, basically things are a lot easier for the men!  But hopefully this will be useful for someone out there, and if nothing else, it will serve as a reference for me for future soirées!


Saturday, April 28, 2012

One girl's dream

So last weekend, C and I got to do something pretty darn amazing.  We got invited to a private event at the Château de Versailles.  Meaning the Palace and its gardens had been bought out for the night and we had it all to ourselves!  (Well, us and about 100 other people, but hey, normally that number is like 20-30,000, so 100 isn't too bad).  And I have to say, it was probably about one of the coolest things I have ever done. I cannot even describe how amazing it was to be able to wander through those beautiful rooms on our own. To be able to sit there in silence and just appreciate the sheer beauty of it all.  To think about everything that had taken place there and who all had stood in the very same places we were standing. It was just incredible - utterly incredible.

The night started out with us being able to drive right up through the gates.
I was kind of nervous and saying to C - "Are you sure we are supposed to drive right on up in there??" But we did and were able to park right out in front of the château:
And then we got out and looked at this - I told C to pinch me. I mean, how often does one get to see the courtyard this empty?
We were welcomed into the Château and after a short speech, we were sent on our merry way, free to wander through the rooms until the RDV time:
Just look at how empty it is!
Before arriving, I wasn't quite sure how much of the Château would be open, but we seemed to have free reign to visit almost all of the rooms.

And then finally we got to the hall of mirrors. I waited until those few people cleared out and then C & I had it all to ourselves for about five minutes.  It was crazy - almost dream-like to be in such a famous place without no one else around. What I wouldn't have given to be able to swish around that hall in a big ol' Marie-Antoinette dress.
This is also one of my favorite rooms in the whole place - the Coronation room. One whole wall is taken up by "The Coronation of Napoleon" painting, which is 10 meters long and six meters tall (30'x18'). Normally there are crowds of people in front taking pictures, so it was incredible to have a full view of it from all directions: 

 More beauty:
Even though we didn't go outside much because of the weather, it was pretty neat to see the gardens empty, minus a few security guards here and there.
And then we got to the final room, where the reception was being held. I didn't take too many pictures out of respect for the people there, but the food was amazing and the champagne free and unlimited. (Y'all know how much I love me some good champagne).

Then out came the fantastic desserts, one after another, served by men in fancy chef hats:
There was also a table full of fabulous chocolates on sticks. This one was my fave because it had our initials and was filled with my favorite candy - gooey salted-butter caramel. It was like it was made especially for us.
I had a 6am train to catch the next day, so when the bells tolled, it was time for me to head home, taking in one last slightly-buzzed glance at all the glory and splendor that is the Château de Versailles:
 And then it was back out through the gates and into the real world for us:
It was one of those nights that I will never forget. My "old life" has been on my mind a lot as of late as it's been almost exactly four years since I left Bretagne for Paris, so I went to bed that night thinking of just exactly how much things have changed.  I've gone from being on a farm in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cows to private soirées at the Château de Versailles. You can't get much more opposite than that! 

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Watch your step

So something extremely mortifying happened to me today. Something so mortifying that I am not even sure why I am about to share it here, but hey, I guess it makes good blog fodder.  So here goes.....I somehow managed to fall into a hole in the middle of a supermarket. A hole that looked a lot like this one: 


Now I should preface this by saying that normally I am very aware of my surroundings and I am also quite coordinated, but I was so distracted by the events of today (that started with a broken-down metro at 6:30am and went downhill from there) that *plop*, down I went into the hole of death, along with my shopping basket and all its contents.

After sitting there stunned for a second, I stood up and took inventory.  Minus a scraped hand/wrist and a majorly bruised ego, I was all in one piece, so I gathered my goods and hopped on out, no thanks to anyone else. I was feeling a bit miffed that not a single employee or patron had said anything or offered to help, so I was sort of grumbling to myself as I finished my shopping.  By the time I was ready to check-out, my wrist was bleeding quite a bit, so I went up to the front desk and asked for a band-aid. The manager looked me up and down and said "Um, how about you walk on over to aisle 5 and buy some?" and I was like "Um, how about you cover up the GIGANTIC HOLE IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR SUPERMARKET?"

Suddenly her tune changed and I was invited behind the counter to sit down while she called the safety lady, who came a runnin' with her first-aid kid. She put on some plastic gloves and I was like "Whoa, I just wanted a band-aid''. But she insisted on disinfecting it and then massaging my hand with some arnica gel. What really touched me though was what a calming energy this lady gave off. It's something so rare you come across here when interacting with a stranger, so the care she used when handling my wounds almost brought tears to my eyes. After such a rough day (and a fall in a frickin' hole), I needed a little TLC. She then said "Oh, you look like you're going to cry! Let me go get you some water!" I made a joke about maybe needing a drink of that alcohol she was using to disinfect instead, but took my water like a good patient while she wrapped up my arm:

She then went to get me a few supplies to bring home and also offered to take down my phone number and call me later that night to see if I was alright. It obviously was not necessary for a banged-up wrist, but I appreciated the thought. It feels like so often in France, interactions end up being impersonal and sometimes downright inhuman, so it was nice to receive a little unexpected kindness from a stranger. I thanked her profusely for her time and asked instead that she make sure the hole got covered up. 

However, this is what it looked like as I exited the store, so I'm not sure it counts as a total win:

Moral of the story: I'm used to walking eyes-down outside to avoid doggy poo, but maybe I need to start doing it inside too....


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Look into my eyes

A few weeks ago, a friend and I went to the opening of the new Kiehls boutique on rue Saint Dominique in the 8th. They had advertized free cocktails, nibblies and a clairvoyant medium. So we were standing there, drinking our champagne and eating our macarons that looked like mini-hamburgers, when the PR guy came over to talk to us. He heard us speaking English and chimed right in and asked if we were enjoying ourselves.  We said yes and I said "But we were hoping to see the clairvoyant" and he said that someone in her family had had an accident, so she wouldn't be able to make it. He said they were planning on bringing her back another day and that if we left our phone numbers, they would call us back to set up an appointment.  So I left my number, never really believing they would call me back.

But surprisingly enough they did, and that is how I found myself once again in their boutique last Saturday afternoon. The lady showed up 20 minutes late, leaving me to make jokes with the sales lady about how clairvoyant can she be if missed the original session last month and then got mega lost on the way this time.  But the employee assured me that she was the "real deal" and not a fraud.

So she showed up and got right into things by asking me if I had any questions for her.  I didn't really, so she took my hand and started reading my palm. As a side note, on the whole, I am a very practical person, so the logical side of me doesn't really believe in these sorts of things. But of course my emotional side would like to believe that people's spirits live on after that pass - I'd much rather picture my father being able to watch over us instead of just being in a casket in a cemetery, and I admit 100% that I would jump at any chance to communicate with him.  But unfortunately that's not what was going on here - This particular woman said that she got impressions of what happened to people in the past or what will happen in the near future, so she wasn't a "talking to the dead" kind of medium. 

But oh well, I was still curious, so on we went, with me feeling a little skeptical. I had purposely left my wedding ring off before going to the shop because I wanted to see if she could figure out if I was married or not. Throughout the reading, she used a lot of generalizations and said things like "I see you have had a lot of heartache in the past".  Which is true, but is likely true for most women my age. She also said that I travel a lot, which is also true - but there is a good chance that is true for most young foreigners in Paris.  And then she said that see me as very solitary and spending a lot of time alone - which kind of surprised me, because I have quite the active social life, but I guess when you combine that me working alone from home and my solo work trips, I guess I do spend a good chunk of time by myself without even realizing it.  So I'll give her that one. 

Mostly though, I got the impression that she was a fake and was just working off of people's reactions and facial expressions.  I could see her watching me very carefully during the reading and I made sure to keep my face extremely passive and to not confirm or deny anything she said, only to listen.  She then said "I am seeing that people at your workplace criticize you for being too cold and for not speaking up enough" - which is completely opposite of reality!

She was also fishing around with some really general statements about my love life, trying to figure out if I was with someone or not. I finally told her I was married, and then she launched into a diatribe about how we have had some difficulties for a while now and how he is very sorry and a good man at heart and that I should forgive him. I had to drop the poker face at that point and say "I'm sorry, but I really disagree with you on that one, we are a pretty solid couple with not too many issues".  She didn't back down, but after that point any time our relationship came up, she kept saying what a great guy C was and how our union was for eternity.

She continued asking me if I had any particular questions and I said no, and finally she said "Well why are you here then?" I had to answer that it was just out of curiosity, which I don't think she really liked. I'm sure she's used to people coming to her with burning questions and then she can take it from there based on their reactions. But she kept insisting that I must have questions, so I finally asked whether or not we would be moving soon (not in the next 6-12 months according to her).  And then I asked about our careers, and she said the funny thing was that all of the cards she'd pulled for us were career-related.  There wasn't a single baby card, so she said "I have to ask - do you want kids?" I replied with "not anytime in the near future anyways" and she said "Good, because both of you have brilliant career prospects ahead of you and it seems your focus is there for now".  Lastly, I asked if she saw us moving back to the US anytime soon and she said "No, you are happy with your current lifestyle". But then again, that's a pretty obvious guess since I am married to a Frenchman and have been in France for 9 years now.

Overall, I have to say I was not too impressed with this lady - anytime I asked her to explain any of her techniques (she used a combination of two decks of tarot cards and a crystal), she refused, saying she had her own "code" that couldn't be understood by anyone else.  And I felt like everything she said could be generalized to most people who would want to see a medium, ie you have suffered heartache/having marital issues/trouble getting pregnant, etc.

On a positive note though, the actual employees of the Kiehls store were great - everyone we dealt with there was very friendly and professional, and as an added bonus, they have no problem give you samples of their product with no pressure to buy.  I got three samples on my first visit and three more on my second visit and so far, I have been very happy with them. It's always a good sign too when the employees wear the products of the company they work for!

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

It's voting time

So here we are, two weeks away from the first round of the French presidential elections. My official voting card showed up last week, so I am all set to vote for my first French president. I have to admit, I'm not as prepared as I could/should be. C & I have been so tired at the end of the day lately that we usually just end up watching fluff American TV on the I am way more up on the American presidential runoff than I am the French one.

I have made an effort though, but it just hasn't gotten me anywhere. Looking at the various candidates websites, how do you weed through the muck? There's so much information there and half of it is just what they think people want to hear, so how do you know what they really believe in and what they really plan on doing if elected?  I know I'm not the only newbie French citizen out there, so I am happy to say I now have an answer for us.

I was reading Ouest-France the other day during a work trip and came across a small article talking about an online poll they had.  You answer 30 questions on various topics and at the end, it tells you which candidate corresponds the best to your beliefs. As an added bonus, you have the option of taking it in French or English, so even those of you who can't vote can at least hypothetically find out who you would vote for :

(as a side note, only a French website would have such an awkward address)

Unfortunately however, like with most things in life, I fell right in the middle of all of the candidates.  It reminds me of those high school aptitude tests they used to make us take.  Mine were always all over the board - like "You should be a social worker. Or a forest ranger. Or a chef."  But the nice thing with this quiz is that you can click on each of the candidates afterwards to see how their answers compared to yours, and at least see if you disagree on big or small issues.  And now that I've done that, I've got a pretty good idea of who I'm going to vote for....but I'm going the French route and saying my lips are sealed!

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Viager, part 4

So let's say you've decided to do a viager and have found the perfect place.  What are some of the things you should do before signing on the dotted line?
  • The first thing is to do some research into the listed worth of the apartment. Luckily this is very easy nowadays thanks to the internet.  But you should make sure that the price they list matches up to the prices for other apartments for sale (with similar features and in a similar state) in that area. 
  • Another great site is - they let you put in all kinds of information about the apartment, the building, etc and then they come back with a fairly accurate estimation of its value (at least for Paris anyways).
  • Next, you want to estimate how much it would cost to rent a similar apartment that month, as that amount should be fairly similar to what they are asking for the monthly stipend (but know this can also vary according to the age of the person, for example if they are particularly "young" or old). 
  • You should also do a quick estimation of their calculations, using the person's age, the bouquet and the monthly rent, to make sure it all adds up.
  • Once you've done your homework and everything seems okay, you should contact the agency to set up a viewing.  Make sure you sit down beforehand though and think about everything you want to ask during the visit.  Here were our questions - a lot of them would not apply though to a house in the countryside:
    • How did you calculate the apartment's worth?
    • How did you calculate the bouquet and the monthly stipend?
    • How did you calculate the 'abbatement d'occupation'?
    • How much is the annual property tax?
    • How much are the annual owners/building taxes?
    • When was the 'ravalement' last done? How much did it cost? When will it be done again? Can I get a copy of the invoice?
    • When was the building (and its common area) last renovated?  How much did that cost? When will it be done again? Can I get a copy of the invoice?
    • Are there any other big projects that have been voted but not yet paid for?
    • Can you provide us with the minutes from the last two syndic meetings?  (Read through to have a better understanding of the building's issues and to make sure no other gros travaux have been authorized)
    • How much are the notary fees?*
    • What happens after the person passes?  What about everything that's in the apartment?
    • What happens if the person moves into a nursing home?
    • What 'diagnostics' have been done on the apartment? Can we see them?
  • Other things you want to pay attention to during the viewing:
    • The general state of the building - its entryway, the lobby, the grounds. 
    • The safety/security of the building
    • The general state of the apartment - as you will now be the owner, you will be responsible for anything that goes wrong (water heater breaking down, etc).
    • What kind of heating it has, single/double-paned windows, how much light it gets, etc (things that will be important if you ever want to resell it)
Basically you are just trying to gather as much information as possible about the place, especially if it's an apartment, because as soon as you sign, you will be liable for all the things a normal owner would be liable for - taxe foncière, ordures, charges propriètaires, gros travaux, etc. You will also have to take out a yearly insurance for non-resident building owners (the seller will have to have their own renters insurance). All of these things need to be taking into account in your budget forecasting, because it's not as simple as just giving them a down payment and then paying them a flat fee each month.  However it shouldn't add up to that much extra - in our case, it's about 100€ extra per month for all of this.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most of the time, the owner will also insert a clause into the contract saying that the monthly rent should be recalculated each year, either based on inflation or based on the national INSEE rate. This is negotiable however - you can propose your own rate, or a flat rate or whatever.

Other negotiables - the amount of the bouquet, the amount of the stipend (ie you can either offer to pay a higher bouquet up front and a lower monthly stipend or vice versa).

You can (and should) specify in the contract what will happen if the person leaves the apartment for a certain period of time.  Ie. as the buyer, you want to make sure that in the contract, it is noted that only the seller can live in the property (droit d'usage et d'habitation sa vie durant). Otherwise, even if they left, they could let their children live in it, rent it out, etc, causing you a lot of problems when they pass.

If they do end up moving into a nursing home, you should have the increased rent price written into the contract so that you are sure both parties agree on it.

You should also stipulate that the family has a certain amount of time after the passing to clear out any items they wish to keep (three months, etc).

Most contracts also allow the buyer to resell the viager in case of problems - this does happen and usually allows you to recuperate all the money you have put in, but know that if you do resell it and the new buyer doesn't pay, you will be liable. (Though this isn't a huge deal in my mind, since it means that person will have paid X number of years and then you'll get the bien back without having had to pay for those years).

Lastly, because the length of a viager is so unknown, they recommend you never buy a viager occupé with the idea that you will live in it yourself.  It should always be seen as an investment. (This does not apply to a viager libre or viager à terme are different matters however since you know exactly when you will be able to live in it).

If you don't feel comfortable investing in one directly, there are also investment groups that will do it for you - ie you pay them money and they use it to invest in several viagers.  This limits the risk in many ways, as some of them will end up being great deals and some non-so-great deals.  It can also be a good option if you don't have enough money to do a viager on your own and you still want to invest (as it is almost impossible to get a loan for a viager**).

I hope this has been useful - if nothing else, at least it's all down on 'paper' for us when we do start looking again!

*Agency fees are almost always included in the bouquet, but the notary fees are not and will be on top of everything calculated here.  They are however lower than normal notary fees for a home purchase. Also, as the buyer, you will be the one choosing the notary, so be sure to shop around for one who has experience in viagers.

**The one exception for this is a viager sans rente because you are paying them a fixed sum of money up front and no monthly rente.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's a numbers game

Continuing on with the viager posts, let's talk about how exactly one goes about figuring out the home's value, the bouquet and the rente.  There are a lot of different factors that go into calculating the costs - the home's worth, the person's age, their life expectancy, how much you give them up front, whether or not the person wants to continue living there, etc. There are also a couple of good websites out there - I particularly liked this one and this one.

I think the easiest way to do it is with an example I found online. Let's say we have Mr Rentier who wants to sell his house as a viager occupé.  He is 80 years old and his house is worth 200,000€.  Statistics tables show that at the age of 80, his current life expectancy is 7 more years.

Since he wants to keep living in his home, they will take off an 'abbatement d'occupation' - ie they will essentially reduce the sale price of the home by a certain percentage due to the fact that he will be inhabiting it, to make it "fairer" for the buyer.  There are two ways to calculate this - either they can take his life span x the average rent for a similar size home in that area x 12months  = 7 x 1000€ x 12 = 84,000€.  200,000-84,000 = 116,000€ which is the amount that will be used for all further calculations.

The second way to do this is to just take a certain percentage off based on age.  So for example 50% off if the person is 70, 40% off if they're 80, 30% off if they're 90, etc.  So in this case, that would be 200,000 x 40% = 120,000€ - basically the same amount as the previous calculation.

So now we have a remaining value of 120,000€.  Let's say Mr Rentier wants 40,000€ up front as his bouquet.  That means the remaining value is 80,000€.  Now we are going to take that 80,000€ and divide it again by his life expectancy of 7 which equals approximately 11,500€ per year.  Divide that by 12 months and you come up with a monthly "stipend" of 950€.

To sum up, in this case, the buyer would be giving 40,000€ up front and then paying 950€ a month until the owner passes, for a house that is worth 200,000€.  At that rate, they would have to pay the stipend for 14 years before they paid more than the home was worth (assuming the home's value does not change).

Of course this is just a simplified example and there are other factors that come into play, but this is getting long, so I'll cover that in the last post in this viager series.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Viager, part 2

Bummer, I was hoping a few more of you would think yesterday's post was an April Fool's joke (April 1st kind of snuck up on me this year).  But it wasn't - even though we didn't end up going with the apartment I mentioned yesterday. The real estate agent we were working with was just being really cagey and not wanting to give us all of the information we requested.  He also refused to show us how he calculated the bouquet and the rente, citing via email several different numbers and percentages, none of which added up. And when we asked to meet with him to sit down and really figure it out, he stopped contacting us and then eventually told us someone else had made an offer (even though the ad is still up on their website). This made me pretty cranky since he was taking 20,000€ of the bouquet as his commission, and I figured that for that much money, he should have been able to get us the info we wanted.

So we decided to put the idea on the back-burner for a while, and may eventually end up going a different route, ie with a viager libre.  A viager libre requires a bigger sum up front, but gives you the major advantage of being able to live there.  So instead of paying rent on our current apartment and then the monthly viager rent, we would only be paying one and it would be going towards acquiring the apartment/house (like a mortgage would).  So at least that way if we do end up paying for a long time, it wouldn't be that different than if we were paying rent on a place we didn't own.

The downside of this is that the sum required up front is usually quite large (at least in Paris) and you are unable to take out a loan for it, and two,  these types of arrangements are quite rare - viagers libres account for less than 1% of real estate transactions in France according to one site I read.

Besides the viager occupé (the most common) and the viager libre, there are also two other types of viager: sans rente and à termeSans rente sounds like what Jennifer said happens in Italy, ie you pay a portion of the home's value up front and then the person gets to live there until they pass away.  A viager à terme is one where you pay the bouquet and then you agree to pay the rente for a fixed number of years (say 15yrs), at which point the owner will move out and the home becomes yours.

Just in case anyone is interested in doing a viager, I'll explain a little bit about how we went about it. Since it is a fairly little-known process, we spent a lot of time online doing research and reading advice on forums.  There are also a few agences immobilieres who specialize in viagers, so they can also be a good source of information as well. The agency we went originally went with, Rénee Costes, offers viagers both in Paris and elsewhere in France.  Prices were obviously lower elsewhere in the country, but we decided to go with Paris, because hey, it's Paris!  Even in the midst of the economic crisis, housing prices are still going up every year here, so we figured it was a pretty safe investment. But on the other hand, you can also get a lot more for your money outside of the city....something to keep in mind if you live en province or are looking to invest in a weekend country home for example.

In the next post, I will cover how the viager occupé is calculated, since it is the most common type of viager and there are a couple of different ways you can go about it.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Via what what?

So a while back I alluded to a big project that C and I were working on.  And that project is.....we are trying to find a way to save for retirement.  Exciting stuff huh?  And yes, I know we are in France and most retired people are currently living the high life, but I firmly believe that kind of money won't be around by the time we grow old.  Kind of like what happened to people my parents age - they always believe social security would be there for them and now many of them will have to work until they are 70+ because they don't have enough saved up.

So I spent a ton of time trying to figure out what is the best way to save here, and came up mostly empty-handed.  I'm pretty sure that the majority of French people haven't given their retirement a second thought, and so those kinds of products don't really exist yet in France (though some larger companies are now starting to offer a sort of 401K).  Talking to various banks though, they all just suggested I put money in some of the low-interest savings accounts (gee, you're going to give me a whole 2.25% and there's a max amount of 6000€? Sign me up -those 6,000€ will sure get me far when I'm 80!) or otherwise invest it in stocks and bonds.  Given the economy, that doesn't really interest me either, nor do the extremely complicated "assurance vie" plans offered by most insurance companies.

Another option was investing money in the US, or in an IRA over there, but with the way the US economy is, I didn't really find that too reassuring either.

So was does that leave?

Investing in La Pierre, or literally in "stones".

We aren't quite ready to buy the home of our dreams yet - but we do have enough money set aside to buy a smaller place.  The problem is, neither of us want to be landlords.  Given what we could afford, it just seemed like a lot of time and energy spent for not much money after taxes.

So now what does that leave?

Investing in a viager, which is sort of like a reverse mortgage in the US except it's between two people instead of one person and the government.  Basically, the viager process lets you pre-purchase a home owned by an elderly person.  You give them a lump sum called the bouquet, and then you pay them a pre-agreed upon monthly stipend until they die, at which time you become the full owner. And now's the part where you all gasp, or at least that's what everyone else has done every time we've mentioned it.

We've been accused of betting on someone's life, trying to take advantage of an old person, being greedy, etc.  (Thanks friends and family, btw). I am sure there are people who go into these things hoping the person will kick the bucket asap so that they get a great deal. But we are specifically looking at this as a long-term investment. FOR RETIREMENT.  Ie We are not hoping she dies anytime soon.  And at least this way, she has some extra money to live off of each month.

People's next comments are then - but what if she lives to be one hundred?  (she's 79).  Then you will have paid much more than the apartment is worth!  The most well-known example is that of Jeanne Calment - she signed a viager contract with her notary in 1965 at the age of 90.  Which normally should've been a shoe-in right?  Except Jeanne Calment lived to be 122 - and the notary died before her and his children were required to continue paying her each month in his place!

Obvious that's an extreme case, but that is why in a normal viager situation, people say you are betting on the person's lifespan, hoping they won't live a long time. But in our case, the apartment we are looking at is a second residence, used by a little old lady as a painting studio once or twice a week.  And once she can no longer paint, we will be allowed to rent the place out as long as we pay her 15% more each month.

So I am happy for her to paint as long as she wants.  And when she can't, we will either continue to pay the monthly stipend, or suck it up and rent it out, probably to American students (which would at least limit the risk that they end up squatting the place and not paying rent for two years).  It's a nice little apartment too - it has a great layout and is in a quite neighborhood, so we could fix it up to be pretty nice.

But the fact that we have the option to rent it out was the clincher for me - in my mind, if she does live to be 100+, at least the rent will cover the majority of the payment and there is very little chance we end up paying out-of-pocket more than the apartment is worth. And then we would either sell the place and explore any new retirement options out there or reinvest it in a bigger viager.

It just seems to be win-win - she gets a little bit better quality of life (and a tax break on that income) and we get to acquire a bien in an affordable way, without having to borrow any money and pay thousands of euros of interest to a bank.  And because the monthly rent is reasonable, we can still keep saving for our dream apartment at the same time.

So what do you guys think?  Am I a greedy capitalist influencing poor C (as his family seemed to insinuate) or is this a way for us to save for retirement while helping a little old lady out at the same time?