France’s heritage for sale

Are you looking for a property that’s a bit different? A property with a history? Have you got a large pot of cash available? The answer may lie in France – a special division has been created to look at the French government’s real estate and sell some of it off. Obviously the larger tourist attractions such as Notre Dame and the Louvre museum will not be for sale, however there should be a lot of historical buildings with less historical significance to them on sale in the near future.

The French state owns approximately 28,000 properties. It is estimated that these properties are jointly worth about $50 billion – although Notre Dame and the Louvre have been given the symbolic price of just one Euro. The past three years has already seen about $2 billion’s worth of property sold off.

One particular building due to be sold early in 2007 is the Hotel Majestic, situated in central Paris. The building is of historical interest because it is believed it was the command centre for the Nazis when they occupied France. The guide price for this building is in excess of 500 million Euros.

The government is not bothered about whether it is french nationals or foreign buyers who are buying the property – in fact the previous buildings have mainly been bought by either foreign pension funds or private equity firms.

The programme was put together with the aim of cutting costs – 85% of profits will go to the current occupant of the building, and the remaining 15% goes towards current government debts.

However not everyone is happy with the programme. Ousted civil servants, used to beauty and history, complain when they are made to work in boring, modern buildings instead. The Institut Montaigne – a French think tank – believes that the programme lacks a coherent stratgegy and believes that some buildings are being sold on the cheap. The government disagrees, and when a sale price is deemed too low – such as when they tried to sell an abbey in Aniane – the government will cancel the sale and retain the building for a few years before trying to resell at a better price.

So, if you are looking to buy a property that is completely unique and features a wealth of exciting history, France may turn out to be the perfect place to invest in.

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