between the courtyard and garden of an 18th-century Faubourg Saint-
Germain mansion whose owners are leaving for Brussels, long a
popular refuge for French tax exiles. There is also a 600-square-
meter home near the Luxembourg Gardens. And a contemporary 250-
square-meter penthouse near the Arc de Triomphe, whose owner is
moving to London, is listed at almost EUR 5 million.
The effects have rippled down to smaller agencies like Vingt Paris, which has a French and foreign clientele. "It's been beneficial for foreigners," said Susie Hollands, the agency's founder and chief executive. "We were having problems finding enough good properties last year. People wouldn't put them on sale."
Among her six new listings, she said, "a super one came in this morning. It is an exquisite 150-square-meter home -- rare in Paris - - on a small, leafy Right Bank street for EUR 3.15 million."
Sales within the luxury category vary. "There are basically two speeds," Mr. Kraft said. "The French upper middle class is very hesitant. They are negotiating very hard and taking a lot of time to make a decision. So prices are softening for normal luxury properties, such as a two- or three-bedroom Parisian apartment at just under EUR 1 million to EUR 2.5 million. And they will probably fall by another 10 to 15 percent over the coming months."
It is a different story, he said, for the rare properties ranging from EUR 3 million to as much as EUR 50 million. "For a unique property defining all the must-haves -- it's renovated, in the right location, with interiors by a well-known designer, perhaps, and with a nice provenance -- then, you can still get top dollar," he said. "And it's not only in overall prices, but prices per square meter. We've done transactions at EUR 25,000 per square meter."
Who is buying? Agents said that for properties of more than EUR 5 million, the sector is dominated by a rich foreign clientele. "It's never been more diverse," Mr. Kraft said. "We're seeing the return of Americans due to favorable exchange rates, and of South Americans, especially Brazilians, who are investing the gains of their booming economy in France.
"Swiss, Germans and Scandinavians are buying in the 3, 4, EUR 5 million bracket; Russians have been a major force on the French market for 10 years and remain one of the top buyers on the high end, from 5 to EUR 100 million -- the latter in the South of France.
"For 20 to EUR 50 million properties, we've been seeing more and more Chinese buyers, the most wealthy appearing two or three years ago. Over the past 12 months, they have been a force. Of all buyers, 9 percent are Chinese."
Mr. Gottras and Ms. Lundgreen said some prospective buyers were from the oil-rich Gulf states. Mr. Gottras added, "We have some French buyers who do not want to miss the opportunities, and others who are reorienting their portfolios into real estate as a protection against the volatile stock market."
While most foreign purchasers are looking for a gilded pied-a- terre in one of the world's most beautiful cities -- Paris is Paris, after all -- they are also attracted by the stability and competitiveness of a long-term investment in Paris where prices are reasonable in comparison to international capitals like Hong Kong, New York and London, agents said.
A small number of French clients at the real estate agency Menager-Hug has decided to pull in their belts and stay put. "One couple, for example, are downsizing, selling their 600-square-meter apartment and looking for a 300 square meter to buy," Nicolas Hug said.
Eric Vincent, of Emile Garcin Paris, said: "Many of the people who are suddenly putting these projects into execution are selling them with a heavy heart."
"It's not a property meltdown," he added, "it is a fiscal crisis of confidence."
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