Interdum stultus opportuna loquitur...

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

ParisRant: Nudity, Beer and Real Estate...

Note - from June 24th 2009, this blog has migrated from Blogger to a self-hosted version. Click here to go straight there.

It's a funny old world. One day, you're looking forward to taking up digs in a lovely little tree-lined suburb outside Paris, the next you're telling one of life's tapeworms to stick the house up his arse.

I'll tell you what I object to about the real estate rental market in France (as compared with that in Australia). In Australia, the owner pays the agent (usually on an ongoing basis out of the rent receipts). In France, the renter pays the agent, in one lump sum (usually one month's rent) at the start of the tenancy. In other words, the actual rent is (for a one year lease) 8% higher than the stated rent (due to the presence of this human tapeworm).

Leaving aside the actual cost, think of how it tilts incentives. If the agent's fees are paid up front, there is no incentive for the agent to manage the rental in way that avoids conflict - if the tentant leaves (which he is entitled to do under French law at any time, on two month's notice) the agent signs up some other sucker and collects another agency fee. What a carve-up.

This is a market failure, pure and simple. It is also one of the few remaining transactions in which some parasite interposes themselves between the actual participants and collects an ad valorem fee (i.e., a fee that varies with the value of the transaction, rather than being priced according to the costs of provision of the service). Remember when brokerage used to be like that? I know... it still is in some situations - i.e., where the person performing the transaction is either a nuffnuff or is using other people's money.

But what really sticks in my craw is the idea of paying some human hookworm a month's rent, in the full knowledge that they think of themselves as serving the interests of the 'other side' (because agents are like politicians - they think that power lies on the side of capital and thus will fellate capital until they get slapped on the top of the head).

So I decided I won't do it - pure and simple. No agency rentals for me, henceforth.

Thankfully the market has already sensed my hatred of middle-men and other parasites, and was already working on a solution before I arrived. France is blessed with a series of magazines in which individual proprietors try to find individual purchasers or renters. The major one is called 'De Particulier à Particulier' (from individual to individual). Funnily enough, a load of real estate hookworms actually ring the ads and try to shoe-horn their way in... which has resulted in a lot of people putting a specific "agences s'abstenir" ("agencies, don't bother") notice on their ads.

This is why I love markets - they hate friction and eventually (when left alone) they get rid of all frictions and enable voluntary exchange in the least-cost way. A glory to behold and a thing of beauty...

Anyhow, le Vesinet is off. Bugger. However we have moved into a very groovy little pad in the 7th... which we discovered from l'Express this week is one of the chic-est (and therefore most expensive) arondissements in Paris. (The 16th - where we used to be - is the outright most expensive, but it was as boring as batshit).

As usual in the final stages of a blowoff, the dumb money is avalanching in, and both the 16th and the 7th have had real estate prices go on a parabolic trajectory in recent years (the 16th has had average appreication of 37% p.a. since 2002... there must have been advance word that I was moving in), while the 7th is only slightly behind (at 87% total appreciation over the same period).

'Brad'n'Ange's apartment is in the 7th, and is a snip at a mere €40,000 a month - a penthouse straight across the river from the Eiffel Tower. Their administrative assistant has moved into our old apartment in the 16th [I'm not kidding: our agent - Alain - handles Brad'n'Ange's account].

Our place in the 7th is nowhere near as swish as Mr & Mrs Smith's (you knew that already) but at least when you go out onto Rue St Dominique to get a loaf of bread, you can see the tower on your right (and the Irish pub in the street has good Guinness and a big-creen TV for le Rugby). [I know - what the hell would I know about Guinness... it tasted just as awful as I remember, but the Irishman next to me said "Great Guinness" or something unintelligible to that effect]. The coffee at the Columbus Cafe is just like Lygon Street *(that is rare for anything except espresso).

At the old place, we were 700m from the Arc de Triomphe and 100m from the Bois de Boulogne; now we are 250m from Les Invalides (where some short-assed Corsican bloke is buried) and 500m from the Eiffel Tower. Cool.

More importantly, the place will have internet access starting within a week - and so normal Rant channels will be resuming transmission (so long as I can tear myself away from the 100 cable TV channels we get as part of the package).

Which brings me to breasts.

I've got nothing against them, personally - they are a nice shape (sometimes) and it's pretty clear that I'm a good old red-blooded heterosexual feller (since I am a lumbering great hairy doofus with no fashion sense or taste in interior design). But honestly, I reckon even the most prematurely-weaned bloke on the planet would get a bit sick of seeing nipples after about a week of French telly. You see them on ads, for god's sake. Bums are slightly rarer (although one was plastered across a furniture van advertising beds).

The odd thing about the bum-bed-ad was that it featured a lady lying on her side on a bed. Nothing odd about that, you remark.

She was lying on her side, legs together (as you do), but (being a bloke with an eye for detail) I noticed that in the little gap between the top of her thighs you could see a teensy skerrick of background... yes, folks, this was a clear 'beaver shot' (as I believe our American friends call it).

And it's not the first... there is an ad for 'feminine body wash' ("cloaca-cleaner", as The Lovely derisively calls it) in whch the bottle of cleaner is delicately positioned in front of the 'bits' that it is used to cleanse.

Lemme tell you, lads, those 'bits' either belong to a 12 year old, or to someone who suffers (wax-wise) for her art (her 'art' being posing with a bottle of clacker-cleaner in front of the front-bottom). This wasn't a 'Brazilian' - this was the Gobi desert.

A short term top in the Dow either tonight or tomorrow... short any index you fancy.

And if everything pans out, I should be the proud owner of a new RantMobile reasonably soon - a pink Mini (the old body style of course - I would not have one of the new ones as a gift, and if omeone gave me one of the new ones I would piss on it before I sold it to buy an old-fashioned one). It's all the way up at Amiens (note to Mav - that's about where your plane will arrive, you big Wog). €600... BARRRRgain...