When we're finally ready to flip the switch to retirement, my husband and I intend to settle in Paris. For us, this city is as good as it gets and the world's best option for retirement living.
Step out your door anytime, day or night, turn right or left, and you don't have to travel far to encounter something engaging. At home in one of Paris' central, historic neighborhoods, from the 1st arrondissement to the 8th, the best this world has to offer is only a short and pleasant walk away. Indeed, Paris is a city best explored and appreciated on foot, and, when I'm in Paris, I spend as many hours as I can in that pursuit.
I enjoy Paris in all seasons and any weather. What difference if it's raining or dry, January frigid or August hot, when you can retreat on a whim to a cafe for a cup of hot chocolate or a cold coupe de champagne? Sidewalk heaters mean you can sit outside at your favorite cafe and enjoy the passing show year-round.
All of my favorite things are here -- bookstores, antique shops, champagne cellars, pretty parks, well-tended gardens, old buildings, and old friends. The city cycles reliably through other favorites, especially at Christmas, when tiny white lights are strung along the grand boulevards and shop windows are framed with evergreens and gold baubles.
In Paris, a loaf of baguette and a bottle of wine are the makings of one of the most memorable afternoons of your life when enjoyed riverside. This has been true for hundreds of years and will be true for hundreds more.
Central Paris is an open-air museum where little changes yet every day offers the chance for discovery. Paris is at once perfectly packaged and constantly improving itself.
It's also one of the world's best storehouses of wealth. Property values in this city move up and down, as they do everywhere (right now, they're largely down), but an apartment of charm in a good location in this city will always find a buyer ... and a renter. The rental market in central Paris is perhaps the most proven in the world.
The most sought-after addresses are in the 1st, 6th, 7th, and 8th arrondissements. Limited demand (because if you own an apartment in one of these neighborhoods, you typically hold on to it ... these properties are often passed from generation to generation) keeps prices high, as much as 15,000 euros per square meter and more.
More interesting from a cost-per-square-meter perspective can be the 11th (around the Place de la Republique), the 18th (Montmartre), the 19th (home to Buttes Chaumont park and the popular Bassin de la Villette), and the 20th (one of the most multi-cultural areas of this city), all neighborhoods enjoying gentrification and becoming increasingly trendy. You could buy in the 18th or 19th for as little as 6,000 or 7,000 euros per square meter with a reasonable expectation for both rental cash flow and near-term appreciation of value.
If you, like me, dream of living or retiring in the City of Light, you have a chance right now to take a big step toward making that dream come true someday. The strong dollar gives you more buying power in this city than you've had in more than a dozen years. Meantime, as I mentioned, property values are down, including in some of Paris' most appealing quarters. This is a window of opportunity to buy on a dip.
Paris isn't one of the world's bargain property markets, but it's possible as a foreigner to finance the purchase of property in France. This is more difficult to accomplish today than it was pre-2008, but it can be possible to borrow, say, 50 percent of the purchase price. Think small (you can buy apartments as small as 30 or 40 square meters), and your capital outlay could be controlled to a reasonable level.
Buy today, using your strong dollars and taking advantage of the current buyer's market in some neighborhoods, and you're pre-paying for your retirement housing expense. The cost of housing covered, your cost of living in Paris could be much less than you might imagine. Buy an apartment today that you intend to live in during retirement, and you could rent it out between now and then. Then, when you're ready, you could settle in for a rent-free retirement in the world's most beautiful, most romantic city.