Saturday, May 04, 2024

Yarra club: Vence Tourrettes

“I’m curious about why these kinds of places have such a spellbinding aura, and I think it’s because they are analog outliers” — Evan Selinger (RIT) reflects on his obsession with a small-town family-run hotel that serves simple and delicious 

Quoting the social theorist Bruno Latour, Becker encourages us to think of time as less like an “irreversible arrow” and more like a “plate of spaghetti.” The past is perpetually “recombined, reinterpreted, and reshuffled,” Latour ventures; it loops around and doubles back on the present. All this may sound like postmodern esotericism, but the idea of the past overlapping and entwining with the present is not some recent import from French theory. The rabbinic scholar Lynn Kaye has found a similar temporal flexibility in the Talmud (for example, in the Passover rituals with which Jews attempt to merge the present with the long-ago events of Exodus). More plainly, we can see in the built environment of any city the commingling of past and present. 

You Can’t Go Home Again The uses of nostalgia

An Art Deco apartment in Manly’s charming update Prague Riviera Style

Homebuyers find a quieter Côte d’Azur in its hill towns

Properties in charming medieval locations away from the crowds lure buyers with discounted prices too

Tourrettes-sur-Loup is perched on a hill between Vence and Grasse, one of the area’s more industrial towns, famous for its perfume industry. Below a mix of medieval and Romanesque buildings arranged along cobbled streets, its southern side drops away in a steep cliff providing striking views. 

“The town has lots of charm and is ideally located close to [Nice] airport and the surrounding areas we enjoy like Cannes, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Èze,” says John. “We aren’t beach people so we actually prefer the mountainous location in the hills surrounded by the olive and fruit trees.” 

Besides being cheaper than the area’s leading coastal towns, inland villages and their surrounds provide a quieter environment with less traffic, especially in the peak summer months, and opportunities to acquire larger homes with land, while retaining some of the advantages of the Côte d’Azur location, such as lucrative rental opportunities in the summer months.

The problem with the coast, apart from the price, is that most of the houses are overlooked and you don’t generally get any land [with them]. So, if you have children, they don’t have much of a garden unless you’re paying tens of millions of euros,” says Christian Levett, a retired commodities trader, who has owned a home in Mougins since 2006.         

Levett, who lives in Florence and got to know Mougins while working in Monaco, is a patron of the town’s thriving cultural scene. In June, he will open its newest museum, the Female Artists of the Mougins Museum (FAMM), showing exclusively work he owns by women. It replaces the Mougins Museum of Classical Art, which also included items from his extensive collection of Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities, and closed in August 2023. Since 2010, Levett has also owned local restaurant L’Amandier de Mougins, where the Salon Picasso commemorates the Spanish artist who spent the final years of his life in Notre-Dame-de-Vie, his villa outside the town. 

We aren’t beach people so we actually prefer the mountainous location in the hills surrounded by the olive and fruit trees

If Spencer buys the house in Mougins, he will spend roughly €200,000 refurbishing it, then live there between October and March, taking advantage of the six-month temporary long stay visa available to those from the UK, renting it out in the summer months to holidaymakers or those attending conferences in Cannes. He estimates it will rent for €40,000 per month in the peak months of June to September, and €20,000 in May and October.

In recent months, the range of mortgages available to both French and non-French buyers has grown, increasing the options for those considering a purchase.

“Last year, as interest rates increased, French banks withdrew many products for foreign borrowers and it became very difficult to find a mortgage,” says Fiona Watts of International Private Finance, which helps European homebuyers with finance for purchases on the Côte d’Azur. 

“But since January, the range has increased significantly.” The ECB kept interest rates stable at its last meeting on April 11. But market watchers anticipate cuts later in the year, and falling mortgage rates as a result.

We think that conditions for those seeking finance this year will continue to improve,” says Liam Wilkinson, who runs Fortier Finance, a Nice-based financial adviser that specialises in providing finance for homes in the south of France and the Alps, for non-French clients. 

Those considering a purchase must therefore balance the chance to borrow at lower rates later in the year with the risk that lower mortgage rates increase demand from buyers and current discounts disappear.   

“We did talk about waiting, and yes, we may have lost out a little when it comes to mortgage rates, but current rates are not high when you look historically, and I don’t think they will ever go back below 3 per cent,” says John. 

“We felt like there were good deals to be had on local properties right now, which might disappear.” Spencer is biding his time, however, waiting for interest rates — and with them mortgage rates — to fall. 

His mortgage adviser has drawn up an attestation de financement, a formal statement issued by financial advisers to support a home purchase, which Spencer has given to the vendor of the Mougins home. 

But he has not yet made a formal offer.   “I know I’m in a precarious position but even if mortgage rates fall, I think there will be a lag before that feeds through to greater demand,” he says. “My optimum time for a purchase is the next three to six months.”