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About a year ago we thought we were heading over to Europe to begin a period of nomadic travel. Well, it didn’t last long. As our daughter was attending school in Nice, we ended up setting up the town as our base to explore other towns in the area, Italy next door, and the hills behind. And through that, we ended up enjoying Nice so much that we really couldn’t think of another place we’d rather live. We knew we wanted a place in Europe at some point, we just didn’t know where and when that would happen. Well, it happened.

We are always looking at real estate, no matter where we go. It’s in our blood, it was/is our business indirectly back in Puerto Vallarta. So while in Nice we began looking at properties for sale in real estate agency windows, which there is no end of in Nice. Real estate is a major industry here. Over the last two years we had rented in four different “quartiers” or neighborhoods to get a feel for them, and found the area we liked best was around Place Wilson. It is close to most everything but tends to not get the tourist traffic you see through Old Town or Carre d’Or. We began walking the streets, looking for for sale signs, but also checking out traffic flow, so we wouldn’t be on a street that had heavy bus or car traffic. There’s a hospital in the area, so we didn’t want to be near the emergency entrance/exit and have to deal with blazing lights and sirens.

If we saw a place we liked we’d call the agent and have a look. We didn’t see too many before we found a FSBO (For Sale by Owner) which was on a very quiet street, one block from the Coulée Verte, less than a block from Place Wilson and in a well-kept building. The owner happened to live in the unit below and had decided to put this unit up for sale just recently. When we emailed her she didn’t reply, later explaining it was because she already had an accepted offer. We kept emailing and finally she replied, said she’d show it to us because the person with the accepted offer was moving rather slowly.

We saw it and knew immediately it would work perfectly for us. We’d need to make changes, but they were doable changes. So we offered 5,000 euros more than her accepted offer, and as she had never put anything in writing yet with the other buyer, and we could close in less than a month’s time, she went for it. The closing process went very smoothly, primarily because the seller is also in real estate so she had all the paper work in order. And there certainly is a lot of documentation that is necessary to complete. A month later the place was ours, we had our Nice “Pied a Terre” and we were ready to begin renovations.

As the lady we’d bought from was Nicoise and had recently done renovations to her place, she had a list of good reliable contractors we could contact. We had quotes delivered from three of them and then made our choice, based on a company that seemed to be the most professional and had a large number of experienced workers as part of their team. It proved to be a good choice.

The apartment had three bedrooms but we removed the wall between two to create one big master bedroom. We also took out part of the wall between the living room and the kitchen to create what they call “la cuisine Americaine.” Seems Americans like their kitchens open to the salon so they can interact with guests while cooking, while for the French they prefer the kitchen separate and closed off. It added more space as well to our main living area. And we do cook and entertain at home a lot, so it was essential.

We also installed air conditioning, removed a horrible “pink” bathtub, but otherwise the kitchen and bathrooms were in very good condition with excellent appliances. The floors were thick wood parquet and marble and in good condition; they just need to be polished up (especially after demolition work). We discovered that around the windows and in the hallway the support columns were made up of beautiful rocks and bricks, so we opened the walls up to expose them as feature walls. And the support wood beam above the windows looked great, so we left them open as well. They framed the windows and the fireplace nicely.

Here’s some initial photos, more as we progress…

Exposing rock supporting columns

Exposing rock supporting columns

Cleaning up rocks and bricks around the windows

Cleaning up rocks and bricks around the windows

Recovering the window wooden support beams

Recovering the window wooden support beams

Wall removed between two bedrooms for one big bedroom

Wall removed between two bedrooms for one big bedroom

Wall removed between kitchen and living room

Wall removed between kitchen and living room

The "before" picture of the living room

The “before” picture of the living room

Exterior of our new building

Exterior of our new building