I love real estate, especially real estate in Paris. I’ve bought and sold a place in Paris and now own a place near Bordeaux, and if I could I’d buy and fix up many more houses and apartments around the globe. It’s my second passion, right behind travel. So it’s only natural that I’d meet Kathryn Lynden, who like me is from the American Midwest, and who with a partner or two has bought 50-plus homes around the world, fixed them up and sold them as “fractionals.” I’ve come to understand that the fractional system is unlike the time-share concept, and in this particular case much more luxurious and a much better deal, especially with Paris prices on the rise. In fact she has three apartments that she has done in Paris, and of course I simply had to know more.
Kathryn, tell us a bit about where you work and how you came up with the fractional ownership system that seems to work so well?
Fractional ownership just makes sense. You love Paris, I love Paris, let’s buy an apartment together. It will cost me half as much as if I owned it on my own. Simple. Then add in, let’s rent it when we are not here to help pay the bills. Take it one step further and hire someone to care for the apartment and to make travel easy—a concierge of sorts who will do anything for you. We decided to develop a company that does all of this for you, Elite Destination Homes. We know how to buy an apartment in Paris, we know how to legally structure it for multiple owners, we know how to care for the apartment, we rent it out when owners are not in residence, we provide concierge services to owners and guests, and best of all, one of the privileges of being an owner with Elite is that you can exchange a week in your Paris apartment for any of our other Elite homes around the world. A true perk.
Why are you different than others, when similar solutions aren’t doing as well?
The beauty about the Elite ownership model is that 2–6 families actually own the home. It is truly ownership, not just a travel club. It has withstood the test of the downturn of the economy where so many of the travel clubs have failed.
Do you have any fractionals in Paris on the market right now? If so, please describe them.
We looked at over 200 apartments in Paris and we ended up with 3 amazing apartments, all in the St.-Germain area. Our first step was the renovation and interior design work to bring them up to the Elite standards. I guess you could say we are somewhat snobbish about what our homes need to look like. All of our apartments have three bedrooms and multiple bathrooms, and with the hiring of Gisela Trigano, a famous interior designer, they could not be any more spectacular.
Are these fractionals good deals? Why or why not?
Of course they are a good deal! You can own a multimillion-dollar apartment for a fraction of the price. If you bought our apartments outright, they would range between $2.5 million and $4.5 million. Your cash investment ranges from $135,000 to $365,000 to own in our apartments.
Describe how the date selection works. What if I want to stay for Christmas week and one of the other co-owners does as well?
We have what we call flexible enrollment. In the spring of each year, owners choose their dates for the following year. So right now owners are choosing their weeks for 2012, before we open the calendar to our rental agencies. There are no set weeks for owners—you can travel to Paris anytime. If an owner wants the same week as another owner, we have a tiebreaker system in place, where whoever bought in first can “trump” the other owner, but then they go to the bottom of the list. It is really fair. In six years of running Elite, we have only had to use a tiebreaker twice. I must say, our owners are really neighborly.
Can you tell us a bit about the typical buyer so we understand if this is something we’d like to do?
The one thing that all of our Paris owners have in common is that they LOVE Paris, and they want to be able to share the city with family and friends. We have a true array of family types—professionals, families with kids and grandparents. Ownership with Elite is about a lifestyle, the love of travel, especially with the ability to trade a week in the Paris apartment for a week in any of our other destinations: the Caribbean, ski USA, Mexico, New York. They can share luxury travel experiences all over the world.
What other services do you offer your co-owners?
The short answer is the only thing that an Elite owner needs to do is pick up the phone and tell us when they want to travel. Elite does the rest—home care, home expenses, home rental, partnership management and exchanges. It is so easy to be an owner with Elite.
And in general what are the pros and cons of having a fractional compared with buying an entire apartment?
You don’t have to fix the broken toilet. You don’t have to file the taxes. You don’t have to worry if the next renter has the key to get in. You do not need to clean the apartment when you leave—get the picture?
Tell us a bit about the process of fixing up these apartments, who did it and how much of an ordeal was it?
So the stereotype that Parisians do not like to work hard was proven during our renovation. Parisians really do take two-hour lunches that include wine! However, we found an exceptional contractor with an eye for detail, and his ability to drive his team was exceptional. We did have an Elite staff member live in Paris for a while to help manage the project, and it was well worth it. The apartments are beautiful.
If an owner wants to trade a week, what are some of the other locations that he or she might want to trade for and how does that work?
Our locations are so fun. They range from the Turks and Caicos and Anguilla in the Caribbean, to Cabo San Lucas and Punta Mita in Mexico, to ski towns in the United States, to New York City at Trump International across from Central Park, to Sonoma Valley in California wine country and on and on. To set up an exchange is easy. All the owner needs to do is call Elite and tell us where they want to go. Elite calls the owners in that destination, and we find an owner that would like to travel to Paris (which is not a hard sell), and we make the trade. The exchange weeks do not need to match—owners can travel at different times to each other’s homes, even different years. The exchange stays on the books until it is used. Pretty simple.
How does one sell, transfer or otherwise get out of these deals if your plans change or shift?
An owner can sell their share anytime. It is actually an easy process where you transfer your share of ownership to a new person. The first step is to establish the price for the share, and then we begin to market your share. An owner can sell it themselves or ask for the marketing efforts of Elite.
What other cities and other projects will you be doing in the future?
Our most recent project is a vineyard estate in Sonoma Valley, the trendy wine county in California. We have two homes, a vineyard estate that sits on a mountain top on the vineyard and a five-bedroom mansion in the cute town of Healdsburg. London and Tuscany are also on our radar.
Tell us one thing that an owner has in Paris as an advantage over someone who rents.
There are so many advantages of owning: the leisurely cup of coffee in the morning, the afternoon nap, entertaining in the evening, the ease of travel with Elite. But I would say the most important advantage is the opportunity to create memorable moments for family and friends in some of the greatest cities all over the world.
In your opinion, what is the No. 1 reason to buy a fractional property in Paris?
Pride of ownership, and the love of Paris. Period.
To find out more, visit Elite Destination Homes.
Rue du Four in the 6th Arrondissement (still has one ownership parcel available)
Rue des Sts.-Pères in the 6th
Rue de l’Université, also in the 6th
You can rent out one of Elite’s homes in Paris simply by going to our apartment rental page.