Update on Max + Mortgage is a creepy word! Use this French expression instead! + bien immobilier, hypothéque, piaule, licitation judiciaire
THE FRENCH WORD FOR MORTGAGE?
Did you ever stop to think about the word "mortgage"? The first four letters are a clue-in: "mort" in French means death and gage = pledge. Mortgage = death pledge. If the term is too creepy for you, then use one of these when in France:
- un emprunt immobilier = real estate loan
- un prêt immobilier = real estate loan
-un prêt hypothécaire and une hypothéque (when you mortgage part of your home for cash)
AUDIO/SOUND FILE in French and English
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce all of the French words in today's story (see French Vocabulary section, below)
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
From our kitchen where I am quietly making lunch, I enjoy seeing our son work at the dining table. His laptop is open and he is on the phone with clients. Depending on which language he is speaking—French, English, or Spanish—I can guess which country he is calling. (I know I'm bragging. I am so proud of him!)
Though Max lives in Aix-en-Provence, he sometimes works here in La Ciotat on Fridays. Having gone into the wine business after graduating from Montpellier Business School, he’s making waves like his father in the wine world (whoops! I’ve gotten the “waves” idiom all wrong! But we’re sticking with it as the next sentence depends on it...). Speaking of les vagues, they’re one of the reasons Max is here on weekends: after work, he grabs his kitesurf and off he flies, to the nearest plage (he loves Almanarre beach on the Presqu'île de Giens, near Hyères).
Un Chez-Soi (A Place of One’s Own)
No surfing today though. Max needs to figure out where he will live after his lease expires in June. He’d like to buy a place instead of spending part of his paycheck on rent, and after meeting with a loan officer he is aware of his limited budget. So today, we are visiting an apartment in le centre ville de La Ciotat…. Only, by the end of the tour I’ll have a few tips for Max!
The split-level apartment is deep in the old town, along une rue piétonne. He’ll have to park a ways away if he moves here. Before we ring the sonnette, Max points to the end of the street where we see the sparkling sea and even the boats on the old port de plaisance. “Ah, and there’s the Irish Pub!” he smiles.
Pas d’ascenseur (No elevator)
We meet the owner at the giant wooden door leading into le bien immobilier. After climbing three flights of stairs, we arrive at a narrow landing on le deuxième étage and enter into the duplex. The stairs immediately to our left lead up to a small loft. Straight ahead, the main room/living area has a kitchenette along one wall. At the end of the counter, there’s the entrance to the tiny bathroom, opposite the fridge. Everything is nickel--super clean and tidy--which helps us to see big in a small space. The window on the facing wall looks onto the building across the street, right into the neighbor’s place.
Astuce no 1: Don’t let the owner know you don’t like his taste
“I’d change the paint right away,” Max admits as we head up the narrow escaliers to the loft. “This blue reminds me of my bedroom when I was a kid.” (Such a comment might’ve been ok were he talking to the agent immobilier, and not the propriétaire who politely showed us around his bachelors pad.)
Astuce no. 2: Don’t tell the owner how much you like the place!
Apart from his distaste for the paint, and his concern for the uneven walls, Max was full of compliments, perhaps too many.
“There’s lots of storage space! I can put my kiteboard here in this placard… and my valises in that one… Everything looks good, I won’t have to renovate (apart from the paint)...No extra expenses there...”
Up in the loft, we have to duck down in order to reach the bed (a mattress on the floor). Max pushes open the skylight and we stick our heads out and look across the rooftops all the way to the port……
Astuce no. 3: Don’t get the owner’s hopes up!
“I like it. I’ll call you next week with an offer,” Max says, as we wave goodbye to the owner. I have my doubts but keep quiet pour l’instant...
Back at home, the family weighed in with their wisdom. “Max,” I said, “with the current pandemic, you might want to find a place with a terrace or balcony, so you won’t be cooped up inside...”
Next, Grandma Jules piped up. “Buy a piece of land in the hills beyond! And get out of the city!”
“Where’s he going to sleep?” Jean-Marc laughed.
“He can get a tent!” Grandma insisted.
“Or maybe a van?” I wondered, having seen several surfer vans (with built-in kitchens/beds) in our beach town.
“I’ll put a van on the property too!” Grandma cheered.
...And don’t get Jean-Marc started, he’s been wanting a VW camper for some time!
Astuce no. 4: Don’t listen to everybody!
Meantime, with everyone now dreaming of the wide-open road, I’m reminded of one final tip or astuce: Don’t listen to too much advice when shopping for your first pad, or you might end up sleeping in a car, with the whole nutty family--avec tout ta famille de barjots!
Listen to the following list of French terms
un emprunt immobilier = real estate loan
une hypothèque = mortgage, loan agreement
les vagues = waves
la plage = beach
une presqu'île = peninsula
un chez-soi = a place of one’s own
le centre ville = town center
la rue piétonne = pedestrian street
la sonnette = doorbell, buzzer
port de plaisance = marina
un ascenseur = elevator
le bien immobilier = the property
le deuxième étage = third floor (in French)
nickel = spotless
une astuce = tip, trick
le placard =closet
la valise = suitcase
to brag = se vanter
bragging = vantardise
bachelor pad = garçonnière
un bail = lease (apartment, house…)
loan officer = responsable des prêts
duck down = se baisser
pad = appart, piaule
legal auction of property = licitation - vente judiciaire
Max has (by now) visited 5 apartments (he found them via ads on sites like pap.fr and leboncoin.fr. Another way to find a place (apart from visiting the local real estate office) is via bank repossessions, estate sales, or "licitations". Here is a sign that appeared a few years ago on a derelict home (not far from the beach!) in La Ciotat. (The end price was two times the price listed on the sign.)
Max and friends in 2017, before our son left for an exchange program in Mexico. (Max is the one under the sombrero)
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety