The Mutz family likes to travel. Based in Florida, where Barclay is an interior designer, her husband Eric a radiologist, and their two children, Walker and Avery, are at high school, the family travels widely every year around Europe and particularly throughout Africa.
“We itch to get out of America, to get a different view of the world,” says Barclay. They decided to invest in an apartment in Europe last year to give themselves an international base for their travels. Eric’s parents had lived in Paris when he was at medical school, and so the family has always had a sentimental attachment to the city.
“We always come back here. It’s so different to America. I think that French people in general worship beauty. They notice beauty in the small things in life and they take the time to appreciate everything. For us, coming here is a way to get back to what is important,” says Barclay.
Eric’s brother Garrett had spent some of his teenage years in Paris, and the two families – Garrett with his wife Christen and their children, Barclay and Eric and theirs – decided to invest together. It was their first time investing abroad, and, aware of complex French bureaucratic hurdles and a language barrier, they knew that they needed an English-speaking agency to guide them through the process.
Barclay says that Susie and the rest of the team at VINGT Paris were brilliant in understanding their needs. “We relied on her for everything. She showed us properties in our price range in neighbourhoods that she thought would suit us – and she was honest and could tell us when she thought a particular area might not work for us.”
After a whirlwind of apartment viewings, they found a 58 square metre property in the north Marais, on a bustling street teeming with bakeries, fromageries and florists.
“Susie told us to think outside of the box because there was always the possibility of renovating, which wasn’t our original plan,” admits Barclay. “There were probably ‘easier’ properties that didn’t need renovation, but we knew that you buy the location, and that was the most important thing.”
The north Marais, lodged under the famous Place de la République and one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Paris, has a young and artistic community. “We felt that this was a real Parisian neighbourhood – it’s safe, but it’s also young and hip,” says Barclay. “We looked at these beautiful places in other arrondissements, but there’s nothing to do! I would rather live in a crackerbox and have life outside the windows than in a huge apartment in a dull neighbourhood.”
After seeing the apartment, they put in an offer before getting back on the plane. Three months later, the deal was closed and renovation work began instantly, with the help of an English-speaking contractor that Susie had recommended.
“If people realised how easy it was, they would do it,” smiles Barclay. “You can find information on the internet, but you can’t find the contacts that Susie has.”
The extensive renovations – including knocking down one wall to expose the historical wooden beams beneath and opening up the kitchen into a large, stylish, American-style space – were completed in four months. The family are planning to rent out the property for long periods during the year when they’re not enjoying it themselves. It’s for this reason that choosing VINGT Paris was simple, says Eric. “We looked at three different agencies, but the thing that makes Susie unique is the fact that she provides an integrated solution. She showed us potential properties at the beginning, she helped us through the renovation process and now we are able to hand it back to her at the end for long-term rental.”
Both families consider it to be a judicious business decision, as well as providing wonderful experiences for their children. “There are opportunities in an international property that don’t exist in the States. Everybody comes to Paris. It’s one of those cities that is always going to be a safe bet,” Barclay says, and grins. “There is no other European city like it.”