Gina Baksa meets Olivier Bourrain, director of The Riviera Life, and sourcer extraordinaire of prime luxury French property for billionaire investors
Where are you based?
My property sourcing company, The Riviera Life, is registered in Nice. But my actual playground is France’s prime locations, and I often travel internationally to meet new clients. Usually I am based between France and the Netherlands.
What’s your professional background?
In 1999, I co-founded a successful Dutch company that was selling infrastructure products to telecom operators in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Wanting to try new business areas in 2013, I stepped down to create a personalized video service, an exclusive mobile app) with the ultra-wealthy. Then in 2016 I created The Riviera Life prime residential real estate agency.
Why do wealthy investors need a property whisperer?
Wealthy international buyers of luxury real estate have increasingly less time to research properties, gather information (from web search, listing agencies, local network) and conduct an in-depth market analysis. They need immediate, reliable and fully verified information that answers the question: is a property worth a 3- or 5-day trip to France to view?
Investors don’t want to spend extra time viewing second-best or off-the-mark properties from hustling listing agents. They want to optimise their short stay by visiting only the best properties available from a broad selection of reliable selling parties.
During the buying process, buyers don’t like to be at the mercy of listing agents who represent 99% of the licensed real estate professionals in France and always defend the sellers’ best interest. They’d rather have an independent real estate professional whom they can trust on their side to protect their best interest during the acquisition phase.
What service do you provide to clients?
I provide service to HNW clients in the following five areas:
- Finding suitable properties that match the client’s requirements and that are actually available for sale in their desired area.
- Obtaining further essential information from each listing agent, public records, local authorities
- Analysing property data and comparing them with market data and trends.
- Contacting each listing agent to schedule a viewing and organising a viewing tour.
- Accompanying clients every step of the acquisition process.
Who uses your property finding services?
I offer my services exclusively to international buyers of French properties from €5,000,000 (£4,430,000 / $6,140,000 / ¥39,000,000) and upwards. It’s a niche market for between 100,000 and 150,000 ultra-high-net-worth individuals in the world.
How do you deal with their varying requirements?
Each buyer has her or his own personality. An American heiress will have character traits different from those of a Chinese self-made man. My job is to quickly determine the personality style of each client in order to better listen, communicate and ultimately deliver a memorable customer experience. Are they a canny buyer or an opportunistic one? Do they want a property that’s move-in-ready? Is lifestyle a priority? It is critical to adapt to each client’s style and rapidly understand what makes her or him tick.
How have you become an expert in sourcing super-prime property in France?
My knowledge of the market conditions, inventory and the buying process is second to none. I regularly furnish my extensive list of ultra-wealthy foreign buyers with buying tips and latest news about the French luxury property market. To keep my skills sharp, I talk with and learn from power agents and key industry leaders in France and in the USA. I also spend time reading about marketing and new technology in other luxury sectors (hospitality, private aviation, superyacht, art) in order to expand my knowledge.
What makes your service unique?
Firstly, I am fully committed to my client in terms of time, expense and effort. By working on an exclusive basis and taking on one client at a time, I can provide the highest possible personal service in the most reactive manner. And secondly, I work independently of real estate agencies and therefore always give impartial advice. As I don’t sell property, estate (selling) agents don’t see me as a competitor but rather as a business partner. As a result, they inform me about off-market properties and about properties before they come to market.
What search assignment are you currently working on?
I can’t talk much about it as each mission is strictly confidential. I act as my clients’ personal secret agent! All I can disclose is that the buyer is American and wants to produce wine on a large plot of land.
Where in France are ultra-high-net worth buyers currently investing?
In Paris, townhouses and apartments in the west and in the heart of the city remain the most sought-after properties by foreign buyers, especially Americans. In Cannes, a great number of Americans and Scandinavians buy villas at an average price of €30,000/m2 in La Californie and penthouses at an average price of €20,000/m2 on La Croisette. In Saint-Tropez, buyers from all nationalities acquire secluded villas with garden and sea views at an average price of €40,000/m2 and apartments in the centre of the village at an average price of €20,000/m2.
In the prestige Alpine resorts of Chamonix, Val d’Isère, Megève and Courchevel buyers are mostly Swiss and British, and the average price is €9,143/m2. Prices can reach €20,000/m2 for an apartment in the heart of Megève and up to €42,453/m2 for a recent chalet in Courchevel that sold for €18 million.