As a Frenchman, wine has always been part of my culture, and the French have watched with interest at how wine drinking has become “a thing” in the U.S.
The French are also aware of Napa Valley, and we know this to be a luxurious area near San Francisco. For this reason, I thought Napa Valley would be a wonderful example of why U.S. luxury agents should share much more than just listings with international agents.
Since I am a real estate professional with a large affluent client base, I receive many luxury listings from U.S. agents, including those from Napa. But no agent has ever taken the time to share with me information about that region.
How far is Napa from San Francisco and the famed Silicon Valley? Is it easy to get to? Who lives in Napa and why? Has it grown is size? What makes the region special beyond vineyards?
Remember, we have Bordeaux, the “original” Napa Valley, just a short train ride away from Paris.
Look at it this way: If I had a Bordeaux listing and sent an email to all my U.S. agent colleagues without any context, would you show the listing to your clients? Probably not.
But if I shared information about Bordeaux, I would become much more valuable to you. If the need arose, you could talk about the benefits of our wine region and be a resource to your affluent client should they show interest in a home outside the U.S.
Luxury for centuries
While Napa Valley is relatively new to the world’s affluent, Bordeaux, which has about 250,000 residents, has been a luxury destination for centuries. It was known as the wealthiest European city for most of the 18th and 19th century, had a bit of a dry spell toward the end of the 20th century and has since returned to its glory.
It maintains an old=world feel with modern amenities.
Bordeaux is about 350 miles southwest of Paris and has been rediscovered by the affluent over the past five years or so. A big boost came last year when a high-speed train line launched that cut the travel time from Paris from three hours to two.
And while tourists will always flock to Bordeaux for wine — even more so now that La Cité du Vin (an immersive wine experience known as the “adult Disneyland”) opened in 2016 — the affluent routinely buy second homes and vineyards while enjoying mild winters and hot summers. It is also home to Golf du Médoc, one of France’s top golf courses.
The Chinese have had a major impact in Bordeaux. Things began to take off about 10 years ago when Chinese consumption of wine grew dramatically. Prior to 2000, less than 400,000 bottles of Bordeaux’s wines were shipped to China. Today, that number is 80 million.
Awareness led to tourism and then to vineyards being purchased by wealthy Chinese. While the French prefer second homes, foreigners — including Germans, Brits, Americans, Belgians and now Middle Easterners — look for properties that include acreage.
Today, Bordeaux is considered to be the fourth most expensive city in France behind Paris, Lyon and Grenoble.
Where the affluent live
Bordeaux has also gained popularity because of the style and price variety found among homes there. The city has become more cosmopolitan with more shopping and restaurants. Three affluent urban living centers have emerged, led by the couture shops at the Triangle d’Or.
It is amazing to see walkable century-old architecture (most buildings are only three stories or less). Another popular affluent area surrounds the Jardin Public, the city’s park, developed in the 18th century.
Finally, there is les Chatrons, which symbolizes Bordeaux’s modern renaissance. The French had started to refer to the city as La Belle Endormie, which means sleeping beauty, because decayed port city warehouses dominated the Garonne River riverfront and pollution had grayed the architecture.
Over the past decade, the buildings have been cleaned and the river walk opened up, allowing le Chatrons to become a haven for galleries, restaurants and boutiques.
These areas routinely have apartments priced above $1 million. And, of course, we have the multi-million dollar chateaus that dominate the Bordeaux countryside.
Why does this matter?
I want to show U.S. luxury real estate agents that international clients have a lot of different cities and lifestyles to choose from. They are very worldly. But the global real estate market is very difficult to navigate.
The world’s affluent have heard of both Napa and Bordeaux, but those are just two of hundreds of choices when looking for second homes, retreats or investment properties.
Our job entails so much more than just selling a listing. If we are immersed in the luxury space, we also work hard to build a database of international agents.
Unfortunately, very few of us share enough information with this database — and without information, the listings you share with me and other international agents are essentially useless.
This update on Bordeaux will have made you more aware of the world’s top wine destination, and that has value far greater than a listing.
Laurent Demeure is the founder and CEO of Coldwell Banker France & Monaco.