Buying flats by offering to pay a set monthly fee to elderly people for the remainder of their life for property (called en viager, meaning “for life”) is common in France. The elderly owner enjoys a monthly income from the buyer, who in turn gets a real-estate bargain – providing the owner dies sooner than later.

Andre-Francois Raffray thought that he had closed a great deal 32 years ago: he would pay a 90-year-old woman $625 a month until she died, then move into her flat in the French town of Arles. But in December 1995 it was Raffray who died, having paid more than $230,000.
Raffray, 77 when he passed away, had the misfortune of arranging the deal with Jeanne Calment, 122, listed in The Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest person. Raffray’s widow is obliged to keep sending the cheques, and should Calment outlive her, Raffray’s children will have to pay as well.

Extract from Reader’s Digest – May 1997

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