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Buying apartments "en viager"

A story from back in 1995, which I just encountered: Andre-Francois Raffray thought he had a great deal 30 years ago: He would pay a 90-year-old woman 2,500 francs (about $500) a month until she died, then move into her grand apartment in a town Vincent van Gogh once roamed. But this Christmas, Mr. Raffray died at age 77, having laid out the equivalent of more than $184,000 for an apartment he never got to live in.
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