Finding an apartment to rent in Paris
Securing a rental in Paris is an adventure no less perilous than the trek that Sam and Frodo took across Middle Earth. Replete with tests of valour and unexpected twist and turns, it is certainly not for the faint of heart. But as someone who has just notched up her third Parisian apartment in under 18 months, I am here to tell you that it is possible*.
*Editor's note: Finding an apartment is the easy part — finding an apartment without jazz bands playing under your window until 1am in the morning, or mould growing in the corner of every room, is where I struggle. But bon bref this is a post about finding an apartment in Paris — not keeping one — and in this first regard I am experte.
Step One: Your quest begins
When Frodo and Sam began their voyage from the Shire they were probably equipped with a map, a rucksack and a trusty stead. I say probably because, although I did read the entire LOTR trilogy I have since repressed those memories in the same vault where I store my memories of cargo pants, and that guy I dated at the age of 15 whose nickname was noodle-head.
As for you, grasshopper, before you set off on your quest to find your dream apartment in Paris, I am equipping you with the following tools (and I am not going to deny you elevenses or second breakfasts either):
- Se Loger - This is the holy grail of French online real estate listings. They also have a great little app for phone and tablet where you can set up notifications.
- Le Bon Coin - This is France’s answer to Craig’s List, and all advertisements thereon are to be treated with the same level of gentle scepticism. That said, it is possible to find legitimate rentals and share houses here.
- Appartarger - The first reference for share houses.
- La Carte des Colocs - Another online reference for share houses which I find a bit more personable than Appartager. It also allows you to search by map, which is handy if you want to be able to perceive that “Share house Canal St Martin” really means Chateau d’Eau :S
- Pap - Another “Bon Coin” type site but focused solely on real estate. You can even sell your house on here if you wish!
Short interlude: Real estate photography in Paris
There is nothing in the world quite as simultaneously hilarious and frustrating as real estate photography in Paris. Where I come from, real estate photos are so heavily photoshopped that they’re kind of like the teen magazine version of the actual apartment. In France, it’s more like the Sunday morning version of the apartment, where it’s just woken us with the smeared remains of last-night’s makeup on it’s face and a half-eaten kebab on the pillow beside it. I have stored away my favourite real estate photos (cowboy vacuum cleaners, paint cans, ladders — even a chick who was so engrossed in letting her freshly painted nails dry that she CBF getting out of the photo) with the express purpose of one day sharing them in a post. Stay tuned!
Step Two: Making it past the real-estate gatekeepers
There is one major hurdle that stands between you and your dream apartment in Paris, and it is not a troll on a bridge, but rather the Parisian real estate agent. Indolent, sassy, impossible to reach on the telephone, and not necessarily fluent in French, the real estate agent may not appear a daunting adversary at first glance, but underestimate them at your own peril.
Real estate in Paris moves really quickly, which explains why the Parisian real estate doesn’t pick up the phone. Basically, they only need to organise 4 or 5 visits for each apartment in order to be sure to find at least one interested party. After this point they cease to give a shit.
This is why, the second you see an apartment that you like, you are going to call straight away. You aren’t going to bother with an email, you aren’t going to check your Instagram first, you aren’t even going to take a toilet break, even if you’re really, really busting. (D’ailleurs, you are absolutely going to make these calls from a French phone number, even if you need to buy one of those SIM cards from the guys who sell SIM cards and peanuts at the Gare du Nord. I don’t care.)
Should you actually succeed in talking to an agent agent, prepare yourself for the following questions:
“Do you have a CDI (permanent contract) in France?”
“Do you have a guarantor in France?” (If you are a foreigner in France, it’s game over — pass go and do not collect $200)
“Do you earn 3 to 4 times the rent?”
“What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?” (That’s for all you Monty Python fans out there ;))
Step three: The visit — into the fiery pits of Mordor
If have made it to step three, and have actually succeeded in pinning down a visit — well, take a pause and give yourself a big pat on the back. But then for God’s sake pull yourself together, and prepare yourself for the next stage of your epic journey!
You need to keep your wits about you in the ferry pits of Mordor — sorry, I mean, during a Parisian real estate visit. The first thing you are going to do is prepare yourself for the ugliest staircase you have ever seen. By this point I have been in many Paris apartment blocks, and although I am yet to be invited to the Elysée Palace, I am yet to see a Parisian staircase that did not look like the perfect location for a murder scene.
After you have got over the staircase, and wondered if you are about to be bound and gagged by the real-estate agent, you will ask yourself the following the questions:
- Is the staircase big enough to fit my furniture (bring out that measuring tape, take photos..)
- Does the building have a guardienne? If not can you be f’ed dealing with the hassle of having things delivered in Paris without one?
- Does the apartment have doubled glazed windows (this will be especially handy should you chose an apartment with a jazz band playing underneath your window until 1.00 in the morning)
- Does the apartment have shutters? If not are you able to install curtains or blinds?
I would also highly recommend going on a reconnaissance mission of the area, before the visit if possible. Take the metro there, walk around at night, take note of the nearest supermarket (or the nearest jazz band). I was once told that if there is not a bakery, cheese and wine shop within 100 meters then it is not Paris, and I maintain that this is sound advice.
Step four: Finding “the one” and pinning it down
No sign of a pernicious mould problem? No jazz bands in the street after 10pm? Well, look at you — you may just have found your future Paris apartment! OK, no pressure now, but you need to get straight on the phone and “poser use option” on that shit. It’s not every day you find a mould-free, jazz-band-less apartment in Paris, so chances are you will not be the only person who is interested.
In order to secure a Parisian apartment, here is what you are going to need:
- A copy of your work contract (and preferably a letter from your employer — ask your HR department, they should be able to provide you with one)
- A copy of your passport and carte de séjour if you are foreign
- Your last three payslips
- Your last tax statement (if you have been in France for over a year, but they will most likely let this slide if not)
- Your RIB (bank account details)
- Three freshly plucked unicorn hairs and two drops of the blood of your first-born child
I’m trying to remember what Sam and Frodo did after they pitched the ring into the fiery pits of Mordor and returned to the Shire. I remember lots of smiling and green grass and flute music and wagons. I wish I could tell you that life in Paris will be like that after you find your dream apartment. But it’s not, and that’s why we are here on a blog called “Paris Is Just Not That Into You”. In all seriousness though, there’s actually nothing more character-building than the experience of experiencing the thrilling journey of apartment hunting in Paris and living to tell the tale. And after all, we chose to live in Paris — not The Shire — for a reason.