This is a post in my series about moving to Paris. If you're thinking about making a move to Paris, you can check out my previous posts in this category as well, you'll find them here. This time we'll talk about finding an apartment in Paris.
Finding a nice apartment in Paris at a reasonable price is like the saying: "finding a needle in a haystack"... You might think that I'm exaggerating, but I can only speak from my own experiences. If you're not in the city when it's time for you to start apartment hunting, or if don't know anyone there who could help you (which was my case when I made my move) it can be a little bit harder. Perhaps hard isn't the right word… More like "expensive". Because that's just what it is. Expensive. At least by my standards! I'm from Stockholm, where the prices haven't yet reached those extreme heights.
Renting through an agency So if you're (just like I was) totally on your own and apartment hunting from another country when it's time to look for an apartment, the easiest (and safest) way to do it is through an agency. Instead of contacting the, probably French speaking, landlord directly you use the services that an apartment agency can provide. On their websites you can calmly scroll through their list of possible apartments until you find one that suits your needs and budget.
So what's the downside you might wonder? Because this sounds awfully comfortable… Well, it's the price. When you rent through an agency it's often more expensive. Not just because of the rent itself can be higher, but also because of the "agency fee", which most of the agencies have, is quite often pretty high. This is an amount you pay to the agency for using their services and most of the time it can be around one month's rent.
But if you're not in the city, or don't know anyone in Paris who could help you with finding an apartment, signing documents, paying down payments etc. etc. it's pretty hard to do it in any other way. I also thought that it felt quite secure to go through a legit agency to avoid the possibility of I ending up on the street, in the beginning of February, with a contract for an unexciting apartment.
Renting on your own Since I have yet to experience this alternative I unfortunately can't help you too much with this option. But my teachers told me that if you want to rent an apartment directly from the landlord you have to assembly your own "dossier". This is like a folder where you gather references and recommendation letters from previous landlords and people you've worked with. I also think that you might (!) need a French bank account. My teachers also warned us about the fact that most of this process is done in all French, which makes this alternative quite hard for those of us who don't speak French all that good just yet...
Now I'm making this option sound totally impossible and like a complete horror story, that wasn't my intention. I absolutely think this is doable if you have the right conditions, a little bit of luck and perhaps some help. But for me this was at the time, unfortunately, just not possible.
Apartment insurance Something that you have to take out when renting an apartment in Paris is an apartment insurance. This is something that the agency you rent your apartment through can help you with and if you decide to do it all on your own you can probably ask your future landlord about it. It's not especially hard but it's good to be recommended a legit and good company for this. Unless you take out an insurance you probably won't be allowed to rent the apartment in Paris, since this is obligatory. But again, I can only speak from my own experiences and about what I've heard.
Apartment prices The prices for renting an apartment can vary a lot and it all depends on your wants and needs. It's of course cheaper to live outside the city centre or in a smaller apartment, and more expensive to live more central or in a bigger apartment. I chose to live more central, but smaller since I was on my own. I wouldn't recommend living too far from the centre if you're by yourself. Some neighbourhoods can be quite rough in Paris, so once again: do your research before booking anything. Or read more about finding a neighbourhood that suits you here.
A studio apartment in Paris, that you rent through an agency and that's located quite central can cost you anything between 700 €/month to 2 000 €/month. In most cases electricity is not included in your monthly rental price, which you'll have to pay as well. Do your homework before signing any contract and see what other "hidden fees" you might have to pay. Do you have to pay for gas, internet or TV-cable for example?
Since the prices for an apartment can vary so tremendously in this city I would recommend you to look at a few apartment listings that seems interesting to you so that you can create your own price idea and then set a budget and stick (!) to it.
You will also, most likely, have to pay a "security deposit" for your apartment. This is probably something that you have experience with if you've ever rented an apartment or house for a vacation or anything similar before. The security deposit is a sum of money (sometimes equivalent to one month's rent) that you have to pay the landlord for any possible damages you might cause in apartment, or to its interior. If everything is fine and in the same state that you found the apartment in when you arrived at the end of your stay you'll get the money back.
What to expect Also make sure to check what other household appliances the apartment has, like washing machine and dishwasher etc. etc. To have a washing machine was to me totally priceless but I managed fine without a dishwasher. All apartments doesn't have an elevator, so if you need one, be sure that the apartment you're interested in has one. Bathtubs are also a rare luxury in Paris I've come to learn. And for me, something I didn't know before I rented my apartment, was that the hot water didn't last for a whole shower. Small things, I know, but it's better to be prepared for these kind of things.
Don't go into this apartment hunting too naive is an advice I want to pass along. I've had friends who have ended up with mould in their bathroom and a washing machine that started leaking all over the floor. You never know, so be quite thorough when you examine the photos of the apartments. Of corse this doesn't happen to everyone, I was fortunate enough to not have any of these problems! Something that you, most likely, can prepare for is the lack of sound proofing in the apartments... At least this was the case for both me and (all of) my friends. I heard absolutely everything at my little place, both from the apartment above and from the one next to me. Bring earplugs if you have a problem with the noise or simply try to get used to it.