Paris is a very small and very densely populated city, creating an incredible demand for apartments. People seem to be willing to do just about everything and live just about anywhere in order to say they live in Paris, as is apparent from the recent story of a man who lived for 15 years in 1.56 square meters! Apartments go quickly when they are available so it is important to act fast. Be prepared with your completed dossier full of financial and personal information before you start looking so you can make an offer immediately on something you love.
But don’t despair if you are searching! This guide, complied with help from our friend Nelly Romary of Esprit Relocation, is designed to help you better understand the process and what you can get for your money.
1. Types of apartments
When you are looking for an apartment, you have 2 different options: furnished and unfurnished. Generally a furnished apartment will provide you with the basic furniture you would need as well as the basic necessities for the kitchen and linens. Usually the things provided are enough. A lease for a furnished apartment is one year long, always renewable, and sometimes more expensive than an unfurnished apartment.
You might be surprised at what you find, or don’t, in an unfurnished apartment. Don’t expect to find appliances such as a stove or fridge, or even kitchen cabinets! The one exception to this rule is if the listing says the kitchen is “une cuisine equipée” or “une cuisine aménagée,” both of which simply mean that the kitchen has the appliances you would expect. Plus, advised Nelly, don’t expect the apartment to come with curtain rods or light fixtures. When a listing says an apartment is unfurnished, expect the bare minimum of 4 walls and a roof. An unfurnished apartment is rented 3 years at a time, which gives you security. If you are planning to live in Paris for a while, this type of apartment is generally what you would be looking for.
Another quirk of Parisian apartments is the elevators. Many people assume that if they are looking at a great apartment on the 6th floor of a building, that there will automatically be an elevator. Unfortunately this is not the case. If there is an elevator, it will usually be mentioned in the listing.
If you want a balcony for your apartment, look for something on the 2nd or 4th floor of a building. Just be aware that you might be paying a little bit more to have a balcony.
Also keep in mind that the French number their floors differently than many Anglophone countries. The first floor is called the rez-de-chaussée, sometimes abbreviated as RDC. That means if you are looking at an apartment on the 1er étage, it will actually be 1 level above the ground.
2. The Lease
The lease that you will sign with the landlord will very specifically list what is included in the apartment and your rights as a tenant. This includes whether or not there is a parking space available, when the landlord will review the rent, and what you are responsible for in the apartment (such as maintenance). One important thing to remember is that although your lease is contracted for a specific amount of time, you can always leave earlier if necessary. The amount of notice you must give is usually 3 months.
Renter’s insurance is a MUST for anyone signing a lease. You should be prepared to sign up for it quickly once you find an apartment. The lease cannot be signed until you can prove that you have insurance.
The biggest catch for expats who want to sign a lease is the caution. A French person renting an apartment is required to have proof of a garant, a person who can be called upon to pay the rent if the renter cannot pay. This person has to be French, which is usually impossible to find for an expat unless you are brought over by a company ad they agree to act as one. Instead, a landlord will block a year’s worth of rent off in your bank account. This cannot be used to pay your rent for your lease and you will get it back when you move out. Sometimes, this can be negotiated down to 6 months’ rent, but you should be prepared to give up the amount for a year. This caution will usually be returned to you 2 months after you move out of the apartment. According to Nelly, however, this can sometimes take longer and that you might even have to fight to get it back. Definitely a reason to have someone like Nelly on your side!
3. Etat des lieux
An état des lieux is a record of the condition of the apartment and everything that is in it if it is furnished. It has to be done in an apartment before anything can be moved in and then at the end of your lease before you hand in your keys and is done by the landlord of the apartment. The état des lieux is beneficial to you and the landlord as it helps to avoid any disputes over the condition of the apartment when you move out.
4. Gas, electricity, and water
When looking at apartments, you will see lots of different options for heating. Though some places will have electric heating, which is generally more expensive, most is run with gas. Chauffage collectif means that you and your neighbors share hot water and heat. As some of you may know from experience, this means that there might not be enough hot water in the morning for a shower! We suggest looking for places that have chauffage individuel, which means that you have your own water heater that you can control. Water is normally managed by the building.
5. Eco Rankings
Eco or Green rankings are relatively new to Paris. The rankings essentially describe how environmentally friendly a building or apartment is. Since most apartments in Paris are quite old and therefore horribly insulated, it is difficult to find one with an A or B ranking. Some of the newer buildings do have slightly higher rankings. The best way to control how much energy you use is to make sure you have all “A” appliances and double-paned windows, which will keep the outside temperatures more at bay.
6. What do you get for your money?
So what will your money get you? Though the central areas of the city are more desirable, the prices reflect it. If you are looking for a 20m2 studio, expect to pay upwards of 900 euros a month rent in the Marais or the Saint Germain area, but only around 650 euros in the outlying 18tht, 19th and 20th. A 1 bedroom, 45m2 apartment will cost on average 1600 euros a month in the 16th or the Marais but you can expect to pay a lot less in the 18th-20th. For 60m2 and 2 bedrooms in the Marais, prices can go as high as 3,000 euros a month, reaching even higher in Saint Germain or the 16th.
Though it seems a little intimidating at first, it is not impossible to find an apartment in Paris. We hope this guide demystified the process a little bit for you. Be prepared to be frustrated and turned down, but you will eventually find an apartment you love. If you have more questions or need help finding a new place to call home, don’t hesitate to contact Savoir Faire or Nelly.