When I first started learning French at 13 years old, I dreamed of someday living in Paris in a chic apartment with a balcony. That dream came true when I did my Master’s in French ten years later, minus the balcony. Now after two years in the South of France, I’m headed back to the City of Lights for a new teaching job and I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect one bedroom flat.
Paris is notorious for having a tough housing market. People pay an arm and a leg for tiny studios and places go in a flash. When I was a grad student, I was able to successfully find a place in an international foyer des étudiantes. Finding a decent one bedroom is another story… There are plenty of announcements for studios all over Paris, but after living in a bigger place in the South, I think it would be hard to adjust to a smaller space. I found a helpful guide on Culture Passport that helped prepare me for the task. After spending a week visiting apartments in Paris, here are a few lessons I’ve learned:
The Dreaded Dossier
When finding housing in France, having a solid dossier de logement is indispensable. In this dossier you’ll include important documents like copies of your passport and visa, pay stubs, rent receipts, and more. If you don’t have a French guarantor, you can use sites like Garant Me or Garantie Visale, which I used for my current place in Perpignan. You can send your dossiers to most agencies by email, but some landlords sill prefer paper, so it’s helpful to have digital and physical copies.
Sites and Apps
There are quite a few websites to find housing in France including SeLoger, which I’ve found to have pretty decent listings. There is also an app called Jinka, which compiles announcements from a variety of sites and sends you notifications for places that match your criteria. If you don’t want to deal with an agency and prefer to consult directly for with landlord you can try Leboncoin, PAP, or Gens de Confiance.
If you can be in Paris to visit apartments with an open schedule, you’ll have better luck! I was able to visit a place that had very high demand because I answered calls and emails almost as soon as I go them. I spent five days in Paris looking at flats and I was even able to make appointments for visits the next day. As I mentioned earlier, apartments go off the market very quickly and another one of the visits I had was cancelled the day of because the landlord already chose the new tenant!
Trying to find a place from another city is a bit more difficult since visits are usually scheduled right after ads go live. As I’m writing this article, I got a call from an agency for a flat that I saw online today, to schedule a visit for the next day. I clicked on the link to the announcement to remind myself of the place, and it was already removed! Unfortunately I can’t be in Paris tomorrow, so I’ll just have to keep looking.
Be Prepared for Landlords and Agencies to Ghost You
You would think that people would be more responsive when they know you are interested in their place, but since the demand in Paris is so high, YOU have to be the proactive one. I had one visit scheduled and when I called the landlord to tell her I had arrived, she told me her train was late and it would be another 45 minutes. Late trains are normal in Paris, but when it had been over an hour and I hadn’t heard anything from her, I figured that the visit wasn’t happening. I didn’t bother to call back the next day because I don’t want a future landlord who is unresponsive! There are also some agencies I tried calling and got no response and one agent who said she would call me back, never did. I also didn’t hear back from another place after submitting my dossier and expressing my interest in renting, so I’m taking the lack of communication as an indicator I was not chosen for the apartment.
Expect to Compromise
I did have one semi-successful visit, thankfully. I’m glad I visited too because afterwards, I decided it wasn’t the place for me. The apartment was in a great neighborhood and had great light! There was a loft so the bed was separated from the main living area, but it was a bit cramped. The shower was literally in the bathroom, as in no glass door or curtain separating it from the sink and toilet. The kitchen was pretty tiny, which is normal for Paris and there was also no washing machine. Finally, it was on the 7th floor (6e étage) with no elevator. I don’t mind walking up stairs, but I feel like it would be annoying for carrying up heavy things when moving in or if my legs were tired after working out. I don’t think my future place in Paris will have absolutely everything I want, but I don’t want to pay a high price for a place I don’t really like.
I’ll be headed back to Paris in a couple of weeks to visit the consulate to replace my recently stolen passport (a travel horror story for another time), so hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in a few more apartment visits while I’m there. Otherwise my plan B is to stay in an Air BnB for a couple of weeks (or a month) while I continue to search for my dream apartment.
À la prochaine,