Moving to Paris : Looking for an apartment

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Apartment hunting in Paris is a nightmare  

This is the very important thought you should keep in mind while you are apartment hunting in Paris. If anyone tells you it is going to be easy do not believe them. If you try to be picky, it is not going to work. Check websites, make phone calls, go to visits and do it all over again and expect NOTHING.

I spent three weeks searching, was glued to apartment websites, I got a  few scams, met the Chinese landlord renting illegally, been to an apartment too small to fit in, met the mom-like (albeit very nice) potential roommate, biked daily to check the American church bulletin board and visited seven apartments in three days, then I gave up.

It was only after I decided to quit my job and go back to Ottawa, get a government job and buy the house in the suburbs (where it is actually possible to obtain lodging) and never ever leave again that it happened.

I found an apartment; more like a chambre de bonne (a maid chamber), a 10 square meters room on the 7th floor attic of a 19th century building, that costs in monthly rent more than the maid(s) who once occupied it ever dreamed of making. But it is near Jardin de Luxembourg, across the street from Pl. Sartre and De Bouvoire and within a walking distance from almost anywhere I’d wanna go to Paris.

And the lesson that I learned is that there is so much movement within the city that it is only a matter of time before you find a place but you have to be quick and persistent and do the work for it.

But why is it so difficult, one might ask?

First of all it is Paris, there is a lot of movement in and out of the city and renting out a place is super easy, so landlords can and choose to be picky and can essentially do whatever they want.

Secondly, there are some laws that protect renters and depending on which side of the political spectrum you are you may find them extreme or just too bureaucratic. Considering all the hoops one has to go through to rent and the advances, deposits and potential additional costs one has to pay and the size and state of most apartments, I’d say landlords are still winning. However, it is relatively difficult to kick someone out of an apartment in the winter even if they are not paying their rent, so landlords want to make sure that their renters can pay or else that there are as many people (garant) as possible that they can go after in case they don’t.

Thirdly, there is a relatively large number of apartments (and sometimes buildings) that are completely vacant for legal reasons, mostly because the one owner 50 years ago has 20 grandchildren who are still fighting over the inheritance.

All that to say, there are more people looking for apartments than there are available apartments and the more conditions you have the more difficult it will get.

About pricing: 

Paris is expensive, there are no two ways about it, but the cost wasn’t why I was having difficulty finding a place. In fact, there were a lot of offers within my price range, but the apartment sizes and amenities were limited.

Things you need to know: 

  • Be aware of scams, as you will definitely get them. If it feels just the slightest bit as a scam, chances are it is one.
  • Paris is expensive per square meter, however, it is totally reasonable to expect to rent a studio for around 500 euros (USD 750 roughly).
  • Call instead of sending emails, it is way more effective.
  • The apartment I got was the seventh I visited in three days.
  • A studio (or a studette): is usually around 10 or 12 square meters; some may not have a toilet inside.
  • The suburbs are not particularly cheaper as some may say, and metros/RER do not run very late at night, so think about that before you consider renting in the suburbs (not to mention Parisian suburbs are not pretty nor safe).
  • While you may get more from renting a room in a house (colocation), such as more space, washing machine, a toilet, dresser or an oven, expect to pay the same price as a studio.
  • The apartments you will end up getting is nothing near what your expectation of decent accommodation is.
  • Check out this video making fun of the apartment hunt in Paris  ( in French).
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