Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Two enter, One Leave

If I haven't scared you enough with the realities of looking an apartment in France, allow me to finish the job with explaining the nuts and bolts behind it.  The realities of the market have changed slightly from before.  Now at least you may not have to pay to see the listings for apartments.  The internet saw to that.  There are more places available now than there were before, and for more reasonable prices.  It should however be noted that if you're looking to buy an apartment in Paris, you'll pay on average around 8300 euros per. square. foot.  I wish I were joking, but that is far from the case.

Looking for an apartment online is one of the easier ways to go , but then you run into dealing with the particuliers.  Particuliers are private owners that see no problem with coming into their apartment whenever they feel like it.  Sometimes with no notice.  It is their property and they.re completely allowed to, but when you're never sure how people will react to seeing two guys sleeping in the same bed, you learn that it may not be the wisest route.  So in that case, your only real option is going through a real estate agency.

As I mentioned before, a few years ago you couldn't even get to look at the listings of available apartments without paying a fee of anywhere from 30 to 150 euros.  This didn't even guarantee you would find an apartment, but you could see if there was one that interested you.  In a day, you might spend 500 euros just looking for a few apartments.

In the system before, after you found a few you liked, you'd need to make appointments to go and see them.  The availability of appointments at places where they still practice this method varies depending on the time of year.  The worst time tends to be after college students get words on their scores from the baccalaureate, the national exam for your high school diploma.  It becomes even more complicated in late July and August as most people are taking vacations, and some people are pressing to get it done before they leave on vacation.  So you may be able to make an appointment the following week to when you come in.  There's sometimes better availability, but it's better to check ahead than get screwed out of a place you really like.

Most places now will simply give you the keys to check out on your own.  The only thing they require is that you leave a form of ID at the office so that they can contact you should you run off with the keys.  I find this to be the preferable method because then you can be as truthful as you want.  You don't have to smile and find something nice to say.  For this process as well, take a map or a GPS with you, unless of course your from the city.  I can't tell you how much gas we burned trying to figure out which streets crossed which.

After you've visited a few places and decided where you will live, the next step is the application.  Basically, they will ask you for everything short of a blood sample.  They want proof that you have a bank account, your pay stubs, and a copy of your ID.  If you're a student, they want to see a copy of your acceptance letter, and if you work, they want a copy of your employment contract.  If you have a co signer, they want copies of his bank statements, income and property taxes, and a copy of his ID.  The place we went to had 3 copies of the contract that all had to be signed and initialed multiple times.  All this, and you may have to possibly pay a fee for submitting your application, which you won't get back if they reject you. 

Should they deem you worthy of living in their property, the next step will be to pay for your first month's rent, the security deposit, and my personal favorite; the honoraraires.  The first two are totally reasonable, and exist internationally, but the third just pisses me off.  You had to jump through all of these hoops, with a smile to boot, and then they have the gall to expect you to pay 90 percent of the cost of a month's rent for all the help they supposedly gave you?  Vive la France!  It's enough to make you question your sanity.  So then, you have the apartment, right?

Well, yes and no.  You technically don't have the apartment until they've given you the keys, and you have to wait for everything to be accepted.  You may get a call telling you that they need something else signed, or something needs to be done initially, so just watch out. Should you make it beyond the thunderdome, you're almost home.

The final hurdle to clear is the état du lieu.  Some places consider this, the check in inspection, a formality and are quick about it.  Other places take a special joy in picking apart everything they find.  It's a matter of knowing what kind of organization you're dealing with.  It's best to take the best possible care of your apartment, and in the end, things usually work out ok.  Remember, if they find anything wrong with the apartment when you leave, it comes out of your security deposit.

So you get the keys and you're all set, right? They may not give you the keys if they don't see certain other documentation.  Every person who rents is required to have renter's insurance in France.  If you can't prove that you've taken it out, you don't get the keys, and you may lose out on your place.  Renter's insurance isn't very expensive though, so no worries about that.  you should be able to get it for less than 20 euros.  You also need to make sure you take the readout on your apartment's electric counter, and possibly the water meter too.  Elecricitè de France will ask you for it, along with the former owner's name before they allow you to start the new account. 

The processes can wear you out, but it's worth it in the end.  I also never understood how apparently easy it is to get out of a contract.  Usually the agreements are for somewhere between 1 to 3 years.  No one seems to worry too much about breaking it in the middle though, so really once you've taken care of getting the apartment, there's little that can stop you after.  Just make sure you've got your i's dotted and your t's crossed, and you can make it as painless as possible.


  1. Ive always wanted to live in Paris...and this makes me think twice about it, but I still am drawn to this most magical city.


  2. It's complicated, but it's worth it in the end. The biggest problem is just the sheer amount of bureaucracy you'll have to go through.

    Paris is a beautiful place, but it's so expensive. I'd recommend finding a place with good TGV service, and just visiting.

  3. For some reason, Paris wouldn't be my first choice. I'd prefer setteling down in one of the regions, Alsace, Périgord or even beautiful Bretagne! They're so much more pittoresque for me.

  4. I'd love to live in Lyon too. It's almost as expensive as Paris, but it has mountains!

  5. Sounds so time consuming and expensive!

    I think I'll just have to share a place with someone already renting there.

    Ha ha.


  6. Have you ever seen the French film When the Cats Away? I want THAT apartment! :)

    Wow, just reading about the process has made me so so tired. =/

  7. Yeah, splitting it is always cheaper, but apartments are a lot smaller here. It helps to just be sleeping with the person you share the apartment! :-)

  8. I looked up a bit on the film, and I'll have to check it out. I know that people have awesome apartments in films usually. Amelie had a pretty great apartment herself.

    It's a complicated process, but it's ultimately worth it.