Finding a flat is always fun. Finding a flat in Paris? Even funner. It’s been a little over a month since me and James moved into our apartment and February was a complete whirlwind thereafter. January was both mentally and physically draining since we were running to multiple apartment viewings and attending the first few weeks of classes. Not to mention living out of our suitcases in a hotel. Since ESCP Europe is in Paris, there are no student dorms available, ala every other university not in Paris. While Residence Vivaldi, a huge housing complex with an agreement with ESCP, was an option, I thought I’d have a richer experience finding a place on my own. And it was awesome.
Searching for an Apartment
Important things to figure out:
- Monthly budget – Paris is not cheap!
- Where you want to stay – Not all places in Paris are good, or close to school.
- When you want to move in – We arrived on the 13th of January.
Me and James had an initial budget of 600E/month and preferred something in the 3rd or 4th. We eventually increased our budget to 750E/month and expanded our search into the 3/4/5/6/8/9/10/11 arrondissements. I’d recommend avoiding the 18 – 20th if possible, which are not great areas. Depending on when you want to move in (immediately? Beginning of the month?) also factors into what’s possible. We also set a deadline for the end of the month to move in (anywhere).
Best Places to find an Apartment:
- ESCP Intranet – Definitely one of the best/safest options. Many flats available near the school
- Fusac – Lots of quality postings we followed up with
- Craigslist – Tons of Nigerian scammers! We eventually found the apartment we moved into here
- American Church in Paris – Didn’t follow up with any options here but some friends found their places through here
- Pap.fr or Seloger – Hugely popular with the French locals so you’re at a big disadvantage. Many agencies/landlords are looking to rent for upwards of 6 months
Residence Vivaldi – I haven’t heard the best things about the facilities and rooms here. Although, they might be the best bet if you can score something for 400E/month.
CIUP – A bit far from the school, but basically dorm style rooms that you with people from Canada. It fills up fast!
Various vacation rental sites/Parisattitude etc. – Definitely on the pricier side and sometimes it didn’t make sense for 4+ months.
I recommend setting up a spreadsheet to track everything. Sometimes we didn’t know which apartment an email was responding to since we contacted so many listings. If you’re willing to pay agency fees, you can definitely get an apartment faster. Since we were adventurous, we decided to make it our goal to avoid paying agency fees (up to a months rent!). Finding accommodations for 2 people (not a couple) is exponentially more difficult than finding accommodations for a couple or a single person. Very few places have two separate beds or a sofa bed. We even considered buying a futon/sofabed for some apartments.
Setting up Viewings
Always call if you can; apparently landlords receive 30 – 50 emails after posting online. It definitely helps to speak French or have someone make calls in French on your behalf. I was also sending emails in French and English to make things easier for the landlord.
This was one thing I didn’t account for sucking up so much time. Not only was I exploring the area the apartment was in, but I was at at the whim of the landlords schedule – be prepared for numerous last minute cancellations or reschedulings. Some of the neighbourhoods I walked around were not high on livability – ie lack of Boulangeries/Boucheries/Supermarkets. Some neighbourhoods weren’t for me. A place near Trocadero – and the Eiffel tower – was to touristy and expensive (daily) to live for 4+ months; although a week there probably would’ve been nice.
Signs you’re in a good area:
- Canada Goose down jackets. Wildly popular.
- Hip parents and stylish kids. Kids are fashion accessories. No joke.
- Cobblestone streets. Luxurious.
- Dressed up little dogs. To have another mouth to feed & the space for a pet in Paris? $$
- McDonalds that serve hamburger shaped macaroons. Only the finest McD’s stock these.
Making an Offer
You’d be crazy to try to negotiate on price. As a student looking for a short term rental with minimal paperwork, we were in a weak position to negotiate. All we could was say was that we were interested and that they would get back to us. At times it felt like if they “liked” me then I would be at an advantage, so be extra friendly when viewing! Sometimes we were simply outgunned – other people wanted the apartment longer and we couldn’t compete.
Since landlords have their own schedules, sometimes they’ll accept your offer and want you to move through the paperwork immediately. This happened to us a couple of times and it was difficult to give a definite answer since we were holding out for another apartment. On the flipside, we were telling multiple landlords that we were interested in moving into their apartments. Always hedge your bets.
Signing the Paperwork
If you get a landlord that doesn’t need a French guarantor and the last 5 years of employment history you’re in luck! Try to get the housing contract read by a French person if you can. Ask if you can get CAF (housing assistance from the French government) or if you can use the contract to setup a bank account. Sometimes since you’ll be renting from a renter, so they’ll need to provide a letter attesting that they’re accommodating you from xxxx to xxxx to be able to setup a bank account.
Life Lessons Learned
- Don’t wait for perfect. After a while we were indifferent to the likability of the apartment. It became “could we live here or not?”
- Expand your horizons. We considered an unfurnished apartment and buying all the furniture since rent was ridiculously low
- Hedge your bets. We were setting up viewings for apartments up until the day we moved in. Even after verbal confirmation.
- Nothings a sure thing. We were 90% we were going to sign the papers for one apartment but at the 26th hour the landlord went with another offer
- Expect randomness. Last minute cancellations, reschedulings and getting beat by other offers eventually became expected