Category Archives: Housing

Flat Finding Flashbacks Part 2: Fall

Victory!

I thought finding an apartment in Paris in January was one of the most nerve wracking, time consuming, soul draining experiences ever. Nothing trumps this fall though, searching for a flat for was a trip down Flat Finding Flashbacks memory lane amped up on humid Paris weather and a flurry of back to school students. At least I didn’t have to spend another 20 Days in a hotel.

This month’s rundown:

205+ emails

170+ calls

15 viewings

8 viewings on “Superday”

4 day of cancellations

3 offers made

2 times being beat out just as papers were going to be handed in

1 new flat

Another 4 months in Paris

Finding a flat in the fall is tough, especially if you consider these circumstances:

  • Can hold 2 people, not a couple
  • Only a 4 month lease – competing against back to school students who want 10 – 12 month leases
  • Don’t speak French (well) Parlez-Vous Anglais?
  • Don’t have guarantors (French citizen who’ll “guarantee” your rent payments if you can’t pay)

All I can say is good luck! Not much to add here that I haven’t already mentioned except start early, always call and be ready to make an offer on the spot.

Patrick

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Opening a Bank Account/Credit Card in France

Premier

Being accepted to ESCP Europe means being entitled to a Premier card from BNP Paribas for free! Scratch that, BNP wants Grandes École business so much they’ll pay you 70€ for opening a bank account with them. Sweet. So this comes with a concierge and a private jet right? Not exactly. The card is a standard higher withdrawl/monthly limit (not ludicrously sky high) with no fees for 3 years (average time for a masters student). Nonetheless, everyone dons the gold card.

But you can only open a bank account after you have a housing contract.

To get setup you’ll have to book an appointment at either the Parmentier or Oberkampf BNP branches with your ESCP Europe acceptance letter, housing contract and passport. My housing rental contract didn’t suffice so I had to receive and sign a registered letter from the bank at my flat to confirm my address.

What’s awesome is those crafty Europeans have combined the power of debit and credit into a single card. It’s like Gillette Fusion. North America needs to get on it!

Some quibbles with the banks:

  • There are weekly limits, not daily limits on how much you can withdraw from ATMs. Plan ahead for paying rent.
  • If you want to withdraw money from a teller, you need to bring your bank card, an ID card – a Passport for non EU-residents, and a cheque. You go have to write a cheque to yourself to withdraw money. Very French.
  • Branches with tellers are few and far between.

You’re probably wondering if it’s worth it to open a French bank account if you’re only staying for a couple months. It definitely is. You’ll need a bank account to receive CAF – housing subsidy from the French Government – and getting a cell phone plan amongst other things. It makes withdrawing macaron money a breeze. And how can you say no to 70 free euros?

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Flat Finding Flashbacks in Paris

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:

  1. Monthly budget – Paris is not cheap!
  2. Where you want to stay – Not all places in Paris are good, or close to school.
  3. 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:

  1. ESCP Intranet – Definitely one of the best/safest options. Many flats available near the school
  2. Fusac – Lots of quality postings we followed up with
  3. Craigslist – Tons of Nigerian scammers! We eventually found the apartment we moved into here
  4. American Church in Paris – Didn’t follow up with any options here but some friends found their places through here
  5. 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

Predeparture Options:

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!

Untested Options:

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.

Apartment Viewings

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:

  1. Canada Goose down jackets. Wildly popular.
  2. Hip parents and stylish kids. Kids are fashion accessories. No joke.
  3. Cobblestone streets. Luxurious.
  4. Dressed up little dogs.  To have another mouth to feed & the space for a pet in Paris? $$
  5. 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.

Multiple Offers

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

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20 days in Paris

45 emails sent

20 days in Paris

18 nights without an apartment

15 people called

10 days of classes

9 days without a shower curtain

9 apartment viewings

7 nigerian scammers

6 different neighbourhoods

5 day-of reschedules

5 times the landlord went with another offer

3 day-of cancellations

2 nights in a different hotel after getting kicked out of the first

1 apartment secured

0 spent on agency fees

104 days left. 

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