Renting in Paris: How to find your perfect home

11.07.17
12 minute read
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Whatever you want - you can find it in Paris. The city is vibrant and cosmopolitan, with a historical and cultural heart that offers something for every visitor. And with a huge number of international businesses and world class universities, you can see why expats flock to make Paris their home. But, of course, expat living isn’t all about the nine to five. Whether your idea of a perfect weekend is a sedate wander along the Seine or a frenetic trip around Les Halles, you’re in the right place.

If you’re considering a move to Paris, finding a property there is a priority. It’s a large city, and every neighbourhood has a different ambience - so knowing what you want from your new home is a good start. It’s by no means cheap to live in Paris, either. Renting in Paris is nearly 50% more expensive than finding a place in Berlin, for example. Of course, cost of living is relative - rent in Paris is on average 40% cheaper than it is in London, although, the higher cost of groceries in Paris means that the overall consumer prices are quite similar.

A one bedroom apartment in Paris city centre will set you back around an average of €1068 per month, excluding utilities. The same place, but outside of the centre, will cost a more reasonable €798. But, naturally, the exact price will depend on how desirable and well-connected the neighbourhood is.

If you’re just making plans, it’s important to take into account all the costs associated with your move to France. Compare the cost in Paris with that of your home town using a comparison site such as Numbeo, and check out this quick guide to renting in Paris to find the perfect place for you.

What are my housing options in Paris?

Although there are several different options when it comes to housing in Paris, where you end up will depend on your preferences, budget and a little luck. Unless you have a limitless budget or are very flexible, housing can be hard to find. And bad landlords are a feature here, as with any other major city, leading to the establishment of charities dedicated to improving the quality of housing in Paris.

It’s vital to do your research before you make any decisions - and if you have the option, having the help of a relocation consultant or an experienced local agent can help enormously. Be warned - Paris estate agents in general don't get a good rap, and have a reputation of charging high fees and often offering relatively poor service. An agent like Paris Attitude, which is experienced in working with expats, might be a better choice if you’re willing to pay a steep price.

Furnished vs. unfurnished flats

Furnished or unfurnished is an important question, especially in France. Under French law, you have greater legal protection if you take an unfurnished place and it’s your main home. Contracts for unfurnished properties tend to be three years long, while the minimum for a furnished place is only one year. In an unfurnished place, you can’t usually be evicted during the tenancy, although a tenant can still give notice and leave fairly easily.

Watch out if you’re offered a furnished place - the definition of ‘furnished’ in France is legally defined and pretty much means it must be move-in ready. That includes crockery, bedding and so on. It’s not unusual for landlords to claim to be offering a furnished property in order to benefit from the shorter minimum contracts, but without actually fitting the place up to the required standard.

Of course, what suits you depends on your personal circumstances. If you’re only in Paris for a relatively short time, there are fully furnished short term rents available. They are often very luxurious, although tend to cost a lot more.

Flatshares and student housing

Private rentals tend to be fairly expensive, so for students or those looking to find a cheaper deal, a flatshare might be a better option. Sharing accomodation ( colocation ) is extremely common in Paris, as rental prices are high and flats are small - so a group of people can get more together than they may on their own.

Flat shares are done as more individual arrangements. That means looking through your contacts and friends is a good start, in addition to joining Facebook groups specific to the area you want to live in.

There are several different Facebook options, but whichever you choose, remember it's a small world. Landlords may post flat share offers in several different groups. Being quick to respond, honest and straightforward in your dealings will reap the best results.

An alternative is to look for room rentals or student flat shares through website Appartager, which connects you with potential house mates and is searchable by geographic area

Where are the best locations to live?

Naturally, where you choose to rent in Paris will be largely dictated by the location of your job or university. Not to mention your budget. As you might expect, the further away from the heart of town you go, the more affordable the rents. So you can get more for your money if you’re prepared to have a bit of a journey into the city.

Paris’s arrondissements (neighbourhoods) have numbers and names, although you’ll typically just see the numbers used. They’re logically ordered, starting from number 1, the Louvre, and moving out in a spiral. The other thing worth knowing is the reputation attached to different sides of the Seine - on the left bank, which is south of the river, you’ll find neighbourhoods which are more quirky and artistic, with the right bank, north of the river, home to the more sophisticated neighbourhoods.

Here we can only give a taste of the different neighbourhoods in Paris, so if you’re planning your move, it’s best to visit a mix of areas yourself and get a feel for what suits. It’s good to visit at different times of day, especially in places where the nightlife might get a little rowdy.

City centre districts

If you’ve ever been to Paris on a trip, you’ve probably been to the first and second arrondissements, Louvre and Bourse. These are the very heart of the city, and although they have wonderful restaurants, attractions and highlights like the Champs Elysées nearby, they’re not really residential areas. Not only are the prices sky high, Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world - which means your neighbourhood would be congested and overrun by tourist crowds most of the time.

If you have the cash and want to be central, a better bet is the Marais, made up of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Here there are more residential options, although the costs are still very high.

The 10th and 11th arrondissements, Saint-Laurent and Popincourt are more multicultural, and offer a range of residential options. The neighbourhood has areas which are more gentrified and others which are a little edgier, so have a look round at day and night before you commit. Another choice popular with expats is Passy, home to the International School of Paris and several other bilingual schools.

Outside the city centre

Paris life is hectic, so it’s common for expats, especially with families, to look to the suburbs or the surrounding areas to live. Here you can get not only some peace, but also a lot more space. Central apartments are notoriously small, and taking a place out of town will mean a longer commute but much more house for your money.

At a 15 minute train from Paris, Chatou is a pleasant town with lots of residential options. Similarly, Versailles is an option, although it can become very busy with tourists in high season. But with a short train ride to the centre and the chance to live near the famous palace, it could be a good option.

Saint-Denis is an area just 10 kilometers outside of Paris, which was very run down until recent investment programmes. It’s a good choice for people looking for a budget place, and attracts a lot of students and young professionals for that reason.

Student areas

The Latin Quarter, in the 5th arrondissement, is home to the Sorbonne, and popular with students. This area is still rather pricey, but a vibrant place and home to an eclectic mix of people and businesses. There are certainly cheaper places to live further outside the city centre, so it depends somewhat on the commute you're prepared to take on.

However, if you’re looking for student accommodation, then your best bet might be to look for a company specialising in this form of housing, rather than on the open market. Specialised companies focus on locations near university campuses, and are likely to offer more budget-friendly choices. Organisations like Erasmus can also help international students find a place to live in Paris.

Ask your university for their advice on reputable agencies, or try an established organisation like those listed on the CLJT Foyers website.

What are the best websites to find a rental?

To find a rental property in Paris you need to either pay for an agent or broker or use a small ads site to connect directly with a landlord. Both are common approaches. If you're going directly to a landlord, then it's good to know a little about your rights as a tenant and have a basic understanding of the market. Naturally, knowing how to speak some French helps, too. Try these sites as a starting point:

  • Pap is one of the most popular websites in France, when it comes to finding a rental property. Things move quick - you’ve been warned.
  • FUSAC (short for ‘France USA Contacts’) is a small ads site specifically serving the English-speaking population of Paris. As you might guess, it’s pretty popular with Americans. If you have the bonus of having an overseas landlord, they tend also to be less concerned with the usual bureaucracy of French rentals.
  • At Le Bon Coin you can find classified ads for everything - including rental and house shares.
  • If you want to go direct to an agent try one which specialises in foreign new arrivals, you can use a site like Paris Attitude.

Where are the best sites to find a flatshare or roommate?

  • Appartager is a popular site which connects would be house mates and is searchable by geographic area
  • Foyers are student halls of residence in most cases, but here you can also find other group living spaces aimed at younger people
  • Facebook - groups tend to be closed, so you’ll need to ask to join. A quick search within Facebook will pull up several options. Try ABC as a starting point.
  • Craigslist - Rooms, apartments, houseboats and houses are all listed, but as with similar services anywhere, be wary and apply common sense and caution.

What should I be familiar with in the local market?

It can feel daunting if you’re just setting about finding the right place in another country and culture. Here are some of the things that can help you be more prepared.

Before you start to house hunt in earnest, you should think about whether there's anyone that can act as your guarantor on the tenancy. This is a common request from landlords who want a name of a French resident who can pay the rent if you can’t. Obviously this isn’t easy if you’re new to the country - but your employer might be able to fulfil this role, or your bank in the case of young professionals. Although not every landlord will want a guarantor, it's a common question - so if you absolutely can’t find one, then get an agent who will help you find landlords who don’t require this.

Also, if you have any choice, think carefully about the timing of your house hunt. If you’ve ever been to France on vacation, you’ll know that most everything shuts down during August for holiday season, while September in Paris can be overrun with students looking for their new semester accommodation. Avoid if possible.

What are the local terms I should know?

Even if you don’t speak any French, it can help to have a few words on hand when you’re trying to find your perfect rental in Paris. Often landlords won't speak much English, and might prefer a tenant who can communicate in their language, to make the process simpler. Take a French-speaking friend to viewings if this is an issue. Many sites do have English translations, but here are a few terms you'll see:

  • Garant - Guarantor, a French resident who can be held responsible for paying your rent if you default
  • Location - Rent
  • Colocation - House or flat share (literally, to rent together)
  • Cité universitaire, dortoir, foyer - All variants on a halls of residence, mainly for students and young workers
  • Quartiers/arrondissements - Neighbourhoods
  • Banlieues - Suburbs, low cost living on the outskirts
  • Vide - Unfurnished (likely to be without even carpets or light fittings)
  • Meublée - Furnished
  • Un agent immobilier - Estate Agent
  • Dépôt de garantie - Deposit

How and when are rental contracts signed?

Always ask for a written contract, and make sure you have the time to read it properly.

To protect your interests, you should sign a contract before handing over any money or moving in. Make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to before you sign including details like clauses about terminating your agreement and notice periods - landlords know there are a queue of tenants in Paris, and they may pressure you to sign quicker than you’d like. Checkout this sample of a unfurnished property tenancy agreement so you’re familiar with to expect.

What are best practice tips for dealing with landlords?

Firstly, getting a place in Paris - at least, a place you want, at a price you can afford - is going to be a competitive affair. Be prepared to make a good impression on landlords by being polite and turning up with your dossier of paperwork which proves why you’re a good tenant. This should include:

  • A copy of your passport and visa
  • Recent payslips or a job contract stating your salary
  • Details of a guarantor along with their payslip

Rental properties are often let direct from owner, in which case you’ll need to meet face to face with the landlord when you view. If you speak French - even just a little - this certainly helps to break the ice.

It might take some time to find a place you love in Paris. Give yourself the best possible chance by taking a short-term place in a hostel or hotel at first to buy some time, and always having a friend along with you when viewing flats to make sure you’re not overwhelmed with information. That way, you can discuss your impressions of a place and a landlord and then trust your instinct when you have to move fast to grab your perfect Paris apartment.

Don’t forget that many Paris apartments are rented out by word of mouth. Put up notices where possible in your community, in your church or any clubs you attend. Or, if you're in Paris for work, make sure your colleagues and local friends know you’re looking. You might find they can hook you up with a place with a friendly landlord without incurring agent fees.

What's the amount of a normal deposit?

For a deposit, you can expect to be asked for a maximum of a month’s rent if you take an unfurnished place. This is the highest amount a landlord can take as a deposit against damage or default. However, there’s no legal cap in furnished properties.

If you employ an agent, you're also responsible for any realtor fees agreed. Under French law, these fees might be related to the size of apartment you end up taking, rather than the amount of rent you pay.

Can I pay my rent or deposit from abroad?

Because housing moves so quickly in Paris, you might find that you need to make a deposit payment before you’ve opened a local bank account or even arrived in the country. If you do, it’s worth remembering that your bank might not offer the best value when it comes to making an international money transfer. Often, banks will add hidden fees by using a poor exchange rate, even with their own account holders.

Instead, try a specialist service like TransferWise to make your payment directly to your new landlord or agent, with no hidden fees and the same exchange rate you find on Google.

Anything else I should know?

Be wary of common scams, such as properties offered for rental without proper contracts, or landlords or agents who ask for fees for a service you don't want or need. However, the good news is that the rights of a tenant renting in France are well-protected by law.

It’s not unusual for unethical landlords to put unreasonable clauses into apartment contracts, such as a fixed cost for each guest you have staying the night. These are illegal, but because the market in Paris is so fast-moving, tenants feel obliged to sign even if they think the contract looks odd. The good news is that these clauses would be unenforceable in most cases, and if you have a problem you can report it to your local council for arbitration.

Similarly, if you leave and don’t get your deposit back from your landlord, you can lodge a complaint if you think you’ve been treated unfairly.

There are also rules being currently rolled out across France which are aimed at limiting uncontrolled rises in rental costs. If you think your rent is too high, you might be able to apply to have your property assessed to check.

Although the rental market in Paris is more competitive than in some other countries, by casting your net wide, using your contacts well, and being quick to make a decision on a place, you can have your dream Paris rental in no time. Good luck!

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