Among the many nearly impossible tasks as an expat in France is finding an apartment. Since I’ve only done this in Paris, I can only offer advice for finding an apartment in the capital city.
Now, renting an apartment in France is tough if you are not the ideal candidate in the right situation. French rental laws heavily favor tenants and the Paris rental market is quite saturated and competitive, therefore landlords are extremely picky about who they rent to.
The ideal tenant for a French landlord includes:
- Being French
- Having a French guarantor
- Having a CDI, or contrat à durée indéterminée, job contract
- Earning at least 3 times the monthly rent from said job
I had approximately none of those qualifications when I went about my search.
For this reason, many expats prefer to buy an apartment in Paris. But hey, if I can rent an apartment in Paris, then so can you!
Before you get started, it’s helpful to have a bank account in France first so you can make a deposit quickly. Most banks make it very easy to transfer money to another account with some details about the recipient’s account, known as relevé d’identité bancaire (RIB).
Determine What You’re Looking For
When beginning your Paris apartment search, here is what you need to know.
The first step is to determine what you’re looking for in a neighborhood and an apartment.
I recommend visiting the neighborhood you have in mind and renting an Airbnb to start so you can get a feel for the area and be sure it’s a place you’d like to call home.
Furnished vs. Unfurnished
As for the apartment itself, apartment rentals are either furnished, known as meublé, or unfurnished, non-meublé. While unfurnished may sound nice, that often means you need to supply many of the kitchen cabinets, oven, stove, refrigerator, and all electrical appliances as well! So it’s not practical for a first-time move to France at all.
In terms of pricing, renting a furnished apartment is often more expensive than an unfurnished one, but it does save you the hassle of purchasing expensive cabinets and furniture pieces. Rents in Paris are on average much lower than in any major city in the US, at least!
How to Search for Apartments in Paris
There are a few different ways to search for an apartment in Paris. Let’s go over the main methods:
Real Estate Agencies
This method is best for people who have solid job contracts in Paris or large sums of money. Agencies can show you many different apartments and can find exactly what you’re looking for. The fees are not too steep either, and I saw many beautiful places. The agency wanted about 300€ in fees. If you walk around the neighborhood you’re searching to rent in, you’ll likely come across many agencies you can walk into and speak with.
SeLoger is an aggregate site that you can use to look for apartments that are rented by real estate agencies. If you’re moving from abroad, it’s a good idea to take a look at this site and become familiar with the prices for apartments in a certain neighborhood and with the square footage that you’re looking for. From there, you can contact the agencies and set up a visit.
Paris Attitude and Lodgis
Several rental agencies cater to foreigners and Paris Attitude and Lodgis are two of the most popular. Unfortunately, they don’t come cheap. These options are typically overpriced for what a local would pay so I wouldn’t advise them unless you absolutely must rent an apartment before arriving on French soil. What’s more, is that they require many of the same financial documents as renting from an agency directly.
Some people have found success with long-term rentals by writing to landlords who have listed their properties on Airbnb. The law is in your favor as France limits the number of months that property owners can list their places on the site. Because of that, some owners have switched to renting long-term and thus, avoid the hassle of short-term rentals.
Lastly, my favorite way to find an apartment in Paris is through PAP, which stands for Particulier à Particulier, or Person to Person. PAP and LeBonCoin are websites that allow you to search for apartments to rent directly from the owner.
PAP is great because you get to meet the property owner in person and speak with them directly. If your situation is less than ideal, then PAP or LeBonCoin is probably your best bet for renting an apartment in France.
During my search, I met about 6 apartment owners in the neighborhood I wanted over one day. I received offers from several of them showing you it’s entirely possible to rent an apartment as a foreigner in Paris!
Compiling Your Dossier
No matter which route you choose, it will be required in one form or another to have a dossier prepared with documents about yourself. The agency will tell you what you need, often including a scan of your ID, a French guarantor, and your last three pay slips, or fiches de payes. If you work directly with the owner, they may ask for different requirements. The owner I rented from asked for my financial resources and a guarantor, or garant.
Finding a Guarantor
Now, finding a guarantor in France is tough if you have no family or close friends to ask to help you out. I ended up using a paid service called GarantMe.fr to serve as my guarantor. Working with this company was quite a breeze. The service cost me around 300€ for a year’s worth of what was effectively insurance in case I didn’t pay my rent. Factor this into your budget.
It also helped strengthen my dossier as GarantMe provided a certification letter with some key facts about myself including my monthly revenue (it was in dollars, but they converted it into euros). I think this document made me appear very official and serious as a renter. The document also stated that I was pre-certified for them to serve as my guarantor, which reassured owners.
Messaging the Owners
Here is the exact message I used to send to owners via the PAP application. I blocked out private information, but you can see that it was a short and sweet message with the key information they needed.
From there, you’ll either hear back or you won’t. I made appointments to see the places right away once I heard back. If it’s a nice place, it will go fast!
Understanding the Costs Involved
What’s frustrating is that there isn’t a standardized way of listing the prices of apartment rentals in Paris. The pricing structure will either include the building charges or not. You have to read the details to find out.
If a listing that says 1200€, charges compris, that means the building charges are included in that price. The Loyer is what the landlord receives as income and the Charges de copropriété are the fees for maintaining the building. You typically pay both fees as one sum each month to your landlord.
Remember to ask the landlord what is included in your building charges and what you are responsible for paying yourself. Does the apartment use gas? Is heating and water collective or individually charged?
Signing the Lease
Once you find a place you love and draw up an agreement, it’s time to sign your lease or bail! If you do go the route of GarantMe, all you have to do is send the rental contract over to GarantMe, and once they approve it, sign the contract with your landlord.
Once you sign the lease, you can send over the security deposit, called caution, or Dépôt de garantie. By law, this can only be equal to or less than 1-2 month’s rent for furnished apartments.
Preparing to Move In
There are a few things you need to think about before moving into your apartment. I recently went through this process for the first time and although it can be a pain, it’s not the end of the world! Here are the main things you need to set up for your apartment.
Renter’s insurance, or Assurance d’Habitation is legally required for everyone who rents in France. I went with Luko for about 7€ per month. This covers all accidental damages to the apartment. The basic coverage doesn’t include coverage for burglaries or vandalism.
There are lots of different electric companies to choose from but the main ones are EDF and Engie. To sign up for electricity in France, you’ll need either the name of the previous tenant or the Point de Livraison (PDL) of your apartment.
If you want internet at home, you’ll need to sign up in advance. It takes about a month to schedule the installation and receive the boxes you need to set up the internet and TV. Do this right away after you’ve signed the lease so you can get the ball rolling. The major operators are Bouygues, Orange, SFR, and Free. I went with the Freebox Pop option for 29,99€ per month. I opted for Wifi only, not TV or phone.
État des Lieux d’Entrée
On the day of your move-in, you and your landlord will go through the apartment to inspect it, and prepare a legal document known as an État des Lieux. Ensure that everything is working and there isn’t any damage to anything in the apartment. You have 10 days to report any issues and modify the document.
That’s it! Renting an apartment in Paris isn’t so bad after all. Enjoy your new Paris apartment! When you’re ready to move out, here are some tips for terminating a lease in France the proper way. (Yes, there’s paperwork involved. Always!)