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 in the ideal situation. The laws heavily favor tenants and the Paris rental market is quite saturated, therefore landlords are extremely picky about who they rent to. The ideal tenant situation for a French landlord includes:
- Being French
- Having a French guarantor
- Having a CDI, or contrat à durée indéterminée, job
- Earning at least 3 times the monthly rent from said job
I had approximately none of those qualifications when I went about my search. But hey, if I can do it, so can you!
Determine What You’re Looking For
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.
As for the apartment itself, rentals can come 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 and electrical appliances as well!
In terms of pricing, renting a furnished is often more expensive than unfurnished, but it does save you the hassle of purchasing expensive pieces.
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 ways:
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 places that were beautiful. 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
There are several rental agencies that 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 people who have listed their property 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, as well as LeBonCoin, is a website that allows you to search for apartments and rent them 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 the course of 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’re working 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.
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.
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
The pricing structure of mosts apartments will either include the building charges or not. You might see a listing that says 1200€, charges compris, which 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 of these 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 found 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 – by law, this can only be equal to or less than one month’s rent.
Preparing to Move In
There’s 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 buy for your apartment:
- Home Insurance: Assurance d’Habitation is required for everyone. I went with Luko.eu for about 7€ per month.
- Electricity: 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.
- Internet/TV/Phone: 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.
Renting an apartment in Paris isn’t so bad after all. It’s helpful to have a bank account in France, and 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).
Enjoy your new Paris apartment!
Thanks for explaining the fiches de payes. My sister needs to get an apartment in Paris in a couple of months. She will need something with at least 2 bedrooms.
I will be an Erasmus student and I don’t work so I can have my own salary. Should I send the pay slips of my parents? Thank you!
You can try that, but landlords are not required to accept foreign payslips!
Hello Victoria, there exists a real estate agency in Paris named Flatlooker which is the first one thought for expats. You can easily find it on Google, they simplify everything !
Expat struggling to find a place here in Paris!! When you contacted the agencies or landlords from SeLoger and PAP, did you phone them? Did you have to speak French??
Any further advice to stand out and actually reach them would be most welcome!!
Hi! No, I wrote them via message. Yes, it’s best to write to them in French! I provided a template for what I use in the article :) Good luck!
Heya Victoria, do you have any expat forums or facebook pages to recommend apart from Le bon coin or PAP? Thank you!
Hello! No, those are the main ones. You can try posting in the “American Expats in Paris” facebook group but I did not have so much luck when looking through those groups! x