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How to survive your first 30 days of house-hunting in Paris

How to survive your first 30 days of house-hunting in Paris

You remember, don’t you?

That time you were trying to find a place to rent after you graduated from college, or moved to the nearby city after high school. Though you had grown up in the area, it was your first time doing this, and you were overwhelmed.

Multiply that by a thousand, and you’ll start to understand what it can be like to do something similar in another country, especially if you don’t speak the language.

It’s as if you’re thrown in the ocean and told to swim for your life…but you can’t swim.

Being in Paris can be a heady feeling, but the beauty and all the lovely things that it represents don’t make it any easier to navigate finding a place to stay that you like and is located in your preferred arrondissement. And if it’s your first time in Paris, you might not even know what an arrondissement is. Those first thirty days may be difficult as you try to adjust to a new environment and the local culture.

But don’t give up. You can do this.

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Deep breath

First of all, take a deep breath and have a glass of wine, or go for a stroll. Remind yourself why you are in France. Why did you come here in the first place? Was it a dare? A chance for adventure? School? Marriage? Think of all the wonderful reasons you are here and let them ground you. When you have found your center, take out a sheet of paper—or tap your iPad--and write down what it is you’re looking for—your dream place.

Use that list

There are many places that can help you with home-hunting in Paris. Agencies like Paris Attitude are lifesavers. They will do everything for you, once you give them that list you just made. Whatever your specifications, they will assist you in finding what you want, and suddenly, life is perfect.

Make some friends

Trust me, you’re not the first expat to deal with trying to find a place to live in Paris. Join an expat community and make some friends. They will be invaluable, not just for your sanity, but for tips as to what to do in your situation. They can tell you what they went through, what to look out for, and they’ll give you a hug after you’ve found the perfect place, only to find someone else got there first.

Educate yourself

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There’s nothing worse than going blind into a situation. Learn the definition of furnished and unfurnished rentals, according to the French; the length of the leases for each type; how utilities work, you get the idea. Get those brand new friends of yours to help you, especially if they speak the language, because they can help you understand the law and what’s expected so you don’t get into trouble or slow down the process. It wouldn’t hurt for you to learn a bit of the language, too, just to be polite. It can smooth things over with your prospective landlord to say “Bonjour” at the very least. Learn about illegal clauses. How should you behave when you meet your landlord? Is there some form of etiquette? Doing your research ahead of time will only help you in the long run.

Get to know Paris

Remember that list you made earlier to give to the agency? It would be helpful if you had a good idea of where you want to live, how much you want to spend, and so forth. Make the time, perhaps on the weekends, to do a personal tour of Paris. Perhaps take a friend or two with you. Make it fun! Ride your bicycle or take the bus and investigate the arrondissements. What do you like? What turns you off? How easy would it be to get from home to your job or the university? Is your favorite food nearby? What about the grocery store? Movies? There is also a lot of information and articles online about the arrondissements that would be helpful in your research. All these things will not only help you learn more about Paris, but also give you a feel for the city and how best to direct the agency to helping you find that dream home.

Get your documents in order

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Before you even think of approaching a landlord or agency regarding a rental—furnished or otherwise—you will need to have your papers in order. Trust me, you don’t want to forget this part. And it will help you with other legal procedures in Paris, as well. It’s all about paperwork. That means you have a job (and perhaps a copy of your contract), bank account, pay slips, previous year’s tax filings, receipts for your previous rental, whether or not it was in France, your visa, and carte de séjour.

What rentals should you choose?

It’s always nice, if you have the money, to be able to move all your beloved pieces of furniture and the things that remind you of home to the country where you’ll be staying for an extended period. Choosing an unfurnished rental would better accommodate all your items, and you can have practically the best of both worlds. The leases for unfurnished rentals are for three years minimum, so bear that in mind.

But not everyone can do this, and it might not be practical for most budgets. It might suit your situation better to get a furnished rental, for which the lease is only one year (nine months if you’re a student), giving you time to acclimate to France and the reasons you’re here in the first place, instead of worrying about shipping costs. This works, too, if you’re working for a branch of your company in Paris and just need some place to call your own for a relatively short period of time.

Why a furnished rental?

Well, pourquoi pas? It can be costly to ship things from one country to another. That’s one less headache in a sea of getting a visa, carte vitale, and other paperwork. This works especially well if you’re a short timer, meaning you’re only staying for up to a year. You won’t have to worry about moving furniture out when you leave, again saving costs and back pain. It’s one less thing to have on your mind.

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Who can help?

Agencies such as Paris Attitude, as mentioned above, have a wide variety of listings all over Paris to suit every budget. They specialize in long and short term rentals and have a listing of over 6,000 furnished apartments.

You can buy an apartment as well, or sell it, too. In this article, they list the following steps for renting an apartment through them:
- Browse their listings, then select up to 5 that you think are just right for your stay in Paris.
- Send your choices by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone (01 42 96 31 46).
- After confirmation as to availability, you will be sent quotes and a reservation form within 24 hours.
- Confirm your final choice of apartment via the reservation form and within 24 hours a valid lease will be drawn up with the apartment’s owner. They will tell you which documents are needed, and all you need to do is gather them and send them to Paris Attitude by email.
- Once your application has been approved you’ll receive a booking confirmation and your copy of the lease signed by the apartment’s owner.
- Pay your rent and let the owner know your arrival date, fixing an appointment time for the handover of keys.
- On the day you arrive at your apartment, don’t forget to check the inventory of household fixtures. Then the only things you have left to do are unpack your bags and head out to discover the charm, dynamism, and secrets of Paris.

It’s nice to have someone else do the work for you, isn’t it? This gives you more time to get comfortable in Paris, with your new job or educational goals. As mentioned above, they will take all the information you provide and do the searching for you. All you have to do is be ready to jump when they’ve found what you want.

Not just for Newbies

Furnished rentals are not just for newcomers to Paris, but veteran expats, as well. It’s all about the convenience of having a home already filled with furniture and other necessities so all you have to worry about is finding food and wine for the refrigerator. There are many expats who go back and forth to France, often, and it might be a lot cheaper for them to just have a place they can stay, without too much hassle so they can move on to more important things.

While you’re waiting

Options like Airbnb, Roomarama, Wimdu, Rentalo, Flipkey, Homestay, Homeaway and 9flats are good choices for finding places to stay on the cheap while you’re waiting for your new rental. There may be a tent or tree house in your future…

Don’t forget to treat yourself

Do like the French do. Take things in stride, eat out with friends and pace yourself. Go to a party, see a movie, check out a museum. Have a fling; take a French class; learn something new. Buy yourself something definitively French to keep your spirits up. The perfect rental will present itself before you know it. You’ve done everything possible to make sure you get what you want. So relax and enjoy getting to know your new city.

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Really, what’s the point of all this?

So many expats have had a stressful time when they start out in Paris, just because of all that’s involved with paperwork, and then, on top of that, finding suitable accommodation. It makes the fact that you’re away from what’s familiar, especially if it’s your first time away from home, that much harder to tolerate.

Those first thirty days of house-hunting while adapting to a new environment are crucial to your sanity. Don’t let it beat you. Take the tips given up above to heart; it will make your life easier. Don’t be too hard on yourself, either. You’re in a foreign country, facing the unknown. Pat yourself on the back for even taken such brave step. There are many who haven’t.

Remember to pace yourself; get your paperwork together; make friends; do your research; make a list of what you’d like; find an agency; enjoy the good life, which will only get better once you’re in your furnished rental. Can you see it yet?

You’re hanging out the window of the perfect apartment, a patisserie and café below which is your favorite place to spend time with friends. There’s a huge smile on your face because that guy or girl you’ve had your eye on is walking down the street below, and just happens to look up and see you before waving.

In about half an hour, you’ll be showered and out the door to catch the train for work, a mere fifteen minutes away. At the end of a fruitful day, you return home to change quickly and join friends for the music festival they told you about, with some of your new favorite French musicians.

This will be your life; in fact, you already have it in your mind, and soon it will be a reality. Just be sure to have everything in order. It makes a difference to be prepared for every eventuality. Very shortly, you will be able to send pictures of your new, fabulous life in Paris, along with images of your très chic apartment. People will be jealous, I assure you.

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Just hang in there. The end is in sight. My own experience with Paris when I arrived is not for the faint of heart. If I can survive, so can you. Talk to your expat friends, attend events and keep your spirits up. Soon, you’ll be one of the people helping newbies acclimate to Paris, and helping them avoid the pitfalls. Won’t that be wonderful? You’ll know you’ve arrived, then.

Over to you.

Did you enjoy this article? I hope so! Have you rented a furnished apartment in Paris? What was your experience? Do you agree with the points of this article? Please leave a comment below.

Image Sources: Paris Attitude, Pixabay

 

Last modified onFriday, 23 September 2016 10:28
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