French Administration,  Paperwork

The Down & Dirty of Apartment Hunting in Paris

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DISCLAIMER : Every situation is different, please do research and ask questions. This post is a pool of information I have gleaned from my research and my own personal experience . Also, I am not a real estate agent, nor am I a professional in this industry . My opinions are my own . 

Table of Contents

It’s come to that time where we’re needing a bigger apartment and we’ve entered into the “where do we move to” conversation. Do we rent or buy ? Do we stay in our neighborhood or do we move somewhere else in the city ? How about the suburbs ? Do we move closer to friends ?

The simple thought of apartment hunting in Paris makes my palms sweat. If I was back home, I’d pop on Craigslist, have a quick browse and most likely find a place within 2 weeks and it’d be smooth sailing. From all the stories and accounts I’ve read and heard, I’m buckeling in for the long haul . 

We casually started this process in July/August 2020. We’re in no time crunch to move so we’re taking our time to make sure we find that right fit for our next place together. We’ve knocked out our negotiables and non-negotiables .The only thing that is motivating us to move is the fact that we’re outgrowing out 22 m2 (236 ft2, aka 13.5 ft x 17.5 ft) studio. We’ve survived 3 lockdowns in this tiny studio apartment, we can hold out for a little longer . 

Where to Begin

You’re probably wondering where the best place to begin is. There are many ways to shop around for an apartment. The first and best place to start is your social circle. See if anyone knows of anyone who’s looking for tenants, or looking to rent . Then you can branch out from there. 

You can also check out social media. I wrote about a few groups on Facebook here that have been a source of good leads and advice. These are also a good place to start. I haven’t followed any leads or reached out (as of yet) to see if there’s anything available . I’ll let you know if I do and how that goes . 

Below is a list of websites that we’ve used to look for apartments. I tend to gravitate toward some more than others, it’s all personal preference.  I really like Bien ICI for their map that they have available. You can see the movement of the sun in order to see whether you’ll be getting any sun or not. For a plant mum, this is extremely important. Feel me ? 


Navigating Announcements

This can seem pretty overwhelming.

Do not judge an apartment by its pictures on the announcement. I’ve seen some places where the pictures were great, but the apartment in person was not much to write home about . I’ve also seen apartments that looked a little iffy in the photos, but were much better in person. If you see something and you are unsure about it, make the phone call / send the email. You never know . Carpe Diem !

You can always ask for more information that’s not on an announcement, but just be ready to be met with a little hesitation if you ask too many questions . Most agents want to make sure it is worth their time . 

Negotiables vs. Non-Negotiables

Elevator ? Floor ? Orientation ? Location (arrondissement) ? Type of flooring ? Type of kitchen ? How many rooms ? Bathtub or shower? Access to public transportation ? Older building ? Newer building ? Rent through an agency ? Rent directly to landlord ? Price ? 

To find the perfect apartment that meets every single bullet point requires a lot of patience, due diligence and an unwavering dedication to searching . Either I am married to the pickiest man in the entire world, or there really isn’t much out there in the last 8 months. I have my doubts for the latter. More on our personal search at a later date . 

It is best to come up with a list of negotiables and non-negotiables. Things you will not budge on whatsoever and things you’re willing to forego. This will create less headaches in the future and make searching much smoother. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience. 

Make a list and stick to it. 

Understanding your Budget

This is very simple. It is expected that you make at least 3X the amount the rent is asking for, this is after taxes. If you bring home 2,400 € monthly, your budget for rent for an apartment is no more than 800 €. 

Understanding the Vocabulary

Dossier : application. This is all of your paperwork that you submit when you want to apply for the apartment. 

Nombre de piece (T1, T2, T3, etc…) :The number of “rooms” in the apartment. A T2 (2 piece) means that there is a living room and a bedroom. T1 is a studio, T3 is living room and 2 other rooms, etc… 

Meublée, non-meublée : furnished / unfurnished . 

Aménagée : finished ; this is almost always in reference to the kitchen . This usually includes the stove top, oven, fridge, hood vent, 

DV (double vitrage) : this is always in reference to the windows. 

Vue dégagée : there is nothing blocking the view from the windows ( ie another building). 

Sans vis-à-vis : Not capable of seeing neighbors from the window or vice versa. 

Copropriété : the equivalent of the home owners’ association .

Syndiact : a union that is hired to execute the decisions made by the copropriété 

Garant : co-signer, this helps boost your dossier and makes you look more financially stable . 

Caution : security deposit . 

Bail : is the lease . 

Quittance de loyer : rental receipt . 

Charges / charges locative mensuelles : fees / monthly fees . 

Charges compris : fees included (in advertised price) . 

Honoraires charge locataire : the agency fee that you pay when you apply through an agency . This usually includes the price of the walkthrough . 

Meublé vs. Non-meublé (Furnished vs. unfurnished)

One criteria when looking for an apartment is whether you need/want furnished versus unfurnished. What’s the point you ask ? Renting a furnished apartment means that the basics of living are already within the apartment and are included in  part of the rent. Renting an unfurnished apartment means you bring all your personal effects and belongings that you need in order to live a daily life. 

Renting a furnished apartment is ideal if you need to move quickly or you do not have very many furnishings since everything is already included. You only need to bring yourself and your suitcase. This is great for your first apartment, where you are just starting out . 

The following items are included when renting a furnished apartment: 

  • Bed, bed sheets and a comforter with pillows and pillow cases. 
  • Shutters or blackout curtains for the bedroom. 
  • Table and chairs. 
  • Shelving / storage options . 
  • Hot plate or stove top. 
  • Oven or microwave. 
  • Refrigerator and freezer or a combination thereof. 
  • Kitchen utensils including : plates, covers, cups, pans, lids, pots, spoons, and/or basic kitchen equipment . 
  • Household maintenance equipment such as vacuum, broom, mop, basic tools and supplies. 

Renting an unfurnished apartment is ideal if you already have furnishing that you would like to move with you . I’m talking about a bed, a couch, a table and chairs; the big bulky items . Some times, unfurnished apartments will come with an “equipped” kitchen, meaning there is a stove top, fridge and/or washing machine. Others come completely empty with nothing except the kitchen sink . It is not uncommon that the previous tenant(s) may contact the new tenant(s) to see if there are any pieces of furniture they may want to purchase and/or keep. Thomas’s did this when he moved into our current apartment, we got the shelves in our kitchen as well as the drawers under the counter top . 

When it comes to the rent price of a furnished versus unfurnished apartment, furnished apartments are anywhere from 10 to 20% more in price than unfurnished apartments. The security deposit for a furnished apartment is usually 2 month’s worth of rent minimum and an unfurnished apartment is only 1 month’s rent. The duration of a lease is also different between the two types of apartments.

A furnished apartment’s lease length is typically 1 year, whereas an unfurnished apartment’s lease is typically for 3 years . Leases are automatically renewed unless otherwise stated by either party. If you decide that it is time to move on, a furnished apartment needs only 1 month’s notice, while an unfurnished apartment requires 3 months notice. This also can depend on what is written in your rental contract. 

Here’s a link for the government’s description of a furnished and unfurnished apartment and what is required . 

Announcement at a Glance

Bien Ici has been my default go-to for looking for an apartment because it has all the information that I’m looking for and more . ALSO, at the bottom left corner of the map, there a half sun/half clock icon that is genius ! If you click on this, a bar will pop up and you can move the direction of the sun and it will show up on the map ! I plan on having more plants so knowing exactly where the sun will land is very important when looking at listings . 

Example of rental listing on Bien Ici

When you click on a listing, something similar to the image above will pop up . The details of the listing will be located on the right-hand side and the left will have a 3-D map so you can see more of the immediate area . 

Here are some points within the listing to be on the lookout for : 

  1. The location (zip code, arrondissement, metro) of the listing . Also, in the title of the listing is the type of unit, how many pieces (usually) and the surface. 
  2. The price of the apartment ; which will indicate if there are any fees included .
  3. Underneath the total, the amount of the fees will be indicated on a monthly basis . 
  4. This is always good to check out, when the listing was published and when the last modification to the listing took place . This can indicate how long it has “been on the market”. Normally, this isn’t a good sign. In Paris, if an apartment is good, has all the right characteristics, it will not last long . Interpret this how you want . 
  5. The orientation of the sun indicator I mentioned above. 

As you scroll down through the announcement, you will find more information . Below I’ve included the rest of the information for this particular listing . Click on each photo to read more of the listing (in French, English translations coming soon). 

Visiting an apartment

It is of the norm here in France, that when you go to visit an apartment, you’re doing so with a potentially a larger group of people. It’s pure luck when you visit one-on-one with a realtor and are able to get more than 10 minutes face-time alone with them .  We’ve had the full range ; from seeing apartments one-on-one with the realtor to walking through the apartment with at least 10 other couples . 

If you have specific questions about the apartment that were not adressed in the announcement, it is best to write a list and either email to the agent or ask over the phone. Keep in mind you are most likely not the only person going to visit the apartment, so it may not be best to ask during the visit, but you certainly can . 

Expectation vs. Reality

It’s best to keep an open mind . If you head into this process knowing that it will take time and you will nee to be diligent in the whole process, it makes it a lot smoother (and less painful if it goes on for a while) . To find “the” apartment on your first go-round is few and far between, but it does happen . 

It is also best to be extremely clear on your negotiables / non-negotiables.

Do not be alarmed if, when you show up, you are not the only one there to see the apartment. As stated before, this is extremely normal in this process in France. Keep in mind that if it looks excellent on the announcement, then you’re not the only person to have seen it and thought the same thing .

It’s best to check a few sites at various times of the day . You may see some cross-over listings, but not very many . 

Don’t be discouraged if your dossier isn’t accepted. 

What to bring to a viewing

It is still traditional to bring your dossier to the viewing, just in case you like the place. The sooner you can submit your paperwork the better, the closer to the top it will be , the more likely its seen by the owner and you could be considered for the location . You are not obligated to submit your dossier on site, but if the apartment tugs at your heart-strings, I suggest you do . 

It might come in handy if you have a measuring tape in your bag, just in case, you never know if you need to see the measurements of the inside of a closet or a storage space . You are also allowed to take as many pictures and videos as you would like . 

Submitting your dossier

This can be done in several manners . The problem with the dossier is that part of it needs to be updated on a monthly basis. We have a digital copy that Thomas updates every month with our new pay stubs. We have mailed off our dossier before via email. 

We are also looking into DossierFacile, a new initiative launch by the French government in order to help streamline the process as well as prevent identity fraud.

You upload your documents to the platform, your documents are then verified and validated and a secure link is created when you want to send your file to future landlords. In essence, your dossier is approved by the State. Your documents will be watermarked when they have been approved and are ready to be sent off. 

You can also have a paper copy ready to go when you show up to a viewing to hand to the agent if you like the apartment. 

What to include in your dossier

The basics are : (with extras we added are indicated by a +)

This all depends on what the agent and company you are dealing with requires. This also depends on your employment situation. 

Remember I said my husband is on an intermittent contract ? This also means the he gets unemployment regularly. Because he is considered someone who doesn’t have a “steady job” it is a little harder to count on the money necessary to pay the rent. Our dossier has at least 50 pages in it and we could still be asked for more. And we have !

We give the last 3 years of tax declarations instead of 1, we also include a copy of our livret de famille . So, every situation is unique and different. Do not be disheartened if you are asked for more documents . 

Here is the official list of what landlords are allowed to ask for when it comes to paperwork for your dossier . This is, obviously, in French.

Do I need a garant ?

This all depends on the rental company you are dealing with. We have run into some that want you to submit your dossier before even seeing the apartment and include a garant (co-signer) with your paperwork. What is a garant you ask ?

A garant  is a family member or a close friend that acts as a supplementary source of payment in the instance where you cannot pay the rent . Essentially a co-signer . If there is someone who is not able to be your co-signer, then you can look for a third-party service (fee required) to be your garant . This can include a company that specializes in this area or from the bank . 

Here are a few examples of (paid) third-party services :

A garant needs to submit the same type of documents that you do and will be a part of your dossier as well as prove income three to four time the cost of the rent . They also need to submit a letter stating their intentions of the commitment as a co-signer. 

Signing on the dotted line

When you’ve got the okay from the agency / landlord that your dossier has been approved, all that’s left is to sign the paperwork, hand over the deposit and the first month’s rent, and take an inventory on the condition of the apartment ! 

Your contrat de bail (rental contract/agreement) should be signed either on the day you have rights to the apartment or the day before . Rental contracts do not need to be witnessed by a notaire (notary agent) and can be signed by the landlord and/or agency and the tenant(s) directly . 

Here’s a list of items that must be included in your rental contract agreement : 

  • Names of tenant(s) and landlord .
  • Contract start date and duration of the lease (one year or three years; renewed automatically) . 
  • Type, size and details of property being rented . 
  • Amount of monthly rent plus security deposit (maximum cost of one month’s rent) total . 
  • Any charges, other than rent, payable to the landlord (certain utility bills for example) . 
  • Process on how and when to give notice . 
  • Landlord and tenant rights, responsibilities, obligations and expectations .
  • Landlord and tenant signatures . 

Etat des Lieux

This is extremely important . This is done in two parts; the first when you move in and the second when you move out  . At it’s most basic function, the etat des lieux (the state of the area) is an inventory of the apartment ; a record of the condition of the apartment and everything inside it that is included within the contract.

At the beginning of the contract, this is done with the new tenants and a third-party service or the landlord. Everything is noted in a report, from the condition of the fixtures, any furniture, flooring, doors, windows, walls, I think you get the point. When all is said and noted, it is signed by all parties involved and tucked away until you decide to vacate the premises. 

When it come time to leave the apartment and everything has been moved out and cleaned, a second and final walkthrough will take place. The report from moving in will be used to access if there has been any damage or changes from the original walkthrough . This final walkthrough will determine if the entirety of the security deposit will be returned or if part of it will be used to repair any damages. 

At the publication of this article, we are currently still looking for an apartment. We’ve gone on a handful of visits, but nothing so far has peaked our interest . There are many factors that we need to take into consideration (and not your most traditional ones either), that this process may take longer than the average Parisian couple . I am extremely confident that the perfect apartment is out there, it just hasn’t found us yet . 

Have you looked for an apartment in Paris ? What were your tips and tricks ? I’d love to hear your experiences ! Drop me a comment and check back to see how it’s going !