Apartment Hunting in Paris


It has been a busy winter, but how about this – we found an apartment! Searching for an apartment in Paris is an activity filled with anxiety, hope, disappointment and… papers. Luckily, once you have collected all the papers you need, it is nowadays acceptable in many cases to send your dossier as a pdf. Wondering how it all works?

1. Preparations

So, what do you need to get started? Copies of the following:

  • Your passport or ID
  • Your three last payslips
  • An “attestation d’emploi” from your boss: it is a simple paper your boss has signed to attest to that you are employed and that you are not going to get fired any time soon
  • A proof of your current address (like an electricity bill)

You can also make your application more attractive by adding a short introduction/personal note, a note from your current landlord saying you are a good tenant, or your three last “quittance de loyer” (these are the receipts from the payment of your rent). You also need all the mandatory papers for your “garant”(a person who promises to pay your bill should you not be able to). If you make more than three times the rent on the apartment you want to rent, technically, you shouldn’t need neither a garant nor a “caution bancaire” (a sort of bank account where you lock up a sum of money, usually a year’s worth of rent) as proof of how trustworthy you are, but most renters/agencies will ask you anyway, and as competition is tough.

There, now you have your dossier and starry eyed hopefulness. Let’s get to seeing apartments.

2. Booking visits

Apartments in Paris are expensive and the ones within reach are often small and seriously underwhelming and rarely bear much ressemblance to the apartments you see on Pinterest. My best recommendation is to see many apartments and keep expectations within reason.

Having a short term lease on the apartment in the 14th that we are about to leave, we had a very specific deadline to our search (seriously hoping not to have to lug all our damn stuff to an in-between Airbnb while working 50-60 hour weeks and keeping on searching). We have seen about 15 apartments, and about three of them where what I would consider liveable. Just saying. Be prepared (I was not, my head was still in Elle décoration).

If you don’t speak French, this will be a challenge. My French is still not as good as I would have wished it to be by now, but it is good enough to handle simpler phone calls and looking for an apartment (and a lot of the practical stuff that come after) has been the best French lesson so far. If calling someone to ask if the apartment is still free, if you can see it and then answer some seriously invasive questions about your current life situation while the person in the other end evaluates you, I suggest asking a friend for help, or using an agency equipped to help you such as Cosy Home, Parisattitude or Entree Paris. Your should still continue to try booking visits by email (via Seloger and PAP), but just know that 20 emails will get you 13 phone calls and one email reply. I just gave up and started calling people after a while. It was horrible but I got through it.

Remember that even though PAP (particulier à particulier) means no agency fees, if you are not excellent in French it can be nice using an agency – they can help if you run into trouble with leaks, deposits and everything else that can (and does) go wrong in French apartments. Also, they know all the rules and usually keep the rent with in the (legally) acceptable limits, which means if you plan to stay in your apartment for a year or more, you will make up for the initial cost of the agency.

Also: do not shy away from ads with shitty or no pictures! They could be awesome. One of the nicest apartments we saw had no pictures, and another for some reason had the “before” pictures (it turned out to be totally renovated).

3. Visits

Again, take a deep breath and release those high expectations. Now, expect a shiny red kitchen, wall-to-wall carpeting and mold in the bathroom. This way, anything else will be a pleasant surprise.

Iron your shirt and don’t wear muddy boots. Be polite and nice, but you don’t have to be chatty just because French people can. If you have not shared your dossier digitally beforehand, bring it. Put it in a nice folder. Not too nice a folder, though, because if they take it you won’t be getting it back. Preparing whatever you would like to ask and using some basic common sense and will get you far.

4. Waiting Game

Once you find an apartment you really like, the most painful part of your apartment search begins – waiting for the owner/agency to get back to you. If you get the apartment, that is. It is ok to call after a few days if you are wondering, but if you haven’t heard anything within a week you most likely won’t. For me, my heart skipped a beat every time my phone gave a peep (and we were constantly waiting to hear back from apartments during several weeks). You will likely be in this process several times. It is part of the game.

5. Finding an apartment

For us, it happened all at once. After slowly becoming ever more demoralized, being told we 1. had no garants, 2. the owner didn’t like our dossier, 3. were foreigners, we were pretty much convinced that we would never find an apartment and would have to choose between paying an arm and a leg to live with someone else’s horrid furniture or to live for free in a large box under a bridge, which actually seemed like a more attractive option (we really had our hearts set on an unfurnished apartment). Then one morning, as I sat on a terrace with a coffee, waiting for yet another apartment visit, I got a text offering us an apartment. I quickly messaged A to let him know, plus told him that I would immediately get in touch with the agency of a slightly better apartment that we wanted even more. To apply some pressure to see if they could give us an answer the same day (obviously, the positive news made me cocky enough to play with fire – after approximately one million nopes it took only one yes to give me hubris – this isn’t my recommendation, just my story) and incredibly suprisingly, they got back to me with a yes: I spent about an hour on cloud nine, before I realised how much work was ahead, and just how much money I was about to spend (I had done the math before, obviously, but the realisation was… intense).

Let’s bask in the glory of the win for a moment. I will share a separate post on the next steps soon. Stay tuned.

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