As you may know, we arrived in Paris at the beginning of January. We have been waiting for my husband's work contract to get worked out, before searching for a long term apartment. However, over the last week or so we decided that it was time to get our apartment search underway, as it's difficult to get the kids enrolled in daycare or school without knowing where we are going to live. Not to mention the fact that vacation apartment rentals are extremely expensive! We pay more for the small one-bedroom we're sharing per month than most 2-3 bedroom long-term rentals.
We decided to look at a few well-known real estate websites here in Paris, and found that the most choice was available on Seloger.fr. I know that choosing a dedicated agent from one agency can open up apartments to us that are not listed on the web, but I like being able to choose from a variety of options. It's not really high season for renters right now, as that begins later in the spring. It's a bit of a blessing and a curse, really. There are fewer options available, but there are also fewer people vying for them. It's helped us get appointments at some places, and not everything is snapped up almost immediately.
We decided that we wanted to stay within the city limits rather than live in one of the smaller towns on the outskirts. There are some great international (expensive!) schools in some of those towns and housing is much cheaper, but we decided that if we were going to move all the way to Paris, we want to live IN Paris. And living in Paris comes with a cost.
It's All About Compromise
Space, to start. Parisian apartments are notoriously small. Space is at a premium here, and it's not uncommon for a 500 square foot apartment to sell for half a million Euros or more. Children are used to sharing bedrooms, and eat-in kitchens are almost non-existent. Even the ones touted as being "dinatoire" tend to mean that there is a breakfast bar of sorts where two people could set their coffee cups down. Bathrooms are also on the small side, and it's very common for the toilet to be in a separate room, most often without a sink. This was probably the most difficult thing for me to get used to, even though I experienced it when I lived here in University. It's just strange to use the toilet and then have to go to another room to wash my hands!
Price is also another factor. The rent on a small apartment (500-600 square feet) can be as much as one would pay for a mortgage on a large 3-4 bedroom house in Canada. Paris has no shortage of people who want to live within the 20 arrondissements that make up the city proper, and prices reflect that demand. You are paying for access to the city and all it has to offer. For extensive public transportation, for proximity to famous monuments, and for that "je ne sais quoi" that makes living in Paris so highly sought out.
Furnished or Unfurnished?
We have been looking at both furnished and unfurnished places. The furnished ones have crazy security deposits, but come with the convenience of furniture already in place. Unfurnished apartments are a bit cheaper, but they can be hit and miss. Unfurnished can mean simply the lack of furniture, or it can mean bare- as in no kitchen appliances, no cabinets, no light fixtures, no anything! Some places are put on the market in pretty bad condition, with assurances from the agents that all will be well by the time you move in. Signing on the dotted line for a place that needs extensive repairs BEFORE they're taken care of makes me really, really, nervous.
So, as a result of multiple viewings over a short period of time, we've gained some wisdom and are better able to scour the ads for what we want. We are also more certain on the area we want to live in, and have been able to narrow much of our other criteria down as well. Originally we wanted a furnished three bedroom apartment. While that may still be possible (we are in talks as I write this) we have also expanded our search to include 2 bedroom and unfurnished apartments as well. I fell in love with one such two bedroom, unfurnished apartments the other day, and are also speaking with that agent about potentially securing it as a long-term rental.
It's hard not to get my hopes up, but without a firm contract yet in place, I know it may be difficult to gain the approval of any owners to rent to us. Still, I am determined to stay optimistic. As we wait for word on the two apartments we're currently interested in, we'll keep looking for others that may fit the bill for our four person family. Wish us luck!
Some of the Apartments We've Seen So Far
Click on the photos to enlarge.