Finding a flat to rent

So you are new in Paris and looking for an apartment ! You have come to the right place ... by the time you will finish reading this article, you will be armed with the entire armory necessary for renting an apartment here in this new city.

First things first, the question you need to ask yourself at the very beginning, is which kind of apartment you are looking for, a furnished or an unfurnished one. If you are staying here for a few months, you may decide going for a furnished apartment, as in this way you don't need to buy anything, no headache, and you just need to install yourself there. However, if the duration is long, even a couple of years, unfurnished apartment can be much more economic, as you can furnish your apartment depending on your budget, easily from a site selling second hand stuffs like the Boncoin, and can sell them off while leaving Paris to somebody else... thereby saving a lot of money that the landlord or his agency would have charged you extra for giving you those extra stuffs.

The basic way of going for an apartment is more or less same, and hence we will speak about this topic in a general way... while giving necessary tips later down the page for both the cases.

So, once you have decided the type of apartment you will be needing (furnished or unfurnished), you are ready to start looking for your apartment. Two ways, the 'do-it-yourself' way for people like me, and the 'agency' way for those who are rich enough to pay a month of rent extra to the agency for their service.

The agency way is simpler, you just need to find some English speaking agencies, and you have plenty of service providers who speak that minimum English to communicate with you, at least enough to find you a room. Do some search in the net, take the yellow page, and find the section 'immobiliers' (French translation for real estate) and start phoning them. You can start with the sentence 'Bonjour, parlez vous anglais?' (For pronunciation, remember that the French don't pronounce the last consonants normally - thus you will be telling something like 'Bojho, parley voo angley') question which stands for 'Good day, do you speak English' and if the reply is affirmative, start talking business. If not, move to the next. Normally most of the agencies around the center of Paris are used to English speaking customers, so it shouldn't be that hard for you to find one / few suitable. 

For the 'do-it-yourself' ones, believe me, it can also be as simple as the other one. Only here you will be saving quite a lot of money. The problem what you might have here is to communicate with the landlords. For this, you can take help of a local person... somebody whom you knew before or somebody you have met in a forum, for example. If you can't, then of course you are limiting the number of apartments that you could visit... but don't loose hope, you will still be having some ways to find some English speaking landlords. 

Now that you have a list of apartments to knock, its your time to take the help of Mr. Alexander Graham Bell's wonderful invention. You can start each time with the same magic sentence as mentioned before, 'Bonjour, parlez vous anglais?' Your aim will be to find some English speaking landlords again, and here also, you can take help of a friend or somebody whom you have met who speaks French and who is ready to help you, if you want to increase the possibility of getting a better apartment.

Once you start speaking to a potential landlord, the aim should be to fix an appointment as soon as possible. Remember every moment counts here and you may loose an interesting flat just for a couple of minutes (it has happened to me as well, I remember once loosing a very nice apartment just for 5 odd minutes and I still regret that). While visiting an apartment, you should go there with all the necessary documents needed for signing a contract for the apartment, by being mentally ready that if you like it, you are going to take it, right there! The modus operandi is that if you like it, do the deal, then and there, at least, give some advance to the landlord to book it. As, if the apartment is giving a good value for money, it won't remain empty too long as the next person is going to book it, beyond doubt, and this may happen within five minutes of your departure. So, think intelligently.

Things to check while visiting an apartment:

  • Check the all inclusive rent, as often, landlords tell a price and then add other charges on top of that, and the charges can be 20 euros a month, and it may easily become 200 euros as well. Thus, its important to know the all inclusive rate.
  • Check the condition of the apartment, if the paint is not good or for similar things, don't hope that the landlord will do it for you, unless it is well written in the contract.
  • Ask for the nearest bus stop, nearest metro, nearest RER (local train), nearest supermarket and the location of the city center vis-à-vis your apartment.
  • And yes, don't forget to ask for the area of your apartment, in square meters.
  • Check the distance from your work or school. More than the geographical distance, its the time for travel via public transport you need to seee.

Things you will need to make the deal:

An income proof, landlords need to be sure that you are financially able to pay the rent. The traditional way of doing it is by providing him (photocopy of course):

  • Something that guarantees an ongoing income, normally the local job contract. Longer the period of your contract, better is your possibility to convince him. A CDI is the best which stands for a job contract for unlimited period. If you don't have it, you have to prove that money will come from your country regularly during your stay, or your bank balance, whatever, though the job contract works the best.
  • An income proof of the last three months. Your pay slip will do in this case.
  • Also, your monthly income should be 3 to 4 times higher then the room rent, otherwise they will consider that you will be unable to pay the rent after some days / months.
  • In case your income is not convincing enough, you may need some godfather here who will guarantee that in case you are unable to pay the rent, he will be doing that in your place, and in that case their income should also be at least 4 times higher then your room rent. Normally friends / siblings / parents are the ideal choice for that... depending on what options you are having here. If your guarantor's income is not high enough, you can submit two guarantor's name to keep the landlord's blood pressure in control till you get the apartment.
  • Guarantors need to give the same papers as you, plus a letter confirming that he / she is taking the responsibility.
  • A checque book, as if you like the room, the only way to get it is to make a check immediately there... as if you think to wait till evening to decide, by the time you will decide and get excited about the wonderful flat, chances are that that has already been taken by somebody else.

Besides, you should be ready to give a caution deposit, it is equal to one month of deposit if the room is not furnished, and two months if the room is furnished.

Good to know:

  • Never give any money without a cash receipt.
  • While you will be leaving the apartment, you will have to tell it 3 months in advance, unless you have a special good relationship with your landlord and he agrees for a smaller time period. An exception is when you need to leave the apartment for professional reason (transfer, etc.) when you can inform your landlord only one month before, but even then it is always better to speak with your landlord in a proper way, remembering, that we need to take back our caution deposit.
  • While leaving, if the landlord find something is not exactly as it was while you took charge of the apartment, your caution deposit will be deducted.
Where to look ?
If you are looking to rent a place by yourself, start by looking at posts on BoncoinPAP or SelogerCraigslist is another place. One thing we need to be careful about, there are a lot of frauds happenning in the internet, through false availability posts. Stay always alert against possible scams, and use your common sense. In case of any doubt, or to be doubly sure, post in our community and we will give you the best possible suggestions.

Author : Sourav Choudhury

Sourav Choudhury is a social entrepreneur living in France since 2003 and working for the cause of Indian community of France, since 2007. He is founder of multiple projects: the largest social network of the Indian community of France, a French language school for english speaking expatriates, this website, and few other projects.