I had dreams of spending days touring apartments throughout the city and finding the perfect pied-à-terre.  Unfortunately, reality is quite different.  The Paris rental market does not work as the real estate television shows seem to portray.  It was time for me to turn off House Hunters International and buckle-up.

The Parisian real-estate & rental market is demanding.  Apartments, if advertised at all, are rented instantaneously.  Brokers do not have time (or the desire) to show clients a half-dozen apartments.  I suspect many people come to Paris to browse, enjoy a first-hand look at Parisian living, but have not made a commitment to actually buy or rent in the city.  I am sure the real estate professionals feel like tour guides at times.

For my visit, I was told I would be able to see two or three furnished apartments.  I had a list of (at-least) eight potential apartments broken down by amount of sunlight, space, ability to have guests, walk-up or elevator, street view, courtyard view…it goes on.  Naturally, I was disappointed.  Why so few?  Why limit myself?  And then I realized and confirmed, the apartments I had been viewing online were not all available.  Time with the broker was limited and inventory was very limited.

The internet as a vehicle to show rentals and properties for sale is a more recent development in France.  French brokers are slowly increasing in their marketing sophistication, but still do not have common tools to execute comprehensive searches.  There is no centralized Multiple Listing Service (MLS), for example.  Instead, brokers advertise all the properties they are managing, but not all properties are available.  It is also worth noting, a broker only shows the properties under their management.  They are not able to show you another firm’s listings.

In a previous post, the visa process, part 2: the details, I mentioned the “just in time” mentality.  This is a hurdle in the search process, not just because I did not want to start a lease agreement (and pay rent) months before I was planning to be in the country.  It is an issue because a broker will not show available apartments for a future date because they have a great chance to rent the apartment now and receive rent/fees now.  It makes sense, but it certainly did not help my search.

I was able to see two furnished apartments in my price range in central Paris.  Both were great spots, met my criteria and had current renters in them that were leaving Paris at the end of the year.  The apartments were confirmed to be available in January.

Ultimately, it was a hard decision for me to make.  There were pro’s and con’s to each location, so here are some of the questions and activities I went through to make a final selection:

  • Does the neighborhood have what I need day-to-day (i.e. food market, pharmacy, banks, laundromat, restaurants)?  I walked the neighborhoods and adjacent areas to get a feel for the area.  I talked to some merchants as well.
  • What buses or Metro stops are close by?  Are those lines easy to use or do they require transfers to more central lines?  This was important to me as I will not have a car and biking in the city (while very popular) terrifies me.
  • How touristy is the area?  Tourist neighborhoods in Paris can be lively, but in general, they are crowded, have over-priced cafés with bland food and do not provide the opportunity to integrate into the community.
  • Are there noisy bars on the street or in close proximity?  After my first Parisian Airbnb experience (during the World Cup, no less), I learned that being near bars is not for me or anyone who wants sleep before sunrise.
  • Would my interactions in cafés and shops help me practice French?  In general, in the tourist areas of Paris, English is spoken.  For better or worse, I would like to be forced to use French.

Ultimately, I selected an apartment in the 11th arrondissement which is on the right bank.  It is a working-class neighborhood; some parts are beautiful with Haussmannian buildings and other parts seem neglected.  One of the biggest selling points for me was the lack of tourist attractions and therefore the ability to integrate with the community and learn the language.

Much more to come on my apartment and the neighborhood!  You’ll find posts about the 11th in the “Mon Quartier” section of the blog.