Six whole weeks and twenty-something apartment visits later (no joke), we finally finally secured our apartment in Paris. It was also at this moment that I truly understood what the French mean by "Bonne Chance" when they hear news of an apartment hunt. Apartment hunting in Paris is not for the feeble-minded. It requires patience, persistence, and a lot of time.
Parisian vs. Modern
It was the perfect parisian apartment with high ceilings, large French windows, a beautiful balcony, gorgeous wood floors, and intricately carved ceilings, all that I could have ever asked for, except, the smallest, and excuse my language, shittiest bathroom I had ever seen. Apparently, when parisian styled apartments housed aristocrats back in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was not customary to shower nor bathe (yes, perfume and powders were used instead - I guess there's the real reason why French perfumes are such great sellers).
And so you can imagine tiny showers that were later crammed into an already tiny apartment (430 square feet is the size of your average one-bedroom apartment in Paris, though there are high ceilings to compensate), and the striking contrast between the gorgeous details of the rooms and the abysmal amenities that come with them. Yes, you've guessed it, kitchens are rented out with just a sink, and would need to be "furnished" with everything such as a fridge, stove...and even countertops.
Of course since the end of aristocratic rule, many new modern apartments have been built (in Paris city excluding suburbs, I would place the ratio of parisian to modern apartments at about 70:30, so the majority is still parisian). These "modern" apartments compensate with better amenities and more space. This creates an interesting dynamic of value options that becomes incredibly difficult to choose from, and hence the need, for a compromise.
The average hunt in Paris takes 2+ months because we, the renters, are by default in a disadvantageous situation: 1) demand is high for good apartments, which are gone in days, and 2) laws protect the renter from being evicted so landlords are extremely selective about your paperwork (an income of 3x the rent is the minimum!!!).
As a result of high demand and selectively, agents in Paris rarely find apartments for you. This means that despite being required to pay a month's rent worth of agency fees, you must go out and search for individual apartments for yourself (!?!) - on listing websites like seloger.com or through word of mouth. This means a lot of searching, scheduling and visiting that take weeks if you can visit during the day, and months if not.
Knowing Your Preferences
The key to finding the right apartment quickly is 1) to know exactly what you want so you only schedule visits with those qualities, and 2) be highly competitive in your paperwork (income of 3-5x the rent including guarantors).
I had very strong preferences for our apartment: Montparnasse area, one bedroom, double sejour (two-roomed living room), parisian style, modern amenities, large windows, lots of light, and at least 480 square feet in size. Some of these qualities can be filtered online, and voilà, you have your selection. Now look at a few pictures and schedule away!!
In the end, we finally found an apartment that was within our budget with everything on my list. But of course, it's never going to be perfect: it's on the 2nd floor (higher is better for noise and view) with a not so fantastic view of the streets (there's a big hole and construction to the left of us). While these details are important to some, we had to recognize that they were less important to us. And that the apartment as a whole, was truly wonderful.
Feel free to ask me questions about the apartment hunt in the comments below!