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How To Find An Apartment In Paris

April 18, 2009

The Capital Of Romance quickly becomes hell on Earth when you’re hunting for decent shelter, it’s not a cup of tea for anyone – regardless of your length of stay, budget and requirements. For me, it wasn’t any different. However, I did manage to secure a room in an apartment just three days after arriving in Paris, and I’ve decided to share my success story to my fellow strugglers.

I was looking for a room in an apartment with one or two (at most) people in a spacious apartment in a cool where I had my own room and didn’t have to spend much to make it feel like home. My budget was 600 Euros. and my stay is about four months. So if you’re on a higher budget and are planning to stay longer, your techniques and strategies might be different than mine, but I hope you find this post useful nonetheless.

Let’s get started with 5 points you need to keep in mind before you start scavenging for your place:

  1. Be realistic: 400 Euros won’t get you anything decent here, unless you want to be taking the regional rail for 45 minutes before hoping on the metro, or long for being imprisoned in a 1.5m squared kiosk miraculously converted to a “fully-furnished, spacious studio in strategic location”.
  2. Be prepared: It’s always going to take time. Make sure you find a place to stay with someone your comfortable with so that you don’t feel pressured or rushed into leaving. You should know that it’ll probably take you a week to 10 days to move in, and another 5 days to get settled. And forget about meeting anyone while you’re searching for a place, unless it’s after 10pm and not for long, so that you can get up early the following morning.
  3. Be flexible: Out of the 20 arrondissments that make up Paris, you can knock out 2 or 3 at most as places you wouldn’t consider. Anymore and you’re risking depression. You need to be willing to live anywhere that’s decent.
  4. Know you limits: What’s the most you’re willing to pay? How many people are you willing to share a bathroom with (if any)? How small of a room can you sleep in? As long as you stick to point number 1, setting limits will save you time and help you make decisions.
  5. Stay positive, and don’t give up: You’ll probably reach low-points you didn’t even know you were capably of reaching, hang in there, and everything will be just fine in no time.

In most cases, it doesn’t make sense to start searching for an apartment, studio, or your room in a shared flat until you’ve arrived in Paris. Having said that, the following is my suggested order of actions that you should be taking:

  1. Get your French cell phone
    Come with a phone that will accept a sim card from here. Don’t try to make the dramatic sacrifice of roaming until you have the time to pick up a phone – people might not pick up, and they’re probably not going to take you seriously, besides the fact that they won’t have a way to get in touch with you. Getting a phone is as easy as walking into a store (any day but Sunday) paying the money and placing the new sim card in your phone. There are various operators. I personally used Orange, and haven’t had problem with them so far. They have an offer where if you get 100 Euros of credit, they’ll give you 150, so given that you can control your calls, it’s a steal.
  2. Forget the papers, use the website
    You need to be somewhere with free wifi and use your laptop, or spend a lot of time at a cheap cyber cafe. Buying the papers is a waste of money and time. There are two websites in particular to stick with:

    • Appartager – http://www.appartager.com/: The design is ghetto, it gives you the impression that is was built in the 90s and hasn’t been updated since, but it’s the best website out there to find a studio or a room in a shared apartment. Sign up for a premium account (20 Euros for 10 days) so that you can see the full contact information. And beware of scams, but don’t worry, they’re easy to spot. Anyone offering you a palace in the middle of Paris for 200 Euros and asking you to deposit the money in his or her account before hand isn’t trying to make this world a better place
    • De Particulier A Particulier – http://www.pap.fr/: This one’s free and has a simple design that makes it easy to use. These are actually the same offers that are published in the papers. If there’s an offer that’s 5 days old, don’t bother calling – it’s either already taken, or unbearable for any human being
  3. Prepare your French
    You hear all the time that Parisians are not the friendliest of peops, I’m yet to confirm that stereotype, but I can confirm that they’re not willing to bend backwards on the phone for you. Prepare everything you’re going to say, you have 30 seconds of fame and you have to impress. Don’t hesitate and speak with confidence, anyone who’s being a complete moron on the first conversation isn’t really worthy of being your landlord or roommate
  4. Get ahead of the pack
    This is the most important step of the process. To start with, very few landlords are willing to pick up the phone, so they usually leave their voicemail on and listen to a bunch of the messages at the end of the day to chose the lucky winner who might just receive a phone call. What you need to do is the following:

    • Send an email through the website if the option is available
    • Call and leave the message you were working on earlier
    • Send a pre-written SMS from your cell phone with a nice intro for them to call you
    • Repeat the process with at least 20 apartments, before you can take a break for a Grec (Doner Kebab)
  5. Visit apartments
    When you get a call from anyone, or actually have someone pick (uncommon), try to get an instantaneous appointment to go visit the apartment. If it’s good, it’ll probably be taken if you wait more than an hour to visit. Get there a little early, dress smart (not formal, but smart), and make it seem like you would like to stay there, but you’re not dying for the apartment because you can afford better.
  6. Give’em the OK
    After five to eight visits, you will have found the suitable place. Give the landlord the firm OK so that they don’t consider giving it to anyone else, but make sure you ask all of the questions in the world before you do so. Hopefully you’ll be able to move in the next day, and when you do so, make sure you remove your info from the websites and send an SMS so all of the landlords you were in touch with telling them that you found a place, or else they’ll keep calling you.

And that’s it! You’ve found a place to stay in Paris! Now invite all of your friends and family to come over and stay for a couple of nights. I found my place in the most amazing area (in my opinion), near metro Simplon towards the north of the city with an awesome roommate, and a clean spacious room for 600 Euros a month in as little as three days. I consider myself lucky, and I hope you all get even luckier.

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2 Responses to “How To Find An Apartment In Paris”

  1. Ruth says:

    Congrats, man! It seems you’re doing it pretty well! :-)
    Si necesita algo, ya sabes, escríbeme! Nos vemos en mayo.

  2. Reem says:

    Ya shalabyz ya negm!!! You seem like you’re havin a great time. Am glad begad. We gotta skype soon to catch up.
    Miss you!!

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