Tips for Renting an Apartment in Paris, France
For a trip of a week or longer to Paris, stay in an apartment and live like a Parisian. You'll learn which bakery has the best croissants, which cafe is perfect for a relaxed afternoon drink and experience the relieved feeling of "I'm Home" after a day on your feet sightseeing. Best of all, years later, you'll remember "your Paris neighborhood" in a way that a stay in a hotel can't convey.
Through the years, we've rented numerous apartments in most Paris areas or arrondissements. We'll be frank - finding the perfect apartment can be a time-consuming, but ultimately a rewarding experience.
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Learn from our hard-earned experience by following our tips below.
Tip 1: Location, Location, Location
Don't be seduced by a modern apartment at a reasonable rate in one of the outer arrondissements. We've stayed in apartments a stone's throw from major attractions, like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral, and we've stayed in apartments off-the-tourist-track and a 30 minute Metro ride to central Paris. Hands-down, we found it worth the extra money to stay near tourist sites. Your time in Paris is precious - don't spend it traveling back and forth to your apartment.
If you don't know which area is right for you, answer the questions in our article "Where to Stay in Paris".
Tip 2: List Your "Must-Haves"
Don't assume that a Paris apartment is outfitted like a typical American rental. Take nothing for granted.
Bathrooms - Many Paris apartments only have a tub with a hand-held shower attachment. If your morning ritual is a leisurely, hot shower with a massaging shower head, make sure to ask how the bathroom and shower is outfitted.
Washer and Dryer - If the apartment lists having a washing machine, don't assume that means washer and dryer. Due to ancient buildings with limited electrical capacity, a dryer is rare in Paris. And, we've learned the hard way that a pair of jeans can take a few days to dry in Paris' humid climate.
Kitchen Appliances - If you plan to cook a gourmet meal, find out what appliances are in the kitchen. If you plan to roast a chicken in an oven, you may be disappointed to find the apartment only has a range or a small microwave.
If the idea of hand-washing dishes on vacation makes you cringe, make sure the apartment has a dishwasher.
Air Conditioning - Air conditioning is also rare in Paris, because the climate is mild with an average temperature of 72 degrees in July. If you are traveling to Paris during the summer and are used to a climate controlled environment at home, make sure that the apartment has air conditioning.
Elevators - Even if you are in great shape, climbing eight flights of stairs after a day on your feet touring the Louvre and window-shopping can seem like climbing Mount Everest (true experience from my last rental). For apartments on high floors, consider renting a place with an elevator.
Tip 3: Understand Rental Agencies
Once you start looking for Paris apartments, you may be overwhelmed by the shear volume of websites advertising Paris apartment rentals. Understanding the motivation behind each rental is key to getting a good deal and not being disappointed by the customer service you'll receive when you arrive in Paris.
There are three types of websites renting Paris apartments:
- Rental agencies who list apartments and are paid a commission or "finder's fee". You pay rent and negotiate terms with the apartment's owner.
- Property management companies renting their own apartments.
- Individual owners directly renting their apartments to tourists.
You'll find the best rates negotiating directly with owners and the best customer service working with a property management company. You'll find the greatest selection and unbiased advice on apartments using a large rental agency.
The major drawbacks of renting directly from an owner is that you'll most likely need to pay a portion of the rent in euros as cash, and private owners may require large security deposits to protect their home from damages.
For more in-depth information on each option, read our Understanding Paris Apartment Rental Agencies.
Tip 4: Start Searching
Search websites for an apartment in your desired location, budget, and criteria. There are hundreds of websites renting Paris vacation apartments. Instead of floundering from site to site, take a calculated approach to apartment hunting.
1. Search Large Agencies to Get a "Feel" for the Market - Start by looking at the large agency sites, such as Paris Stay or Paris Attitude. These sites have robust search engines where you can specify detailed criteria, such as washer or dryer, terrace, view, quiet location, etc., to search thousands of apartments in your preferred area. Search these large sites to get a feel for the market rate for various apartments.
2. Refine Your Search for Your Budget - If your wish-list of features is out of your budget, refine your "must-haves" and continue searching. Try sticking to your budget. Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world - you'll spend more time outside your apartment than inside it. Use the money you save on an apartment for a gourmet meal, a Seine river cruise or to purchase a one-of-a-kind souvenir.
3. Widen Your Search to Smaller Agencies - Once you have an idea for the market, widen your net by searching the smaller sites to see if you can find additional properties and a better deal.
4. Eliminate Websites - You'll stumble on some rental sites where you'll know right away that the prices are out of line for the market. Strike that website from you list and continue looking. Bookmark apartments that you like and try to narrow the search to three possibilities.
Tip 5: Evaluate the Apartments
Once you've narrowed down the apartments you like to three or four, evaluate each apartment before making your final decision.
1. Search Google or Bing for the Apartment Name or Address - Don't overpay for an apartment. To find the best deal, search to find all the rental websites where the apartment is listed.
2. Write Down the Rental Rates and Terms - Note the rental rates for the apartment on each website. Many owners list their apartments on multiple sites. At times, the rental rates from site to site diverge by hundreds of euros.
3. Examine Apartment Photos - Look at the apartment photos across websites. You may find a website that has hired a professional photographer to show the apartment in a flattering light, then find another site where the apartment looks very different.
Look carefully at the photos with a critical eye. If an apartment has more close-up photos of flowers in a vase or a beautiful table setting, view that as a warning. You want to see photos of all rooms at different angles, even the bathroom and the kitchen. As a general rule, the more photos the better.
4. Examine Floor Plans - Photos taken with a wide-angle lens can make a small apartment look spacious. Many Paris apartments are in buildings constructed in the 18th century where rooms are small and the floor plan may not make sense if you are used to modern U.S. properties.
Look for exact dimensions for each room. Most apartments are listed as square meters. For a quick conversion, add a few zeros to meters to get a ballpark for square feet. For example, a 200 square meter apartment is roughly equal to 2000 square feet.
5. Read Comments from Previous Renters - In our experience, this step can make or break our decision to rent a property. Comments on one site may be edited to praise the apartment, where another site may show a more realistic view of the apartment's features and drawbacks.
Tip 6: Talk to the Owner or Agency
If you've decided that this is the apartment for you, email or phone the agency or owner to discuss the terms and conditions. Go with your gut. If you don't get a good feeling when you are trying to rent the apartment, you probably won't get the customer service you deserve when you arrive in Paris.
Tip 7: Relax and Take a Deep Breathe
Once you've signed the lease and paid your deposit, take a deep breathe and smile. The stress of finding the perfect apartment is over and you can begin counting the days until your dream vacation in Paris begins.
Author: Cheryl Montgomery