And so the hunt begins. If you, like me, applied for the TAPIF program and are planning on living in Paris this year, you have mostly likely started biting your fingernails as the online search threatens to engulf you.
I won’t sugarcoat it: never have I ever experienced a more harrowing process.
I lived with a horrible French exchange family when I was sixteen. Handled.
Applying for college? Easy.
College thesis? Done and done.
But finding an apartment in Paris? A cruel punishment not even Mr. Filch could have conjured up.
See? Pure happiness.
First Step: Let’s talk Resources
Where should you look?
1. The absolute number one resource for both apartments and extra odd jobs (such as babysitting) is www.fusac.fr.
2. As soon as you arrive in Paris, go to the American Church in Paris. The closest metro stops are Invalides (lines 8 and 13) and Alma Marceau (line 9). You’ll see a set of double doors. Take a right into an outdoor corridor and walk until you reach another set of doors. These will take you inside the church. Next to those doors you’ll see a glass bulletin with a list of apartments and cleaning/childcare jobs. You do NOT need to actually enter the church. Don’t do what I did and wander inside during someone’s wedding. This is not how you make friends.
Keep in mind, it costs money to advertise here. This will both behoove you and hinder you. On the one hand, there is a higher likelihood that the people posting these advertisements won’t try to scam you, unlike some of the false ones on Craigslist. On the other, if YOU want to post anything, it will cost you.
2. With that said, I found the French Craigslist to be much more reliable than the American one. Obviously don’t be an idiot about it: never transfer money to someone you don’t know, make sure you see the apartment first, etc. Overall though, Craigslist is fairly helpful.
3. I have heard of the website www.seloger.com but I personally didn’t have much luck with it.
4. If you’re looking for a roommate, www.apartager.com is a useful resource as well.
5. Random happenstance. If all else fails, tell everyone you meet you’re searching for an apartment. There are enough people in Paris who have been through a similar situation or who are looking for roommates; you’re bound to run into one of them sooner or later! This may sound crazy but honestly, I know someone who found his apartment by simply chatting up someone in a bar. It can happen, folks.
When I was searching for a place to live, I thought I would surely find one before actually moving. This, my friends, is absurd. Do not plan on finding an apartment before setting foot in Paris. The only way this might work is if you find an au pair job, though be sure to Skype the family beforehand.
One of the biggest mistakes I made was signing up with the agency hestia.fr. Although friendly enough, they were not overly helpful and I ended up finding a fantastic place all on my own. If you’ve been camping out in a hostel for a month, go ahead, splurge on the agency. Try to wait it out, though. Chances are, you will eventually find a place if you keep checking fusac and the listings at the American Church. Just be patient!
Second Step: What do you need?
1. Money. First of all, you will most likely need to stay in a hostel for your first few weeks while you search for a place. Somehow, for some reason, the Apartment Gods smiled down on me when I arrived and I managed to line up both an apartment and a job within 48 hours of landing at Charles de Gaulle. But I hauled ass. Want to really test your French? Call 30 French landlords your first day in Paris while you’re jet-lagged and starving. No macaroons until I signed a lease.
Most landlords in Paris ask for three months rent the day you sign your lease. One for the first month of rent, and two for a deposit. A cheap apartment on the outskirts of the city costs around 400 euros a month. Multiply that by three and you’ll need about 1,200 euros before you even move in, so be sure you have plenty in savings.
2. A phone. The day I arrived in Paris I bought a cheap, disposable French phone. We all prefer to contact people online, don’t we? Unfortunately, relying on email for your apartment search will get you nothing but extended hostel living. People will snatch these apartments before you have a chance to draft the perfectly worded email. And what’s more, many of these apartment listings don’t even include e-mail addresses. Zut alors!
3. A laughable amount of paperwork. Fortunately for me, I met a kind, generous family with an adorable chambre de bonne. As opposed to being an au pair (as I was also teaching in Herblay), they agreed to let me live in the apartment they owned in exchange for babysitting. Plus, I received a small fee at the end of the month. Keep in mind, a typical chambre de bonne is not normally attached to the apartment it corresponds to, so I could live in my own space entirely separate from my landlord/boss. They met me, trusted me, and waved the traditional amount of paperwork, as well as the deposit. In most cases though, be prepared to present bank statements and your proper working papers.
Third Step: Location
Where do you even look? Now, if you’re considering living outside of the city, you may encounter charming views and actual green space for your morning runs.
Beware though: without a car you could live quite far from a grocery store, which may or may not result in sloshing through fields, trekking across highways, and hauling loads of groceries back to your apartment. By foot. For an hour. Now, this is an extreme case, but I have seen it happen. Just be careful and wise about your apartment decisions; many people I know, myself included, preferred commuting to the suburbs every morning rather than living outside the city. Trains stop running before the metro, meaning you can’t stay out as late as you would be able to in the city, and taking a cab would be astronomically expensive.
Plus, if you live in Paris, you get a free exercise in lateral movement as you dodge tourists. My legs have never been the same.
The question everyone asks: where in Paris?
I remember wishing I already knew and understood the layout of Paris before moving. I wished I had grown up under the shade of the Haussmann architecture, the Eiffel Tower glittering from my window, beds of tulips blooming on my balcony. Not for any nostalgic, psychological torture over an unfulfilled childhood–I had the good fortune to grow up on the lovely shores of Lake Michigan. I only wanted to know the city of Paris before I decided where to live. How can you possibly make such a monumental decision when you barely have a chance to explore the city?
Well, you can’t. And the decision isn’t nearly as monumental as you originally think. For obsessive people like myself though, I’ve provided a breakdown of the different arrondissements to help you gauge where you think will be your best fit.