So you are new in Paris and looking for an apartment ! You have come to the right place ... by the time you will finish reading this article, you will be armed with the entire armory necessary for renting an apartment here in this new city.
First things first, the question you need to ask yourself at the very beginning, is which kind of apartment you are looking for, a furnished or an unfurnished one. If you are staying here for a few months, you may decide going for a furnished apartment, as in this way you don't need to buy anything, no headache, and you just need to install yourself there. However, if the duration is long, even a couple of years, unfurnished apartment can be much more economic, as you can furnish your apartment depending on your budget, easily from a site selling second hand stuffs like the Boncoin, and can sell them off while leaving Paris to somebody else... thereby saving a lot of money that the landlord or his agency would have charged you extra for giving you those extra stuffs.
The basic way of going for an apartment is more or less same, and hence we will speak about this topic in a general way... while giving necessary tips later down the page for both the cases.
So, once you have decided the type of apartment you will be needing (furnished or unfurnished), you are ready to start looking for your apartment. Two ways, the 'do-it-yourself' way for people like me, and the 'agency' way for those who are rich enough to pay a month of rent extra to the agency for their service.
The agency way is simpler, you just need to find some English speaking agencies, and you have plenty of service providers who speak that minimum English to communicate with you, at least enough to find you a room. Do some search in the net, take the yellow page, and find the section 'immobiliers' (French translation for real estate) and start phoning them. You can start with the sentence 'Bonjour, parlez vous anglais?' (For pronunciation, remember that the French don't pronounce the last consonants normally - thus you will be telling something like 'Bojho, parley voo angley') question which stands for 'Good day, do you speak English' and if the reply is affirmative, start talking business. If not, move to the next. Normally most of the agencies around the center of Paris are used to English speaking customers, so it shouldn't be that hard for you to find one / few suitable.
For the 'do-it-yourself' ones, believe me, it can also be as simple as the other one. Only here you will be saving quite a lot of money. The problem what you might have here is to communicate with the landlords. For this, you can take help of a local person... somebody whom you knew before or somebody you have met in a forum, for example. If you can't, then of course you are limiting the number of apartments that you could visit... but don't loose hope, you will still be having some ways to find some English speaking landlords.
Now that you have a list of apartments to knock, its your time to take the help of Mr. Alexander Graham Bell's wonderful invention. You can start each time with the same magic sentence as mentioned before, 'Bonjour, parlez vous anglais?' Your aim will be to find some English speaking landlords again, and here also, you can take help of a friend or somebody whom you have met who speaks French and who is ready to help you, if you want to increase the possibility of getting a better apartment.
Once you start speaking to a potential landlord, the aim should be to fix an appointment as soon as possible. Remember every moment counts here and you may loose an interesting flat just for a couple of minutes (it has happened to me as well, I remember once loosing a very nice apartment just for 5 odd minutes and I still regret that). While visiting an apartment, you should go there with all the necessary documents needed for signing a contract for the apartment, by being mentally ready that if you like it, you are going to take it, right there! The modus operandi is that if you like it, do the deal, then and there, at least, give some advance to the landlord to book it. As, if the apartment is giving a good value for money, it won't remain empty too long as the next person is going to book it, beyond doubt, and this may happen within five minutes of your departure. So, think intelligently.
Things to check while visiting an apartment:
Things you will need to make the deal:
An income proof, landlords need to be sure that you are financially able to pay the rent. The traditional way of doing it is by providing him (photocopy of course):
Besides, you should be ready to give a caution deposit, it is equal to one month of deposit if the room is not furnished, and two months if the room is furnished.
Good to know:
Sourav Choudhury is a social entrepreneur working for the cause of Indian community living in France, since 2003. He is founder of multiple projects: the largest social network of the Indian community of France, a French language school for english speaking expatriates, this website, and several other projects.