The ultimate guide to finding accommodation in Paris

The ultimate guide to finding accommodation in Paris by Shazz Mack

This article was written by Katherine Cook, published on 17th September 2013 and has been read 76813 times.

Katherine is studying International Business with French at Warwick University, and is spending her year abroad working in Paris! You can get the latest about what she's up to on her blog: Paris Student 411, or by following her on Twitter @katherinecook14, but in the meantime here is her tried-and-tested insider advice for finding accommodation in Paris...

Finding accommodation in Paris, what can I say? Well, an analogy is always a good place to start… For me, I guess finding accommodation in Paris is kinda like filling in job applications: a lengthy, sometimes stressful and somewhat tedious process, but the result is SO worth the effort you put in!

BUT, that’s where the Paris Student 411 comes in: I’m here to help mitigate a little of the stress, tedium and down-right confusion associated with the great Parisian house-hunt (not to be mistaken for Great British Bake Off, which has an altogether different set of stresses and strains…)

1. Finding Private Accommodation

So, you’re looking for a place to live in Paris? You envisage: high ceilings, polished wooden floors, space, a balcony on which to watch the world go by and pass many an evening smoking, discussing French literature with your new-found Parisian friends…c’est la vie: how hard can it be, you think?
Malheuresement, your Parisian landlord doesn’t quite have the same picture in mind…
Don’t get me wrong, your picture of Parisian living certainly is doable – if you have a very flexible budget. But, for all of you who, like me, don’t really have access to €1,000p/m worth of flexibility, you can still optimise your chances of finding a perfect Parisian apartment in 8 easy steps:

1. Go to Paris!
I know flights are expensive… but look at this initial expenditure in terms of a trade-off (typical business student for you!) Aka, the money you spend going to Paris and actually viewing potential housing, will ultimately save you the misery of turning up in a mouldy flat on September 1st and paying for damp removal…or, worse still, the price on your health! I guess it’s a bit like online dating: a guy may look like Ryan Gosling in his photos, but may turn out to be more of a Ryan Not-ling in reality. Don’t chance it folks!

Paris3

[Photograph by www78] 

2. Start your search early
When I say early, I mean start-of-July early! By the time it gets to August, there is a mad rush of students desperately on the hunt for accommodation. Starting in June meant that I avoided the mad clamour for accommodation…perhaps moving to Paris earlier than the norm (end of August) is an option for you too? Besides, Paris in the summertime is pretty darn cool…

3. Check out the American Church in Paris
Churches have been known as a place where miracles happen…and this one is no exception! With a vast array of accommodation ad postings on a regular basis, check out this god-send to speed up your search!

4. Ask people on the streets in student areas
I know this sounds a little mad, but I genuinely gained a fair few contact details for potential flats just by asking students (or people who looked like students) on the streets for info! It sounds like a long-shot, but you’d be surprised just how helpful some people can be! :)

5. Be realistic about your budget
Having trawled through hundreds of housing ads, I would say that if you want to have your own room and live in central Paris, you will need a budget of around the €650pm mark (including bills). Anything less than €450 pm is most likely to be a scam (link), so please watch out! Using your Erasmus grant of around €350pm certainly helps to ease the burden of pricey accommodation but maybe consider getting a part-time job in a bar or cafe at the weekend if you have the time :)

6. Agency fees: Watch out!
If you decide to rent your accommodation through an agency, remember that they will ask for an agency fee, which if you’re in Paris for 10-12 months will amount to around 10% of the total rent (e.g. Paris Attitude ) or 12% + one-off admin charge of €200 (e.g. Paris Stay). Don’t get me wrong, going through an agency isn’t a bad thing at all, often they can considerably aid the apartment-finding process, but do still be aware of the fees attached!

7. Guarantors
Personally, needing a guarantor is not something that I have experienced, however many of my friends have. Landlords become significantly more twitchy when it comes to renting to students and thus, tend to ask for a guarantor (aka, someone who can cough up the cash for rent when we’ve maxed out our overdrafts…!)

8. Make sure you have somewhere to stay mid-house-hunt!
I know it sounds super obvious, but you never know how long house-hunting might take, so you need plenty of different options because you never know, your Mum’s best friend’s auntie’s brother might not appreciate you staying for more than the 3…5 days, you’d promised! As an alternative, why not try a hostel? HostelWorld suggests a whole range of reasonable and comfortable hostels in the Paris area: check them out! A little confession: in times of sheer desperation, hostelling for the long-haul genuinely crossed my mind, but for €600 a month and a shared room with randomers, it didn’t seem all that worth it!)

2. What housing options go you have?

Now that you’ve heard the dos and don’ts about renting private accommodation, what type of accommodation is available to you. Ultimately, you’ve got to decide what kind of Parisian lifestyle you’re looking for.
AKA, if you’re a party animal whose perfect evening consists of pre-drinks (incl. several rounds of beer pong and ring of fire) chez toi, followed by a big night on the town… well, a homestay just isn’t for you! Alternatively, if you’re happy to live alone, enjoy a little independent living and crave thighs that cannot be distinguished from hot-dogs (see the Facebook group!) – a chambre de bonne (6th floor, sans ascenseur) is perfect for you.

Paris

[Photograph by Matthew Knott] 

On a more serious note, you really do have a vast range of housing options available to you in Paris - 6 to be precise! Check them out below…

1. The chambre de bonne
PROS: cheap, good for fitness (6th floor, no escalator), great if you like to live independently.
CONS: Very small (9-15 square feet), sometimes only one room, may lack basic kitchen facilities, may have to share bathroom facilities, relatively isolated, no lift (so not ideal for lugging 3/4 heavy bags or stumbling back after a few too many verres de vin rouges…).
PRICE? Vary depending on area in Paris. However, usually range from between €400 p/m (on average) to €600 p/m, depending on the area.

2. The studio apartment
PROS: Small apartments (20-30 square metres), small kitchenette in the corner, a small bathroom and a flop-down sofa bed or high-level bed: comfortable enough. A few studios may even have enough room for two…although it may be a bit of a squeeze! Usually have a lift.
CONS: Small apartment, lonely.
N.B. Make sure you know whether the apartment is furnished (meublé) or unfurnished (non meublé)!
PRICE? Vary widely, but most range from €550pm in less central arrondissements to €1,000+pm in the chicest arrondissements of Paris.

3. The multi-bedroom apartment
PROS: Bigger than your average studio (the apartment I’m sharing is studio size but converted into two rooms, which is very cosy to say the least!) multiple rooms (who would have guessed it!), more space, not so lonely.
CONS: Pricey, finding someone to live with can prove difficult, living with a stranger, sharing with someone who you don’t get along with.
PRICE? €600-€1,000pp/pm depending on the arrondissement.

4. The colocation: same as a multi-room apartment, but living with someone you’ve only just met…
PROS: Plenty of websites to find potential colocataires (e.g. Appartager, Colocation), good way of meeting new people, chance to improve your French (if living with other French students).
CONS: invitations for a colocation from people twice your age, sharing with someone who you don’t get along with.
N.B. 50-something male looking for 20-something female is never a good sign (its a colocation offer, not a lonely hearts ad!), stay internet savvy and don’t meet up with potential colocataires alone, always take a friend with you – likewise when viewing accommodation!
PRICE? €600-€1,000pp/pm depending on the arrondissement.

5. Rent a room with a family (homestay)
PROS: Immersed in the French language, home-cooked food (possibly), possibility of babysitting job, breakfast included, dinner sometimes included (at a price!), homely, safe.
CONS: be prepared for rules (e.g. not allowed to have friends over), feel like a guest, lack of privacy, feel obliged to do chores/look after children, pricey
PRICE? €850-€1,000+pm however, prices vary depending on which package you choose (e.g. with breakfast, with 2/3/4 dinners a week, etc.), prices may be cheaper if you’re looking for just a room and nothing else.

6. Student accommodation/Halls of residence: CROUS
Not going to lie folks, but this wasn’t really an option that was available to me as I’m not studying in Paris this year! But not to fear, in true Paris Student 411 style, I’ve done my research and swotted up on the topic, just for you! CROUS accommodation is basically student accommodation and can be applied for through filling in the following form or ‘Dossier Social Etudiant – DSE’. Application dates for CROUS accommodation are on their website.
PROS: the cheapest accommodation you will find in Paris, based on social criteria (you are likely to be chosen if you come from a lower-income family).
CONS: Long-winded, bureaucratic process (helpful hindsight from a CROUS-aficionado), places are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis (aka, you snooze, you lose), there are only 400 places available in Paris = very competitive, precise documentation required, native French students complain about CROUS = little hope for us foreigners!
PRICE? €200 - €450 p/m depending on the type of accommodation chosen.

3. Location, location, location

Believe me, the arrondissements of Paris are something you’re going to become a lot more familiar with whilst house-hunting – but to start you off, here’s a whistle-stop-tour of them all.
In total layman’s terms, arrondissements make up the multiple areas in central Paris within the borders of the peripherique. There are 20 arrondissements in Paris which form a spiral shape, starting with the first arrondissement in the very centre of Paris, out towards the twentieth arrondissement on the outskirts near the peripherique.

Louvre

[Photograph of the Louvre by Adrie Sifre Photography]

1st arrondissement
Chic, Louvre, pricey, touristy, the Rue de Rivoli is great for shopping, home to the Jardin des Tuileries (arguably one of my favourite places in Paris!)

2nd arrondissement
No real feeling of community, home to the Stock Exchange (Bourse), lots of businesses – although in all honesty, I don’t often visit the 2nd arrondissement!

3rd and 4th arrondissements
These are two of my favourite areas in Paris, they’re really up-and-coming areas of Paris, well known for their vintage shops (I found a really cool one today just opposite the Centre Pompidou), buzzing street atmosphere, street performers, shops (both independent and high street retailers alike), Place des Vosges (home to Victor Hugo) is well worth a visit, as is the Centre Pompidou (despite some most questionable works of ‘art’) and Hotel de Ville.

5th and 6th arrondissements
My arrondissement (5th) – I love it (although I would say that!) It has a great buzz of old people, young people (students from Cluny la Sorbonne mostly!) and tourists and is home to the beautiful Notre Dame. There are loads of bars, restaurants and shops near St Michel, as well as a number of brilliant bookshops (Gilbert Joseph and Shakespeare and Company are among my faves). The 6th is home to Rue Mouffetard which is again great for bars, meeting other students and it has a lovely little market on a Saturday (great fruit!)

7th arrondissement
Very chic, home to Le Bon Marche (luxury department store) and Sciences Po University, lovely area to walk around, some fantastic brasseries. Home to the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides and Musee Rodin which are all well worth a visit!

8th arrondissement
I’m pretty familiar with this area, as I work here. Home to the Champs-Elysees, rents here soar into the thousands. Great for luxury shopping, grabbing a bite to eat or just gazing up at the Arc de Triomphe.

9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th arrondissements
I’m not particularly familiar with these arrondissements either… check out the Expatica forum for more details!

16th arrondissement
Very chic areas of Paris. I found a chambre de bonne in the 16th and although it was a nice area, it lacked the buzz of students, of different cultures and seemed very exclusive. Lots of small designer boutiques.

18th arrondissement
Home to Monmatre and Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, the infamous Pigale and the Porte de St Ouen Flea Market (Le Marché aux Puces de St Ouen) which is great for grabbing a vintage bargain.

19th and 20th arrondissements
Tend to have cheaper rents but I’m not overly familiar with them. Get back to me in a year and I’ll hopefully be a little more in the know about the arrondissements, but for now I’ll pass you over to the Expatica forum which gives you more info on the dos and don’ts of relocating in Paris.

4. Useful websites and publications

Flat in Paris by DodeckahedronWebsites
Erasmusu – great website for meeting up with potential colocataires and Erasmus students, you pay a small subscription but its worth it as you gain access to the contact details of potential housemates (colocs), link up with other students. You also have the possibility to post housing adverts yourself.
Facebook groups
My faves are: 

Magazines
Fusac - a great magazine which you can pick up in any public library or council-run building – contains lots of accommodation adverts, job adverts (especially for all you budding Nannies, English teachers or waiters/waitresses!), trivia and other fun stuff to do in Paris!

Private accommodation

Agencies

Renting with a family/ Homestay

5. Scam alert!

Just before I go, I just HAVE to let you know about one of the most warned-about problems associated with the Parisian accommodation search: SCAMS. Having narrowly escaped a scammer myself in my accommodation search, I have become a lot more aware about how to spot scams from legit accommodation postings. You really can’t be naïve when it comes to searching for accommodation in Paris. I’m not sure if I was naive or just completely desperate to find somewhere to live at the time the scammer nearly got me: probably a bit of both.

Things I’ve learnt watch out for:

1. Poor written English
I know this sounds odd, but you can often tell scams from legitimate posts from the way they are written. The posts which look like they’ve been copy/pasted, contain lots of capitalisation, contain random phrases or poor written English tend to be SCAMS.

2. Sensationalist claims
Huge, double bedroom in 7th arrondissement, view of the Eiffel Tower, €450, charges included –> ok, what’s the catch? Let’s be realistic, this post can’t possibly be for real.

3. Missing details
If the post is in the slightest bit vague with regards to a) Area/arrondissement, b) Photos or c) Description of the apartment, it’s probably a scam.

4. Craigslist
This website is littered with scams, fortunately other website users often point them some of them out, but just be careful!

5. Transfers via Western Union
Just a big NO-NO. Check out TransferWise instead :)

***DO NOT HAND OVER ANY MONEY UNTIL YOU HAVE VISITED THE APARTMENT, MET THE LANDLORD AND FORMED SOME FORM OF CONTRACT WITH THE HIM/HER***

6. Summing it all up

The search for accommodation IS tedious, it IS going to have its ups and downs and it IS going to completely do your head in after an few weeks. HOWEVER, stay strong and stay focussed on the end goal: a beautiful Parisian apartment. From the above info, here are the best possible take-aways I can give you:

  1. Go to Paris! 
  2. Check out websites in advance of coming to Paris. 
  3. Make a spreadsheet filled with the address, arrondissement, contact details of landlord of each apartment: when you get to Paris, this will make navigation (and your life in general!) so much easier. 
  4. Don’t be afraid to ASK! Have faith in your fellow students: their advice might just come up trumps for you! 
  5. Make sure you sort out all the tedious documentation before you arrive in Paris: bring copies of EVERYTHING! 
  6. Send LOTS of emails and make LOTS of calls. 
  7. Stay safe: don’t visit that 50-year old dude’s colocation in the Parisian suburbs alone (just don’t) or if you’re desperate to find a place, take your 6ft, 100 kilo boyfriend (or girlfriend…) with you! 
  8. Expect rudeness (they’re Parisians, it’s practically in their nature!) 
  9. Be REALISTIC and learn to deal with TRADE-OFFS: let’s be honest, you’ll never find a spacious, reasonably priced apartment in a nice area – it’s just not going to happen! But make sure you arrive at a compromise which suits YOU! If however, by some stroke of genius, you happen to find that apartment with high ceilings, polished wooden floors, space, a balcony on which to watch the world go by and pass many an evening smoking, discussing French literature with your new-found Parisian friends AND all for €500 a month, I’m sure we’d all love to know how you did it!

Happy house-hunting!
Your Paris Student 411
xoxo

P.S. If you have any info to share with me/ our fellow year-abroaders in Paris, please feel free to write a comment. I would love to hear about your adventures in Paris as well!! :)

For 20% off the booking fee for your accommodation abroad, visit UniPlaces.com and use code THIRDYEARABROAD :)

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