Finding an Apartment In Paris

This is going to sound so spoiled, but we finally got sick of the 7ème and our mean gardienne and are moving to Trudaine. We've been wanting to downsize for awhile, so we're selling almost all our furniture- all ten pieces!- and moving from 70m2 to 36m2. Unless you're Pollyanna, looking at Paris apartment listings is depressing. Don't get me wrong, some of our friends have amazing places: the loft in the 2éme that was only 1200 euros per month, the converted atelier in the 20éme with beautiful beams and exposed brick, or the maison particulier with the pretty courtyard in the Marais. They just required a lot of work, patience, time, and talent that we don't have or can't invest right now. Most of what you see either has a weird layout, moldy ceilings, ugly bathrooms / kitchens, and exposed hot water heaters (my biggest pet peeve). You can still find great deals on beautiful Haussmanian apartments in the 15-17ème, but my husband refuses to live there. "Too many families," he says.

We joined a bunch of Facebook groups and found some promising places, mainly colocation, with other residents. A lot were less central than we wanted- the 19ème, 20ème, périphérique. Our friends recommended agents and gave us tips on new apartments, but we are so picky and our "needs" were so specific, nothing worked out. I wanted a brand new kitchen (no gluten contamination) and my husband wanted an Italian shower. We also wanted to be walking distance from the office, and Chipotle.

Where to Look

Everyone knows the Paris market is competitive and connection-dependent, but a lot's changed since we first started apartment hunting three years ago. Now most listings are for appartement meublé- furnished apartments, whereas when I first moved here, they were predominantly vide (empty rentals, without appliances). If you're searching from abroad, Lodgis is the simplest option. Becoming a Parisian used it to find their (awesome) apartment, which was convenient because Lodgis assigns an agent to speak French and navigate paperwork. You may consider renting an Airbnb temporarily, to search for an apartment in person- that's what we did when I moved here. Most people using an agency say the fees are worthwhile, and I agree. We used Book a Flat, which has the most droolworthy (some pet friendly) selection, communicating via email. I wanted everything in writing!

Seloger is the most popular rental site. They feature agency and for rent by owner apartments, sending real time notifications for new listings. Most people find this feature helpful, but every day I had 17 new emails for terrible apartments that didn't fit my registered preferences, and not all visits were free. Ommi has a nice, more limited selection, eliminating a lot of hassle. Free to use, with no agency fees, it requires uploading a dossier upon registry. If your French isn't great, the automated system makes scheduling visits easier. A lot of friends found apartments on Leboncoin, but when I looked, everything was gross (for us, Craiglist was useless, but if you want roommates, it's better). You may find something nicer if you're willing to live outside Paris; check my Paris arrondissement guide for neighborhood overviews, including estimated rental prices.

Assembling a Rental File

Be sure to include:
  • Photocopies of passports, identification cards, and visas for all occupants
  • Your last three payslips or documents proving source of income (they generally want to see that you have more than three times the cost of rent)
  • Your last tax statement
  • Electricity / utility bills
  • Guarantor's statement and proof of address
  • Employment contract (attestation employeur) or student card / university certificate 

We also had to provide receipts from our current lease showing we paid the last three months' rent, along with relevé d'identité bancaire (bank details). Most apartments require a security deposit. If you don't have a French bank account, some are as high as up to six months rent, and others require the first year's rent up front, in addition to agency fees. To assist with rent prices, students may receive a housing stipend via CAF

Once your dossier is accepted, you'll sign contracts and the gardien, landlord, or agent will take you through the apartment to record damages and inventory. To protect yourself, make sure whoever's showing the apartment takes pictures of any stains on the wall, cracks, scratches in the countertop, etc. It's best to meet the gardien before signing contracts. Watch for an air freshener smell, which can mask smoke and bug spray. When looking at a furnished rental, check the mattress, and ask if there is a cave- a self storage unit in the basement, in case you don't like some of the owner's furniture. You may need to inform your current landlord 1-3 months ahead of time to end the lease. has a great tool that generates the letter for you.

What to Say

If you found a listing online and would like to schedule a visit by phone, say: "Je vous appelle à propos de les appartements de (rental site here) numero de reference (reference number here). Sont-ils toujours disponibles, s'il vous plaît? J'aimerais prendre rendez-vous pour le visiter."
If writing or speaking directly to an agency, you might say: "Mon (friend / colleague /  university / relative), le client de (insert agent's name here) recommandé votre agence. Avec mon mari, nous cherchons (or simply 'Je cherche') pour un appartement à louer dans le (quartier / arrondissement here) environ (max price here) par mois." Agencies typically only accept clients referred by friends or relatives.
Including employment status or reason for residency is helpful. For example: "Mon mari est le (job title here) à Paris et je suis une (job title here). Nous habitons dans le 7ème, mais c'est pas notre quartier préféré." Give them as much information as possible- how much you make, how much you have saved, and how long you wish to stay- for instance, "Nous aurions besoin un locataire à long terme." Make sure to end emails politely: "J'espère que vous pouvez m'aider. Je vous remercie d'avance." Or,  "Je reste à votre disposition. Cordialement, (your name here)"
When writing to our agency, I wrote: "J'aimerais prendre rendez-vous pour le visiter l'appartement numero ####. Nous recherchons pour un appartement dans le (desired quartiers). Notre statut: Salarié. Nous cherchons pour un appartement disponible asap pour au moins une année. La raison du séjour: Mon mari a grandi à Paris et nous travaillons ici.
Be sure to include availability for visits, e.g., "Nous sommes disponible tous les jours pendant le déjeuner ou après 18h." If attaching a dossier / rental file, say, "Veuillez trouver ci-joints les garanties" or "Veuillez trouver ci joint les documents concernant les garanties."
I didn't check any of this French with my native Parisian husband, and there are probably lots of mistakes, but it got us an apartment, so it must be ok! For a glossary of rental terms, click here.

Utilities / Other Charges

Water is always included, as far as I know. Apartments either have:

  • Chauffage centrale, or central heating, through EDF
  • Chauffage electrique, electric heating, which costs more, through EDF
  • Gas heating (chauffage au gaz), through GDF

When you move to a new home, call the appropriate utility company (EDF or GDF) to begin service- they have English hotlines. You'll need the apartment / building number, or customer ID, provided by the landlord. The nice thing about EDF is you can input your meter reading on their website and see exactly how much you'll pay each month. Renter's insurance is often required. We use Direct and had no issues- we pay around 300 eur per year. There's also something called charges les frais attached to most leases. These pay for recycling, the gardien, trash collection, etc. Lastly, the aforementioned agency fees, or honoraires de location, can be steep, like 2000 eur! I'll write more about a zero waste move later :)

Paris to Go


  1. Glad to see you're okay despite the flooding!

  2. What a great "experiment". I used to live on 37m² in Amsterdam and though the minimal living and nothing having much part was excellent, it really was, I did miss mental space. You must really really love eachother, In fact I'm sure you do!! Good luck with this new adventure. x

    1. Thanks Emma! When we first lived here we were in 30m2 and maybe we should have never left. It's been wonderful having so much space and light and this view but it's a bit too much work and far from where we want to be.

    2. I have such an immense respect for you both for doing this. I know I want to live smaller, but I am not alone in this. I have a partner with two growing children. Maybe when the are ready to spread their wings we will choose something smaller. I can think of nothing but advantages of having less...

    3. Aw thank you! Yes, it is different with children. They need space to run around and play. If we had kids we probably would be fine but right now we feel like we're rattling around in our place!

  3. Hi there! I have been following your blog for a while, and finally went to Paris for the first time this month! We followed some of your recommendations for cafes, site-seeing, and shopping, and had a great time. Good luck with your move!

    1. I am so glad Sarah! Hope you had a wonderful trip back as well. Thank you so much!