We had about two and a half months. Two and a half long summer months to find a long term apartment in Paris. In the meantime, we had rented a temporary apartment through the agency Lodgis to give us some time to find something more suitable for a longer period of time (see previous blog post: “How to Find a Temporary Apartment in Paris”).
In August, I went into a local agency and asked the agent there if it was too early to start looking for an apartment for October. He looked at me with wide eyes like I was crazy and replied with the blunt honesty that I have only yet encountered in France:
“Why of course, it is much too early. Come back in September.”
Although I half-believed him, I casually kept an eye out online for other possibilities. A couple places didn’t work out because the current tenants decided to extend, but one place we were able to visit on September 1st right around the corner from our current apartment that seemed to be exactly what we needed. It was a little more expensive, but seemed worth it. After the visit, we asked the owner if utilities were included in the price. They were not. Our hearts sunk: it was even more expensive than we thought, and we unhappily resigned to the fact that we could not afford the place.
I communicated this information to our agent at Lodgis and asked her if we could extend our current lease for several months. My husband was in a trial period at work which we learned makes renting very difficult, so we thought we should buy ourselves some more time.
I did not hear from our agent for several days. I finally decided to call her, which is how I learned that our landlords had already rented out our apartment to other tenants at the end of our rental period without telling us or asking if we wanted to extend. I was angry first at our agent for not responding to us, and second at our landlords for not asking us if we wanted to extend before renting to other people.
The agent said that the place we thought was too expensive was actually a good deal and that we should ask if it was still available. I panicked of course and wrote right away to the owner, saying we would take it. Unfortunately, it looked like there was another client interested, but he asked us to send our file anyway to be considered. After repeated requests that our agent forward our file to the landlord, I was horrified to see that in her email to him, she wrote that we had thought that the place was too expensive.
Needless to say, we didn’t get the place. Why did this agent seem to hate us? I tried talking to a different agent at Lodgis, but they always referred me back to this horrible woman since we has already worked with her. I would have gone through a different agency, but this one was the only one that had places we could afford, and it was the only one that would accept our file while my husband was in his trial period. Drat.
I started looking everywhere else anyway. I went to every agency on our block, but no one would help someone during their trial period. I felt as if I had an infectious disease each time the door closed in front of me. Pas possible, pas possible, pas possible. And not even ONE desolé. If one person had even acted like they felt sorry for me it would have made me feel much better.
I tried PAP (particulier à particulier) but even places for rent directly through the owners required guarantors, and parents living in another country might as well not exist to them. Basically, to rent a regular long term apartment in Paris, you have to be French.
That’s when I turned to FUSAC, a paper for Anglophones in France that includes housing ads. These people actually wanted to rent to foreigners, probably because many of them were foreigners themselves. For a long time I found nothing in our price and size range, but then one popped up. I called the number immediately, as I had no time to waste. We were going to be kicked out of our rental at the end of the month, which was in just over three weeks. The woman picked up and said I was the first person to call. That must count for something, right? She told me she was arranging visits on Wednesday and I could come in the morning with all my documents.
My husband took the morning off work and we went as early as we could. We were the first people there and talked to her for about 45 minutes. She was a Canadian sculpture artist, pregnant with her second child. They had a house in the suburbs but wanted to keep their Paris studio (yes, we were down to studios). It was a great space in the Marais that got lots of light and had a separate kitchen. We gave her our very complete file and told her we were very eager to move in. Then the next visitor arrived. We should have got our checkbook out right then and there, but we didn’t. We left. You learn a lot in retrospect.
She called that night to tell us that she had rented to someone else who somehow wanted to rent for longer than us. I suppose one year with the possibility to extend was not long enough. Then, she strangely offered me her neighbor’s apartment, which she said was the same price but needed to be completely redone and repainted and they had no idea how long it would take. Apparently the woman’s boyfriend was dying so they were moving to the countryside. Wouldn’t it be just great to swoop in on this chance? I hung up.
We were hopelessly depressed. We were going to be SDFs (homeless) on the street with our 12 pieces of luggage, sitting outside our favorite boulangerie listlessly consuming baguettes. We tried FUSAC one more time, my husband taking time off work again, only to be repulsed by a decaying frat boy crash pad deceptively hidden behind the stone walls of a beautiful street, again, painfully, in the Marais. The owner acted like it was a real gem. We got away as fast as we could.
Like a beaten dog going back to its abusive owner, we crawled back to the horrible Lodgis. Quickly, we located something in our price range that looked decent in the photos and asked for the papers to be drawn up right away. With only two weeks left until our lease was up, we knew from experience that visiting the place would just be a waste of time and someone might take it out from under us if we didn’t act immediately.
It is October now and we have been in our new place for two weeks. It’s a nice space within our budget, a little smaller than we would have liked, but it has a balcony and a cave (storage unit below). We are no longer in the 18th, but our new neighborhood in the 10th is right next to Canal St. Martin and within walking distance to a great covered market as well as parc Buttes Chaumont. In any case, we have bought ourselves a whole year to forget about the nightmare of apartment hunting and enjoy discovering our new home.
© 2011 Pasa’s Paris