Felicitations! You’ve been accepted into a study abroad program or have been directly accepted into a French University. That is quite the accomplishment, yet it is just the very beginning of the different obstacles you will cross on your path to France. Very shortly after the excitement of your acceptance news, you will realize that it is time to begin your search for housing which is both exciting and overwhelming. I’ve been there. In fact, I’ve gone through the process 3 times in the last 3 years as a student living in Paris. I’ll share my mistakes and my recommendations based on what I’ve had to personally deal with in hopes of saving you the same headaches that I went through each time I moved to France.
Your initial thought will be to run to Google to search for “Long-stay, student apartments in Paris”. And guess what you will find: all the websites, (Paristay, Paris Attitude, and Lodgis) that are targeted towards the outsiders, an international student or expat looking to live in Paris. You will be immediately directed to agencies that leach onto those who don’t know any better. Again, I was one of the souls that these agencies captured, and consequently, drained my bank account before I even arrived in Paris. However, you have many more options than you might realize.
You should be aware that you are not restricted to finding housing specifically within Paris. There are smaller towns and cities just on the other side of the Peripherique, which is a highway that circles Paris and separates Paris from the rest of the region. On the outside of the Peripherique, housing, and apartments, in general, are much more affordable than inside of the Peripherique. You can typically find a decent size apartment (20m2 to 30m2) within a budget of 350 Euros to 600 Euros. That will definitely not be the case inside of the Peripherique. The average cost of an apartment within Paris is 800 Euros for a small flat around 12m2 to 15m2 if you’re looking to live on your own. A major downside of living outside Paris is that when it’s time to renew your student visa, you will have to go to a Prefecture far from Paris just to renew it. Another downside is that you are also dependent on the RER train lines which certainly can be late up to 30% of the time. So make sure you wake up at least 15 minutes earlier than scheduled.
Just to give you an idea of what you’re up against when finding a place to live in the Greater Paris Area. There are over 12 million inhabitants which include those who live within the Peripherique and those who live outside of it. Of those 12 million, nearly 26% are internationals. To put that into perspective, when you decide to find housing in Paris, you’re competing with over 3 million other students, expats, and immigrants for housing.
My first recommendation is to look at Cité internationale universitaire de Paris. I am currently living at the Fondation des Etats-Unis which houses approximately 300 international students, but there are other foundations for different countries: 40 foundations house students, professors, artists and researchers from around the world. Each house has its own rules. For instance, the American Foundation requires that you are at least studying for a Master’s degree to live there, but nationality is not a restriction. In fact, the American Foundation has students from India, Morocco, China, and Spain. Just because a house is specific to a country does not mean it won’t accept you.
This option is for those who are on a budget. Crous (http://www.crous-paris.fr/) provides housing throughout Paris rather than having a single, large campus for housing. They are similar to the aforementioned CIUP is that they provide students not only with housing resources but resources to help students find jobs, on-site cafeterias on certain campuses, and contacts in case you ever have any housing or city questions. It’s important to know that some of these buildings might be located in rougher neighborhoods, but on the upside, they are usually gated communities giving you a security blanket as I’ve experienced first-hand.
Contact your host university to see if they have a housing platform. You may find that they lead you to Fac-habitat (www.fac-habitat.com/fr) or Aljt (www.aljt.com/en). Both provide very affordable student housing including electricity, utilities, and internet for prices as low as 350 euros. However, it is important to know that some of these “affordable” apartments are located in less safe areas like the 18th, 19th, and 20th districts. Competition for these is great because of the relatively low prices. So unless you start your application process 6 months in advance, the likelihood of finding an apartment there is extremely low.
If you’re a social being and don’t like living alone, finding a roommate could be a good option. Appartager (www.appartager.com) and La Carte des Colocs (www.lacartedescolocs.fr) are search engines for finding shared accommodation. The plus side is that you get to meet other internationals and even live with locals. The not-so-pleasant side is that you don’t know what you’ll get until you begin living with your new flatmates. It is advisable to visit one of these apartments before committing. Be warned, there are also lots of scams and predatory behavior on the sites.
If you’re looking for full immersion into the Parisian lifestyle and language, you could consider living with a host family. Lingoo (www.lingoo.com), Sejour France Famille (www.sejoursfrancefamille.fr), and Homestay in Paris (www.homestayin.com/Paris) are websites to search for families. The setback here is that, you often have to pay as much as you would to have your own apartment. You may also have to live by the family’s rules. But if you’re an easy-going person and looking for a fully immersive experience, this might not be a bad option.
These next few options are not high on my list of best ways of finding a place to live. These are bottom of the barrel scrapings, the last resort options. When you are unable to find student housing, flatmates, or a French family, your last options are to rely on Airbnb which is fine for a short-term stay but it isn’t a financially sustainable way to continue living. You can also go to the sites such as the aforementioned, Paristay, Paris Attitude, and Lodgis where you are basically paying an agency twice the amount that you should pay an agency simply for doing paperwork. These agencies only act as an intermediary between the renter and the property owner. Then once the contract is signed, they put you in direct contact with the property owners only to never hear from the agency again.
This option is for those who are looking for an easy transition into Paris. With all the excitement and chaos of moving abroad for your studies, Comforts of Paris makes life a little bit easier during that initial step into Paris with their fully furnished, serviced apartments that include things like check-in services, WiFi, washing machines, linens and towels, and more. They provide housing for students and young professionals, but their doors are open to all. One of the best features about Comforts of Paris isn’t just that they have WIFI, but the constant support. In most cases, once you’ve made your payment to a real estate agency, the contact becomes very minimal or non-existent. But, Comforts of Paris is more than just a landlord, so you can rest easy knowing that they’ll be there to handle any maintenance issues, and you will always be able to contact them night or day.
The final options are what I would consider your best options next to living at Cite Universitaire. Finding an apartment on your own means that your housing pool options just increased. You are no longer limiting yourself to student housing or agencies that overcharge. You are putting the power into your hands of finding something that best suits you and your budget. There are many websites to review but here are a few that have many housing options: SeLoger.com, Immojeune.com, Studapart.com, PAP.fr, LeBonCoin.fr (please note that LeBonCoin is a great option for bypassing the agency so you can contact the property owner directly, however, it is highly recommended that you visit the apartment and meet the owner before applying just to get a better understanding of the apartment and the property owner as LeBonCoin is community run). The setback with finding a place on your own if you’re an international is that you will need a French guarantor. Most property owners, even in the cases of student housing entities like Fac-habitat, you will need a French guarantor. Your parents won’t even be considered as a guarantor unless they are French. In this case, you have a couple options, you can go with Visale (www.visale.fr) which is a government run guarantor agency which is highly trusted by agencies because of all the financial, government backing but there are more restrictions to be accepted. However, there are a less complicated, quicker options which is going through several French guarantor companies in France. You have the options of choosing from Youse (https://youse.fr) who will help many different types of applicants from those who hold a CDD to students. Youse is backed by the insurance company CNP. You also have the option of Garantme (https://www.garantme.fr/) who is more directed at towards students and young professionals. While Garantme is in it’s earlier stages than Youse, they are well on their way at Station F, a large startup incubator. And, finally, there is Supergarant (www.supergarant.fr). They are like your personal, French guarantor when it comes to finding housing in Paris. Once you apply on their website, they will contact you within 24 hours. And once they approve your application, you will have them for as long as you need. It is highly recommended that you take a look at all your choices as each one has its own requirements, but rest assured knowing that you have your options!