Let me confess, the first two months were exhilarating and equally stressful for me. I was absolutely enjoying our time living in Nation (12th arrondissement) and exploring beautiful Paris but also I was staying up all night looking for potential apartments. Every time I got close to scoring a fabulous place, someone else would snap it up. I was starting to believe it was because I wasn’t French but we had our French friends call on our behalf and they got the same response. I was so close to renting my dream apartment on the sweetest street ever when the agent said the landlord just approved someone before us. I mean, I called every day, left voicemails, sent emails all during the whole enrolling Liv into school drama. I commend my own strength because I thought I would have a mental breakdown with stress and disappointment. It was house hunting all over again but with a two month deadline. I was also working with our real estate agent in Los Angeles trying to get our house rented. My stress was at an all time high during the first few months here.
Every apartment I saw I would compare to the beautiful, perfect place that we didn’t get.
I grieved over this place. It was €2400, a block from Liv’s ballet school, a 15 minute walk to her school, on a private street. I would have lived with the tiny fridge and non existent storage for those floors and that price. I asked the agent to be put on a backup list in case the renter fell through. This put me in a worst state because nothing came close to this place in terms of layout, gorgeous Parisian charm and price. I found a larger, cute place but it was in a sketchy area of the 10th near Gare Nord which would mean a 10 minute bus ride to school and then a 20 minute walk. I was running out of time and feeling like we would end up homeless in Paris.
The second I saw our apartment on the French real estate website I recognized it from years earlier when I first began looking for apartments. I couldn’t believe it was available the day after we were scheduled to move out of our exchange and it was under my budget. I immediately emailed the agent to schedule a viewing to make sure it wasn’t too good to be true. I’ve had such bad luck getting in touch with an agent (mostly due to not having a French phone number) and then discovering days later that the apartment had already been rented. I made sure to let them know I was ready to sign the lease that day. I made two lists of criteria for our apartment search.
Must Have – Dealbreakers
Close to our max budget €2450/$2950
Oven/modern kitchen amenities
Walking distance to Liv’s school
Close to Metro/public transportation
Like to Have – Bonus
Office Space for Antz
Herringbone hardwood floors
Large Refrigerator (typical Americans can’t live with a minibar fridge)
Storage (for our 14 suitcases!)
Close to le Marais
Parisian Charm/Crown Molding
I know I sound picky but every single place we found had something missing from my Must-Have list. Mostly two bedroom apartments were over budget or too far from school. I began getting more flexible by the second month and started considering one bedrooms, longer commutes to school and really horrible layouts. We visited an apartment that was way under-budget but on the 6th floor with no elevator and the world’s narrowest bathroom. It was as wide as the bathtub and you practically had to step over the toilet to get into the tub. There was no shower and even though it had herringbone floors in the living room, the place was dark and how no traditional Parisian design. It also wasn’t in my ideal neighborhood but the price tag was the only thing that made it enticing. The only reason we didn’t end up getting it was the owner wanted someone who would rent it for at least two years. So I guess that was a blessing in disguise. When it comes down to house hunting, location and price were my main dealbreakers. Everything else was negotiable. It took days of going back and forth to get the agent to schedule a viewing. The problem was the renter didn’t want to show it until the place was available so I was cutting it close to our move-out date. I finally got a call to see it so I dropped Liv off at school. Because it was so close to her school I decided to walk around the neighborhood and wait for our appointment. I was almost two hours early and the agent was late (because she was French, of course!). We buzzed the door of the building and waited. The appointment started fifteen minutes late so she tried to call the renter to let us in. We saw the window was open to the apartment but she didn’t answer. She called the agency and they confirmed the right place and right time. After a half an hour of impatiently waiting, she said let’s reschedule for next week. UNLUCKY LIZZIE! I was practically in tears and starting to feel like this was hopeless. I already began to fall in love with the neighborhood. Everything was a close walk and my favorite shop (Monoprix) was just a block away! I was already familiar with the neighborhood and getting excited that I could actually live in my favorite part of Paris.
All the while I was getting no leads for renting our house in LA. Our agent had a few open houses but hardly anyone showed serious interest. My agent was sure it was due to our cat Lola coming with the house and it being rented fully furnished. I was so nervous we lowered the price and asked my angel best friend Aimee to foster Lola for us so we could rent our place with pets. Then we found a family with a dog that was excited to rent our place. After a FaceTime meeting, I signed the lease and waited for them to send the deposit and then they flaked. This made Antz and I very nervous because we couldn’t rent a place in Paris without renting our house in LA. Like, a scale of 1 – 10 in the stress department, I was about 100. After some negotiations and hard work on our agent’s side, we found a lovely single woman with a cute small dog. She signed the lease, sent the full rental amount for three months and we are very relieved to have a responsible adult living in our house. Whew!
After the most intense week of my life the agent finally got the tenant to show us the apartment. The chick didn’t even offer an apology for not showing up for our first appointment and she laid in bed while we saw the apartment, lame. The place didn’t look exactly like the online pictures but I knew they were three years old. The renters were disgusting and they had a dog which I’m sure they didn’t clean up after. The courtyard is my least favorite. It’s dark and has cobblestone so Liv can’t really ride her scooter in the back. The furniture was rearranged in an odd way and older than I guessed but when I saw the floors, the light pouring in from the floor to ceiling windows and the beautiful fireplaces, I said, straight out of a movie “We’ll take it!”
Then came the rental process. It’s a little more different than in the US, the French don’t really have a credit score rating. We also didn’t have a previous rental or French tax return to show so everything came down to Anthony’s pay stubs and being the first person to see it. I spent several days running back and forth to the print shop making copies to send to the agency. They needed to see our bank statements, we had to buy French annual renter’s insurance and they requested a letter from his job stating he would be employed for the year. I was worried about getting the letter in time because like I said before, apartments go fast and we were not prepared to lose this one. Thank goodness Antz job sent the letter right away. I saw the place right before we took our trip to London and we electronically signed the lease while we were in London! I couldn’t believe we finally did it. I have heard so many horror stories about Americans getting scammed online by having to wire huge cash deposits and losing the money. Or the landlord requesting up to a year of rent for a security deposit. We only had to put down two month’s rent deposit and pay an agency fee. I was ecstatic! I could finally breathe after so long, I found a place of our own in le Marais, a seven minute walk to the kid’s school with almost everything on my must-have list. The first week we didn’t have wifi so I almost died but lucky for us, we extended our house exchange so Antz would go to the other apartment to work. I don’t even mind that our building has world’s smallest elevator or the wonky furniture. I got my herringbone flooooooooooooors!! (Hope you heard that in Oprah’s voice)