Picking the Right Apartment for your Stay

Apartment Olive Tree

Olive tree in the courtyard of our apartment in Provence.

I have been on quite an adventure the past week and a half trying to find a new apartment for my stay in Paris.  I booked an apartment months ago, but the landlord received a notice that he will no longer be able to rent out his studio.  I should have known it was coming, but I didn’t.  With only a few weeks before my arrival, it was time to get to action.  It was pretty intense, but I’ve learned some tricks along the way.  Here is what you should know if you’re looking for an apartment on your next trip.

Know your Must Haves

When I say must haves, I mean absolutely must.  I didn’t need an oven, but it would have been nice.  I did need a basic kitchen with a refrigerator, stove, and microwave.  Making a list of what is essential will help you narrow down your choices.  This doesn’t mean don’t consider what you’d like to have, but don’t be deterred because something you don’t need isn’t in the apartment.

My Essentials

-Something to sleep on (I wanted a bed, but a pull out couch would have done the trick)

-Basic bathroom (It’d be nice to have a bathtub, but not likely)

-Not on ground floor (I want to feel safe and be able to have my windows open)

-Internet Access (I will be able to keep up with my blog better)

Look for Reviews

If you know that others have stayed where you will be staying along with their opinions, it will make the choice a lot easier.  This isn’t to say that those without reviews don’t have lovely places, but it is harder to be sure.

The first apartment I booked had 45 amazing reviews.  I think people did enjoy their stay, but I’m a bit suspicious about that many fantastic reviews…

Map It

Sometimes the map featured on the site is not accurate.  I’m not sure why this happens, but I’ve noticed several times that it wasn’t exactly the right location.  The apartment I am going to rent is shown next to the Seine in Paris, but after the owner sent me the address, I could see that it is actually a little further north by the Place des Vosges.  It is still a wonderful neighborhood, but different than what was on the site.  See if the owner can send you the address so you can get a more accurate location.

Check out the Neighborhood

Before you even start searching for an apartment, get to know the neighborhoods of the city you are visiting.  Each one has a different personality, and you want to make sure your personalities mesh.  Are you a hipster, or an antique shopper?  Do you like modern architecture, or do you prefer something older?  Having a basic unde

venice 030

Venice Living Room

rstanding about the neighborhoods will guide you to a place that will feel more like home.

Once I’ve got an address for an apartment, I take a virtual tour.  Google Earth is fantastic for getting a closer look at the street level.

Some things I ask myself are:

-Is there a lot of graffiti?

-Am I around shops, or am I in a residential neighborhood?

-Am I on a busy street?

-Is there public transportation close by?

-Are there things to do nearby?

-Will I feel safe?

Try to Reserve Directly Through Owner

If saving money is important to you, you should try to find sites that allow you to rent directly through the owner.  If you have money and value investing in reliability, you may want to consider an agency.  Agencies help you find the right place, but it isn’t free.  Fees can range from small percentages of the rent to the entire rent.

I also noticed that deposits seem to be much higher through agencies.  I found the same apartment on two sites.  One directly through the owner, one through an agency.  The rent was cheaper, but with the agency fee was not.  The deposit

paris vacation 039

View from Paris apartment.

with the agency was 1200 Euros and only 300 Euros with the owner.  Check out the sites below to find ways to contact owners.

When I first started searching, I only sent inquires for places that I absolutely loved, and were in my budget.  If there were no prices listed, I didn’t even try.  After getting rejections from all of these, I realized I needed a new strategy.  I started sending inquires for the ones that had no prices.  Several were way out of my league, but a few weren’t.  The benefit of being last minute is the opportunity to negotiate.  The apartment I went with would originally have been way out of my budget, but by being honest and up front, I was able to get something I could afford.  Just remember, sending an inquiry does not lock any apartment, it is just to get more information about availability and price.

Watch for Signs

I should have known that my previous apartment was not going to work out.  The signs were there, but I was oblivious.  First, there was no deposit.  Second, all reviews (almost fifty of them) were five stars with absolutely no issues.  Third, when I asked to use PayPal to send my rent, he told me that PayPal had blocked him.  In the end, this has been a learning experience, and I’ve booked an apartment that will be even better.

Useful Sites

This process can take hours.  I probably spent over 20 hours and sent over 30 inquiries to find the right one.  It doesn’t have to take this long, but since this was so last minute, I had to really dig.  Reserve an apartment way in advance if possible.  If you are looking for some sites to browse, here are my favorites:

Homeaway

VRBO

Lodgis

Airbnb

Paris Attitude (Agency)

Paris Stay (Agency)

Paris Perfect (Agency)

venice 036

Venice terrace

IHA.COM (I found apartments I loved, but not a single person responded to my inquiries.  Maybe you’d have more luck)

Want to see the apartment I’ll be staying in this summer?  Check it out!

Want to see some of my previous apartments?

Provence Apartment (warning, this one is a little louder)

Venice Apartment

Paris Apartment

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