Think you’re ready to buy an apartment in Paris? Before you take the plunge, you might want to take this quiz:
Am I Ready for a Pied-à-Terre in Paris?
Respond to the following statements with either “Hell, yeah!” or, “Well…no.”
- I believe with every fiber of my being that Paris is my fate, and if I do not have an apartment there, I consider my entire life a failure.
- Exchange rate—who cares? So what if a sudden shift in the value of the euro makes me lose 1/3 of my hard-earned savings in the transfer to France. You can’t put a price on a dream.
- Sure, I’ll fly to Paris on a moment’s notice to look at a dozen apartments. And I won’t go home without one!
- I’d love nothing more than to renovate from several thousand miles away. Sounds like fun!
- I don’t expect to find an American-sized apartment in a European city. I accept the “quirks” of Parisian spaces as part of the charm. Bathroom off the kitchen? No problem.
- I’m realistic about what’s available in my budget. If I can’t afford the Marais, I’m fine with that. Paris is Paris. Show me what you got!
If you replied, “Hell, yeah!” to all the above, congratulations!—you’re ready to live the dream. Because here’s the thing: unless you can afford to drop a few million euros on move-in-ready-Haussmann-perfection in the 7th, you’re going to have to be made of hardy stuff as you embark on this journey. Hardy, and a little nuts, because let’s face it, if you’re from the States, there’s no logical reason to buy property in Paris given the state of the economy, and the current tax and short-term rental laws. You do it because of Statement #1 in our quiz. Statement #1 is what will propel you through the rest of it.
Myself, I didn’t need to take the quiz because I was already in the Hell, Yeah! mental state when I started my search, precipitated by my mother’s death the year before. I became convinced an apartment in Paris would fill the hole in my life. At that time, I was standing squarely at the crossroads of Depression, Despair and Desperation, and like a quarterback about to throw a Hail Mary, I found this precise combination of emotions trumped any fear—and reason. I didn’t think, I just acted on the desire to save myself. I became ultra-focused (read: monomanic), undaunted (i.e., obsessed) and intrepid (probably crazy)—exactly the way I needed to be to get the job done.
But for the rest of you “Hell, Yeah!” folks, I do have some sane advice before you begin your search:
Know that there is no MLS (Multiple Listing Service) in France, only individual agencies who represent the seller—not the buyer. What you don’t want to do is drop by real estate agencies (agences immobilières) during a vacation in Paris. You’ll pound a lot of pavement and see a lot of crap, believe me, and it will be a profound waste of time.
If you want to shop online, do it only as an exercise—window shopping if you will—to familiarize yourself with the Paris real estate market, and learn what’s out there and at what price. Sites like seloger.com and pap.fr are as close as you’ll get to an MLS—but by no means are they an exhaustive list of what’s out there.
Get a Reality Check: Using the sites above, start with your dream apartment in your dream neighborhood, if you know it. Then if budget begs, widen your net, expand your search area while playing with different apartment sizes. Again, this is not a practical exercise, especially if you don’t know Paris very well. It’s merely an experiment to see how serious you are about owning in France. Me, I spent months doing this—as is evidenced by my search files, which include the 13th, 15th, 19th and even the 20th arrondissements.
If you’re not familiar with Paris, use your next vacation to discover the various neighborhoods around the city and see what feels good to you, especially if you plan to live here several months of the year. What’s the right area for you?
- If you have a small budget but want real space: Consider something outside the center of Paris, especially if you want a taste of real Paris life, and plan to live in the apartment for several months of the year. Areas like the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 17th, and 19th can often be thriving, vital neighborhoods—but they can also be less desirable for short-term rentals* depending on the area.
- If value is important to you: Better to buy in an up-and-coming area rather than a quartier that’s maxed out e.g., Saint-Germain-des-Près or the Marais. Risky? Possibly. But if you’re looking for safe, don’t buy in France.
- If the apartment is an investment, or you want to rent it short-term*: Central locations like the Marais will have a higher real estate value, and hold that value, but know that you’ll get less apartment for your money. Still, you can’t go wrong.
Learn about the average prices around town: To better familiarize yourself with the average price per arrondissement, you can play with sites like meilleursagents.com. They have an incredible value calculator that gives you the average price per square meter—by district, street, or even for a specific building. Good to know when you’re bargaining with a seller, but also to get a snapshot of more affordable areas in Paris.
Don’t go it alone! Once you’ve done your research and have real expectations of what to expect in your budget, you are now ready to hire an expert. Yes, that’s what I said: get help! Because you still don’t know anything.
I can’t say this enough: do not buy property in Paris or France unaided. It won’t save you money; in fact, it could cost you. You’re plunking down major cash in a foreign land, Lord love you, and you will need the hand-holding. Especially if you don’t speak French, know nothing of the legal or banking system, or think you might be renovating. Even if you have friends in Paris as I did, how much can you impose on them?
Enlist the services of a reputable real estate agency that serves expat clients. It is seriously worth the fee. They will work for you, not for the seller as is the case with Parisian real estate agents. An expat agency will line up apartments for you based on your criteria and make the most of your time in Paris—and most importantly, they will navigate you through the convoluted legal system, and help you understand your financing options.
Don’t do as I did: I was crazy enough to do this on my own, but luckily, the apartment I chose was represented by an agency that catered to foreign buyers. They shepherded me through the entire closing process and helped me find a reputable architect and contractor for the renovation. They even set up my utilities for a small fee. When I think of the stress they saved me, I understand why people hire agencies like this in the first place. And so should you.
So, you still want to buy a place in Paris? Can I get a “Hell, yeah!”?
*NOTE: Rent short-term in Paris at your own risk. Owing to a recent enforcement of an old rental law in Paris, secondary properties can no longer be rented legally for a period of less than 9 months (student), or one year (other tenants). If you want to do this legally, you must turn your property into a commercial space, then buy a commercial property and turn that it into a residential space. Logical? No. Welcome to Paris. There are some changes to the short-term rental limitations in France proposed by President Macron, permitting rentals of 10 months, which will be voted on this fall (2018). For details, go here.
Also: Be sure to research recent tax laws in Paris and France regarding secondary homes, particularly those owned by foreigners. Just one more reason to hire an expert. Good luck!
SOME LINKS TO GET YOU STARTED
Disclaimer: I do not represent these companies and cannot vouch for them. I can only advise based on personal experience, where applicable. Otherwise, you’re on your own.
A Few Real Estate Sites I’ve Visited (In French)
There are no multiple listing service (MLS) sites in France, so you have to visit several independent sites. Again, this is just to get you warmed up.
- Daniel Féau: If you can afford these apartments, God bless you.
- De Particulier à Particuliers: Apartments for sale by owner.
- LogicImmo: Real estate agency
- Meilleurs Agents: A real estate agency. The site is chock full of information, including the price calculator I mentioned.
- Orpi: Real estate agency
- Seloger: Not a multiple listing service, per se, but close.
A Few Expat Agency Sites (In English)
This is where to go when you’re really ready to buy. Most provide full service, from helping you get financing to property management.
- Adrian Leeds Group: If you’ve seen House Hunters International, you know who she is
- French-Property.com: Properties for sale, tons of info on buying in France, and more
- Paris Property Group: Information, properties
- Vingt Paris: This is the agency that fell into my lap—very knowledgeable
- 56 Paris: Many upscale apartments in desirable areas
A Few Apartment Rental Sites (In English)
Try out the life and a few neighborhoods before you settle down. (Some of these sites only rent by the month.) Note: I don’t recommend AirBnB in Paris. Owners know what their properties are worth and there are no breaks—no matter how dumpy the place is. And, as you are dealing direct with owners, many of whom don’t speak English, if there is a problem, you might not get the level of service for the price.
- Adrian Leeds Group: Quality rentals and really great service. I’ve used them.
- Book-a-Flat: Nearly 2000 properties for every taste and area. Very nice properties. Good service but mostly longer term rentals. There are fees.
- Guest Apartments: High-end properties.
- Haven In: Lovely properties; good service. Cheap? Nope.
- Paris Autrement: Unique properties in the Marais. Not cheap.
- Paris Perfect: I have rented from them; great properties, mostly in the 7th arr. Impeccable service.
- VRBO.com: Apartments for rent by owner. Like AirBnB, I don’t find them a very good value, and you take your chances with service.
This article was updated 4 September 2018.
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Expertly written. Great advice and I will definitely pass it on to a friend of mine who’s looking right now.
Thanks, Felicia! This is just a fraction of the advice I *could* give.
I’m in the Hell, yeah category…so one day soon (I hope) this will be helpful. Thanks for all of it!
Hope you go for it one day. If you do, I can recommend some agents to help you.
Thanks! Working on getting an Irish passport first, if possible. That should help.
Lucky you! I’ve tried to get my Italian passport but not sure I’m eligible. But you don’t need to be a citizen of the EU to buy property in France. You can even get a mortgage from a French bank. All you need, really, is to be nuts enough.
Wonderful advice! Great information for anyone contemplating a purchase!
Glad you found it informative!
Hell, yeah! Great advice 🙂
Thanks! Are you buying or have you bought?
What was the hotel you stayed at ?
K+K Hotel Cayre, 4 Boulevard Raspail, in the 7th (but really on the cusp of St. Germain des Pres). I love those guys and I recommend it fully. Not super cheap, though. But incredible, personal service.
I’ve dreamed of going but must do it!
Lisa, I am a new owner of a family apartment in Paris that needs work. Any insight you have to offer on supervising renovations from thousands of miles away is exactly the advice I am after. Please email me? Thank you, Sonya.
Will do! Fun! No, really, it will be with the right people.
So is there any way to purchase an apartment in Paris and rent it out while you aren’t there, coming maybe once or twice a year? Or do the new city ordinances prohibit that? Unfortunately, this would likely be the only way an apartment in Paris is not completely financial suicide for me.
Hi, Patrick. The laws are still prohibiting rentals for shorter than 1 yr (9 mos for students), BUT there is news of some changes that may be taking place, which would rectify this ridiculous law. So, if you are serious about it, I say hire an expat real estate expert to walk you through it all. They know all the laws and all the changes/workarounds. There is always a way.
I, too, have thought about doing what Patrick said. Do you know when the 9 months of school is for the students? I’d be interested in renting to them and coming for the holidays each year with my wife (at least until it’s paid off). We’ve been to Paris a few times and absolutely love it. I just don’t know if spending $150k on a small 11sq meter apartment is worth it?
I’m not sure of the details of this. If you’re serious about investing abroad, I would speak to an expat real estate expert. This is not something you want to do on your own, especially in Paris, where the laws (particularly tax laws) are changing by the day. Contact Adrian Leeds.com or other agency. That’s the best advice I can give you.
Lisa we have rented at least 8-9 apartments for 2 -4 weeks in Paris over a 20 year period in fact we have rented 3 apartments for this Christmas for us and our kids. How could this be if apartments can not be rented for less than 9 months?
They are illegal. That’s the fact and the mess that is Paris right now.
You should also look at fractional ownership in Paris where you visit a couple of times a year / that might suit your needs
Thanks so much for this post it is extremely helpful! May I ask did you have a specific arrondissement in mind when you were hunting? We have lived in Paris for a year and a half renting and are looking to buy. We are trying to make the decision of 10th with more space vs 16th, 6th, 7th etc for future resale purposes. Did you receive any good advice on which to choose? I love all areas of Paris and frequently eat out in the 10th and 11th but I do not for foreigners it’s not usually the first place they choose to buy. Thanks so much!
Hi there. I have advice for you. Message me on my FB page and we can chat there: https://www.facebook.com/myparttimeparislife/
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We are not sure what type of service you offer?
I have never claimed to offer any service. I am not a real estate professional. I’m a layperson who is just sharing what I’ve learned. This is an editorial blog for those who love Paris, and who want to take a chance to change their life. I take in no advertising, and my content is not paid for by any 3rd party. I hope this clears things up for you.
Thanks for the explanation Lisa. OK so here is what we need to know. We are seniors from Florida who have spent several vacations in Paris. To say we love Paris is an understatement! We would like to buy a 1 bedroom apartment in the 6th or 7 arr. What do we need to know besides cost of property tax and rental history? because we would rent it. Is there a charge for a USA resident to buy, rent it out?Would we need a Lawyer to represent us or would a real estate firm do that? What would be our biggest expense in buying other than cost? We would appreciate any help you could give us.
The best and only advice I have for you is what I said in my post: DO NOT try to do this on your own. It’s not only not smart from an investment standpoint, but it’s suicide for your sanity. You will save money—and time—if you hire an expat real estate agency. It’s the only smart way. There is no MLS (multiple listing service) in France so you would have to do it all on your own, go agency to agency, and the real estate agencies in Paris do not care about the buyer—only the seller. They won’t help you at all. You need a full-service expat agency for this purpose: to cull through the market and find properties that suit YOU. They line them up and you come for a week or so and see them. They would also guide you through the labyrinthine process that is Paris property, the bureaucracy, translate documents for you, etc. Plus, they will help you find a notaire (for the closing), architect, etc. for renovation if needed. They can help you get financing if you need, advise about taxes, etc., even set up your utilities for you, get your homeowners insurance, etc. You do not need a lawyer—in fact, that will just create a hostile situation for you in Paris as the French are averse to dealing with Americans who are “lawyered up.” The expat agency will be your guide and your legal/negotiating muscle. Contact someone like Adrian Leeds. Pay for a consultation, at least. It is SO worth it, I cannot tell you. I did not do this and I am still paying for it. You would also need to be well apprised on the rental laws in Paris. Short-term rentals are illegal. And if you want to be in the 6th or 7th, I can tell you your swanky neighbors will not appreciate you using your pied-à-terre as a vacation rental, because it is very disturbing to their lives. Neighbors are famous for denouncing their neighbors who do this. The Marais has already had 2 city-sponsored raids on vacation rentals. It’s ridiculous, and probably just pressure from the hotel lobby, but it’s a reality to be dealt with. There are ways to rent legally, and an expat agency can help find those workarounds. For example, a ground-floor property that is zoned for commercial use is ok since it’s already commercial. (Short-term rentals are considered commercial units.) If buying the property as a rental is the only way you can do this, maybe Paris isn’t the place. Maybe somewhere else in France, like Nice, where these laws are not as strict. Just a thought.
Lisa Thanks for all the info. Mite you have an e-mail address for Adrian Leeds? Your book should be in my mail today we look forward to it.
AdrianLeeds.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can mention you got her name through me.
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I was wondering if you could shed some light on Fractional Ownership , have you had any experience in it?
I don’t have any experience with this. I do have a friend who is happy with her fractional Paris purchase. But I know Adrian Leeds (AdrianLeeds.com) offers these, and has a lot of information on them: pros, cons, etc. You can tell her I sent you if you want. It’s definitely an affordable way to make your Paris dream come true, that I do know.
We are an Irish family of 5 who having visited Paris many times, finally took the plunge an bought a 30 msq apartment in Montmartre 10 years ago. We have used it many times in that 10 years and have got immense joy out of it. If you have dream to own a piece of Paris ( no matter how daft the dream is) the my advise is to go for it. Our flight time from Dublin is an hour and 10 min so it is very accessible for us.
Seek advise preferably from English speaking agent who will charge a fixed fee so not in his interest to sell u anything but what you want. No apartment is perfect and you will have to compromise in some way. But if it feels right buy it, otherwise you will spend a lifetime looking for the perfect one. We viewed 4 apartments and bought the 4th. No regrets.
john o grady
Thanks for sharing this story, John. I saw six apartments in one day and bought the 6th. So I get it!
Hi, I just finished your book and I enjoyed it very much; thanks for writing it! Now I’m wondering…what ever happened with the leak?
Hi Liz. Thank you so much! For more on the leak, check out these posts on my blog: https://myparttimeparislife.com/category/challenges-of-parisian-homeownership/
I’m so glad things have worked out; it just sounded so dreadful. I hope the mold is gone. It sounds like buying an apartment there isn’t a condo-type situation where you pay a monthly maintenance fee. Does someone actually own the building? Or, if there’s an outside roof leak or common element repair needed, do all the owners pay for that is a group? I watch the show that Adrian is on and she never mentions anything about a monthly maintenance fee.
Hi, Liz. Funny, I was also on that show with Adrian (House Hunters International). Owning in Paris is a combo of condo and co-op. We pay a quarterly fee to the communal pot for maintenance, and we pay taxes directly to the government as individual owners. That’s like a condo. But, we ALL own the building, and that’s like a co-op. For leaks that are building related (pipes in the wall, roof issues), vs. owner related (toilet leaks, internal pipe issues), yes, the syndic (or managing agent) handles that and it comes out of the communal pool of money. By the way, Adrian Leeds has a website (adrianleeds.com) with heaps of info on all this that she can’t get into on the show, if you have further questions on how it works.
I could’nt get your data base on arondissments to open. How can I get the info you so painstakingly amassed?
I’m not sure what database you’re talking about? There is none in the article. If you’re referring to the photo of my folders of different arrondissements, that’s just a screenshot of my folders at the time while I was looking at apartments. Those apartments have long since been sold. What are you looking for?
ball park figures for the different arondissmonts either for rent or to buy. Which one do you see as up and coming. Thanks for your time
I’m not a real estate expert. You’d be better off contacting an agency like Adrian Leeds or Vingt Paris. Their sites are full of info on this. Adrian Leeds has a weekly newsletter about the real estate market in Paris and France. Areas that still seem to have some growth potential are parts of the 11th, 10th, 19th, 20th. But there is much more to this than meets the eye. You should buy or rent where you want to live. Paris is not a place to buy to flip or rent short-term, since short-term rentals are still illegal here.
Hello! I’m interested in buying a small place in Paris; I’ve had a part-time life there in the past, and I’d like to make it official. I’m having bear of a time figuring out how, Vingt Paris is essentially saying “forget it” re: a mortgage in France, I’m not sure why! Any thoughts? Thanks!
It’s not easy to get a mortgage in France thanks to US anti-money laundering regulation (FATCA)—but it’s not impossible. If the agent has relationships with lending institutions, that can help bridge the gap. I believe the Adrian Leeds Group is having some success getting loans for their clients. They will also help find a home in France (custom search). There is more info about the financing process and FATCA here: https://adrianleeds.com/invest-in-france/get-financing/
Hi, I’m trying to find the location of this apartment in downtown Paris – Do you recognise it?! https://www.pond5.com/stock-footage/item/159666703-vintage-apartment-building-exterior-paris-downtown-green-vib