We found the perfect one bedroom apartment!
Remember the orange tiled kitchen I mentioned at the end of my last post? Yes, that’s the one!
It has four south and west facing double paned windows, beautiful hardwood floors and enough space for a washing machine hookup. The bathroom has modern fixtures with a cute bowl-sink and a towel drying rack.
Yes, the blue bathroom tiles are obnoxious, but it’s located one block from a lively pedestrian street with a cheese merchant, two vegetable markets, a wine store and three supermarkets. It’s one of my favorite places in Paris, because those two blocks feels like a village, and yet it’s the big city!
It’s also right along the metro lines my husband and I need for our work. Oh, and I can’t forget: my favorite sushi shop is around the corner!
I’m obsessed with this apartment.
I saved screenshots of the online ad onto my phone and gushed about the place to some of my students. I showed people the photos at every opportunity.
I imagine us living there, basking in the sunlight, hopping down to the market to get fresh ingredients for a delicious meal I found a recipe for on Pinterest… Welcoming guests and hosting little dinner parties. I feel all warm and happy inside when I think about this apartment.
Knowing from past experience how hard it is to get in touch with the real estate agencies in Paris, I made every effort to contact the agent immediately upon seeing the ad. I wrote an email through seloger.com (the site where all rentals are posted) and called during business hours as soon as possible after the ad went up. When I finally got a hold of them, they told me that there would be a group visit the following week. I accepted, and rushed to tell Romain about it. He was able to take the day off of work to be there, too.
We knew that if we didn’t attend this one visit, there would be no chance the apartment would be ours.
The class I taught that morning was thirty minutes away, so I ran through the metro and through the streets, but still arrived about 10 minutes after the visit had started. I was relieved when others arrived after me. Fortunately, Romain was on time!
During the visit, it was just as amazing as I had imagined it.
And, to my delight, I discovered it had an Indian restaurant on the first floor!
I discussed with Romain the lack of modern electrical outlets in the bedroom, but otherwise found the apartment to be of very good quality.
At least 8 other people came and dropped off their applications while we were there, which made me nervous.
We gave the real estate agent our application packet (a thick stack of papers in a plastic envelope) and let her know we’d email her a few missing pieces that evening. We tried to indicate our sincere interest.
And then we crossed our fingers and waited.
I kept daydreaming about life in our new apartment in the heart of Paris: basking in the daily sunlight and making quick runs to the markets nearby. I had identified the best furniture for the space, and spent time imagining what it would look like all decorated.
Anxiously waiting for some news, I called 48 hours later, a Thursday, and was told they had received “a lot of applications.”
They’d make their decision by the end of the day Friday.
We didn’t hear from them.
Inside I knew that meant they had chosen another renter.
All weekend I riled with tempered disappointment. I told myself that while they had probably chosen someone else, there was a small chance we’d find out we were chosen on the following Monday.
I kept a sliver of hope.
Only to have my fears later confirmed by a call to the agent. This perfect apartment would be someone else’s home.
I was incredibly disappointed and wondered what went wrong.
Did they not like me because I’m a foreigner? Did another potential renter simply make more money than us? I imagined all sorts of reasons, but we’ll never know.
In spite of all I had previously learned about apartment hunting in Paris, there was still something that had gone wrong in our approach.
I couldn’t bear the thought of losing out on a great apartment yet again, so I went where any reasonable person would go to figure out how to solve their problem: the Internet.
“Oh Gods of Google and Internet search words,
please help me find the resources I need to nail this rental application.” … I said silently as I typed my question in French into Google.fr.
The Internet taught me:
At the visit, make every effort to say positive things. Ie: Don’t critique the electrical outlets. Do announce how much you love the place. You might even go so far as to announce where you’ll put your furniture.
Get the agent’s email and phone number during the visit. Ie: Don’t just wait for them to call you.
Add the following documents to your packet for additional credibility (details about the basic elements of a rental application packet are in my first post about the apartment search):
- Your resume (or CV). It’s illegal for the agent to ask for this, but totally legal to offer it unsolicited.
- In addition to your contracts, add a recent “attestation d’emploi” signed by your employer that indicates the date you started, your job title, how much you earn, and that you aren’t in the initial probation period of your contract. (Have one letter for each employer, of each renter and consigner.)
- Marriage license or copy of the center page of your Livret de Famille (if applicable).
Put your application documents in a brightly colored plastic presentation book with each document in its own plastic sleeve. Ie: don’t stuff them into an awkward plastic envelope.
Slip a strong cover letter into the front of your presentation book to explain that you are both working with a CDI contract (French for: full time with an annual salary), that your consigners also have good jobs and that you make at least three times the rent NET! (Only if it’s true, of course!) Ie: Don’t just hand over your documents with no explanation.
Adding a table of contents and section dividers help make the application look professional.
Some suggestions I will definitely follow next time:
Sometimes agencies only accept online applications, so plan to scan this huge packet as a single PDF. Add your cover letter, table of contents and section dividers to the PDF. Each time you send this to a new agent, update the cover letter with the agent’s name, the current date and the address and reference number of the apartment.
There is a pre-screening process some agents use to sort through the applicants, such as filling out a form that summarizes our details on one page. So, why not make it easier on everyone and prepare this overview in advance and place it immediately after your cover letter?
Follow up after the visit in some way and provide the contact info of your employer(s). Explain that the agent should feel free to call any of them to verify your credibility. If you have to easily them a pre-screening form, use that email as your follow-up.
The day after they receive your application packet (or pre-screening document), your consigners (les garants) should call the agent to answer any questions she might have.
If there still appears to be some doubt, ask your employer to call the second day after your first follow-up email.
Have you ever heard: the squeaky wheel gets the grease?!? So true!
So, I went about creating the most professional looking application packet ever. This took some time and finesse with French. I got some help from my husband and my host sister, Caroline.
- Red plastic presentation book with clear plastic sleeves.
- Insanely well-crafted cover letter on the outside.
- Table of contents on the inside.
- Section dividers with mini tables of contents for each section (sometimes with short explanations of the contents).
- Post-its turned into section tabs at the top of the section dividers.
This was the most ridiculously well-orchestrated application packet I had ever seen. I crossed my fingers that the real estate agents would feel the same way!
Determined AND prepared, we started the search again.