I’ve been asked by my friend Tony to post about the process of looking for a furnished apartment, short-term rental in Europe, and the difficulties that we have encountered. It’s a good question, because over the last year we’ve moved a total of five times, and in less than a month we’ll be moving once again, although this next move will be back to the States to Agoura Hills of Los Angeles, where we won’t be faced with the same challenges. Also, this may be useful information to those from the States who are thinking about moving abroad to Europe.
The main challenge we have had moving frequently was lugging our belongings. And for me, personally, having a comfortable spot to work/write at. Also with Nick’s lower back problem, an office chair is always a must. This made it difficult to move around with. Moving from our first place in Paris to the next wasn’t so bad because the distance of both apartments weren’t too far from each other. But with most Parisian apartment buildings, there are no lifts, so that meant climbing up the stairs with our luggage and the office chair both times. When we moved to Aix-en-Provence, we had to ditch the $300 chair and buy a new one since we traveled by train. For that move, we actually got rid of (donated) a lot of clothes, as well as my yoga mat, our water filter and blender. We repurchased everything in Aix-en-Provence, and when we moved to Nice, we rented a car so luckily we didn’t have to repurchase those items again. However, moving to Berlin meant we had to get rid of more belongings because we were traveling by plane. We sent two boxes full of clothes back to Seattle which costed $350 for shipping. Shipping to the States from France is expensive and seems to increase exponentially with weight. Luckily in Berlin, the flats seem to have real work spaces with office chairs, so we made sure we picked an apartment that came with one. That meant we only had to repurchase a blender and water filter, and I am making do without a yoga mat right now.
Of all the apartments we’ve searched for, we had used different resources, but the process had been the same. The search process mainly included things that affected our decision on a place: the neighborhood and if there were any organic grocery stores nearby the apartment, the apartment itself and if there was a table/desk large enough for Nick to work at with his office chair, monitor and laptop. We didn’t worry about transportation as much, because in France and Germany, the metro is in abundance and we also didn’t mind walking.
For each place we lived in, they all have had their own pros and cons. I will run through each of them separately, and briefly, below. One huge similarity, though, is that all of the places we have lived in in France, were not worth what we paid for. Get ready to pay a lot of money for cost of living, if you’re considering a move to France from the States.
For our first flat in Paris, we rented from a private owner, Christiana, who does only one month rentals. Christiana was referred by another couple we met through WordPress and living in Paris already. It was just what we needed since we were looking from Seattle and did not want to commit to a longer term rental without knowing which neighborhood was best suited for us. This first flat was a stepping stone for us, without commitment, which allowed us to get a sense of the city while we searched for our next apartment.
Resource: Private owner referred from acquaintances
Apartment size and cost: 240 sq. ft./~$2200 for the month and $50 cleaning fee
Neighborhood: Marais, 3rd arrondissement
Duration: 1 month
Pros: The apartment is within walking distance to three organic markets; the heating system was good for the winter; the location is in a very walkable neighborhood, and there are a plethora of shops and restaurants nearby. The flat itself was clean.
Cons: The flat was too small of a space, making it not livable for long-term. We had smoking neighbors; the area was littered with dog poop, and there were problems with the plumbing for the shower.
Resource: Paristay Agency
Apartment size and cost: 366 sq. ft./~$2o00 per month, $1200 agency fee, and $80 cleaning fee
When renting through an agency in France, you will need to provide bank statements showing you have sufficient funds to pay for rent for the duration of the lease, and a letter from the bank that says you really do have that much money in your account.
Neighborhood: Marais, 4th arrondissement
Duration: 4 months
Pros: The apartment was within walking distance to four organic markets. The location is in a very walkable neighborhood, and there are a plethora of shops and restaurants nearby. The location is lively, but the building was very quiet. Great location, as it is so close to the 5th and 6th arrondissement.
Cons: The flat had limited lighting. We had smoking neighbors; there were problems with the plumbing for the shower; the walls were incredibly thin.
Apartment size and cost: 592 sq. ft./~$2o00 per month and $270 Airbnb fee
Neighborhood: Aix-en-Provence main center
Duration: 2 months
Pros: The apartment was within walking distance to two organic markets. The location is in a very walkable neighborhood, and there are a plethora of shops and restaurants nearby.
Cons: We had smoking neighbors; the streets were littered with dog poo; neighbors could see into the flat; it was noisy all the time from drunks, idiotic honking and construction.
Resource: Private owner on Nice Craigslist; owner lives in California.
Apartment size and cost: ~450 sq. ft./~$1200 per month
Neighborhood: Golden Triangle
Duration: 3 and a half months
Pros: The apartment was within walking distance to one organic market; the location was in a very walkable neighborhood; there were a plethora of shops and restaurants nearby, and a very short walk to the beach.
Cons: We had smoking neighbors and a maintenance guy who smoked inside the building as he worked everyday. The building reeked of smoke. The streets were littered with dog poo; it was noisy from our neighbors, the constant construction in the mornings, and the incessant honking. There were problems with the plumbing for the shower.
Apartment size and cost: ~800 sq. ft./~$1400 per month, $294 Airbnb fee, and $100 cleaning fee
Neighborhood: Prenzlauer Berg
Duration: Just under 2 months
Pros: The neighborhood is great — quiet and vegan friendly. The apartment is within walking distance to five organic markets, with one being a vegan store. There are many vegan restaurants nearby. The vibe is great. The flat is spacious and comfortable. The price of the flat is reasonable.
Cons: Occasional cigarette smoke drifts into the apartment, but nothing compared to what we experienced in France. It’s 100 times better here.
Out of all the resources we used for a short-term rental, I recommend Airbnb because it’s hassle free, cheaper in fees, and has renter’s reviews on the place and the owners. Since we were limited to our needs and desires, the search process was narrow, making our selection of apartments minimal. Every place has its flaws, but you won’t know about them until you’ve moved in and living there for at least a month. Nevertheless, we learned a whole lot about becoming efficient movers on this long trip. Now our next challenge with our move from Seattle to Agoura Hills, is moving our belongings in a crossover SUV. We’ll see how that goes…