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How To Pick A Vaction Apartment In Paris

Jun 28, 2008
If you have begun to look for an apartment for a trip to Paris you have probably discovered that the possibilities are infinite and the range of price is phenomenal. Here's a mini-guide that will help you understand the factors that property owners in Paris consider when pricing their apartments. Once you understand how prices are established, you'll be in a better position to make an intelligent decision about a rental.

Location, location, location! As always in real estate, this is the first rule. In Paris that means proximity to the center of the city: the closer to the center, the higher the price. Look at a city map before you decide (check out Mapquest, Paris.com or similar sites), and remember that time spent walking, riding trains or driving from a dull and distant neighborhood is boring, boring, BORING - especially when you realize that your time in Paris may be severely limited and you could have avoided the problem by renting closer to the center. Be close, be happy and be prepared to pay a little extra for your decision.

Space is expensive. Paris is a densely populated city filled with apartments that are, by American standards, quite small. The space in Paris apartments is usually defined in "square meters", you can get an idea of an American equivalent by multiplying by ten. "75 square meters", therefore, is about 750 square feet. That's a small apartment by most American standards, but 75 square meters in Paris is a generous, comfortable one bedroom apartment. (Anything less than 75 square meters is likely to leave two people feeling claustrophobic.) Look carefully at the square meter figures in the ads. Make sure you'll be able to live comfortably in the space you select.

Bathrooms are expensive. It is rare to find an apartment in Paris with more than one bathroom. Apartments with two bathrooms are substantially more convenient and marginally more expensive. If there are two or more of you and the price differential is not too great, you may decide to spring for the second john.

Sunlight is expensive. Paris streets are often narrow and dark. South-facing apartments on upper floors, or apartments facing sunny courtyards, are more expensive than dark apartments on lower floors or apartments with windows facing the sunless north side of a street. Think sunshine and air before your departure: a week spent in a dank cave - even a dank cave in Paris - can be pretty dreary.

Quiet is expensive. The French are more accustomed to urban noise than we are. Many apartments in Paris, even apartments in wonderful neighborhoods, are horrendously noisy - particularly for Americans not accustomed to European urban living. Try to determine whether the apartment you are considering faces a quiet street or is on an inner courtyard. One of the most frequent complaints heard from American visitors to Paris is that they ended up in an intolerably noisy apartment.

Elevators are a commodity. You might like the price of a 5th floor walk-up when you're working out your budget in Topeka, but your feet will yowl in protest after a day of sightseeing in the City of Light. Paris is a walking city: if you are looking at an apartment above the second floor (and don't forget, 'second floor' in French means 'third floor' in English) check carefully to make sure it has an elevator. Think of hauling those suitcases up and down three flights of stairs! Think of climbing five flights of stairs because you forgot your sunglasses! Elevators are an important element in the price of Paris real estate and the rule applies to one-week rentals just as it does to lifetime investments.

Furnishings are expensive and some Paris tourist apartments are furnished in a style that can best be described as bare-bones minus ten, plastic plates, rickety, cast-off furniture, plastic throw-away cups. Nicer apartments have nicer furnishings. Look for an apartment with real cotton sheets and towels, decent plates, glasses and cookware and comfortable furnishings.

You may not always be able to find a place with real antiques and a real art collection (excuse us while we boast) but you are certainly entitled to a place with style, taste and charm. This is, after all, Paris. If you wanted paper napkins and cheap plastic dishes, you could have spent your vacation with your sister-in-law at the lake.

One final note: You'll be surprised, as we often are, to find apartments that seem ridiculously over- or under-priced in relation to the above criteria. Trust your own analysis. Some places are more expensive because they do more extensive advertising or simply have more aggressive owners; some places are under-priced because the owners are timid, or are new to the market (like us), or simply don't want to be bothered with trying to get a high price. An apartment's price doesn't necessarily prove anything: it's possible to find terrific cheap apartments and nightmares that cost a fortune.

Be clear about what you are looking for. Make careful comparisons between apartments, using the above guidelines. Then make the best decision you can, based on the information at hand. The bottom line is that Paris is the most beautiful, exciting city in the world: no matter where you stay, you'll have a wonderful time.

Bon voyage!
About the Author
Rita Borges is Managing Director for the premier Paris Luxury Vacation Apartment agency, Paris Luxe Apartments, http://www.parisluxeapt.com and http://www.parishoneymoonrentals
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