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In the Shoes of Our Clients

Volume XXII, Issue 22

Screenshot of Adrian Leeds feet/shoes on the stairts to an apartment for House Hunters International

Finding and securing a long-term rental apartment in Paris for myself put me in the shoes of our clients. I can see clearly now why the process can be challenging even for the toughest of the toughest and savviest of the savvy.

Since 2002, I’ve been helping people find property. For more than 10 of those years, our agency booked and managed as many as 35 short-term rental apartments. We have a search staff of about 10 who perform the task of finding property, for rent or purchase, between Paris and Nice. The client list is well into the thousands. The point is that we do know what we’re doing, and yet this one task of getting me, the owner of the company, settled into a rental apartment took an “Act of God.”

Splashpage meme for the Adrian Leeds Group Rental Search services

If you have been following our Nouvellettres® over the course of the last three years, then you know that my Paris apartment will undergo massive renovation to restructure the beams in my ceiling that will take about one year. It means moving out entirely—a nightmare for me as I’ve been happily ensconced there since 1997. Every cabinet and drawer is filled to the brim with all the things one accumulates in life, not to mention business files. For the Adrian Leeds Group, it’s “control central.”

I was likely one of the worst clients my staff has had to deal with because my parameters were very specific—something we tell our clients to be wary of, because it means the search is even more challenging. It was essential that the apartment be in the immediate vicinity of my own apartment. I didn’t want to go out of my neighborhood and change my habits, such as lunching daily at Café Charlot! And it was important to be nearby to check on the work being done at the apartment.

Property within a few blocks of my apartment was limited. Add to that the upcoming Olympics, and no one wants to rent long term as long as they can fill the apartment during the games at exorbitant rates and make a ton of money. There is rent control in Paris, and that’s the rate the Copropriété agreed to give me as would be normal/logical, but landlords manage to avoid it by using a different kind of lease—a “Civil Code Lease” or a “Mobility Lease.”  In each case, the landlord can set a rental amount freely. Properties in my neighborhood were coming up priced as much as double what I was allowed by the mediation agreement with the Copropriété. Anything over that would be out of my personal pocket. It was looking to get very, very expensive.

Paris Attitude website homepage

We avoided the big short-term rental agencies at the beginning of our quest because they normally do not allow visits to the property in advance of a rental. I wasn’t prepared to move into an apartment for one year sight unseen—although we often make this sight-unseen option available to our clients. It can be very worthwhile for them to allow us to choose for them as we are looking out for their best interests and because they will see lots of photos, videos, etc. before agreeing to the property. In addition, any lease has a 30-day cancellation, so if they aren’t thrilled with the property, they can give the landlord notice, and in 30 days they can move out unscathed—except for the move itself. Most of our clients are coming over to France without 27 years of belongings accumulated like I have, making a move a whole lot easier for them.

Avoiding the big agencies made the search doubly difficult. As it became clearer that I’d have to be out of my apartment by September 1st, we stepped up the search and opened it up to those agencies. That’s when we came across the apartment I settled on, just a few minutes walk from my own, in the immediate vicinity, that checked off all the boxes except for two: no bathtub and no clothes dryer. The rent was above the allocation, but only by about 20%, so it was doable without breaking the bank. They agreed to let me visit it and the current occupants, two Italian students, were quite accommodating.

The building façade in which the rental apartment for Adrian Leeds is found

The apartment building’s façade

Everything else was perfect, so we jumped on it. That was a Saturday. Monday was a holiday (Pentecost) so I didn’t expect to get an answer from the agency, only available by email (not by phone!), until Tuesday.

Surprise! An email came in while I was on the train to Nice on Monday, at the very moment my computer was losing power—because the train had no electricity during that trip—and my computer was also to the brim with files, the lack of memory causing it to crash and do very strange things.

The agency wanted payment within 24 hours to secure the apartment. They also wanted a signed lease within the same 24 hours. Panic started to set in as I was trying to make the payment with a U.S. credit card requiring two-step verification on my iPhone. It was not simple because so many things weren’t working as one might expect. But with a lot of effort and a bit of resourcefulness, the payment was achieved.

It was not cheap—the agency’s fees were 15% of the total lease amount for 12 months or less; 8.5% for over 12 months. This lease was for 14 months, so it benefited from the lower rate, but that was still expensive. Should I cancel the lease early, the applicable fees would apply.

I didn’t want to sign the lease until reviewing it thoroughly, so we did that the next morning and found a couple of errors, which they subsequently corrected and reissued it. I signed it online.

Then came the Garantme certificate. Garantme is a guarantor insurance policy that most agencies or landlords require. In effect, the insurance protects the landlord against you not paying the rent (!), and replaces having to put a year’s worth of rent in an escrow account. The cost of the insurance is about 4.5% of the rent, so just add it to your rental costs along with any agency fees.

Logo for Grantme

Without a certificate from Garantme (or other similar insurer), they won’t even look at your dossier, or even allow a visit, so you’ll get passed up. This is why there is no point in visiting a lot of properties—you have to pre-qualify the property because you must be pre-qualified before you have the chance!

Percentage rates for using Garantme

When I first started the process, I was able to get the certificate, but 90 days later it expired, so we had to start all over again. This turned into a new challenge, as all the documents needed to be re-uploaded and must be current, as well. This took almost all of last week with the help of my accountants and advisors to provide the proper documents before they finally agreed that the dossier was complete.

All of this makes renting in France a huge challenge. It’s important to understand what to expect when embarking on this adventure. It was tough for me and it was tough for my own team. So, imagine that it will be tough for you as a potential tenant and tough for us as your search consultants.

The key is managing expectations. I believe strongly that expectations lead to disappointments, and that “expectations” should be considered “hopes” instead in order to avoid those disappointments.

Graphic for expectations vs hopes

Every unsuccessful project has been a result of this one unfortunate outlook. Don’t make yours unsuccessful just because…

A bientôt,

Adrian Leeds in her apartment in ParisAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. Let us help you find your long term rental! We do know what we’re doing! Visit our rental search page for more information.

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