At Home in Paris: apartment hunting

Thank you all for the questions on the experience of apartment hunting in Paris. Some have been about how this journey came about, and many are about the logistics. This post will focus on the logistics of buying an apartment in Paris, from my own experience. Keep in mind, always rely on the experts you have chosen, as situations vary, and this was just my journey.

Hunting for an apartment in Paris

Unlike in Canada, France does not have a centralized system like our MLS. Properties are privately sold through companies called immobilier (or real estate broker) and the seller chooses just one or two brokers within their arrondissement to represent them.

The closest thing to a centralized listings system would be private websites such as or, among others. Otherwise those who are apartment hunting, need to visit all the immobilier in the area to request listings or by peering at property listings in the storefront windows.

Though I found that properties within the most affordable price ranges were often sold before the immobilier places a listing in their storefront or uploads it to a website. So then it becomes the onerous task for the buyer to set off on an elusive hunt.

Bathroom tiles being laid. These are custom marble tiles I had made to replicate a tile I saw in Valencia and in a Parisian café.


Real estate agents on behalf of the buyer are not common. From my understanding this works since the system for purchasing is so heavily weighted towards the buyer’s advantage that there is little chance issues will arise for the buyer. Though for a foreigner, who may not be able to read legal French, or have the time to wander into every immobilier, may opt to hire a real estate broker to represent them. Good brokers that cater to foreigners will be able to translate, hunt for an apartment, guide you through the process, hire notaries, help purchase required insurance, set up your utilities and give suggestions on designers should you choose to renovate. The cost of the fees are a small percentage of the sale price, similar or lower to what you might pay your local realtor. I used a lovely woman named Malindi Pender who owns a company called Paris Living.

Once you’ve found an apartment you love

A few differences to note between the French real estate system and our Canadian one:

– All inspections are done prior to the seller listing the property. The seller will have all the appropriate inspections, minutes from the strata meetings (which could go back a long way in France), any repairs and works done on the building or legal records and building plans. This is so that the buyer has a chance to flag any worrisome items in order to investigate further. If there are missing documents, the sale is pending the receipt of them. This is where having my notary and real estate broker was very helpful as they did a thorough inspection of all the reports on my behalf and explained them all to me.

You cannot bid above asking price. Unlike in Canada, the seller’s asking price is the maximum that it can be sold for and the seller is legally bound to sell to the first offer at full price.This also means that the real estate market is more stable and increases in property value are smaller but more steady.

Getting close to being move-in ready. The empty spaces in the hardwood floors where walls used to exist are being restored.


Good old-fashioned handshake. Once your verbal offer is verbally accepted, the seller cannot continue to show the home or accept other offers.

– My notaire will be in touch with your notaire. The buyer’s notary will draft a promise to purchase with the seller’s notary, which takes a minimum of three weeks processing time but mine took a little less than two months. When it is signed by both parties, the buyer has to provide a deposit of between 5-10% of the agreed purchase price. Afterwards, the buyer has a 10 day “cooling off” period in which they can back out for no reason and get their deposit back.

– The sale is dependent on financing. After the 10 day “cooling off” period, the buyer has up to six months to obtain financing. If it is not possible or they are declined for a mortgage, the contract is nullified and the buyer gets their deposit returned. That means a seller can be over seven months into the process of selling, and have to begin from step one again.

– The last step is a signed contract. Once financing has been approved and funds are ready to be transferred, the buyer can have one last inspection of the emptied apartment before the final contract is signed by both parties and their notaries, the keys are passed and you can move in.


That is a simplified version of how I remember it. I hope this is helpful!

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