6 tips for finding housing

1 - Understand the lease

The lease or rental agreement specifies the rights and obligations of the landlord and the tenant, and also lists all information related to the rental (sqm, number of rooms, amenities). Each party signs and dates the agreement and retains a copy. You obviously have to read it carefully before signing. The rules are not the same depending on the type of housing:

  • For unfurnished housing: the agreement is signed for a minimum period of 3 years, renewable. If you want to move out before the end of the lease, you must notify the landlord three months before your departure (or one month in some cases). The landlord may also decide to break the agreement if the tenant fails to pay the rent (2 months' notice).

  • For furnished housing: although a lease is not required, it is strongly recommended. The tenant and the landlord agree on a notice period and include it in the agreement. If no notice period is stipulated, it is equivalent to the rent payment period (for example, if you pay rent every month, you should inform the owner one month in advance).

2 - Define your criteria

Before you embark on a housing search, it is important to decide exactly what you're looking for. First decide on your budget: for a rental, the rent should generally not exceed 30% of your household income; for a purchase, it depends on your personal resources and existing loans. Then choose the area(s) where you want to live, based on access to public transportation, local services, parking, etc. Finally, decide whether you want an apartment or house, new-build or existing, the number of rooms, etc.

3 – Put together your application file

For a rental, landlords usually select people who respond quickly and who have the most robust application file. The required documents include a photocopy of your ID, your last three pay slips, your last tax declaration, your employment contract and your last rent receipts. Another person can guarantee payment for you (co-sign), in which case you will also need to provide evidence of their income.

Are your documents in a foreign language? Remember to have them translated by a sworn translation agency. Here is the information you need for Nantes and Saint-Nazaire.

4 - Take advantage of the multiple search options

There are many places to look for housing in France, including websites, classified ads in newspapers, mobile apps, word-of-mouth and social media. It's helpful to use all these resources, and to set up email alerts whenever possible.

5 - Ask the right questions when visiting

When you visit a home, make sure you take pictures and notes. This will help you make your choice. The visit is also an opportunity to meet the landlord. Ask questions about specifics such as the terms of the lease, the charges and what they include, the security deposit, renovation work performed, the type of heating, the neighbourhood, the energy efficiency level, etc.

6 - Be vigilant

Be careful to avoid falling prey to scams.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Avoid paid listings: there are companies that offer to provide you with listings after you pay a sign-up fee (about €200). These services rarely live up to expectations and the lists are not updated.
  • Beware of ads that look too good to be true, like a beautiful home for a low rental price. If the ad doesn't provide a telephone number, it's most likely a scam.
  • Never hand over money before signing a lease or a deed of sale.
  • Read the terms of the agreement carefully

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