Throughout history, Parisians have identified themselves by where they live in the city, Left Bank, Right Bank, le seizième (the 16th), le troisième, (the 3rd), etc. With gentrification and escalating real estate prices in the recent past, residents have begun to move outside of fashionable areas in search of more affordable housing. Parisians live everywhere and options are available all over the city for new residents. There are, of course, some areas that cater to, and are more comfortable for, foreigners.
Note: It is easy to know the neighborhood of an address by looking at the zip code. The first two digits for the Paris zip code is 75, followed by a 0 and then the arrondissement; for example, 75001 for the 1st arrondissement or 75020 for the 20th.
Finding an apartment is generally not difficult as there are numerous real estate agencies throughout the city. Usually such agencies are specialized in the area in which they are located, so if, for example, you would like to live in the 14th, a stroll through the neighborhood will reveal numerous listings for available properties in the windows of the local real estate agencies. Most also publish brochures with their available properties, which is a good introduction to the type and cost of apartments in your desired neighborhood. It is possible, of course, to hire one of the growing number of agencies who will do this initial search for you, substantially lowering the amount of time that the process could otherwise take you. Likewise, there are agencies – among them such international brands as Century 21 – who have extensive citywide, and not just neighborhood, listings.
Prices vary considerably by neighborhood and building in addition to other factors but in general are comparable to, or even lower than, apartments in cities such as London or New York. That being said, Paris is geographically a fairly small city and therefore supply is low and demand is very high in certain areas of the city. It’s perhaps best to have a flexible attitude toward your target neighborhood if cost is a priority. Don’t forget, also, that neighborhoods tend to cross the lines of arrondissements – for example, there are areas of the 11th, 12th and 20th arrondissements that are essentially the same neighborhood due to the spiral-shaped nature of the arrondissement borders.
Prices to rent are still high (although purchasing prices have come down in 2015 by about 30%) as previously-precarious neighborhoods gentrify, buildings are upgraded and ‘unknown’ pockets of the city become sought-after. Yet it is still possible to find housing bargains in Paris with a bit of effort. Additionally, it is worth keeping in mind that building amenities – an elevator, a concierge, a garden – add considerably to the cost of an apartment and a similar-quality apartment in a building with fewer amenities will be substantially more affordable.
Newer buildings – which are surprisingly common in a city that one often associates with older architecture – may often have more such amenities, but the distinctly Parisian ‘Haussman’ style buildings have their own charms. It is not uncommon to find neighborhoods with a mixture of old and new buildings, so your preference in housing need not restrict your choice of neighborhood.
In addition to building and neighborhood amenities, you may wish to consider ease of transportation access. No part of Paris is far from a bus or métro but are they the ones that you will be using to go to work or school? Living on the opposite side of Paris from your work is not a problem if you’re on a direct métro line, but a place of work in a neighboring arrondissement could be a major daily commute if you have to take two different buses to arrive.