I had been in the house all day, partially getting things unpacked and organized and partially waiting for a package to be delivered for the cats. Early in the morning the cats and I were awakened by a loud barking dog. Of course, everyone freaked out and ran for cover. I even jumped a bit. I remember thinking ‘Wow there’s a dog in the building – that may be a problem.’
Anyway, I waited for the package but nothing came. I received an email from Amazon telling me they had attempted the delivery but no one was home. I shot a message over to Virginie (airbnb host) and asked her how I could accept deliveries and she said:
“If you addressed by specifying that you are at my home, the factor will ring, the bell it is the dog which barks.“
Seriously?! How in the hell was I supposed to figure that out?! Was a plain ‘ole doorbell too much to ask for? Apparently, yes.
I spent most of my time prior to leaving New York frantically searching for an apartment. I only ever negotiated through my realtor because navigating this process from another country, in another language, without a professional on the ground representing me was just crazy. Every step of the way I would get another small piece of the puzzle that made it more and more obvious that doing this remotely wasn’t going to happen. Case in point. France doesn’t have a central MLS system like we have in the states. The company that lists the property is the only one that can rent it. That means if I see an apartment on the Century 21 site I have to rent it with a Century 21 agent. It makes the whole process that much more complicated and unwieldy. I remained rather selective in my choices only requesting information if a property really caught my eye. But inevitably, by the time I would inquire about it, the property would already be taken.
Because panic was starting to set in, I decided to go onto a local site and try to find an apartment without the realtor. The listings were updated daily. I set up alerts with my specific criteria, sat back and waited. About two weeks out, I found a cute little duplex being rented by the owner. It was in my price range and it looked like a great fit. I sent the listing over to Dominique to get his input only to find out that he and the owner traveled in the same circles. He knew him. How fortuitous! Dominique volunteered to go visit the property and speak to the owner on my behalf. He took photos for me and reported back later that day. He approved. It was a good fit. There was only one problem, the owner was skittish about my being a foreigner. He wanted a guarantee. (A family member signing on my behalf. Similar to a co-signer.) Problem is I don’t have any family. I could already see where this was headed. If this was indicative of the process, I was screwed. After ten days of back and forth emails, the guy bailed on me. With less than a week before my flight, he emailed me saying that he didn’t feel comfortable renting the apartment to me because I was American and that he had chosen someone ‘less complicated.’ I was irritated to say the least but there was nothing I could do about it.
I’m now in France in my temporary apartment. Time was ticking and I was getting really nervous. I had been hearing horror stories about how difficult it was to rent an apartment in France and how they required the blood of your first born and your left kidney as collateral.
My first experience searching sans agent hadn’t gone so well but since Marion was missing and I was on a relatively tight time frame, I decided to throw caution to the wind and strike out on my own once more. There was a listing for an apartment that looked well suited for my needs. I sent out an email request to see the apartment. (I was still avoiding phone conversations at all costs. They were just impossible to navigate.)
A call came in a short while later regarding the re-delivery of the package I had missed over the weekend. The gentleman kept giving me the wrong address and each time I would say no that’s the wrong address and correct him. This went on for at least 2 or 3 minutes until I finally realized that it wasn’t the post office on the other line it was Patrick, the landlord of the apartment I had inquired about. He was trying to give me the address so I could visit. Oh my face was red. This man obviously had the patience of Job.
Patrick was waiting for me at the front door when I arrived. I apologized yet again for the misunderstanding. We walked inside and he showed me around. The apartment was on the ground floor. It opened up to a very nice courtyard. It had 2 nice size bedrooms and a large living space. There were windows everywhere. The place was full of light. The neighborhood seemed very nice and there was a covered garage space with the apartment which was more than I had hoped for. I didn’t love the apartment but it had everything I needed and it was walking distance to the center of town.
Now came the part I dreaded. He obviously knew I was American. I told him I was from New York and I had my own business. He asked me how much I made a month, I told him, he said ok. I then asked him what papers he needed from me and he shook his head. He told me if I wanted the apartment it was mine I only needed to come tomorrow with the deposit and first month’s rent and we would make it official. I must have looked stunned. This was not at all what I was expecting. I half expected him to turn around and say “Gotcha! You need to give me a year’s deposit and naming rights to your first born.” But no, that really was it. I told him I wanted the place and we arranged to meet the next day to sign the BAIL (the lease).
My mind worked overtime that night with all kinds of scenarios. Most of them bad (of course). But I thought it might be nice (and prudent) to come the next day with a friend. Dominique was working so I phoned my only other friend in Chartres, Audrey.
Me: Coucou Audrey! J’ai une appartement! Je vais demain pour faire le bail.
Me: Travaille-tu dans le matin? J’ai besoin campagnon.
(Audrey! I have an apartment! I go tomorrow to sign the bail. Are you working in the morning? I could use some company.)
Audrey: Yes! Of course …