I should start by saying that I didn’t get an apartment the traditional way: no real estate agent here! Instead, I got really lucky by finding an apartment for rent by one of the teachers I work with. You can read all about that still-long-and-kinda-frustrating journey here and here. A few things I’ve learned since being here:
- Apartments in Nice are expensive. I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone paying under 400€ a month, and the most I’ve heard someone paying is 550€/month. This includes having multiple roommates or having a studio.
- It’s pretty easy to find furnished apartments. I was under the impression from something I read that furnished apartments are nearly nonexistent, but there seems to be an abundance of them, at least in Nice, and they come with not only furniture but kitchen stuff too.
- Leases seem to be pretty easy here. Like, you have to sign one, but it can be for however many months you want, and breaking your contract is no big deal. I know of a couple people here that have done it with no issues.
- A security deposit is usually one month’s rent. I’ve heard of a couple people paying two month’s rent, but that’s rare. One month is much more common.
- Some apartments here don’t have living rooms. The heck?
That being said, I don’t have a ton more experience renting an apartment, since I did it the not-normal way. I was told not to rent a place sight unseen and to not send money overseas, but I did both of those things and it turned out fine. I had reason to trust my landlord (I was going to work with her, plus she wasn’t a real estate agent trying to get as much money as possible, just someone trying to make some money so she could take care of her mom), we signed the contract and had email records of everything before sending any money, and we researched the best/cheapest/safest way to send money to her.
Most of my friends here found a place upon arriving, I think; I got here after everyone else so I’m not sure. They nearly all found their apartments using AngloInfo or Appartager, or else by going to real estate agents (immobiliers) here in Nice. Le Bon Coin or French Craigslist might be possibilities as well. If you are the type of person that can move to a city without somewhere to live, kudos to you; I suggest finding a cheap hostel or a friend to stay with till you find a place. But I’m not that kind of person, so I locked a place down in August.
Once I found what was to become my apartment and knew I wanted to live there, I posted on the Facebook group for “TAPIF – Academie de Nice” that I had found a two-bedroom apartment and needed a roommate, and to email me if you were interested and wanted more information.
Side note: as soon as you find out that you’ve been accepted, make sure you check to see if there’s a Facebook group for your academie (region)! It’s a great way to get to know the people you’ll likely be hanging out with, to ask questions, and like I did, to find a roommate!
I had a few people email me asking for more information, but only one kept asking questions and responding to my emails. He seemed really interested so I asked him a few questions about what he was like as a roommate, since I prefer cleanliness and no wild parties. We seemed to be fairly compatible, so I told him that he and I could rent the place together! Then we continued to work together to get the lease stipulations all figured out, how to send the money, etc. We talked a lot until we left, pretty much every weekday; not only about the apartment, but about cell phones, plane tickets, all that jazz! Then the day of my fateful visa appointment (can read about it here and here) he happened to be in Chicago as well for his appointment, so we met up for a drink and then some sushi. Luckily, we hit it off just fine, which made us even more excited to move!
It comes highly suggested here that you DON’T live with an anglophone (English speaker) because you’ll speak English all the time. While that is definitely true, you CAN speak French to each other if you’re motivated enough (David and I speak French to each other sometimes) and by finding your own roommate, at least you know what you’re getting into. Basically everyone here who got paired with random roommates through a real estate agent had a terrible, or at the least not ideal, situation. Several of my friends have had truly bad experiences with French/foreign roommates (passive-aggressive notes, screaming matches, tattling to the landlord, making up stories, etc.), which led to one of them finding a new apartment and moving out. A few others that live with French people or other foreigners have had not great situations, like there is tension, or there’s just not really friends so they never talk anyway. Plus, there’s no guarantee that you’ll live with a francophone (French speaker); you might live with someone who speaks English way better than French, so not only will you run the risk of getting a bad roommate, but you might not even speak in French when you’re screaming at each other!
If you can’t tell, I highly encourage finding your own roommate, even if they’re English-speaking. That way you have a say in who your roommate is, which is something that can quickly ruin an experience abroad. I also enjoy living with another assistant because he works the same amount of hours I do, so we have a lot of free time to have people over or watch movies together, and we have a lot of the same group of friends from the other assistants here. If I lived with someone who was in school and worked and was busy all the time, I would feel bad having people over or being loud on the weekends. So yeah I am a huge advocate of living with other assistants as well. Case in point, two of my assistant friends here lived with random French/other nationalities and both ended up moving out and moving in together. Having a good roommate is way more valuable than having a French-speaking roommate!