British expatriates moving to France will often choose to rent property before committing to buy, which can be a good way of getting to know an area and ensuring that it is the right fit for the family.
The rental market in France is not dissimilar to the UK, with a wide variety of accommodations available, from city-centre apartments to cute country cottages. There are real estate agents operating in all the key regions who can help with finding the right property, but it is wise to visit the property in advance where possible to ensure it is fit for purpose.
Tenants are very well looked-after in France, which is a reassurance. There are certain conditions that need to be met in order to rent a property, such as paying a deposit (no more than a month’s rent for a furnished property, although there is no limit for an unfurnished property); agreeing to any additional costs, such as service charges; and paying real-estate fees. Required documentation is likely to include ID, references and proof of affordability. Leases are usually 12 months, but in some cases can be negotiated for six months.
There is more information about this in our ‘Guide to renting an apartment in France’.
As about 40% of residents in France rent rather than own, there is quite a lot of choice of rental properties, though the area does determine what is available and how much it will cost.
There are less residential properties in the centre of Paris, and therefore demand is high. It is possible there will be competition between potential renters to get the lease on a property. As landlords often have their pick of tenants in Paris, it is almost impossible to negotiate on terms, such as the length of the lease and the rent, and there will likely be service charges to pay for communal areas in an apartment building. Rent will often include water and sewage rates, and it may occasionally include electricity and/or gas, so be sure to check the contract thoroughly.
Lyon can be hard to find an apartment in, as there is a great demand, and often prices are high but space is small. It is worth checking local listings websites and newspapers, and contacting landlords directly to negotiate terms, although there are also plenty of rental agents who can help, subject to a high fee. Not all these agencies will accept foreign guarantors and expats may sometimes need a guarantor as they do not have a credit history in France.
Other popular regions in France can give a little more choice. Lille, for example, is more affordable, even in the city centre, where larger family-sized apartments are even available. Coming from a global city like London, the prices will seem reasonable. There is a good choice of districts too, such as the old town suburbs for a little culture and great nightlife, as well as areas further afield, like Marcq en Bareoul, which is good for families.
Nice is another area that is popular with expatriates. In the city centre itself, most of the rental properties are apartments that come furnished, so they are good for workers to move straight into. Again, some rentals will include certain utilities, like electricity, gas and even occasionally television and internet services. The city centre, the old town and the port are the more expensive areas to rent, and the apartments are also smaller here and older in design. The suburbs of Fabron and Cimiez can be a good option for those happy to look outside the city.
Marseille is popular with its blend of cultures and Mediterranean air, so it can be surprising to find that the rental costs are a little lower, certainly significantly cheaper than Paris, Nice or Lyon. There is a good choice of properties available. The city centre, as expected, is mostly made up of apartments, but these can be three-bedroom flats with plenty of space. In the surrounding towns and villages, there are more houses available at a better price, especially in family-friendly areas like Longchamp.
The French Riviera, aka the Cote D'Azur, offers high-quality rental accommodation befitting its glamourous reputation, especially in Cannes and St Tropez. It’s a dream destination for many and as such the cost of living is high. However, it is actually cheaper than Pairs by comparison. Properties are more in-demand nearer to the waterfront, and moving to one of the smaller, more remote towns and villages inland can offer up some great bargains.