1. Your apartment will pale in complexion to what you can get in the U.S. for the same price unless you want to spend an exorbitant rental rate (like $500 a night).
2. Kitchens are miniature, bathrooms are even more extreme (think knees touching walls) and apartment hallways and stairs date from the middle ages. To open your apartment with a key you have to rely on the time you’ve pressed the button for hall light. It can sometimes last less than a minute.
3. Landlords come in all sizes. Some speak English, some none at all, and there are a variety of payment methods (watch out for bank transfers). Don’t be forced into making a rush decision. Use your telephone, speak with the landlord and evaluate from there. Are you dealing with a management company or the owner? Some vacation rental management companies are super efficient and make transactions easier. Ask me for referrals.
4. Know the location you want to stay. The 6th is trendy/touristy, the 7th is conservative and the 8th can be pricey and unworthy of a high rental fee. Check out how far it is away from the metro stop or the grocery store.
5. Photos: examine the bedroom first (real bed? pullout? sofa bed? suspended from ceiling? Murphy? loft?). Does it look cozy, clean? Is it in a separate room? Kitchen: how many burners, microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher? in-house clothes washer? Worth the extra dollars.
6. Which floor: are you in the maid’s quarters on the roof, 7th floor? Can you stand up straight in the apartment? Does the elevator take you there? Has the photograph been taken with a “fisheye” lens making it look a lot bigger. Look at the square footage.
7. High speed internet, tv? How loud is the sound coming from your neighbor (sometimes hard to get the truth)? Ask if it’s quiet or put 2 and 2 together: are you on the street? How thin are the walls? How old is the building? Cement buildings are some of the best if you are seeking quiet.
8. The landlord and the reviews: can you communicate easily and what do other travelers say about the property.
9. Gut feeling. If you are communicating easily with the landlord or manager, this is a plus. PayPal is a good way to pay for the deposit; bank transfer sometimes signals “hacker”. 100% refund if you decide not to go 60 days ahead of time?
Filtering out what you like and don’t like takes time. Though landlords will try to rush you, don’t buy into it. You’re spending a lot of money and if you start your hunt way in advance of your travels (say 6 months) you will be ahead of the game. Landlords are more likely to reduce the fee, especially if you’re staying longer than 2 weeks or during low season (dead of winter).
Remember expectations. Think tiny, think romantic, think historic, think location, think PARIS. Where you stay is a major decision and will definitely impact your vacation. Don’t rush it. Feel good about your choice. And mind your manners. When communicating the landlords or vacation management personnel, be on your best behavior. “Please” and “thank you” should pepper your sentences.