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Your Guide to Moving to Paris from the U.S. with a Family

Paris offers a wealth of apartment and home rentals. The secret is finding the right rental that meets not only your family’s expectations but also your budget.

By Melissa Regan, Founder and CEO of MR Agency Real Estate 


Moving across the country is stressful enough, but moving across the Atlantic is even more daunting, especially if you’re coming with children and pets. In 2003, I moved to Paris from California. 

My vast education during this process included not only how to make new friends and flourish professionally but how to navigate a seemingly complex and at times overwhelming home-hunting process. Little did I know back then that I’d eventually use my own experience to help others seamlessly relocate to Paris and France. 

Whether you’re single, a couple, or a family, moving to Paris or its surrounding areas is a life-changing experience. Paris is home to a thriving real estate market offering a diverse and culturally rich landscape of neighborhoods (quartiers and arrondissements) and beautiful outlying communities (suburbs) to choose from. 

Whether you plan to stay for a few months or years, you’ll find a selection of rental properties that match your lifestyle, requirements, and budget.

The secret is finding the perfect match between each family member’s “ideal” home wishlist and your budget. That’s why you might seriously consider a local agency that provides a full range of services tailored to international clients where agents speak your language and know even the most subtle housing differences between France and the U.S. 

While building a successful events business in Paris, I helped many of my foreign clients find the perfect residential home for their families. In doing so, I’ve learned that one size doesn’t fit all. 

Often real estate agencies in France work for the owner or seller, leaving the renter or buyer to navigate a barrage of listings (in French) with very little consideration of their needs. 

If you’re new to France, understanding not only the legal process of renting or buying in a foreign country is complex but even more complex is understanding what to consider in looking for and evaluating properties. 

I’ve put together a list of the essential items you need to know and think about as you plan your relocation to France and, more specifically, Paris to help you in your search. You’ll also want to download our “Moving to Paris from the U.S. Checklist” to help you organize your relocation. 

“For this important moment in my career, my husband and children came with me to Paris. As a working mother, my needs were unique. The MR Agency team sourced a perfectly adapted three-bedroom apartment on the same street as my show venue. I personally recommend Melissa and her team.” Darcie, the Netherlands.

Paris or suburbs? 

When clients are in the process of moving to Paris, they immediately think of the city. In fact, the city of Paris is part of France’s largest and most densely populated region, Île-de-France. Often referred to as the Paris region, Île-de-France is home to more than 12 million people, with little more than two million living in Paris. 

If you’re unsure whether the city or the suburbs are the right fit, a good starting point is understanding what type of home you and your family will feel the most comfortable. For example, if you have young children and need extra space, you’ll want to consider a house with a yard or an apartment located within easy walking distance to parks

Paris offers a wide range of parks and outdoor spaces, whereas the suburbs provide a range of housing possibilities from large ground-level apartments with a small garden to full-size homes with plenty of space and large yards. 

House or an apartment?

If you currently live in a single-family dwelling but want to experience life inside the city, you’ll want to look for an apartment that offers some of the amenities you’re used to, such as parking (if you plan to own a car) and privacy. 

It’s worth noting that houses in Paris are rare, and many apartment buildings in the city (especially older ones) don’t have elevators. So, if extra space and a yard or garden are essential, you’ll want to consider Paris’ suburbs and outlying towns. 

Americans are often surprised to see how small Parisian apartments are and that the kitchen isn’t fully equipped in rentals and will need to be set up by the tenant. 

When you look at French real estate listings for apartments and sometimes for homes, you’ll notice that they all have a notation that starts with either a T or F and a number. This notation system refers to the number of main rooms, including living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms, but with kitchens and bathrooms separate. 

So, for example, a T3 (or F3) would likely include a living room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. Furthermore, property listings by French real estate agencies often don’t include the type of information that Americans are accustomed to, such as the neighborhood, distance to schools, heating and cooling system, property taxes, building fees, etc. 

International or local school?

As with most large metropolitan cities, distance isn’t measured in miles or kilometers but in commute time within Paris and its surrounding areas. Even with its extensive mass transit system, commute time across the city or outlying areas can be lengthy because of  congestion during rush hour. 

So if you have school-aged children, you’ll probably want to stay within walking distance or a short car ride when it comes to choosing a school. This means that you should determine your preference for an international versus a French school before you go looking for a rental. 

Paris and its immediate surroundings provide a wealth of K-12 schooling options, with notable international schools located in nearby suburbs. For younger children, a growing number of private schools offer English-language classes in and around Paris. 

Busy or quiet neighborhood?

The rich diversity of Paris is reflected in the city’s 20 arrondissements or districts, each with its own unique characteristics. This means that if your heart is set on Paris, you’ll want to first think about the type of lifestyle you are looking for in order to find the best fit. 

Do you enjoy the buzz of city life, or do you prefer quiet evening strolls? Is easy access to shopping and restaurants a must, or does your family prefer a more ‘residential’ feel where kids can roam outside freely? 

Does your dream of living in Paris mean a view of the Eiffel Tower is a must? Whatever you and your family’s requirements may be, Paris or its suburbs can provide the perfect compromise for everyone. 

Short or long-term stay?

How long you and your family will stay in France will determine the best housing options for you. Most ex-pats, when they come to France and especially to the Paris region, rent. This lets them move in quickly and experience life in France without the risk and cost of owning their first home in the country. 

If your stay is short or you need to move quickly but plan to stay longer, furnished rentals are an excellent first option. In Paris, you can find fully-furnished apartments. 

As per French law, rental properties come with shorter contracts and fewer tenant rights. Thus, French law stipulates that furnished rental property comes with a bed, an equipped kitchen (including an oven or microwave, icebox, freezer, silverware, and kitchen utensils), lighting, and housekeeping equipment. 

Paris rental prices?

Each arrondissement and quartier in Paris and the surrounding suburbs has its price range and offerings—homes versus apartments, large gardens versus small, etc. Once you’ve determined your family’s specific requirements, you’ll have a better idea of where you’ll need to start looking. 

If you’re searching for your rental from the U.S., it’s a good idea to find an agency that understands your needs and can do the initial search for you. A qualified agent will also prepare the required documents beforehand so that if a property is located—even while you’re in the U.S.—they can handle the initial paperwork and ensure that the property is not lost. 


Securing your dream Paris rental

It’s important to note that the process, even though highly regulated, isn’t as straightforward as you’re probably used to. Paris real estate etiquette is “special” and requires someone who knows how to move through the numerous layers and discussions; this is especially true for highly sought-after property.

In France, the government stipulates what information and documents a landlord has the right to request. Typically, you’ll need to provide valid identification (passport) and proof of French residency status and earnings. 

Plus, to secure the rental, you’ll need to provide a security deposit of three months’ rent and pay the first month of rent, along with specific agency fees. Per French law, the landlord must provide the tenant with specific documents, including a lead and safety report for the property.

Realizing your dream means finding a full-service agency that takes the time to understand your family’s unique needs beyond the typical criteria. You need an agent who will be there throughout the search process up to the final move and beyond. 

Most French real estate agencies cannot accompany their foreign clients beyond signing on the dotted lines. Moving to a new country isn’t easy, especially if you don’t speak French. For this reason, you should employ a full-service agency that works exclusively with American and foreign clients. 

M.R. Agency Real Estate understands the complexity of moving to France, especially Paris and its surrounding areas. That’s why the agency offers tailor-made, personalized, and comprehensive services to meet all of your needs. 

My team can be considered your personal guide in Paris and will assist you in administrative and banking procedures and project management. 

In addition, we can customize your experience to best suit you according to your needs, whether that be a decoration project, searching for a garage or parking space, or coordinating your move. Our team is committed to providing the best possible support for your relocation.

Ready to find the perfect rental home or apartment for your family in Paris? Let us help. 

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