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How I searched for a Paris Apartment on VRBO - or - my Paris Apartment hunting nightmare!

How I searched for a Paris Apartment on VRBO - or - my Paris Apartment hunting nightmare!

Apr 13th, 2008, 09:15 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,286
How I searched for a Paris Apartment on VRBO - or - my Paris Apartment hunting nightmare!

I wasn't going to post this yet as I have not completed the apartment renting process, but since a request was made, here it is. Please do add to it or correct me if I am wrong. Thanks.

My husband and I decided very belatedly that I would accompany him on a business trip to London and then spend a week in Paris to celebrate our wedding anniversary at the end of June. WOW I was going to have my dream come true - stay long enough in one place to rent an apartment. Little did I know what I was in for trying to rent an apartment for a date less than 3 months away.

Knowing little about this process I began by looking at apartments Fodorites have posted on this board but found that most of them were too expensive or booked for June already. I went to Slow Trav and looked at apartments in their classifieds and began contacting rental agencies listed there and here. I was pleased when one apartment that is raved about here seemed to be available for our dates. The agentís partner would send me the contract shortly.

I waited, I waited, but the contract did not come so I began looking around on VRBO and sent off a couple of apartment inquiries as a back-up. Lo and behold, the agent I was negotiating with for the apartment e-mails me and says ďarenít you serious about renting the original apartmentĒ because evidentially one of the apartments I inquired about was one of hers on VRBO! This was news to me; arenít apartments in a for rent by owner website supposed to be for rent by the owner and not a rental agent? I responded that I was still interested and serious about the apartment but since I had not heard from her partner, I was looking for a backup.

It was then that I searched my yahoo mail trash bin and discovered that since the partner agent had composed a new e-mail inserting my address and not responded to one of mine, that his e-mail had been filtered into the trash. I responded that I was serious and please send the contract. I next was informed that ďoh so sorry; agent 1 had not checked agent 2ís calendar and the apartment was double booked.Ē Oh crap. Yeah, right.

I wrote to VRBO and complained to them that I did not like it that agents renting apartments on their site were not the owners and not identifying themselves as agents in their ads. I did see a couple of ads that the agents did identify themselves and listed their associated rental websites. I think this is rather forthright and truthful and in my book OK. I donít mind renting from an agent as long as I know they are an agent and not an owner. VRBO responded that they cannot possibly police the site.

HOW TO TELL AGENCY RENTALS ON VRBO. #1 I find that agencies usually donít keep up their calendars because it is too much work although some do. The rental calendar will have only the past dates of the month crossed off. If VRBO would have a search by available date feature they would be more user friendly and agents would keep up their calendars.

#2 They also will post a line at the bottom of the ad to ísee my other rentalsí. If there is a big list, this is a clue that they are an agency. I have nothing against rental agencies but for the sake of finding a rental on VRBO, I want to know who is an owner and who is not.

I began helter skeltering searching on VRBO sending off inquires to this one and that really frustrating myself trying to keep tract of which one I had inquired about and which one I had not so I came up with this system which worked for me.

SELECT THE AREA YOU WISH TO RENT IN. You will notice that the Paris VRBO pages are set up by arrondissements listed at the top of the page. BTW the order of this lists rotates so that every arrondissement has a chance to be on the top of the list. Below the list you will see SORT THIS PAGE BY: and you can select BEDROOMS, BATHROOMS, or SLEEPS. Since I wanted a 1 bedroom, I selected the first arrow after BEDROOMS to sort the page by the number of bedrooms. This puts 1 bedrooms on the top of each arrondissement list.

On the right-hand side of the page you will see SHOW ONLY PARIS ARRONDISSEMENT _____ VACATION RENTALS. I would then select the area I was interested in so that only that section showed on the page and printed it. I would go down the list looking for those in my price range and scratching those off the list that were too expensive. By using this list you will keep yourself organized and not drive yourself crazy after looking at tons of listings.

Next select the listing and see if it looks acceptable. If it is on the 5th floor, does it have an elevator. If not acceptable, scratch it off the list. If it does, look at the VIEW COMMENTS FROM PREVIOUS GUESTS. If the guests list their e-mail address, you may contact them to ask questions.

Next, CHECK THE CALENDAR to see if it is available for your dates. If not, scratch it off the list, if it is, send them an inquiry using the CLICK TO INQUIRE ABOUT THIS PROPERTY. If the owner has their phone number listed, CALL THEM. I have found that sometimes owners get so many inquiries that they just ignore their e-mail. I have gotten much better responses by calling the owners directly. Sometimes owners will even have a web page for their apartment linked to their listing with more pictures. Even sending an e-mail from their web page in some cases has gotten me faster responses than inquiries through VRBO.

The exact address of the apartment is not usually listed but I like to check the location of the apartment by looking the street up on www.mappy.com, or www.viamichelin.com. I used to like the www.pagesjaunes.fr website but I am having trouble navigating it since they changed it. With Mappy you can actually look at the street the apartment is on and see what it looks like.

USE FODORS - search for the apartment on the forum or even ask others what they think about the area. My concern about this is if you list the VRBO number, you are taking a chance that some of the other millions looking at the forum may get to it before you and snatch it although I have not seen any complaints on the board to this nature. Please donít slam me for this comment, it just was a concern of mine since I was having so much trouble finding an apartment.

Next I SEARCH IT using a search engine. Put the name of the street and apartment into the search engine - I found that I usually donít even have to use quotation marks - or the name of the apartment if it has one. I have found that owners sometimes have their apartments also listed with agencies and you can often come up with the agency listing. You will be able to see more pictures and the rental price the agency is asking (usually more).

As I got responses back saying the apartment was rented, I scratched it off my list. OK, now that list is going to come in really handy. No apartments were available so the next day I went back to the website and started looking for apartments that were flagged in yellow as NEW. New means the owner has just listed the apartment or it has been newly remodeled and just now being listed. If you are trying to find something last minute as I was, these apartments may not be booked up. So now either make note of it on your list and contact the owners.

This is where my saga ends as I have not been through the complete process yet. Monday I am to receive a contract for an apartment which is owner owned. It is newly remodeled, in my price range, and looks lovely. So here is crossing my fingers and hoping it will work out.

If you have something constructive to add, please do. I remind you that this is my first experience at renting an apartment, and my learning curve was compressed to something like 4 days of solid sitting in front of the computer searching.

Ronda is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 09:47 AM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 674
Also check on tripadvisor.com forums, they get lots of traffic so you are more likely to find someone who has rented the apt you are interested in or at least is familar with street.

I personally am not into apts.. I just hear too many things..( plus I prefer hotels, I want a maid, LOL )
but, I do know someone I trust online who also lives in my own country and they rent their little place out when they aren't using it in Paris, it is super cute, and I will rent it from them one day..
bozama is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 09:56 AM
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Posts: 3,286
Tripadvisor, good tip. I have been to Paris many times and always admire the markets. I would like to be able to shop the markets and cook it up!
Ronda is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 10:05 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 169
We found both the lovely condo we rented last October in Honolulu and the villa we've got reserved for this coming October in Villefranche by using VRBO. No problems with the condo, and so far, no issues with the villa - the owner seems quite nice and helpful.
luna is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 10:06 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 454
I can feel your fustration, finding the apartment is always the hardest part, but it pays off in the end. I have yet to find an apartment I didn't like in Paris. Best of Luck and enjoy your trip.
happytotravel is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 10:16 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 4
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! for this wonderfully informative post. You were very generous to take the time to write this all out.Wow. My husband and I are about to begin to research... using your great tips. Thank you so much, Ronda!

Couster is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 10:35 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,049
We like to stay in apartments. My experience is that even if an owner does the actual renting, he will almost invariably list the apartment with one or more listing services, and enjoy the benefits of their listings and administrative services. As a potential renter, I think it would be almost impossible to locate an apartment without using a listing service. Some do, but they are very few and probably live on referrals.

Were I an owner, I would not want to spend all my time responding to unfocused inquiries; I would rely on a listing service for that, so when an inquiry was forwarded to me, I would know to some degree that the potential renter was serious. And I would have the service handle cleaning and in and out processing, rather than, for example, taking half a day off twice a week to pick up and deliver keys.

I don't know if you have run into it yet, but apartment rentals is very much a cash business; they don't like to take credit cards or checks, except for possibly the deposit through an agency. I'm told that owners usually don't qualify (as they are very small businesses) to accept credit cards, and many tourists can't write a euro denominated check (nor does the owner have much recourse if your check bounces and you are already gone), so be prepared to somehow get a wad of cash for your rent and deposit, such as by visiting multiple ATMs before you check in.

Even if you don't have a maid and concierge, we like the additional room in an apartment and having a breakfast when and the way we like it sitting on the balcony. While some people like to make their own meals, we limit that to breakfast, lest my cook point out that it is her vacation, too.
clevelandbrown is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 10:52 AM
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I appreciate your thoughts, clevlandbrown. The apartment owners I have contacted thus far take playpal. One apartment I really wanted was owned by someone in my own town so I could have driven the check over. If the owner is in the US, perhaps the additional advantage would be to pay in dollars thus avoiding an exchange charge.

My husband is an excellent cook and we enjoy shopping and cooking together

We originally wanted to go to Italy for two weeks but with the exchange rate so much in favor of the euro, we decided a week in Paris in an apartment was one way to stretch the euro this year. No car rental either.
Ronda is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 10:55 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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Hi Rhonda,

Thanks for your post - sorry it has been so frustrating. Good information - I do have a question - why does it matter if it is through a rental agency?

I rented an apartment for December through VBRO and it is through an agency. In many ways I prefer an agency. Often times I have found that they are more professional (Not always obviously - and have a better handle on the process of renting etc.

We rent a home in Newport Beach California about EOY and it is through an owner I found through VBRO and she does a GREAT job...so it can of course go both ways.

Anyway - I wish you luck and hope you have a fabulous week in Paris!
dawnnoelm is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 01:17 PM
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In a lot of ways, it is be better to rent from an agency but this thread is about renting on VRBO. As I stated, I don't mind if agencies wish to post their apartments on VRBO, I just want to know up front if I am dealing with an individual or agency. I dislike it that they do not keep up their calendars so you have to contact them and ask if the apartment is available - 'oh no, but I have this other place.' It's bait and switch if you ask me. Very underhanded.
Ronda is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 06:38 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I think VRBO should require all agents/owners to a) keep their calendars up to date, b) show the exact location on a map, if not the exact address, and c) provide photos of all rooms (including the bathroom) in their entirety (not a close-up of the bed or couch, etc.) and d) provide full disclosure regarding floor, elevators, etc.
djkbooks is offline  
Apr 14th, 2008, 08:04 AM
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It sounds like you have the impression that the owner who uses VRBO, or a similar service, is in the business of renting multiple apartments. My impression is just the opposite; I think they probably have an apartment they use themselves for a few weeks, and try to rent out the rest of the time. So my expectation is that the owner doesn't sit around 24/7 waiting for emails and calls, and updating their calendar; I think its more likely that they do these tasks perhaps once a week, or whenever they get around to it. So I have just forced myself to accept that there will be some delay and inefficiency in the process.

We have rented a houseboat in Amsterdam for next month. It was listed in a listing service, and they kept the calendar, and accepted our deposit by credit card. However, the boat is managed by the owner (his sister actually, I think) and it was she who sent us instructions on inprocessing, and will meet us at the boat to show us how to work the washing machine and collect our cash. I emailed her and suggested that I could send a euro denominated check or bank transfer, since I don't like to carry a bunch of cash. She was apparently unfamiliar with this, and forwarded my email to the listing agency, who suggested I could pay them by credit card, but there would be an additional 4% fee, since they would incur credit card processing fees. Since I already have to pay 1% currency conversion, the entire cost to me would be about 5%, so I opted for paying in cash. I mention this because I think it accurately reflects that owners are not businesspeople (a businessman would have taken the euro denominated check, I think, as it was to be sent far in advance of our visit), and thus we should not expect them to operate as smoothly as and agency or a hotel.

Paying a stateside owner in dollars would certainly be convenient, but I think most owners are not stateside.

A few years ago I ran into someone who offered to take paypal. Since I'm frugal by nature, I tried to find out what the fees and currency conversion rates by paypal would be, and no one there could give me that information (its also hard to get such information from a local bank regarding their credit cards and debit cards, but not as hard as with paypal). Since they wouldn't give me the information, I didn't use paypal, and in fact closed my account because of their attitude.

My paypal adventure was a few years ago, and I certainly hope they have improved their service, but my advice to you would be to find out exactly what using paypal will cost you before using it. Currency conversion is a field, unfortunately, where there are great opportunities for the intermediaries to get an unconscionable amount of your money. Even with credit cards, some banks make no charge, while others apparently sneak in a three or four percent charge, or higher.

Since you mention you like to cook, I would suggest you pay careful attention to the kitchen facilities. Some owners apparently think a hotplate constitutes a kitchen. We do occasionally have dinner in the apartment, but we have been fortunate in always having been in a neighborhood that had a lot of prepared food for sale. I still remember fondly a rotisseried chicken we found in the Marais, and the well matched wine recommended by the vendor from his neighbor.
clevelandbrown is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 01:05 PM
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Each Paris arondissment has a page as big as the Amsterdam page and I suspect it is quite a different rental market. If you take a look at some of the Paris listings you will see what I am talking about.

If one does not care to keep up the calendar, they shouldn't elect to put that feature on their page. It just wastes my time clicking to check it out only to find out the calendar isn't up to date. Many ads don't have the calendar feature but only have 'click here to inquire about this property'.
Ronda is offline  

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