My goal for this week’s French post was to show you one of the types of houses found in the Parisian area. But it has been raining pretty solidly and I didn’t feel like going out with my camera on the hunt for houses.
Then I got a brainstorm. When we first moved to France and were looking to rent something, I had some trouble figuring out what all the real estate terms were, even though I already spoke French. So it occurred to me – why not give you a rundown on what some of the terms mean?
First of all, you need to decide if you’re going to buy a property, in which case you’ll be looking for the sign “A vendre” or if you’re going to rent, in which case you need to search for “A louer.”
Maison means house, and appartement speaks for itself. If you see the word demeure, it’s indicating a house and property more along the lines of Downton Abbey than a studio in Chelsea. You might see that it’s “5 mn du metro” or “10 pas du RER.” This means that it’s close to the train station – (mn stands for minute and pas means steps).
You often see symbols such as these: F3 or T4 or 5p – F stands for Forme, T stands for Taille (as in size) and P stands for pièce. But it’s essentially all the same thing. It’s saying how many rooms this house or apartment has, not including the bathroom and the kitchen. It can be confusing because in the States, we go by bedrooms. Such and such is a 5 bedroom house, and although you sometimes see that, it’s more standard to include living room and dining room in the total number.
If it’s a house, you might read that it’s a pavilion, which means that it’s separated from the house next to it. Many people find this preferable to houses that are mitoyenne or maison de ville. Those are houses that are either attached to the house next to it, or are stuck in a line of row houses with little to no back yard.
To tempt you, the ad might talk about moulures (moulding), cheminée ancienne (old style chimney), jardin clos (enclosed garden), parquet (wood floors – don’t we say that in English as well?). They’ll tell you how many bedrooms are on the RDC (rez-de-chausée means 1st floor, and what the French call the 1st floor is actually our second).
They’ll tell you how many SDB and SDD there are. Remember, in France most of the bathrooms are separated from the toilet. So salle de bain is bathroom with sink and shower or bath, and salle d’eau or WC has a toilet and sink.
Most houses in France are not built with cupboards, so it’s a huge plus when you see placards or Rgmts – rangements (which are cupboards) or dressing (closet). Agents are also sure to advertise when there is a sous sol total (a basement underneath the entire house), a cave à vin (wine cellar), a buanderie (laundry room) or a grenier (attic) because you have more storage space, or possibilities to enlarge your house.
Larger houses will talk about réception instead of salon or SAM. Let me decipher that for you. The salon is living room and the salle à manger (SAM) is dining room. Sometimes they will advertise that it’s a double salon, which means it’s twice as large and partially separated by a wall with a large opening in the middle. When they say réception, they’re giving an indication as to the size and elegance of the living room. This is the place you want to receive people.
Both a house and an apartment might be advertised as being in a quartier recherché or a résidence de standing and that simply means upscale. The house is in a desirable neighbourhood, and the apartment is located in an upscale building. An apartment will tell you if it’s in a building avec ou sans acsenseur (with or without elevator). And they might mention whether there’s a balcon, terrasse or whether the apartment is located rez de jardin (ground floor with a small garden).
I have a word to say about the kitchens to close my little vocabulary lesson. The ad might say that it’s a cuisine ouverte or a cuisine Americaine, and that just means an open kitchen with a view on the dining room. They will be sure to note if it’s a cuisine equipée or a cuisine meublée because it’s so unusual. The former means that you get a sink, oven and fridge, and the latter means that it comes with cupboards.
It’s such a strange thing, this idea of renting or buying into an apartment or house and buying its structure only. The previous owners can strip the house of everything – molding, light fixtures, appliances. They can strip the cupboards, shelves and bookcases off the wall and they will be entirely in their right. People don’t want to just give things away for free.
When you rent an unfurnished apartment, the only thing provided for you will be the kitchen sink . . . and perhaps some cupboards. You have to buy your own fridge and stove/oven. Although it’s the same thing when buying a house, there’s a greater chance you’ll have already purchased these items for your former residence.
But no major appliances in a rented apartment? It just seemed so strange to me when we first moved here that this wasn’t provided by the landlord. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s a stretch on the budget to have to purchase all these appliances on top of everything else you’ll need to set up your new home in Paris.
But then again . . . you’re in Paris!
(Additions and corrections are welcome in the comments – any French who are reading, or expats living in France)