Vacation apartment rentals: Lessons learned
Le Duc and I typically rent an apartment when we visit Paris, now that longtime local friends have downsized from family homes or retired to other cities.
An apartment makes sense for us. We need two bedrooms (serious snoring on his part, despite surgeries and therapies). He works part of the time on the trip, sometimes in the middle of the night. We like to receive friends; we also enjoy the break from eating every meal in a restaurant. A washer/dryer makes traveling light easy.
For nearly a decade, we've used the same agency, Paris Address, and received excellent service. But, distracted by other matters, we were not as vigilant in our selection this time. We ended up in a clean but charmless flat. The place lacked any grace notes, let alone stoppers for sinks.
The kitchen was insufficiently and cheaply stocked: one dishtowel, two old napkins. Some of the furniture in the photos below had been swapped for pieces in rundown condition; the thin, stained livingroom carpet, not evident in the photo, created such a bleak ambience that we would not have anyone visit. The curtains were now dreary beige and the tiebacks shown had gone on vacation.
|Apt. #1 looked pleasant enough...|
|and had large, comfortable beds, but...|
On the plus side, the beds were fine, there was a tiny but newly-installed bathroom, and one bedroom window opened to a pretty courtyard. In short, habitable but not gracious. That is, habitable until a major construction project began upstairs, canceling any chance at relaxation.
After I broke into sleep-deprived weeping, Le Duc called Paris Address and in less than an hour we were relocated to a gorgeous apartment in a nearby neighbourhood.
Apt. #2 was so appealing and well-equipped that we were on a different planet. The price for the time period we stayed was €1,195/week (US$1,660), a bit less than Apt. #1. That's about US$230 a day and just try to find two hotel rooms with these amenities in the 5th or 6th arr. for less.
|Apt. #2: Dining area in LR|
|Livingroom: View toward window|
|Livingroom: Désirez-vous un apéritif?|
Here are the lessons learned; I hope you can use them for any location.
1. The camera does not lie, but it can fib. Photos on the site may not be recent. In Apt. #1, furniture had been moved to make rooms look larger and the best view was obscured by the 'real' arrangement. Some furniture was exchanged for inferior pieces, and a camera can't show a rickety table.
2. If you're disappointed, state your issues politely and ask to be relocated as soon as possible.
- Take the phone number and name of a manager at the agency with you. (Paris Address told us that Apt. #1 was inventory from another agency and said that they had not inspected the place personally "yet". Whatever; they moved us.)
- Be reasonable and flexible. The agency cannot know if neighbours have plans for major renos. They are technically are not responsible for peace and quiet, any more than a hotel can be responsible for that drunken soccer fan party under your window. But the agency wants satisfied return customers, and a cooperative attitude gets the best results.
3. Price more often reflects square foot of apartment than "niceness". Apt. #1 was in fact slightly more expensive than #2, because of a slight size difference. The increase in space was in a useless hall.
4. If you have a certain ideal image, be clear about it and talk to the agency before booking. If you long for an antique-filled garret, or plan to cook for a crowd, or need absolute quiet, say so. Read the customer reviews, paying attention to date of post. We wish we had, because one man had flagged the deficiencies in Apt. #1 with acerbic accuracy.
We can't wait to return to Apt. #2. But we're won't count on a "one and only", because these places come and go from the market.
Once relocated, we felt that we were living, as the Italian saying goes, "like God in France". We learned how to choose more carefully and recover when we make an error.
If you have any further tips about making wise vacation rentals, I would appreciate hearing them.