Our Apartment Search

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Now that France has officially ended lockdown as of May 11, we are able to rent an apartment! When we first moved to Lyon, we spent our first day in the city with our relocation contact. He showed us a few apartments that were in our range, and drove us throughout the city to show us different areas of Lyon. The original plan was to spend an entire day looking at various apartments in mid-March, and then choosing one we liked the most… kind of like real-life House Hunters! Our actual experience was nothing like we had planned.

Post-lockdown isn’t the ideal time to search for an apartment because the options are limited and the demand to rent available apartments is high. Many people were not moving during the lockdown because they also couldn’t rent another place. During the lockdown, we used local agencies as well as our relocation contact to see what properties are available to rent. Due to the restrictions of the lockdown, we likely could not see the apartments in person until May 11.

Here were our priorities when searching for an apartment:

  1. Balcony! When we first moved to Lyon, we were more focused on being in the heart of the city and didn’t think we would need a balcony, because we wouldn’t be spending much time in the apartment… right?! After eight weeks of confinement, having a balcony in our apartment is a non-negotiable. We found so many beautiful apartments that were deal-breakers when we learned they did not have a balcony.
  2. Close to the rivers or park. We really enjoy going on evening walks and wanted to be close to the trails on the river or at the Parc de la Tête d’Or. Lyon is also a very bike-friendly city with numerous paths and designated areas. We brought our bikes on the shipping container so that we could go on long bike rides to explore the area.
  3. Close to public transportation. While Jordan will be driving to work, we want to be close to public transportation (there are buses, trams, and the metro) so that we could easily navigate through the city. We also plan to eventually travel out of Lyon, and want easy access to get to the airport or the larger train station.
  4. Two bedrooms. For guests!
  5. A building with an elevator. On our first day in Lyon, we looked at a beautiful apartment that was on the top floor, but it had no elevator! We knew we would hate dragging our groceries, luggage, and ourselves up and down the stairs.
  6. “Not Soul-less”. Jordan’s exact words. There are many residential areas in the city that only have apartments for a couple of blocks around them. They aren’t very lively and according to Jordan, are “soul-less”. We want to be able to walk to shops and restaurants easily. However, given the amount of baguettes we are eating, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen if we had to walk a little further to get to a boulangerie.
  7. Parking. Jordan will be leasing a car and driving to work each day since his office is a little outside the city. We wanted to make sure he had an easy way to park in the evenings. When I lived in downtown Denver, I would have to park on the street if my spot was taken. I would sometimes spend up to 45 minutes searching for a parking spot! It was miserable and always put me in the worst mood, so I recommended to Jordan that he would definitely want designated parking.

We aren’t asking for much… right? We found about eight apartments in the already slim list of options available that met all of our qualifications.

Unfortunately, the majority of the beautiful Haussmann style apartments with amazing parquet floors, fireplaces, and lots of character did not have balconies and were eliminated from our list.

The most dreamy and perfect living room… but no balcony.

One unique thing about renting an apartment in Lyon is that they either come with a “equipped kitchen” or non-equipped kitchen. An equipped kitchen has both cabinets and most appliances, whereas a non-equipped kitchen varies in what it has. In the US, rentals are required to have an oven, cooktop, and fridge. In Lyon, there is no similar requirement! Many apartments in Lyon had kitchens that were bare spaces – you had to buy both the cabinets and the appliances! Other apartment kitchens included limited cabinets and maybe an oven, but you were still responsible for purchasing everything else. We learned that many renters take their cabinets with them from one apartment to the next. Since we are only going to be living in Lyon for two years, we really did not want to have to design and purchase an entire kitchen set up. You might think that having a blank space is great, but I think that it’s too much work for a rental!

One of our non-equipped kitchen options

Things we learned in our Lyon apartment search:

  • Kitchens may not be kitchens at all, they might just be a blank space
  • The first floor of the building is floor 0. If you live on the fifth floor, you are technically on the sixth floor since the numbers start at 0 instead of 1
  • There’s two different parking garage options: some parking garages have individual units with a personal garage door, and others have open air parking where you can park anywhere you prefer
  • When looking for an apartment, the size is referred to as a T1, T2, T3, T4 and so forth. A T1 is a studio, a T2 is a one-bedroom apartment, a T3 is a two-bedroom apartment, and a T4 is a three-bedroom apartment. We were opting for a T3.
  • Most apartment leases are a standard three years, but you can leave anytime you want with no penalties as long as you give a one-month written notice
  • Closets are not required in rooms to be considered bedrooms. Many apartments come with little to no storage space, and you are required to purchase your own free-standing closet spaces if you want somewhere to put all your things!

We were able to look at one apartment over a Skype video call, and then received special written permission from Jordan’s company to visit an apartment in person during the lockdown on May 6. The apartment we looked at in person was our second choice. Our relocation contact told us that there were five people scheduled to view our first choice before us, and we would likely not be able to rent it. We were scheduled to view other apartments starting on May 11th, but started to get nervous that we would miss out on our second choice as well if we didn’t go ahead and rent it now.

We talked it over and told our relocation contact to start the process to rent our second choice: a modern T3 with views of the Saône river and cabinets in the kitchen! We didn’t get to see other apartments in person and I feel like we missed out on part of that experience, but the view from our new apartment makes up for it.

View from our apartment balcony at night, with a small park and views of the Saône river.

Our contents from the shipping container were unloaded on Thursday and we spent the weekend getting unpacked and settled in. Now we just need IKEA to open so we can purchase some additional furniture and decorations. Pictures of our apartment to come soon!

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6 thoughts on “Our Apartment Search

  1. I asked your Mom if you had found a place. I was surprised you were able to find it so quickly after the lockdown ended, but from your note, I see you were very proactive. Knowing you, I should have thought of that. She sent a few pictures and I think your view and location is wonderful! Know you are glad to have your own stuff around you to make it feel more like home. I watch house hunters international and know all about places with no kitchens or closets!

    1. Yes! We were lucky to find a place with kitchen cabinets (we still had to buy a fridge and dishwasher) and closet space. I didn’t realize how much stuff we brought until the shipping container was unpacked. We packed my skis and his golf clubs haha.

      Jordan also could not wait to get out of our AirBnB so we did everything we could to get something rented this week. We tried to rent a place sight unseen in the middle of the lockdown, but the rental agency didn’t allow it. He was so ready to have our king bed again!

  2. So excited that you guys found an apartment that meets your requirements! It’s been fun hearing about your adventures and I look forward to the next installment of Planes, Trains, and Shanes! Take care!

    1. Thank you so much! It’s such a relief and a weight lifted off our shoulders. I hope you and your family are doing well, Jackie!

  3. I live in San Diego, California and had planned to move to Europe prior to COVID. I’ve travelled extensively by train in Europe and lived off and on in Monaco. My boyfriend is a retired airline captain originally from Cuba. A consideration is to establish a home base in an apartment in Lyon near the train station and central market. I love your writing! You were quoted in an article in our local newspaper.

    1. Hi Nancy, thank you for checking out our blog and for your kind words! Sorry for the delay in responding – your comment got caught up in the spam section. We love Lyon due to its close proximity to other places by car or train. It would be a great home base for you! We have not been able to take the train as much as we would have liked due to COVID, but hopefully, in 2021 it will change. Check out the “Expats Living in Lyon” group on Facebook. You can search on it and there’s a wealth of information on good neighborhoods in Lyon. When we first moved to Lyon, we lived nearby the Part Dieu station and could walk to 3-4 different markets. The 3rd and 6th arrondissements are great locations to this station. Would you mind sharing the name of the newspaper? I would love to check it out. Thank you!

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