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Property Search Terms

Why do Paris apartments come with a “cave”? Confused with the French real estate listing terms? Find all of the commonly-used terms of art and definitions you need to navigate the French property listings.


  • A rénover: The property needs renovation.
  • Agence immobilière: Real estate agency, that offer services and advice related to property sales and rentals, gives advice for buying, estimates property value for sale, and other real estate-related activities. In France, only licensed real estate agencies can lawfully provide property search and sale services.
  • Agences s’abstenir: A notice sometimes seen on For Sale by Owner property listing ads. The seller is asking real estate agents to abstain from contacting the seller about representing the property.
  • Agent commercial: In the real estate context, an independent agent acting on behalf of the broker under whose license they are operating. This work status is more flexible for the company and the individual than an employer/employee relationship. These free agents are still bound by the rules of propriety and service required of their licensed broker.
  • Agent immobilier: A real estate agent: a professional who represents the owner, the buyer or the tenant in the sale or rental of property.
  • Ancien: Old. In real estate ‘ancien’ refers to period buildings – early 20th century and earlier – in contrast to more modern constructions.
  • Arrondissement: Paris is divided into 20 subdivisions, known as ‘arrondissements’, each with its own ‘mairie’ (mayor) overseeing permit issues, schools, and other localized needs. The ‘1st arrondissement’ is in the city center; the ‘arrondissements’ spiral out to the right from there, a design that gave rise to Paris’ nickname ‘l’escargot’ – the snail.
  • Ascenseur: Elevator
  • Assurance RCP (Responsabilité Civile Professionnelle): Civil and professional liability insurance required of estate agents and property managers.
  • Bail: Lease / rental contract for property. Also referred to as contrats de location, or rental contracts.
  • Bail commercial: Business lease: rental contract for premises in which a commercial, industrial or crafts activity is carried out. Most commercial leases commit the landlord to a minimum term of 9 years, while the tenant can terminate the contract every 3 years.
  • Bail d’habitation: Residential lease: rental contract for premises used for residential or “mixed” usage (professional and residential). Residential leases commit the landlord to a three year minimum term. The tenant can terminate the contract at any time with 3 months notice.
  • Bail professionnel: Professional lease: Rental contract for premises used exclusively for freelance businesses (doctors, dentists, associations, unions…). The landlord is committed to a term of three or six years. The tenant can terminate the contract at any time with 3 months notice.
  • Bailleur: Landlord
  • Balcon: Balcony
  • Bel hauteur sous plafond (HSP): High ceilings – this usually means 3 meters – about 10 feet – or more
  • Bricolage: Do-it-yourself’ing
  • Buanderie: Pantry
  • Carrelage: Tile floor
  • Carte professionnelle: Real estate professional license. Any person carrying out property management or real estate purchase and sale transactions is required to have a professional card. An estate agent who does not have this card is operating illegally.
  • Cave: The basement/cellar. Usually each apartment has its own assigned space which is individually keyed.
  • Chambre: Bedroom
  • Chambre de bonne: Literally translating as the “maid’s room,” this is a small room (often 10m2 or less) on the top floor of period buildings, traditionally reachable only by a service stairwell. Today these can be elevator-accessed and have water hookups and even private toilets (traditionally there was a communal toilet on the floor). Two or more ‘chambres de bonne’ are often combined to make a larger one, or several to make an apartment. If it measures at least 9m2, a ‘chambre de bonne’ can be rented out as a residence or sold separately from the underlying apartment.
  • Charges: Monthly or quarterly assessments paid by apartment owners to cover maintenance of common areas, building insurance and amenities in co-owned buildings. The fees are calculated based on the size of the lot owned, so bigger apartments will owe a proportionately larger share of the total building fees.
  • Chaudiere: Hot water heater. In France these are most often found in the kitchen or main bathroom of the apartment. They are usually gas-fired and may serve as the source of hot-water radiant heat in rooms.
  • Cheminee: Chimney or fireplace.
  • Concierge: Building superintendent. Can also be called a guardienne. The ‘concierge’ manages small maintenance and co-ownership needs including cleaning the common areas and collecting the mail. A live-in concierge has a ground floor apartment in the building for free, plus a small salary. They will often do housework on the side for one or more of the owners in the building. A Christmas bonus is usual and welcome.
  • Contrat de location: Rental contract. See bail (lease)
  • Coup de cœur: Literally, love at first sight. In a property listing, it’s an apartment that will knock your socks off. Often times, that’s exaggerated.
  • Cuisine: Kitchen
  • Cuisine américaine: A kitchen open to the living and/or dining room, not a separate room.
  • Cuisine equipée: A kitchen that comes with all the appliances such as a stove, oven, refridgerator and dishwasher.
  • Digicode: A building entry code system using a number pad
  • Double séjour: An extra large living room area made by joining two adjacent rooms, traditionally with glass-paned doors in between
  • Eau chaude: Hot water
  • Electricité: Electricity
  • Enfilade: An apartment layout where rooms are “in a row” or train car, often off one long hallway. Sometimes one room will only be accessible by passing through another room, making it a less useful bedroom than otherwise.
  • Ensoleillé: Sunny
  • Étage: Floor or landing. Often abbreviated as “e” (e.g., Au 2e — “On the second floor”). The ground floor in France is the rez-de-chaussée or RDC. The 1st floor is one floor up.
  • Etoile: An apartment layout that radiates from the entry in a “star” pattern. This layout provides a convenient flow and access to all rooms and a good use of space, but might compromise privacy.
  • Exposition: Direction of the windows in the apartment (north, south, east or west facing).
  • Fenetre: Window
  • Haussmannien: Under Napoleon III in the late 19th century, Baron Haussmann lead the charge to tear down many of the old neighborhoods in Paris to clear the way for large boulevards lined with large stone buildings, now referred to as ‘Haussmannien’ buildings. These ornate, 6-story residential buildings have wood floors, fireplaces and mouldings, with balconies for the 2nd and 5th floor apartments. Later pierre de taille buildings constructed in similar style – perhaps on smaller streets or less ornate details – are often also referred to as ‘Haussmannien’, but technically they are not.
  • Hauteur sous plafond (HSP): Ceiling height. Bel HSP means high ceilings, usually 3 meters (about 10 feet) or more.
  • Immeuble: Building
  • Interphone: An intercom system in the lobby of a building for calling up to a tenant to gain access to the apartment.
  • Location (nue or meublée): Rental. In France, residential rentals are most often ‘location nue’, or unfurnished rental, subject to a 3-year minimum term. Furnished rentals are ‘meublée’.
  • Loi carrez (m2): The square meter size of an apartment, measured in accordance with strict laws as to what can be included. The definition is very strict, excluding floor area with ceiling heights below 160cm, doorways and window bays, terraces or balconies. Many top-floor apartments with slanted ceilings will have substantially different ‘au sol’ (“on the floor”) and ‘loi carrez’ measurements.
    Where the difference between the total size (m2 au sol) and the loi carrez are substantial, listings will often indicate the size au sol alongside the loi carrez measurement.
    One m2 equals 10.76 square feet.
  • Loyer: Rent (noun). To rent (verb) is ‘louer’.
  • Mandat: Document through which a mandant – principal – gives a ‘mandataire’ – representative – the power to carry out one or more acts of a legal nature on his behalf. For property sales or rentals, this is a listing agreement. A buyer can also sign a mandat de recherche, empowering an agent to search for property on his behalf.
  • Mansardé: Slanted or cathedral ceilings found in top-floor apartments.
  • Mezzanine: An elevated loft space accessible by interior stairs, that usually serves as a workspace or sleeping area in apartments with high ceilings.
  • Moulures: Moldings, often in plaster of Paris, that are standard decor along with wood floors and fireplaces in period buildings.
  • Parquet: Hardwood floors, often oak. The cut and layout of the floors vary in terms of the construction period and/or the prestige of the property.
  • Parquet flottant: Laminate wood flooring, often snap-together pieces. These are not the original hardwood floors that are highly valued in the market of period apartments.
  • Particulier: Private person. In real estate sales, the equivalent of “for sale by owner.”
  • Pièces: The rooms in an apartment, excluding kitchen, baths or a pantry. A “4 pièces” can be an apartment with a living room and 3 bedrooms, or an apartment with a double séjour – 2-room livingroom – and 2 bedrooms.
  • Pierre de taille: Building constructed of stacked, individual stone blocks, often with ornate balconies and classic interior features. The most classic of these are the Haussmannien buildings.
  • Placard: Closet or cupboard
  • Plafond: Ceiling
  • Plomberie: Plumbing
  • PMC: Short for the classic Parisian apartment features of parquet, moulures, cheminées: hardwood floors, ceiling moldings and fireplaces.
  • Porte blindée: A metal door with locks, latches and levers that provides heightened security to the front door of the apartment.
  • Proche de toutes commodites: Near to all conveniences/shopping
  • Quartier: Neighborhood
  • Ramonage: Chimney sweeping — must be performed and certified annually for fireplaces that are in use.
  • Rangement: Storage spaces or cupboards – often in short supply in Paris apartments
  • Ravalement: Cleaning of the façade/exterior of a building. The law requires that this be done every ten years on Paris buildings at the cost of the co-owners. It is often done far less often than that.
  • Rez-de-chaussée (RDC): Ground floor (which is the “zero” floor in France). A “rez-de-chaussée” apartment is a ground floor apartment with at least some windows facing out to the open street. Some “rez-de-chaussée” apartments will have private or semi-private use of the courtyard, which can be a big plus for the property.
  • Rez-de-jardin: A ground floor apartment that lets out to a garden or interior courtyard, with no windows facing onto the street. Some ‘rez-de-jardin’ apartments will have private or semi-private use of the courtyard, which can be a big plus for the property.
  • Rosace: Decorative plaster rosette in center of a ceiling
  • Salle de bains: Bathroom with a bathtub, with or without a toilet.
  • Salle de douche: Bathroom with a shower, with or without a toilet.
  • Salle à manger: Dining room
  • Sejour / Salon: Living room
  • Mètres carrés (m2): Square meters. The standard measure of area for Paris buildings and apartments. In Paris there is a strict law on how the area of residential apartments is calculated (loi Carrez) that assures that the calculation is consistent throughout the market.
    One m2 equals 10.76 square feet.
  • Syndic de copropriété: Co-ownership property representative. A building manager elected or hired by the co-owners to oversee their interests, including the annual meeting of the co-owners, accounting, building insurance, cleaning and concierge personnel, and building renovations.
  • Travaux à prévoir: The property needs extensive renovation.
  • Traversant: An apartment layout that “runs through” from one end of the apartment to the other, usually with windows at each end. Elsewhere known as a “shotgun apartment.”
  • Vente immobilière: Real property sale.
  • Viager: A sales contract for a property where the buyer (called the ‘débirentier’) pays the owner (the ‘crédirentier’) a very reduced price for the property (the ‘bouquet’) plus a monthly income for the duration of the latter’s life (‘rente viagère’). The amount of the ‘bouquet’ and the ‘rente’ are calculated in accordance with three parameters: the valeur vénale (market value) of the property, the life expectancy of the ‘crédit rentier’ and the yield of the capital invested. At the death of the seller, the use of the property transfers to the buyer.
  • Vis à vis: View is obstructed, usually by another building that is across a narrow street or courtyard. The coveted ‘sans vis à vis’ means the apartment enjoys open views.
  • Voûtée: Vaulted (ceilings)
  • Vue degagée: A view that is unobstructed and attractive.
  • Vue sur les toits: View over the rooftops
  • Vue sur rue et cour: Looks out on both the street and inner courtyard
  • WC: The toilet (Water Closet). In Paris apartments it is often separate from the bath or shower (WC separee).
  • WC separée: Toilet that is separate from the bath or shower room.

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