1. Compromise is the name of the game in buying a Parisian apartment. No matter what your budget, neighborhood or criteria, you will have to make compromises. Prices are higher than you might expect, and often apartments need work -- at a minimum "freshening up" and at maximum, major renovations.
2. Be prepared! The market is very competitive and requires active engagement and rapid decision making. The best properties sell within 1 to 72 hours of coming on the market. You need to be able to evaluate quickly, and on the spot, if a property appeals to you and if you wish to make an offer.
3. Price negotiation is almost non-existent in the Parisian market. French sellers are very aware of the value of their property, which is calibrated by euros/m2, depending on the neighborhood, charm and amenities. If the price is negotiable, the seller will state this directly when asked. Do not expect the back and forth bargaining that is a characteristic of the American market.
4. It is essential to have your financial picture clear before you start searching. You are competing with French buyers who have a "leg up" with French sellers, who feel more secure that an all French transaction will go more quickly and be more straight forward. You need to be pre-approved for a mortgage, if you plan on using financing for your purchase.
5. The Parisian market is closely tied to certain periods of the year. It is strong from mid-September to early December and from late February to the end of June, excepting French holidays (of which there are many.) While property is sold all year, to optimize your time, you need to coordinate your search to those periods when most sellers are available to show their properties. Advice: calendar carefully with PREF.
6. Choose people to help you who you trust, and then, trust them. Use your skills to conduct reasonable "due diligence" on the persons or companies who you plan to use to assist you in your search. If possible, get recommendations from former clients or professional sources. Once you have decided to go with a company or agent, trust it/him/her and avoid double guessing them or yourself.
7. Don't buy a property in Paris unless you are truly committed to Paris. If you are really only looking for an investment property, buy close to home in a market that you know. Owning Parisian real estate is a challenge -- both linguistic and managerial. Most buildings are old (historic, if you wish) and have management problems. A Parisian apartment is not care free; you need to love Paris and have a genuine emotional attachment to the city, or it's not worth your trouble.
8. Some people say, "Location, location, location." We say, "Intuition, intuition, intuition." You need to have a feeling for the apartment you buy -- even if it's not in the area you originally thought you wanted, or it doesn't look like what you thought you wanted. If it strongly appeals to you, that's one of the best indicators you can have, and you should trust your instincts (the coup de coeur at the doorsill).
9. Commit yourself to your search. Come to Paris with comfortable shoes, a good umbrella, a rational map, your sense of humor and energy. The search should take 3-7 intense days beginning on a Thursday. You need to be available at a moment's notice to charge off to see another apartment. Avoid social or other appointments that detract in any way from your ability to focus on finding your apartment.
10. Have fun! Apartment hunting in Paris is work, stressful, emotionally and physically challenging. But, it should be fun too! If you're not enjoying yourself, rethink your approach. Either you're in the wrong neighborhood, working with the wrong people or not drinking enough champagne in the evening! It's a wonderful, exhilarating undertaking. You will see some dreadful things and perhaps, something that will steal your heart. But above all, be prepared to have fun, laugh and turn the page for the next one.