Tiffanie Davis has lived all over the world — but there's nowhere like Paris, she says.
That's partially because Davis, a 31-year-old digital consultant and YouTuber from Massachusetts, says she's fallen for the City of Light. It's also because her 320-square-foot one-bedroom Paris apartment feels like a steal to her, at 1,100 euros — equivalent to roughly $1,300 — per month.
Fighting through the city's "super competitive" rental scene to land it felt like "a full-time job," Davis tells CNBC Make It. "I remember going to an apartment visit and there was a line of 20 people out the door waiting to see the apartment."
Davis' neighborhood, Montmartre, is on the north side of Paris. Her apartment is steps away from the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, one of France's major cultural and political monuments. And it came fully furnished, with amenities many Americans might take for granted — like an American-sized refrigerator, a washing machine and plenty of overheard storage.
Her friends "cannot believe" she found a "big" apartment for what she's "paying in Paris," she says.
"I got a great deal for Paris at this price with this amount of space that I have," she says. "When I was on the apartment hunt, everything that I was finding within this price range again was a little studio apartment with the bed and the couch in the same room."
As it turns out, Davis might have hit the Parisian rental jackpot when she landed the fifth-floor apartment in 2019. Furnished one-bedroom apartments in Montmartre — in Paris' 18th arrondissement — typically run between 1,300 and 2,600 euros a month, according to Lodgis, a Paris-based real estate agency.
On top of her rent, Davis pays the equivalent of $90 to $110 for utilities and an additional $40 for her cable, internet and phone bundle every month.
Her apartment is also missing a few key amenities, like a dishwasher. "When I was originally looking for an apartment here, I wanted everything," Davis says. "I wanted it to be very spacious… but I realized that in Paris, you can't always get what you want. I definitely had to sacrifice on a few things."
She considers her balcony with "beautiful views" of the city a fair trade. The apartment also has large French windows, tiled floors and two fireplaces. And for some personality, Davis says, she's sprinkled crystals in every corner.
An uphill battle to Montmartre
Before moving to Paris, Davis burned through a few U.S. cities.
She grew up in Wilmington, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, and attended Howard University in Washington D.C. Post-college, a variety of fashion and public relations jobs took her to San Francisco and New York City.
But she felt "stuck in [her] comfort zone" living in New York, she says. In 2017, she remembered a mentor told her about ESSEC Business School's MBA program in Paris, where she could study luxury brand management.
She took the jump, graduated from the MBA program in August 2018, and was offered a digital marketing and social media branding contract with Estée Lauder.
During and through the end of her program, she lived the "tiny studio" close to the city's center, which was "overpriced" for its size, Davis says: 1,000 euros per month, only 100 euros less than her current apartment, but much smaller, and tucked behind a restaurant with little natural light.
After a year, Davis left her studio apartment and spent four months crashing with a friend, she says, before finding her Montmartre home in January 2019.
To find her sunny and reasonably spacious apartment, Davis plugged her price range and desired amenities into an apartment-hunting site — and then spent months sorting through various alerts.
Once she found the unit, the application process was just as strenuous. Davis needed copies of her passport, recent tax returns, visa or residence permit, work attestation or contract and proof of her last three months of pay. She also had to jump through hoops to secure a non-French guarantor.
"The HR director of the company that I was working for had to get on the phone with the landlord to say, 'Yes, she's in good standing, we love her,'" Davis says. "I've lived in a lot of different cities ... Paris has been the hardest and most complicated when it comes to apartment hunting and actually securing a place."
To officially secure her apartment, Davis had to put down 3,300 euros — 1,100 euros in agent fees, 1,100 for a security deposit and 1,100 for her first month of rent.
A year later, her contract with Estée Lauder ended, just as the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread through Europe. But Davis wasn't ready to leave Paris. Instead, she decided to start filming vlogs of her life abroad for other aspiring expats.
An American in Paris, for now
YouTube revenue varies based on how often you post and how many views you get on each video, with common estimates ranging from $3 to $5 per 1,000 views — so recently, she's also earned money through brand partnerships and one-on-one social media consulting.
And she's already looking ahead to her next home.
"I do like the [Montmartre] space, but I'm also kind of ready for like the next phase, the next level, the next chapter," she says. "I've actually been thinking of kind of moving to a new country. Maybe like, I don't know, I feel like the world is my oyster right now."
She'll likely stay in Europe, where she's grown accustomed to the lifestyle, she says.
"In America, people live to work," she says. "In Paris, people work to live. I'm not sure where I'll go next, but Paris is definitely home for now."
CNBC Make It converted Euros to USD on January 14, 2022.
Correction: This story has been updated to remove an inaccurate reference to Davis' monthly income.
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