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What is a Pied-à-Terre?

By: Davina Ward
May 27, 2020

If you are on the hunt for a residence in popular big cities, you may have come across the term pied-à-terre. This French word translates to “foot on the ground.” While your roots might be planted elsewhere, a pied-à-terre enables you to call more than one place home, even if it’s not your primary residence.

This type of property is well-suited for weekends, short periods of time, business travel, or vacations. However, it’s not meant to be a full-time home.

The prevalence of this kind of residence is growing in the real estate market. Has a pied-à-terre piqued your interest? Keep on reading to learn everything you need to know about pied-à-terres and whether one would be the right choice for you.

What is a Pied-à-Terre?

A pied-à-terre is a secondary residence that people typically use for short-term stays. It’s usually a small unit, and is often rented.

However, buyers with a bigger budget can afford to purchase a larger and more extravagant pied-à-terre. For the most part, a pied-à-terre is not designed to be a primary residence.

Someone who might benefit from a pied-à-terre, for example, works in a big city like New York or London, though their primary residence is outside of the city. To avoid a lengthy commute, an individual would stay at their pied-à-terre during the workweek. Then, they’d go home on weekends.

However, a pied-à-terre is not reserved for working individuals. They’re well-suited for many different situations, whether it’s proximity to important places and people or simply a place to call your home away from home.

Parents of college students might consider a pied-à-terre in a college town to visit their child. Likewise, retirees who enjoy spending parts of the year in different places may rent a pied-à-terre.

These properties can be bought or rented. There are some differences between typical vacation homes and a pied-à-terre. Keep those in mind before signing the papers and calling it a day.

What Does a Pied-à-Terre Look Like?

There are several defining characteristics of a pied-à-terre. First, a pied-à-terre is typically in the heart of a city’s center.

The layout of such an apartment is typically similar to that of a studio or efficiency apartment. That means they tend to be on the smaller side. They aren’t meant for full-time living.

An easy way to distinguish them in your mind is by considering them as a more comfortable, customizable version of a hotel room. Someone who is commuting between two places frequently doesn’t want to pay exorbitant hotel room costs. That’s why a pied-à-terre is an interesting alternative to consider.

What are the Benefits of a Pied-à-Terre?

Though it’s easy to consider owning a pied-à-terre an extravagance, that’s not the case. In fact, a pied-à-terre can offer distinct advantages to its owner. Here are some of the top benefits of owning a pied-à-terre and why you should consider purchasing or renting one.

  • Travel Without Limitations: You’re not limited to a single suitcase. You will have space to store clothes. You’ll usually have a kitchen or kitchenette, too. This means you can travel light, and choose to save costs on eating out if you’d prefer to stay in.
  • Budget-Friendly Option: Overall, they’re cost-efficient for frequent business travelers. You’re not shelling out high fees for hotel services and meals at restaurants. If those costs are a consistent burden on your budget, a pied-à-terre may be right for you.
  • Shorten Your Commute: Is your daily commute eating valuable time out of your day? A pied-à-terre will make your life a lot less complicated. To make sure this is a good choice for you, calculate the cost of commuting both financially and mentally. If the alternative of having a place to stay in that city lifts those costs, then you’re likely making a good investment for yourself, your budget, and your family.
  • Experience City-Living: If your primary residence is in a quieter suburb or rural area, having a pied-à-terre can provide variation to your lifestyle. Not only does it give you new avenues to explore, but it also gives you the luxury of enjoying the perks of a quiet life at your primary residence. Then, you can still reap the best aspects of city living — without the burnout that typically comes with it.

What Should I Look for in a Pied-à-Terre?

First things first: don’t jump into a purchase. Consider renting before making things final. That way, you can get to know the area, the city, and how the property is positioned in it. When you’re between several options, here’s how to sift out your final contender:

  • Location, Location, Location!: That’s where the true value of a pied-à-terre lies. You want it to be close to the spots you need to access with ease, whether that be work or your favorite park. Have your own daily routine in mind when honing in on neighborhoods you’d like to rent in.
  • Access to Public Transit: Driving around in big cities isn’t all that convenient. Make life easier by choosing wisely: close to public transit points. Whether that’s the subway, bus, or metro, keep this in mind.
  • Parking Availability: You’ll need to know if you can reliably park your car in a spot whenever you need to be at your pied-à-terre. If you don’t focus on this aspect, you might be stuck between a rock and a hard place when you own a wonderful pied-à-terre that’s located a full 20 minutes away from the parking garage your car is stuck in.
  • Size: As we mentioned, these properties tend to be on the smaller side. Consider how much space you need. If you need more space than a pied-à-terre can give you, consider an apartment instead.
  • Furniture: Do you want a furnished or unfurnished pied-à-terre? There’s no right or wrong answer. However, it’ll certainly narrow down your list of contenders regardless of your opinion on the matter. Keep in mind that while a furnished pied-à-terre might cost more than an unfurnished one, it may save you money and time in the long run.
  • Costs and Taxes: Depending on the city you’ve got your eye on, you may need to educate yourself on the rules of pied-à-terre ownership in your specific municipality. Different cities have different rules. You’ll need to include tax liability and other potential costs to your final calculation of whether or not you’ll be able to afford the overall cost of a pied-à-terre.
  • Pets: Ask about pets upfront! The rules differ from each property to the next. You don’t want to sign papers only to find out your favorite four-legged travel companion isn’t welcome.
  • Amenities: Do you want that little bit extra? Consider the amenities that the complex provides. Perhaps there’s a gym, spa, or other amenities that can make it or break it for you. If you’re looking for certain amenities, be sure to consider how much it may raise the price of a pied-à-terre.

Final Thoughts

The first step of renting a pied-à-terre is determining whether you need one. So, you’ll have to ask yourself some serious questions.

Are you someone who takes vacations regularly? Perhaps you’re a busy professional who’s sick of commuting or traveling and staying in hotels. Do you want to visit family frequently in a different city? A pied-à-terre may just be what you’ve been looking for!

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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