If you rent an empty apartment, the lease term is for a period of 3 years, renewable each year with 3 months' advance notice. You will most often have to furnish the kitchen yourself. An empty apartment is not always cheaper - the rent is based on the neighborhood and the building.
Realtors are no longer permitted to see your bank statements, unfortunately. It is also illegal for landlords or agencies to ask for payment upfront.
Legally, you will need to provide a current work contract, show your last 3 payslips, prove you pay taxes in France, provide multi-risk insurance for the apartment, have a French bank account, provide an RIB, and give proof of identity in the form of passports and work visas.
If you can't provide all of these items, you will need to have either a French bank or a personal representative agree to guarantee one year's worth of rent and charges, which will be blocked in a separate account. You will still need to make monthly payments during the year and will be responsible for paying taxe d'habitation.
is the best site for apartment searches.
The least expensive arrondissements tend to be: 13, 15, 11, 19 and 20.
Most listings will give you the nearest Metro station, and most are not more than a 10 minute walk away.
Apartments are arranged differently, and you might try entering 45 m2 instead of 50-60 m2. A lot of times, the extra space is nothing that you can really use effectively.