Finding a Home in (Berlin) Germany

So, you’ve found love, a new job or for some strange reason think this dirty, unfriendly, xenophobic city is just fantastisch. Whatever the reason, you’ve moved to Berlin & now need a place to call home. Since relocating here in 2008 I have moved twice, once to a bigger apartment & the second time to escape a threatening asshat neighbour.

Update: I’ve now moved for a third (& hopefully last) time!


Finding a property is quite easy. Here’s a few good sites to start with:

Immobilienscout24      Immonet     ebay kleinanzeigen

Unfortunately the sites are only in German but are pretty easy to figure out with the basic vocabulary:

Wohnungen zur Miete = Apartments for Rent

Häuser zur Miete = Houses for Rent

Wohnungen zum Kauf = Apartments to Buy

Häuser zum Kauf = Houses to Buy

Suche = Search

Weiter = Next

Zimmer = Number of Rooms wanted In Germany all rooms except  bathroom & kitchen are counted – for example, what I would call a bachelor apartment is a 1 room apartment (1 Zimmer Wohnung) here, a 1 bedroom apartment is a 2 room apartment (2 Zimmer Wohnung) & so on…

Wohnfläche = Size of living space wanted In Germany you pay by the square meter

Kaltmiete = The maximum Cold Rent you are willing to pay …OK..WTF is “cold rent”?! For whatever reason the powers that govern property renting here decided that the rent that is paid to the owner of the building should be kept separate from the money paid for the care & general maintenance of the building – Betriebskosten or Nebenkosten in German.

Warmmiete or Gesamtmiete = The Total Rent  (Kaltmiete + Betriebskosten/Nebenkosten = Warmmiete/Gesamtmiete) Always check the Warmmiete/Gesamtmiete as it can be up to 3 times more than the advertised Kaltmiete!

Provision = Commission As most apartments are rented through a Makler (real estate agent) who works directly for the Eigentümer (building owner) or for a Hausverwaltung (property management company) a commission may be charged for showing you the property, writing up the contracts, etc…*Not all properties for rent will charge an additional provision, be sure to read ads thoroughly  – or simply look for Provisionsfreie (Commission free) ads

Renovierungsbedürftig = Renovation Discount Some apartments offer discounted rent or even free Kaltmiete for a month or more if there is work to be done – it could be anything from putting in a laminate floor in a small room to building new walls & installing new plumbing, you definitely have to check it out in detail before you commit to signing contracts.

Bewerbung = Rental Application When applying for an apartment be prepared to bare your soul. Not only is the application form chock full of personal questions but you must also supply your Lohnbescheinigung (detailed pay statements from your employer) for the last 3 months or, if you are self-employed, your Steuerbescheid (tax statement) for the last year. Additionally a Schufa check is required. Schufa is similar to a credit check but insanely indepth.

Now that you’ve found an apartment you like, for the right price, make contact & set up a Besichtigungstermin (viewing time). Check everything in the apartment, from flushing the toilet to running the faucets, make sure it’s all in working order!

Ask about your potential neighbours & the area, if you want quiet you don’t want to move in to a party building full of WG Wohnungen (roommate apts) . However, asking doesn’t always work, we inquired several times about our potential neighbours (specifically in the apt above us) & were blatantly lied to by the real estate agent AND the property management company. The first weekend after we moved in the party was so loud upstairs photo frames were falling off our walls & plants were toppling over (seriously, I’m not kidding). This continued at varying hours of every day & night until we were finally able to move out 6 months later. Which leads me to the cost of moving in to an apartment in Germany…

It costs A LOT to move in Germany, here’s a breakdown of costs:

– 1st month’s rent

– 3 month’s rent for Kaution (deposit)

Provision (Commission – if charged by the rental company)

– Moving company (or Robben & Wientjes rent-a-truck & friends to help you)

– Appliances (Apartments in Germany are rented completely empty. The bathroom suite is, of course, installed – if you’re lucky some may also have a sink & stove in the kitchen but that’s it)

– Overhead (ceiling) lights (really…properties are TOTALLY & COMPLETELY EMPTY when you move in)

– Renovation & cleaning costs (This depends entirely on the cleanliness of the people who lived in the apt before you. In Germany you don’t have to clean/repaint/repair before you move out – as long as the walls are left a ‘neutral’ colour only serious damage/repairs will be taken off of your deposit, it’s up to the next renters to thoroughly clean, fill nail holes, etc…)

– A strong lock for your Keller (storage room) – most apartments have basement storage areas that are included in the rent. As the buildings are usually 100+ years old & as these areas are rarely renovated or well lit they can be quite creepy…

Once you’ve signed your Mietvertrag (rental agreement) & paid your deposit you’ll have an appointment for the Protokoll (apartment assessment). This is when you go through the apartment with someone from the property management company and write down & sign off on any/all visible damages/repairs that need to be made. Providing nothing serious is found you are given the keys and are able to move in. *If major repairs are needed that you are unable to do yourself, the Hausverwaltung (property management) should arrange for their completion either before or shortly after you move in.

Then it’s just a matter of getting all of your treasures unpacked and your new home in order…

*a bit of extra info: when you want to move out you must give a minimum of 3 months notice – or – find a few acceptable new tenants for the building owner to choose from to take over your apartment AND it can take up to 1 full year to get your deposit back!

click here to check out all of my Life in Germany adventures:

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