How to find an apartment in Germany

Finding a place to call home can be difficult at the best of times, but in a new country and in a language you might not understand, it can be even more daunting. Where do you even start? Right here, as it turns out, with our helpful guide to finding an apartment in Germany!

Apartment hunting in Germany

Whether you’re moving to Germany for work, love or simply because you think German is the sexiest language in the world, one thing everyone has to go through is finding a place to live. Depending on where you’re moving to (and often pure dumb luck), this can take anywhere from a few days to several months.

Short-term and shared accommodation

Many people rent a short-term apartment through Airbnb or Wunderflats when they first arrive to buy themselves some time until they can find something more permanent. Another option is to take a room in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft) or shared apartment. This can be a great way to make new friends, or meet complete psychopaths, dependent again on how lucky you are. If you’re fortunate enough to share an apartment with Germans, they can help you with the mountain of bureaucracy you’re about to face and also move your rubbish to the correct bin. The recycling system in Germany can be pretty bewildering for newbies but Germans enjoy teaching people things, so you’ll probably only make each mistake once. 

Required documents for viewing an apartment

If you’re ready to start looking for your own apartment, the most important thing is to make sure you have all of your documents griffbereit (at the ready). Germans just love paperwork as you’ll quickly realise and having it all to hand can give you an edge over other, less organised souls. Most landlords will ask for the following:

  • your passport or ID 
  • your last three pay slips (freelancers should bring a statement of income from a tax advisor)
  • your previous address registration: if you haven't done it yet, we tell you here how to register your address in Germany.
  • a credit rating report (Schufa-Auskunft), which you can order online.
  • a statement from your previous landlord that you paid your rent in full and on time (Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung – if you didn’t think the German language was sexy before, you’re starting to now, right…?). 
  • Some landlords might also ask for proof of private liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherungsnachweis) and possibly home contents insurance (Hausratversicherung). The former protects you in case you cause damage to the apartment or building, the latter covers damage to your property, for example, if the washing machine leaks and destroys your kitchen – both very useful to have and a good first step in your Germanification. Germans love insurance almost as much as waste separation, maybe even more.

How to find an apartment

If you’ve got your suitcase of documents ready, it’s time to hit the internet. There are various websites you can search, and being some of the more popular ones. Also keep an eye on social media sites as people often post rooms or apartments to rent there. To find an apartment in Berlin can be particularly tricky, so find some great tips on Settle in Berlin or on Ocyan.

What to expect in a German apartment

Germans don’t use the “bedroom system” like some countries so a 1-room apartment is a studio, 2 rooms is a bedroom and separate living space, etc. Bathrooms and kitchens are a given, so they’re not included in the room count. However, don’t be fooled by the word “Küche” (kitchen) in an advertisement or you could find yourself standing in your apron looking at a blank space where the kitchen should be. A funny thing about the Germans – and there are many – is that they often take their kitchens with them when they move to a new apartment. (They sometimes also take everything else down to the sockets and flooring, but you’ll figure that out for yourself pretty quickly.) In Berlin at least, kitchens must have an oven and a sink, in other states, only the water, gas and electricity outlets are provided, so your housewarming dinner party might be a bit of a bust if you’re not aware of this. Or you could have a “raw” dinner with warm wine – maybe your new friends will think you’re quirky. However, if you’d prefer a place with a fitted kitchen, make sure that the ad specifically mentions an “EBK” (Einbauküche). Fully furnished apartments here are as rare as Germans who don’t like beer. 

Funding and furnishing

As a general rule, you should earn three times the “cold” rent (Kaltmiete) and the deposit is also usually three times the Kaltmiete. After forking out that amount of money, you might be a bit short on cash to furnish your new pad. Ebay classifieds (Kleinanzeigen) can be a goldmine for picking up furnishings and fittings on the cheap or sometimes even free - you often just have to organise collection yourself.

And that’s about it! All that’s left to say is enjoy your new home here in Deutschland – and no, that baking paper doesn’t go in the paper bin. Rookie mistake…

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