Tips on finding an apartment in Germany
Tips on finding an apartment in Germany
One of the first steps taken by every new arrival in Germany is the search for somewhere to live. But no sooner have you started your house hunt than the new questions start flooding in… Where should I look for an apartment? How much should I expect to pay in rent? And what on earth is a WG?
To answer these questions, and a few more besides, here are some helpful hints and tips to guide you through every step of your property search in Germany.
What’s the best way to find an apartment in Germany?
There are multiple rental websites in Germany, which can all be found through a simple Google search. Bear in mind that it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to find a suitable place, especially in the big cities, so just keep at it.
The WG-option (see below) can be a good place to start, just to buy yourself some time while you get organised. Other short-term options are Airbnb and serviced apartments, though these are obviously more expensive. Talk to people, keep an ear to the ground and an eye on social media sites - you’ll find someplace eventually.
Kitting out your new apartment
An interesting quirk of the Germans is that when they move house, they take everything with them - sometimes right down to the lighting fixtures and sockets. The expression “everything but the kitchen sink” could have originated in Germany as that’s one of the few things they leave behind - in Berlin, at any rate.
In the capital, by law, every kitchen has to have a cooker and a sink; in other states, only the water, gas and electricity outlets are provided. So, a word to the wise: if you’re looking for a place with a fitted kitchen, make sure that it specifically says “EBK” (Einbauküche) in the listing. “But wouldn’t it be easier if everyone just left the fittings behind so the next tenant didn’t have to bring all of their fittings with them...?” you ask. You’d think so but, for a lovably logical people, this one seems to have passed the Germans by.
Living in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft)
If the thought of trying to find and furnish an entire apartment seems a little daunting at this stage, one way to ease yourself into German living is to get a room in a shared apartment for a few months. This is known as a “WG” (pronounced “veh geh”), probably because “Wohngemeinschaft” is too long to say. All the better if you can find a place with German housemates so you can wow them with your newfound German language skills.
You’ll also learn useful life skills like folding a pizza box to around the size of a matchbox before putting it in the trash, how to clean things that are already clean, and the correct way to boil an egg. Yup, chances are you’ve been doing it wrong your whole life. Don’t worry, the Germans are here to help with their (usually quite dizzying) array of German household gadgets.
Rent and deposits in Germany
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need to earn three times the “cold” rent (Kaltmiete) to rent out an apartment. Your potential landlord may ask you for proof of income.
When it comes to deposits, there are strict laws in Germany governing this. Legally, your landlord cannot ask for more than three times the Kaltmiete as a deposit. Usually, it will be precisely that. They are also obliged to keep it separate from their own assets (e.g. in a different bank account).
Watch out for scammers
Unfortunately, there are a lot of scammers out there so if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is. You should never transfer any money without seeing the apartment first. If you get a reply along these lines, run like the wind:
"It’s great that you’re interested in my apartment! My name is blah blah, and I currently live in (insert random country here). As it would cost quite a lot for me to come back to (insert German city here) to show the apartment, I need to know that you are a serious tenant. Therefore, I ask you to transfer €… and I will post you the keys so you can view the property. This will all be done through Airbnb so we know we can trust each other…"
Airbnb does not offer a service like this, and you will never see your money again. You have been warned.
Happy house hunting!
It may seem overwhelming at first, but armed with these tips, your property hunt will most definitely end in success. Good luck with your house search!
This article is adapted from Linda’s new book, From the Bürgeramt to the Bedroom: Your Essential Guide to Moving to Germany (co-authored with Kristina Riess). You can find more on her profile page below.