Relocation Guide: Finding An Apartment.
So you’ve applied for the job, received the offer, signed the contract, jumped on the plane (train or automobile), and have finally made it to Berlin! Once you’ve arrived in Berlin it is now time to become completely immersed in the apartment search. Just as you scoped different job boards for the right position for you, you must now start scoping out different sources to find the perfect apartment. Although the apartment search can seem overwhelming, we have some tips and helpful websites that will help equip you for the process!
Keep your eye on the sites.
Below we have collected several sites offering short and long-term contracts as well as options for subletting. For many of the sites, you create a profile (either for free or for a small fee) and you will be able to design your own profile filled with filters for the types of apartments in which you would like to live. Certain sites, such as Immobilienscout will also send a daily email featuring new listings that fit your profile.
http://www.wg-gesucht.de/en (some rooms can also be unfurnished)
http://www.exberlinerflatrentals.com/ (also offers unfurnished)
http://www.immonet.de (also offers furnished)
For these sites, a bit of German vocabulary can be a big help. We’ve collected the most important apartment-related German words at the end of the blog. Additionally, when reaching out to realtors who have posted the listings, do your best to use any German you have. Even though *many* realtors speak English, writing in German is a sign of goodwill and also a sign of commitment to living in Germany, which is meaningful to landlords.
The house hunt in Berlin is quite competitive at the moment, and in this kind of market, preparedness is key. To every showing bring your completed application (die Bewerbung), a copy of your SCHUFA (die Bonitätsprüfung), a copy of your passport or ID card (der Reisepass, der Ausweis), proof of earnings in the last 3 months (der Einkommensnachweis), and a letter from your previous landlord confirming you do not owe any debt to them (die Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung). For those moving from outside of Germany, it is helpful to bring a copy of your German work contract (der Arbeitsvertrag) if you cannot provide your last 3 payslips, as it shows proof of future earnings. If the realtor doesn’t send you the application prior to the viewing, then it will likely be handed out during the showing.
For those of you who read the last paragraph and had no idea what a SCHUFA is, then look no further! A SCHUFA Auskunft is a standardized credit check requested by most landlords in Berlin. In order to get your SCHUFA you must have a German bank account as well as an address. Now, it is very challenging to open a German Bank Account without an address. Furthermore, if you are looking for housing, it is also likely that you do not have a German address. This chicken and egg situation can be avoided through a few different workarounds, but what I recommend is simply printing out a credit check completed in your own country and presenting it to the landlord, as this should be sufficient.
Having all of these printed, organized, and ready to hand to the realtor will not only make you feel more at ease when showing up to a viewing with 20 other people but will also make sure you don’t miss out on any apartments because you didn’t have everything you needed.
As mentioned previously, finding an apartment in Berlin is a competitive process, and in addition to preparedness, speed is also crucial. If you like a certain apartment listing, email the realtor promptly asking for a showing at the soonest convenient moment. Oftentimes showings will be planned for groups, and in this case, speed is even more important. Once you walk into an apartment, if you like it, move quickly to speak to the realtor, fill out the application on-site, and hand over all of your documents before you leave the viewing. If approved for an apartment, making the deposit (die Kaution) will also happen quickly, and ensures that the apartment is yours! The deposit is normally 3 months of Kaltmiete (rent price without utilities).
In Berlin, the early bird certainly gets the Wohnung.
Since you have to move quickly, it helps to already know where you want to live and what kind of apartment you want to live in, which brings me to my next tip.
Know what you’re looking for, but be flexible.
Before beginning the apartment search it is helpful to have an idea of which neighborhood and what kind of apartment in which you would like to live.
In Berlin, apartments are categorized as 1, 2, or 3-Zimmer. This translates to a 1 room, 2 room, or 3-room apartment. The number of rooms does not include the kitchen or the bathroom. This means that for an apartment categorized as a 2-Zimmer, there will be a kitchen, bathroom, and two bigger rooms. For a 1-Zimmer, there will be a kitchen, bathroom, and one additional room.
Additionally, many apartments come unfurnished which, in Berlin, means truly unfurnished. You very well could see an unfurnished apartment that has a kitchen without a stove, counters, or cabinets. This gives you more opportunity to build the kitchen of your dreams, but also adds additional cost and hassle.
Speaking of cost, rent (die Miete) is broken up into two different types: Kaltmiete and Warmmiete. Kaltmiete is the rent without utilities (die Nebenkosten) and Warmmiete is the rent with utilities - this is the amount you will pay every month. Nebenkosten is usually, but not always, water, sewage, trash collection, electricity, gas, Hausmeister service, etc.
Although gas and electricity could be included in the Warmmiete, this is not a guarantee. It will be detailed individually in the contract, so make sure to read carefully. Gas and electricity costs are usually dependent on personal usage and are paid monthly at a predetermined rate. The meters are read yearly and depending on usage, the renter will either receive money back for underusing the electricity or gas or will be required to pay more to account for the over-usage.
Gas heating is the most common heating in Berlin though some apartments still use coal heating. Coal heating involves shoveling coal into a small coal oven that then heats the apartment. This is the cheaper option, but is very rare and also a considerable hassle.
In terms of neighborhood, Berlin has many great options. The most common neighborhoods to live in are Mitte, Prenzlauerberg, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Charlottenburg, Neukölln, Schöneberg, and Wedding. For information about each of these neighborhoods check out the following links:
Bring your dictionary.
This is pretty self-explanatory, but if German isn’t your Muttersprache, it would be helpful to have a German dictionary on hand so you can look up any unknown words you encounter when filling out the application. Alternatively, just have our list of vocabulary words ready at every showing!
Although it might seem daunting, just as you found the right job, you will find the right home. We wish you the best of luck in your search, and to all of you new Berliners, Wilkommen!
German Apartment-Search Vocabulary
Wohnung = apartment
WG (Wohngemeinschaft) = an apartment share
möbliertes Zimmer = furnished room
zur Miete, zu vermieten = for rent
Zimmer = room(s), without bathroom & kitchen
Quadratmeter (qm or m2) = square meters
Circa = approximately
Wohnzimmer = living room
Schlafzimmer = bedroom
Bad (Badzimmer) = bathroom
Küche = kitchen
Rent & Utilities
Miete = rent
Warmmiete = rent with utilities
Kaltmiete = rent without utilities
jährlich = yearly
monatlich = monthly
Kaution = deposit, often 3x the Kaltmiete
Nebenkosten = usually water, sewage, trash collection, Hausmeister service, etc.
Provision = commission paid to the agent
Vermieter = landlord
ab sofort = sofort frei = available immediately
ab. 1 Mai = ab 1.5 = Apartment is available from 1st May
Spülmaschine = dishwasher
Waschmaschine = washing machine
möbliert = furnished
Aufzug = elevator
Balkon = balcony
Kabel (Kabelanschluss) = cable TV – Internet
offener Kamin = fireplace
Abstellraum = storage room
renovierte = renovated
Altbau = older building. Usually before World War II.
hell/helles = light
sonniges = sunny
modern = modern
Tiere (Tierhaltung) = pets allowed
Heizung = heating
Fermwärme = district heating piped-in from a local heating plant
Gaszentralheizung = central gas heating
Elektroheizung = electric heating
Ölzentralheizung = central oil heating
Zentralheizung = central heating
Erdgeschoss = ground floor
2nd Obergeschoss = second floor
1 Etage = first floor (one above ground level)
2 Stock = second floor
Untergeschoss = basement floor
Vorderhaus = front building
Hinterhaus = back building
Postleitzahl = postal code
ruhig = quiet
Umgebung = area, neighborhood
Verkehrsanbindung = access to public transportation
Zentrum = city center