If you are moving to Berlin, you need a place to live. You need it to get a residence permit, register your address and get a tax ID. You can still open a bank account and get health insurance without it.

This guide shows you how to find your first apartment in Berlin.

Is it hard to find an apartment?

Yes. There is a lot of competition for cheap apartments. When a landlord lists an apartment, they get hundreds of messages. Some apartment viewings have hundred of visitors. Some people are lucky and find an apartment in a few days. Other people need weeks or months1. It's easier if you have a stable job, a good income and you speak German.

If you just moved to Berlin, and you need an apartment now, you can get a temporary furnished apartment from websites like Spotahome or Wunderflats. Temporary apartments are expensive, but they are easier to find, even if you are in another country. They come with furniture, appliances, internet and electricity. This gives you a place to stay while you find a better apartment. You can also rent a room in a WG. They often come with everything you need, but they are harder to find.

    Before you start

    Get everything you need

    • Open a bank account
      You need a European bank account to pay your rent every month. If you are not in Europe, you can use Wise to transfer money to a European bank account. You have until you move in to pay the rent and the deposit, so you can also wait until you arrive in Germany.
    • Save money
      You need enough money to pay for the first month of rent and the deposit. The deposit is usually 3 times the cold rent (Kaltmiete). If you don't have enough money, you can pay the deposit in 3 instalments, or use a Mietaval. You will also need money to buy furniture, appliances, and house supplies.
    • Prepare your documents
      You need a few documents to apply for an apartment. Get them in advance. When you find a place you like, you can apply quickly. The full list is down below.

    Things that are different in Germany

    • Deposit
      In Germany, almost all apartments require a deposit (Kaution). It's usually 3 times the cold rent (Kaltmiete). The money stays in a special savings account. You get it back when you move out. If you broke something in the apartment, the landlord pay for the repairs with your deposit. This guide explains how the Kaution works.
    • Cold rent and warm rent
      In Germany, there is the cold rent (Kaltmiete) and the warm rent (Warmmiete). The warm rent is what you pay every month. It includes the utilities (Nebenkosten): central heating, hot water, trash collection and city taxes. The Nebenkosten are not a fixed cost, they are adjusted once a year. If you paid too much, you will get some money back. If you didn't pay enough, you will have to pay more. For example, I paid 250€ more in 2017, but I got 100€ back in 2019.
    • State-subsidised apartments
      Some apartments listing say WBS erforderlich. These apartments are subsidised by the state. You must have a Wohnberechtigungsschein to apply for them.
    • Nothing is included
      In Germany, most apartments come with no appliances, no curtains, no light fixtures and no kitchen. You must buy your own. You can find apartments that include the kitchen (mit Einbauküche or EBK). Those usually come with a stove, a fridge and even a dishwasher.
    • Rent is paid by bank transfer
      In Germany, you always pay the rent by bank transfer. People do not pay their rent with cash or cheques.
    • Rooms
      In Germany, the living room also counts as a room. A studio is a 1 Zimmer Wohnung. A 3 bedroom apartment with a living room is a 4 Zimmer Wohnung. The kitchen and the bathroom do not count as rooms.
    • TV tax
      Everyone in Germany must pay TV tax (GEZ or Rundfunkbeitrag). This tax costs 17.50€ per household per month. If you live in a WG, you can split the cost. In some special cases, you can pay a little less. This guide explains how the TV tax works.

    Step 1: Look for apartments

    Ask your network

    Ask your friends, family and colleagues first. Many people find an apartment this way.

    If you are new in Berlin, some Facebook communities can help. For example, if you are Canadian, the Canadians in Berlin group can help.

    If you already live in Berlin, ask your Hausverwaltung if they have other apartments available. They prefer to rent to someone they already trust. They can put you on a waiting list, or show you apartments that are not yet listed.

    If you are in university, the university has resources to help you1. There are help clinics for new students, and places where they advertise apartments for rent.

    Classified ads

    Facebook groups

    WGs, flatshares and roommates

    • WG-Gesucht - The most famous roommate search website in Germany. Very competitive.
    • WG Suche

    Student housing

    Short term and furnished apartments

    Furnished apartments are the easiest way to find your first apartment in Germany. They are expensive, but they are convenient, and easier to get.

    You can book a furnished apartment before you arrive in Germany. You don't need to send dozens of applications, find furniture, connect the internet, get an electricity contract etc. You just move in. They usually include everything: furniture, internet, electricity, water, etc. They often let you register your address. This is important.

    Furnished apartments are a good temporary solution. After you move in, you can look for a cheaper apartment.

    Housing companies

    Hiring an agent

    People rarely hire agents to help them. Unless you want a >3000€ apartment, they are not useful. They will not improve your chances of finding an apartment.

      Step 2: Choose apartments to visit

      Most people don't choose their apartment. They take what they can get. You should still look for an apartment you like, and avoid scams.

      How to choose an apartment

      • Can you register your address?
        After you move in, you must register your address (the Anmeldung). It's the law. Some apartments don't let you register. That's illegal, but it happens often with sublets and temporary apartments. It's often because the landlord does not know that you live there. If you can't register, it's harder to receive mail, and you don't get a tax ID. If the landlord finds that you live there without their permission, they can kick you out. Always choose an apartment that lets you register.
      • Live alone or in a WG?
        If you want to save money, you can rent a room in a shared apartment (WG). The apartment already has internet, electricity, appliances and sometimes furniture. It saves you a lot of work. A Zweck-WG is a WG where people live together to save money, not to be friends.
      • What is included?
        In Germany, apartments often come without appliances, curtains, light fixtures or even a kitchen. You must buy your own. You can find apartments that include the kitchen (mit Einbauküche or EBK). Those usually include the stove, fridge and even dishwasher. You will probably need to buy your own washing machine. If you live in a WG, all those things are included. Furnished apartments also come with everything you need, but they are more expensive.
      • Housing company
        Check which housing company (Hausverwaltung) owns the apartment. When you have a problem with your apartment, you must talk to them. Some are really good, and some are really bad1. Before you choose an apartment, look for reviews of its Hausverwaltung.
      • Neubau or Altbau?
        New buildings (Neubau) are often quieter and better insulated. They have concrete walls and floors. You hear your neighbours less. Old buildings (Altbau) often have high ceilings, hardwood floors, and a lot of charm.
      • Which floor?
        In North America, the first floor is the ground floor. In Germany, there is the ground floor (Erdgeschoss or EG), then the first floor. On the top floor, there is often an apartment in the attic (Dachgeschoß).
        • Top floor
          Those apartments are quieter because no one lives above you. They are hotter in the summer1, especially old apartments with bad insulation. Check if the insulation was improved recently.
        • Upper floors
          Upper floor apartments get more sunlight. They are quieter because there is less noise from the street. Check if there is an elevator in the building. It's harder to move in, because you must bring your furniture upstairs.
        • Lower floors
          Apartments on lower floors are darker and louder. They are less safe, because of break-ins. Some have direct access to the garden. Neighbours can often see inside your apartment1.
        • Ground floor
          Apartments on the ground floor are less safe. People can break into the apartment more easily. People on the street can also see inside your apartment. Some ground floor apartments have a nice garden.
      • Street or courtyard?
        Do you want an apartment that faces the street, or the courtyard? In the street, you can hear the cars and sometimes the ambulances. In the courtyard, you can often hear your other neighbours.
      • Storage and parking
        Many apartments come with a storage room in the basement (Kellerraum), and bicycle racks in the interior courtyard. Some buildings have a basement garage. A parking space in the basement garage usually costs around 120€ per month.
      • Gas or electric?
        Some apartments have gas heating and gas stoves.

      How to choose a location

      • Neighbourhoods
        Berlin has a few popular neighbourhoods: Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, Neukölln, etc. These neighbourhoods are more interesting, but they are busier, louder and more expensive. There is a lot of competition for those apartments. If you want to pay less, or live in a quiet area, look for apartments outside the Ringbahn. It's not that far!
      • Crime
        Berlin is a safe city, even at night, but some parts of Berlin are less safe. The areas next to big train stations (Alexanderplatz, Görlitzer Bahnhof, Kottbusser Tor, Hermannplatz) are more dangerous1, 2. There are more drunk people, drug addicts, street fights, vandalism and theft in those areas, but people will still leave you alone. You don't need to avoid the entire area, just the busy streets. Use the crime atlas to find a safe area.
      • Noise
        Busy streets are very noisy because of trams, cars and ambulances1, 2. The ambulances are very loud. You can hear trams even when you close your windows1. Busy areas with lots of bars and restaurants are also loud, even late at night. On Google Maps, the busy areas are coloured orange. If you want a quiet apartment, don't live in those areas. This noise map is also useful. The big red line is from Tegel airport - it's now closed.
      • Public transportation
        Berlin has good public transportation. You can live far from the centre if you live close to a train or tram station. Use Mapnificient to see how far you are from work.
      • Parking
        If you plan to buy a car in Berlin, look if there is enough parking space. In central neighbourhoods, parking spaces are harder to find, and you often need a parking permit (around 20€ per year). Your building might have a basement garage. A parking space in the basement garage usually costs around 120€ per month. Single garages are harder to find. If you have a motorcycle, you can park it on the sidewalk.
      • Parks and nature
        Berlin has more parks and green spaces than most cities, even in the centre. If you want to be closer to nature, you can move closer to Brandenburg, or near Grunewald.
      In Google Maps, orange areas are interesting areas. They have good bars and restaurants, but they are busy and loud.
      If you live next to a tram line, you will hear trams all day, even with the windows closed.

      Common apartment scams

      • The lease is only for a few months
        Temporary leases are generally invalid. They are very common in Berlin, but it doesn't mean they are valid. The lease must specify why it's temporary.
      • The lease says the apartment is furnished, but it's not true
        The Mietpreisbremse limits how much rent the landlord can charge. There is no limit for furnished apartments. Landlords want you to pretend that the apartment is furnished to charge more than the limit. If your rent is too high, Conny can help you reduce it.
      • The previous tenant wants to sell his furniture or his kitchen
        Sometimes, the previous tenant (Vormieter) wants to sell all his furniture or his kitchen to you1, 2, 3. If you don't take the furniture, you don't get the apartment. They often ask for a lot of money, because they know that you really want the apartment.
      • The landlord is in another country
        This is a common scam1, 2. The landlord is not in Germany, but wants to mail the keys after you pay a deposit. The apartment does not exist. They will steal your deposit money, and disappear.
      • Agent fees
        You never need to pay an agent fee (Maklergebühr or Provision), unless you hired the agent1, 2.

      There are a few tricks to avoid apartment rental scams:

      • Wait before you pay
        Don't pay anything until you see the apartment in person and sign the lease1, 2. You have until the day you move in to pay the rent and the deposit. You can even pay the deposit in 3 instalments1. You never have to pay something just to see the apartment1.
      • Wait before you send documents
        Don't send pay slips, a Steuerbescheid or a copy of your passport until you have seen the apartment. You can visit an apartment without sharing this information. The landlord only needs those documents if you apply for the apartment.
      • Only pay by bank transfer
        In Germany, everyone pays their rent by bank transfer. Never send money by Western Union or other payment services1. If you are not in Europe, you can use Wise to send money to a European bank account. This is not needed, because you have until the day you move in to pay the rent and the deposit. You can come to Germany, open a bank account, then pay the rent.
      • Use common sense
        If the price is too good to be true, it's probably a scam1, 2. There are no 400€ furnished apartments in Mitte. If it's too easy to get the apartment, it's probably a scam.
      • Use Google
        Search the landlord's name and IBAN on Google. You can also search for parts of their message1. If they are a scammer, you might find some warnings online.

      Step 3: Contact the landlord

      After you find apartments you like, you must contact the landlord. Here are ways to improve your chances:

      • Speak or write in German
        You will get more responses if you use German.
      • Call and write
        Many landlords only answer phone calls. Other landlords only answer emails. Call as soon as you can, and if that doesn't work, send a message.
      • Introduce yourself
        When you contact the landlord, include all the important details about you: your name, age, job, when you want to move in, who will live with you, what documents you have1, and an introduction. A cover letter with a photo can also help1, 2. WG-Gesucht has example messages. Lingoking can translate your message and cover letter to German.
      • Send many applications
        Don't just apply for one or two apartments. It's not enough. Some people send hundreds of applications before they find an apartment1.
      • Be prepared
        Landlords receive hundreds of messages and dozens of applications. Make their life as easy as possible. Bring all the required documents with you, and fill the application form in advance.
      • Be flexible
        Don't just look in popular areas like Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain or Neukölln. There are beautiful, cheap, quiet apartments outside the Ring, and there is less competition for them.
      • Be quick
        If you find an apartment you like, contact the landlord quickly1, 2. Don't wait! There is a lot of competition, so you have to be quick.

      What landlords want

      Landlords want quiet tenants who pay their rent on time. They want to avoid problems.

      • A good income
        Your monthly income should be at least 3 times your living costs1. Many landlords ask for this. Two incomes are better than
        one. If you make a lot of money, you can apply for more expensive apartments. There is less competition for those apartments.
      • A stable job
        Landlords prefer tenants with a stable job. It's harder to find an apartment if you are self-employed, or if you are in your probation period.
      • A stable visa
        It's easier to find an apartment if you have a EU citizenship, or a stable residence permit. It's very hard to find an apartment from another country. If you are not yet in Germany, try finding a temporary furnished apartment.
      • German speakers
        It's easier to find an apartment if you speak German. It's less work for the landlord.
      • No pets
        Landlords prefer people without pets. It's harder to find an apartment when you have a dog. Some websites let you search for apartments that allow pets.
      • No foreign name
        People with foreign names get rejected more often1.

      Step 4: Visit the apartment

      What to bring?

      If you want to get the apartment, come prepared. Bring all your documents with you. If you like the apartment, you can apply immediately.

      These are the documents you need. Make many copies, to apply for many apartments.

      • Schufa
        This is like a credit report. If you are new in Germany, your Schufa might be empty. This is normal, and landlords know it can happen. You can get a free Schufa. You can also bring a work contract, to prove that you make enough money. Some services like Wunderflats do not ask for a Schufa.
      • Copy of passport or ID
        You must show it when you apply for the apartment.
      • Proof of income
        Bring a work contract, or your last 3 pay slips or your last Steuerbescheid. If you are a freelancer, bring a profit and loss statement. If you don't make enough money, you can get a Mietbürgschaft.
      • Bank account statement (optional)
        This shows how much money you have in your bank account. If you are a freelancer, bring one1, 2.
      • Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (optional)
        This document proves that you don't owe money to your previous landlord. You get it from your previous landlord. It does not have a standard format, but you can use this template.
      • Mietbürgschaft (optional)
        If you don't have a stable income, a parent or a friend can be your guarantor. If you don't pay the rent on time, your guarantor must pay your. This is a good option for students, freelancers and people with a low income. Use this template.
      • Application form (optional)
        If the apartment is listed by an agency, download their application form and fill it in advance. If you like the apartment you visit, you can apply immediately.

      What to look for?

      • Appliances
        Check what appliances fit in the apartment. Do you need a smaller washing machine? Is there room for a dishwasher?
      • Hausordnung
        Each building has different house rules (Hausordnung). For example, some buildings have quiet hours from 13:00 to 16:001, 2. The Hausordnung often has rules about quiet hours, BBQs, ventilation, musical instruments, vehicles and pets.
      • Neighbours
        Check who your neighbours are. For example, if they have pets and children, you will sometimes hear them.
      • Internet access
        Some apartment buildings don't have a fast internet connection. For example, the fastest internet connection could be 50 Mbps. Before you choose an apartment, check what internet connections are available. You can use this tool.

        Step 5: Sign the lease

        Once you sign the lease, the apartment is yours. You signed a contract. You can't change your mind. Next, you must pay the rent, and the deposit. You have until your move in date to pay. Do not pay anything until you have signed the lease.

        After you sign the lease, you will receive 3 important documents:

        1. The signed lease
        2. The Übergabeprotokoll
        3. TheWohnungsgeberbestätigung - you need this for your Anmeldung

        Step 6: Move in

        After you find a place, it's time to move out of your old apartment, and to move into your new apartment. You must register your new address at the Bürgeramt, find a good liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung), get an internet contract, find a power company and a few other things.

        You should also join a tenants' union (Mieterverein). They can check your lease, and help you when you have problems with your landlord. Legal insurance can also help with that. If your rent is too high, Conny (also called Wenigermiete) can help you reduce it. You can learn more in my review of Conny/Wenigermiete.

        If you just moved to Berlin, you might need to buy furniture, appliances, etc. You must also learn how to sort your trash, how your electric bill works, and what to do if you lose your keys.

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