If you are moving to Berlin, you will need a place to live. That can be hard to find. This guide shows you how to look for flats in Berlin.

How to prepare?

It's really hard to find an apartment in Berlin. There is a lot of competition. If you want to have a chance, you must be prepared. Here is what you must do.

  • Bring the right documents
    Bring these documents when you visit an apartment. You will need them if you want to apply for the apartment.
    • 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. 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 it for you. 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, you can download their application form and fill it in advance. If you like the apartment you visit, you can apply immediately.
  • Make some time
    It can take a long time to find an apartment in Berlin. If you have a low budget, it can take months. You need time to look for apartments, and to visit them. Apartment visits usually take around 15 minutes. If you need an apartment right now, you can use more expensive services like Spotahome or Wunderflats.
  • Save some money
    You will need money for the first month's rent, and for the security deposit (Kaution). The Kaution is usually 3 times the cold rent. If you don't have enough money to cover the deposit, open a Mietkautionskonto or get a Mietaval from your bank. Your bank will be your guarantor a,nd cover your deposit.
  • Open a bank account
    In Germany, you pay rent with a bank transfer, not with cheques or cash. You need a German or European bank account. If you don't have one, see our guide on choosing a bank in Germany. You might need an Anmeldebestätigung to open a bank account, but you can't get one until you have an apartment. Some banks let you open an account without it. You can also use Wise (TransferWise) to transfer money from another country to a German bank account.

Where to look for apartments?

Your Hausverwaltung

If you already live in Berlin, ask your Hausverwaltung if they have other apartments available1. They prefer to rent to someone they already trust. They could even have apartments that are not yet listed.

These are the most important apartment search sites. The ones in bold are the most popular.

Classified ads

Housing companies

Facebook groups

Short term and furnished apartments

Furnished apartments are the easiest way to find your first apartment in Germany. They are more expensive, but they are more 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.

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

WGs, flat sharing and roommates

    What should you know?

    Agent fees: You never need to pay an agent fee (Maklergebühr or Provision), unless you hired the agent1, 2.

    Appliances: Look at the included appliances. You might need to buy a fridge, a stove or a washing machine. Check if there is enough space for a washing machine or a dishwasher. You might need a compact washing machine. Check if the stove is gas or electric.

    Crime: Berlin is a safe city, even at night, but some areas are less safe than others. For example, it's more dangerous to live right next to the stations on this crime map (Kottbusser Tor, Görlitzer Bahnhof, Hermannplatz, Alexanderplatz).

    Deposit: In Germany, most apartments require a deposit (Kaution). The deposit is usually 3 times the cold rent (Kaltmiete). The money stays in a special savings account. You get it back when you leave the apartment. If you broke something in the apartment, the landlord pay for the repairs with your deposit. This guide explains how deposits work in Germany.

    Flat sharing: the German term for a shared apartment is a WG, for Wohngemeinschaft.

    Floors: In North America, the first floor is the ground floor. In Germany, the first floor is above the ground floor (Erdgeschoss). Top top floor is called Dachgeschoß.

    Hausverwaltung: When you have a problem with your apartment, you must talk to the Hausverwaltung. Some are really good, and some are really bad. Before you choose an apartment, look for reviews of its Hausverwaltung.

    Kaltmiete and Warmmiete: In Germany, there is the cold rent (Kaltmiete) and the warm rent (Warmmiete). The warm rent is the cold rent plus the utilities (Nebenkosten). The warm rent is what you pay each month.

    Kitchen not included: Many apartments do not have a furnished kitchen. The kitchen will be completely empty: no kitchen counter, no kitchen sink. You can often buy the kitchen from the previous tenant, or buy your own from a furniture store like IKEA. You can also look for apartments with a furnished kitchen (mit Küche, EBK or Einbauküche). People often sell their kitchen for way too much, because they know you are desperate to get the apartment. If you don't buy the kitchen, they will give the apartment to someone else.

    Look outside the Ring: Don't limit your search to Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Neukölln and Friedrichshain. There are cheaper neighbourhoods that are still interesting and well-connected. Don't be afraid to live outside the Ringbahn, it's not that far. Use Mapnificient to find areas with a reasonable commute.

    Nebenkosten: The Nebenkosten is what you pay for the utilities. This usually includes central heating, hot water, trash collection and city taxes, but it doesn't include the TV tax. These costs are added to the cold rent (Kaltmiete). The cold rent plus the Nebenkosten is called the warm rent (Warmmiete). The Nebenkosten are not a fixed cost, they are estimated1. It is recalculated once per year. If you paid too much, you will get a refund. If you didn't pay enough, you will get an invoice. For instance, I had to pay 250€ more in 2017, but I got 100€ back in 2019.

    Noise: There are two sources of noise you should worry about: flights from Tegel and ambulances. If you live around Tegel, it's hard to sleep with your windows open. If you live on a large street like Friedrichstraße, the sound of ambulances and traffic can also keep you up at night. Use this noise map of Berlin to see how loud an area is. There are some "party areas" in Berlin that get really loud and crowded during the summer, particularly the U1 between Kottbusser Tor and Warschauer Straße. You probably don't want to live next to a bar, or next to a Späti with many outdoor seats.

    Permission from the landlord: You can't rent a room or an apartment without the permission of the landlord1. Some tenants illegally sublet their apartment, or rent rooms on AirBnB. If they get caught, the landlord can end their lease immediately1 and kick you out 3 months later1. You are not supposed to register your address without the landlord's permission.

    Public transport: Use Mapnificient to find areas with a short commute. Most places inside the Ringbahn are easy to reach with public transport. Berlin's public transport network is divided into 3 zones (Tarifbereiche)1: A, B and C. Zone A is the area inside the Ringbahn. Zone B is the area outside the Ringbahn. Zone C is the area outside of Berlin, in Brandenburg.

    State-subsidised apartments: Some apartments are listed as WBS erforderlich. These apartments are subsidised by the state. You must have a Wohnberechtigungsschein1 to apply for them.

    Scams: There are many fake apartment listings online. Scammers ask for deposits for apartments that don't exist. This guide and this guide will help you spot apartment rental scams.

    Temporary leases: Temporary leases are generally invalid. They are very common in Berlin, but it doesn't mean they are valid.

    TV tax: Everyone in Germany must pay the GEZ, also known as the Rundfunkbeitrag. You only pay this tax once per apartment, and it costs 17.50€ per month. If you share the apartment with other people, you can split the cost. In some special cases, you can pay a little less. This guide explains how the TV tax works.

    Quadrameters: The size of German apartment and room sizes are measured in square meters (Quadrameter, or qm). A square meter is 10.8 square feet, so a 50 square meter apartment is 540 square feet.

    Value Added Tax: If you rent a furnished apartment for less than 6 months and 1 day, you must pay a 7% tax with your rent1.

    Wohnungsgeberbestätigung: When you move in, you get a Wohnungsgeberbestätigung from the landlord or from the main tenant. This document confirms that you live there. You can't do your Anmeldung without it. The landlord can't refuse to give you this document. The landlord can't refuse to let you register.

    How to improve your chances?

      Finding an apartment in Berlin can be very hard. Since the new rent control law (Mietendeckel) passed, it's even harder1, 2. There are 40% fewer apartments to rent1, and 175% more applicants1. There is a lot of competition, so you must work hard to find a place.

      Here are ways to improve your chances:

      • Be a perfect candidate
        Landlords prefer tenants with a stable job and a high income. Your monthly income should be 3 times the warm rent (Warmmiete).
      • Call and write
        Landlords don't have time to answer emails. If you find an apartment you like, call immediately. Write a message too, just in case. Some people like messages more than phone calls. If you can, speak and write in German.
      • Come prepared
        When you visit an apartment, bring all the documents with you1. You can even fill the application form in advance. If you like the apartment, you can apply instantly.
      • Don't have pets
        Many landlords prefer tenants without pets. It's harder to find an apartment if you have a pet1.
      • Write a cover letter
        Write a simple cover letter in German. It should explain who you are and what you are looking for. You can include it when you apply for the apartment. This can separate your application from the rest1.

      Useful flat hunting vocabulary

      These are terms that are useful to know when you start looking for an apartment in Berlin.

      • Anmeldung: The process of registering your address in Germany. See this guide for more details.
      • Dachgeschoss: The top floor of the building
      • Einbauküche or EBK: This means the apartment comes with a furnished kitchen (sink, counter, drawers).
      • Erdgeschoss: The ground floor of the building. Also called Parterre.
      • GEZ: A monthly TV tax every household must pay. If you are in a shared apartment, you can share the cost. See this guide for more details.
      • Hauptmieter: The main tenant. That's the person who signed the rent contract with the landlord. That person is responsible for paying the rent on time. They can only sublet their apartment if they have the permission of the landlord1, 2.
      • Kaution: Apartment deposit. Most apartments require a deposit equal to 3 times the Kaltmiete. This guide explains how deposits work in Germany.
      • Keller: Cellar. Most apartments include a small storage space in the basement. It's usually big enough for a bicycle.
      • Makler: Real estate agent. These agents handle apartment visits and paperwork for the landlord. The person who hires the agent has to pay the agent fee (Provision).
      • Mieter: The tenant. That's you.
      • Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung: A document from your previous landlord that proves that you don't owe him/her money.
      • Rundfunkbeitrag: see "GEZ".
      • Vermieter. The landlord.
      • WG or Wohngemeinschaft: A flatshare, an apartment where multiple people live together share the rent.
      • Wohnfläche: Living area. This is the total size of the apartment or the room you are renting. This is measured in square meters (quadrameters or qm).
      • Wohnberechtigungsschein or WBS: This document qualifies you for social housing. Some apartments accept a WBS, and some others require it (WBS erforderlich).
      • Wohnungsgeberbestätigung: When you move in, your landlord gives you this document. It confirms that you live at this address. You must have this document to register your address.
      • Zimmer: Room. The living room also counts as a room, so a 2 bedroom apartment is a 3 Zimmer apartment.

      What's next?

      Once you find a place to live, 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. If you think you are paying too much rent, Wenigermiete.de can help you reduce it. You can learn more in our reviewe of Wenigermiete.de.

      If you just moved to Berlin, 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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