How to find an apartment in Berlin

This guide helps you rent an apartment or a room when you move to Berlin.

Berlin apartments with different architecture

Is it hard to find an apartment?

Yes, it’s really hard. It can take months and hundreds of messages.1 It’s one of the hardest parts of moving to Berlin. You might need to live in temporary places until you find a home.

If you are not in Berlin yet, it’s almost impossible. Get short-term housing, move to Berlin, then look for a better place.

Before you start

Before you look for apartments, you must…

1. Look for apartments

Apartment search websites

  • ImmoScout24 
    The biggest housing website. It’s very competitive. Without the premium account, it’s much harder to find an apartment.2 Create a detailed profile to improve your chances.28
  • Kleinanzeigen 
    Biggest classified ads website.
  • Immowelt – Second biggest housing website

Immonet, Immobilo, meinestadt.de and Wohnungsbörse do not have many unique listings.

Short-term and furnished apartments

Furnished rooms are also listed on Kleinanzeigen and Facebook. They are cheaper there.56

Hotels, hostels and vacation rentals are not a good option, because you can’t register your address there. Some hotels allow it.

WGs, flat shares and roommates

  • WG-Gesucht 
    The most popular website for shared apartments. It’s very competitive. You might send hundreds of messages and never get a reply.
  • WG Suche

Short-term furnished rooms are cheaper on Kleinanzeigen and Facebook than on short-term housing websites.56

Dorms and student housing

  • StudierendenWERK Berlin 
    Affordable student housing. There are long waiting lists. Only for students of partner universities.
  • Gewobag – State-owned housing with some student apartments.
  • Smartments – All-included student housing. Anmeldung possible.
  • Berlinovo – They have some student housing.

Housing companies

Facebook groups

Be careful. There are a lot of scams on Facebook.

Turn on push notifications for the Facebook groups that you follow.

Facebook group notifications 1 Facebook group notifications 2

People you know

  • Tell everyone you know
    Your friends, family, colleagues or classmates might know someone who has a place to rent. Ask on your employer’s internal message board.58 People often find an apartment through their connections.22 They can also host you for a few weeks, and give you a way to register your address. Your religious community might also help.51
  • Ask your Hausverwaltung
    They might give you another apartment, or put you on a waiting list.
  • Get help from your university
    They have help clinics and a board with apartment listings.8 Join the waiting list for student housing.

Real estate agents

An agent (Makler) can help you find an apartment. Some are really good, and some are useless. They are hard to find.24 Their maximum fee is 2 times the cold rent, plus VAT. Don’t pay an agent fee if you did not hire the agent.

  • BerlinRelo 
    Long-term apartments only. Graham is really good at his job. He accepts a small number of customers, and guarantees results.
  • Get The Flat
    They help you prepare your documents and apply for apartments. They use bots to find apartments and automatically write to landlords.
  • Move to Berlin Relocation
    Short-term and long-term apartments. They help you prepare your documents and apply for apartments.
  • Nerea Lopez
  • HomeSK – Only furnished apartments. Very expensive.

Bots and automation

To get an apartment, you must be fast. Use tools to find apartments and message landlords first.

Newspapers

Some landlords still buy apartment ads in the newspaper. You can find apartments that are not listed anywhere else.34

2. Choose apartments to visit

In Berlin, you can’t be picky, but you can still avoid scams and bad apartments.

Apartment checklist

  • Is it a scam?
  • Is the price fair?
    The ImmoScout24 rent atlas shows rent prices in the area. Furnished apartments are much more expensive. If you can’t afford the rent, the immigration office can reject your residence permit application.3 If the price is too low, it might be a scam.
  • Can you register your address there?
    Choose an apartment where you can do your Anmeldung. It’s very important for recent immigrants.
  • Is the lease unlimited?
    Look for an unlimited (unbefristet) contract. A short-term lease means that you must move again in a few months. Short-term leases are often illegal.
  • What is included?
    Most apartments come empty. No furniture, appliances, curtains or light fixtures. WGs might come with most of what you need. Furnished apartments come with everything, but they are expensive.
    • Electricity
      Is hot water included in your warm rent? If the building has central water heating, it’s usually included in your Nebenkosten. If the apartment has a tankless water heater (Durchlauferhitzer), hot water is not included.4 Your Nebenkosten are lower, but your electric bills are higher.
    • Kitchen
      Is the kitchen (counter, sink, stove, fridge) included? Apartments mit Einbauküche include a kitchen. Sometimes, you must buy the kitchen from the previous tenant at a ridiculous price. It’s a common scam.
  • How is the housing company?
    Search for reviews of your landlord or housing company (Hausverwaltung). It could be a really bad landlord or a housing scam.
  • Neubau or Altbau?
    New buildings (Neubau) are usually quieter and better insulated. They have concrete walls and floors. Old buildings (Altbau) have beautiful high ceilings and hardwood floors, but they’re usually louder and more expensive to heat.
  • Which floor?
    • Top floor apartments are quieter; you hear traffic less, and there are no neighbours above you. They get more sunlight, but they are hotter in the summer, especially old apartments with bad insulation.13 Attic apartments (Dachgeschosswohnung) feel smaller because of angled walls and wooden beams.
    • Upper floor apartments get more sunlight. There is less traffic noise. Check if there is an elevator.
    • Lower floors and ground floor appartments are darker and louder. Break-ins can happen. Neighbours can see inside your apartment.14 Some ground floor apartments have a garden.
  • Elevator?
    If you live on a higher floor, check if your building has an elevator.
  • Street or courtyard?
    Which side is the apartment on? On the street side, you hear traffic more. On the courtyard side, you hear other neighbours more. The courtyard side gets less sun.
  • Storage and parking
    Is there a place for your bicycle? A storage room in the basement (Kellerraum)? How much does a parking space cost? Is there street parking?
  • Do you need a WBS?
    Some apartments require a Wohnberechtigungsschein. If you don’t have one, you can’t live there, so you must exclude them from your search.
  • Internet access
    Some buildings can’t get a fast internet connection. Use this tool to see your internet options.
  • Pets
    Are pets allowed? Cats are usually allowed, but not dogs.
  • Amenities
    In general, German apartment buildings don’t have a pool or a gym. Some might have a shared garden or bicycle storage.

Location checklist

  • Neighbourhood
    Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, Neukölln are popular neighbourhoods, but there are other options. A less popular neighbourhood can be cheaper, safer and quieter. Berlin has good public transit; you don’t need to live in the central areas. Look for places outside the Ringbahn
  • Public transit access
    How is the train or tram connection? Berlin has good public transit. You don’t need to live in the centre. Use Mapnificent and Google Maps to measure your commute.
  • Crime
    Use the crime atlas to find a safe area. Areas next to some big train stations (Alexanderplatz, Görlitzer Bahnhof, Kottbusser Tor, Hermannplatz, Leopoldplatz) are more dangerous.15 There are more drunk people, drug addicts, street fights, vandalism and theft in those areas. You don’t need to avoid the entire area, just the busy streets.
  • Parking
    You don’t need a car in Berlin. Is enough street parking? Do you need a parking permit? Does your building have basement parking? How much does it cost? You can park motorcycles on the sidewalk.
  • Nearby services
    Check if there are supermarkets, Spätis, cafés and other businesses nearby.
  • Noise
    Main roads are noisy because of cars, trams and ambulances.16 Ambulances, trams and trains are very loud, even when you close your windows.17 Nearby restaurants, bars and Spätis can be loud, even at night. – Noise map of Berlin
Berlin busy areas
In Google Maps, orange areas are interesting areas. They have good bars and restaurants, but they are busy and loud.
Berlin tram lines
If you live next to a tram line, you hear trams all day. They are very loud.

3. Contact the landlord

When you find an apartment you like, contact the landlord and ask to visit the apartment. Do not wait.

Write a short message that includes…31

  • Your occupation
  • Your salary
  • Your name (and doctor title)
  • Your age
  • Your residence status: residence permit, permanent residence, EU citizenship
  • When you want to move in
  • Who will move in with you
  • A unique personal introduction
  • A photo of you (optional, but it helps)32
  • Anything that landlords want

Write in German. If you don’t speak German, use Deepl or ChatGPT to translate your message. Use the example messages from WG-Gesucht.

Do not send all your documents yet. It just annoys landlords.53

To improve your chances…

  • Be fast
    If you like an apartment, do not wait. Landlords get hundreds of messages per hour.23 Most apartment listings disappear after a few minutes.27 Use bots, notifications and message templates to apply faster. Get ImmoScout24 Premium to message landlords before others.2
  • Don’t be picky
    You probably won’t get a cheap apartment in a cool neighbourhood. Be ready to take what you find. If you are a recent immigrant, your options are limited.
  • Send a lot of messages
    You might need to send hundreds of messages to get a few visits. Searching for an apartment is a full time job. It can take months.
  • Be prepared
    Prepare all the required documents in advance. Be ready to send them quickly.
  • Write and call
    Most landlords prefer emails, but some prefer calls.36 Try both.
  • Have a detailed profile
    Create a detailed profile on housing websites, and upload your documents. It helps you make a good impression when you message a landlord.
  • Be brief
    Don’t make landlords read. Write message short and simple messages. Only send the important parts of your documents.

What landlords want

Landlords want stability. They want quiet tenants who pay rent on time.

In order, they prefer…33

  • Couples without children 👍 👍 👍
  • Single people without children 👍 👍
  • Families with children 👍
  • Retirees 👎
  • Students 👎 👎
  • Single parents 👎 👎
  • Shared apartments 👎 👎 👎

Landlords prefer…

  • A good income
    Your rent should be 20% to 35% of your monthly net income.35 Your income can’t be too low or too high.49 Two incomes are better than one.
  • A stable job
    If you are in your probation period, it’s a little harder to find an apartment.37 If you are self-employed, it’s much harder.18 If you are unemployed, it’s impossible.
  • A good first impression
    Be nice and pleasant. Your personality matters a lot.30
  • A stable right of residence
    You must have a long-term right to live in Germany. If you have a National Visa, it’s harder to find an apartment. If you have a tourist visa or no visa, it’s much harder. If you are a recent immigrant, you can get a short-term furnished apartment or a room in a WG.
  • German speakers
    If you speak German, it’s less work for the landlord. Write in German. Use Deepl or ChatGPT to translate messages.
  • Titles
    Landlords prefer doctors and professors.11 Use your title (Dr or Prof) when you write to the landlord.

Landlords often avoid…

  • Recent immigrants
    They are more likely to lose their job, lose their residence permit or move away. Discrimination also happens.10 Some landlords prefer immigrants because they pay more and don’t know their rights.26
  • People who know their rights
    Landlords avoid people who know the rules, like lawyers and government employees.25
  • Parents30
  • Students
  • Dog owners

4. Visit the apartment

If you are lucky, you will get invited to an apartment viewing. Arrive early. Bring all the required documents. You can usually apply for the apartment at the end of the visit.

It can be a private viewing (just you) or an open viewing (many other people). Don’t go to a viewing with more than 40 people; they are usually a waste of time.21

When you visit apartments, your travel costs are tax-deductible. You can deduct 0.30€ per kilometre.

Apartment viewing checklist

  • Noise
    How is the soundproofing? Can you hear the neighbours? Can you hear the noise outside? Traffic, ambulances, bars and other noise can be a problem.
  • Neighbours
    Check who your neighbours are. Children and dogs can make a lot of noise. If you visit the apartment during the day, it can be quieter than in the evening, when all your neighbours are at home.
  • Mold
    Look for mold stains around windows and in the corners of the rooms. Mold problems can be hard to fix.
  • Hausordnung
    Each building has different house rules (Hausordnung). It has rules about quiet hours, grilling, ventilation, musical instruments, vehicles and pets.41
  • Appliances
    Check what appliances fit in the apartment. Do you need a smaller washing machine? Is there room for a dishwasher? Does your bed fit in the bedroom?

Visiting a flat share

WG visits are more like an interview. You meet your future roommates, and you decide if you like each other.42 Some interviews are very informal: you might meet to have a drink or even play board games together.

The interview for a Zweck-WG is usually shorter. Your roommate wants to save money. They don’t care so much about being your friend.

How to behave during the visit

  • Dress well
    Make a good impression. You don’t need a suit, just clean clothes, clean shoes, and socks without holes.12
  • Be on time
    Arrive a little early. You will have more time to find the place and meet the landlord. If you are late, tell the landlord as soon as you can.29
  • Be pleasant
    Be polite and friendly. Greet the landlord or the agent. Speak German if you can. It’s important to make a good impression.
  • Don’t complain
    If you start finding problems with the apartment, you look like you will be a difficult tenant.
  • Don’t negotiate
    The rent is not negotiable. There are dozens of other people who want this apartment. The price will not go down, and you won’t get the apartment.

5. Apply for the apartment

If you like the apartment, apply for it as soon as you can. Send the required documents. You can sometimes apply during the viewing.

Berlin apartment documents

Required documents

To apply for an apartment, you need these documents:20

  • Schufa report
    You can get one for free. It’s also included with the ImmoScout24 premium account. If you can’t get a Schufa, bring more proofs of income. Furnished apartments from Homelike, HousingAnywhere, Spotahome and Wunderflats don’t ask for a Schufa.
  • Proof of income (Einkommensnachweis)
    • If you are an employee
      Bring your work contract or a certificate of employment, and your last 3 payslips. A certificate of employment is better than a contract, because it’s easier to read.
    • If you are self-employed
      Bring a profit and loss statement stamped by your tax advisor, or a recent Steuerbescheid. A betriebswirtschaftliche Auswertung also works. Bank account statements help, but landlords trust them less.39
    • If you are a student
      Bring a Mietbürgschaft, and proof of your guarantor’s income.6
  • 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. You can also use bank statements to show that you pay rent every month.48
  • Mietbürgschaft (optional)
    If you have a low or unstable income, someone can be your guarantor. If you don’t pay rent, they must pay it for you. It’s useful for students and freelancers. Use this Mietbürgschaft template.
  • Passport or Personalausweis
  • Application form (optional)
    If an agency listed the apartment, download their application form (Selbstauskunft) and fill it in advance.
  • Proof of liability insurance (very optional)
    Landlords can’t require liability insurance, but some ask for it anyway. Having it can make a small difference. You should have liability insurance anyway.54 – More information
  • Copies of everything
    Use them to apply for the apartment during the visit. Keep the originals.

Combine your documents with a PDF merging tool. Landlords prefer to get a single PDF.43

Make your documents easy to read. Remove useless pages, and highlight the important information.5 Make it easy for landlords.

Censor and watermark your documents before you send them. It helps prevent identity theft.

6. Sign the lease and move in

If the landlord chooses you, they will ask for your documents. Send everything as a single PDF.

You will sign a lease, pay the deposit, get the keys and move in. You must register your address, put your name on the mailbox, and change your address. Be careful, it can still be a scam.

How to sign the lease and move in

Apartment keys

Your housing options

Your options depends on your situation.

If you are not in Berlin yet, it’s impossible to find a long-term apartment. Landlords always pick someone else. It’s very hard to find a room in a WG without meeting the other tenants in person. You must get short-term housing, move to Berlin, then look for something better.

If you are a recent immigrant, it’s harder to find an apartment. You need more time to look for an apartment. You might need short-term housing while you search. Always get a place where you can register your address. It’s very important.

Short-term housing

Short-term, furnished apartments are a temporary solution. Use them to move to Berlin, then find something better. If you are not in Germany yet, it might be your only option.

Furnished apartments are…

  • Immigrant-friendly
    You can book them long before you arrive in Germany. You don’t need to speak German. You don’t need a stable job, a residence permit, a Schufa or a deposit.
  • Convenient
    They include everything you need: furniture, appliances, cookware, internet and electricity. You can just move in and focus on other problems.
  • Temporary
    You have a short-term lease. You must move out when your lease ends. Usually, you can’t move out early, and you can’t stay longer.
  • Overpriced
    They are 60% more expensive than regular apartments.38 They are a really bad deal. If you have a low budget, rent a room in a WG.

Furnished rooms in a WG are cheaper. People often sublet their rooms while they travel. You can live there for a few weeks. Usually, you can’t do your Anmeldung there, and that can be a problem.

There are also hotels and hostels where you can do your Anmeldung.

Start looking for short-term housing as soon as you know your move-in date.55 You can usually book it long in advance.

Look for short-term housing

Long-term apartment

Most apartments are long-term apartments. They are the best long-term solution. They are hard to get, because everyone wants them. If you are unemployed, if you are a student, or if you are not in Germany yet, regular apartments are almost impossible to get.

With a regular apartment…

  • Nothing is included
    They come with no furniture, appliances, light fixtures or curtains. They are completely empty. You must buy everything yourself. You must also get an internet contract and an electricity contract. In Berlin, they must come with a stove and a sink.4
  • You can stay forever
    The lease is unlimited (unbefristet). Once you move in, it’s your home. It’s really hard to kick you out. You must give a 3-month notice before you move out.
  • You save money in the long term
    You must buy everything for the apartment, but the rent is much lower. Over time, you save a lot of money.

Start looking for a regular apartments 1 to 3 months before you move in. The rent should be 20% to 35% of your monthly net income.35

Look for a regular apartment

Room in a WG

Renting a room in a shared apartment is a cheaper long-term solution. Rooms in a WG are really hard to find.7

Usually, you must meet your roommates for an interview. Most WG interviews are like a personality test or a culture fit test. Interviews for a Zweck-WG are more formal.

Rooms in a WG are…

  • Cheaper
    You split the rent, internet, electricity, TV tax and other bills with other people. Since the rent is lower, the deposit is also lower.
  • Convenient
    Your roommates already have some furniture and cookware that you can use. The internet and utilities are already connected. You might only need furniture for your room. You don’t need to furnish a whole apartment.

Sometimes, people sublet their furnished room while they travel. These short-term rooms are much easier to find. Usually, you can’t register your address there, and that can be a problem.

Look for a room in a WG

Student housing

Student dorms are the cheapest option for students, but they are hard to get. There are long waiting lists.44 It’s only available for public universities and some private universities.57

How to apply for student housing (in German) – StudierendenWERK Berlin

You can also get luxury student housing. It’s very expensive, but it’s easier to get, and it comes with everything you need.

Look for student housing

Buying an apartment

If you just moved to Berlin, don’t buy an apartment. Buying is harder than renting. If you just started a new job, you won’t get a mortgage. If you don’t have EU citizenship or permanent residence, you won’t get a mortgage. If you don’t know the housing market well, you can make really bad decisions.

Important knowledge

Anmeldung

The Anmeldung is really important. Always choose a place where the Anmeldung is allowed. If you can’t register your address, it makes your life much harder.

Why the Anmeldung is important

Deposit

Almost all apartments require a deposit (Kaution). It’s usually 3 times the cold rent. You get it back after you move out. You can pay it in 3 instalments. You must pay the first instalment before you move in. If you don’t have enough money, there are other options.

Some short-term apartments on HousingAnywhere and Spotahome apartments don’t ask for a deposit.

How the deposit works

Cold rent and warm rent

The warm rent (Warmmiete) is what you pay every month. It’s the cold rent (Kaltmiete) plus utilities (Nebenkosten).

The Nebenkosten usually include:

  • Heating (most of the time)
  • Hot water (most of the time)
  • Trash collection
  • Cleaning and landscaping

The Nebenkosten are not a fixed cost, because you don’t know how much water and heating you really use. Your landlord adjusts the Nebenkosten every year based on your usage. You pay what your landlord pays. Your landlord can’t make a profit on Nebenkosten.

Nothing is included

Apartments usually come without a washing machine, curtains, light fixtures or a furnished kitchen (stove, fridge, sink). You must buy your own, or buy them from the previous tenant. In Berlin, apartments must include a stove and a sink if you request it,4 but not in the rest of Germany.

Furnished apartments come with the kitchen, furniture and everything you need, but they are much more expensive.

Sometimes, the previous tenant wants to sell their furniture to you. If you don’t buy the furniture, you don’t get the apartment. The price is often really high, because they know that you want the apartment. It’s a common scam.

Rent is paid by bank transfer

You usually pay rent by bank transfer. You rarely pay rent with cash, and never with cheques. If the landlord uses another payment method, it’s probably a scam.

You need a European bank account to make bank transfers. Use Wise to transfer money from a non-EU country.

Open a bank account

Rooms and floors

Rooms and floors are not counted the same way everywhere.

In Germany, the living room also counts as a room. A studio is a 1 Zimmer Wohnung. A 2-bedroom apartment with a living room is a 3 Zimmer Wohnung. The kitchen, the bathroom and the hallway do not count as rooms.

Apartment floor plan berlin

In many countries, the first floor is the ground floor. In Germany, the first floor is above the ground floor.

Floors/stories of a German building

Need help?

A real estate agent can help you find an apartment. A Mieterverein or a lawyer can answer your legal questions. Join a Mieterverein or get legal insurance before you need it.

Where to ask apartment questions

Sources and footnotes
  1. arbeitnow.com (2021), Berliner Zeitung (2022), Reddit 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Get The Flat (March 2024) 

  2. Kevin at GetTheFlat (March 2024), Christine Gerkrath (March 2024), Merkur, Reddit 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 

  3. Fiona Macdonald, immigration lawyer (March 2024), Christine Gerkrath, relocation consultant (March 2024) 

  4. immonet.de 

  5. Graham Pugh, apartment search expert (February 2024), Christine Gerkrath (March 2024) 

  6. Suat Göydeniz, tax advisor and landlord (March 2024) 

  7. reddit.com/r/berlin, reddit.com/r/berlin 

  8. reddit.com/r/berlin 

  9. crocodilian.de 

  10. Focus (2023), Frankfurter Rundschau (2023), Süddeutsche Zeitung (2017), Reddit, arbeitnow.com (2021), Twitter 

  11. Reddit (2023) 

  12. Nerea Lopez (March 2024) 

  13. furnishedinside.com 

  14. reddit.com/r/berlin 

  15. morgenpost.de, kriminalitaetsatlas.berlin.de 

  16. interaktiv.morgenpost.de, Berlin noise map, reddit.com/r/berlin 

  17. youtu.be 

  18. Red Tape Translation 

  19. Reddit (March 2024), Trustpilot (November 2023), Reddit (March 2024), Reddit (2023) 

  20. Berlin.de, buendnis-neukoelln.de, Reddit (2023) 

  21. Graham Pugh, apartment search expert (February 2024), Reddit (February 2024), Reddit, Prop.ID 

  22. Jonny Whitlam (February 2024), Reddit (2023) 

  23. Tagesspiegel (February 2024) 

  24. Reddit (2023) 

  25. FT (2023), Graham Pugh, apartment search expert (2023) 

  26. Graham Pugh, apartment search expert (March 2024) 

  27. Merkur.de, FT (2024), Reddit (2021), Reddit (2021) 

  28. Reddit (2021) 

  29. Nerea Lopez (March 2024) 

  30. ImmoScout24, Nerea Lopez (March 2024) 

  31. Nerea Lopez (February 2024), reddit.com/r/berlin 

  32. nomadandinlove.com, reddit.com/r/berlin 

  33. ImmoScout24 

  34. Reddit (2023) 

  35. finanzfrage.net, immobilien.vr.de 

  36. ImmoScout24 

  37. Graham Pugh, apartment search expert (March 2024) 

  38. Berliner Mieterverein (2023) 

  39. Christine Gerkrath (March 2024), reddit.com/r/berlin, facebook.com 

  40. HousingAnywhere, HousingAnywhere 

  41. mieterbund.de, justlanded.com 

  42. reddit.com/r/de, reddit.com/r/germany 

  43. Christine Gerkrath (March 2024), Nerea Lopez (March 2024), Reddit (2023) 

  44. rbb24 (2023), Reddit 

  45. reddit.com/r/berlin 

  46. Spotahome (2024) 

  47. Spotahome (2024) 

  48. reddit.com, reddit.com 

  49. Graham Pugh, apartment search expert (February 2024) 

  50. Trustpilot (2021), HousingAnywhere 

  51. Reddit (April 2024) 

  52. Reddit (2023), Homelike 

  53. Christine Gerkrath (March 2024) 

  54. Kevin at GetTheFlat (March 2024), Christine Gerkrath (March 2024), Emily Archer (March 2024) 

  55. Christine Gerkrath (March 2024) 

  56. Christine Gerkrath (March 2024) 

  57. Padcha, Thai Embassy in Berlin (March 2024) 

  58. Graham Pugh, apartment search expert (April 2024)