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

Berlin apartment different architecture

Is it hard to find an apartment?

Yes. It's really hard1, 2. You must send hundreds of applications to find something1, 2. It can take months to find an apartment.

During your search, you might need a temporary place to live. For example, you can stay with a friend, or rent a temporary furnished apartment.

Finding your first apartment

If you just moved to Berlin, it's harder to find an apartment. You are on your probation period, you have no credit history, and you might not have a residence permit yet. Landlords prefer more stable tenants.

It's easier to find an apartment if you are already in Berlin. You can visit apartments in person, and avoid scams. If you look for a flat share, you can meet potential roommates face to face1.

    Before you start

    Get everything you need

    You must do this before you apply for apartments:

    Things that are different in Germany

    • The deposit
      Almost all apartments require a deposit (Kaution). It's usually 3 times the cold rent. You get it back when you move out. You can pay it in 3 instalments. — More about the deposit
    • Cold rent and warm rent
      In Germany, there is the cold rent (Kaltmiete) and the warm rent (Warmmiete). The warm rent is the cold rent plus utilities (Nebenkosten). It's what you pay every month. The Nebenkosten are not a fixed cost; your landlord adjusts them once per year based on your usage.
    • 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 sink1, but not in the rest of Germany. Furnished apartments come with the kitchen, furniture and everything else.
    • You pay rent by bank transfer
      You usually pay the rent by SEPA transfer. You rarely pay the rent with cash, and never with cheques.
    • Rooms are not counted the same way
      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
      • Floors are not counted the same way
        In North America, the first floor is the ground floor. In Germany, there is the ground floor (Erdgeschoss or EG), then the first floor.
      • The TV tax
        Each household pays the TV tax (Rundfunkbeitrag). It costs 18.36€ per month. If you live with other people, you can split the cost. — More information

      Your options

      Regular apartment

      Regular apartments come unfurnished. You must buy your own fridge, washing machine, light fixtures, curtains and cookware. In Berlin, apartments must come with a stove and a sink1.

      You need more time to find a regular apartment, because there is more competition for them. You also need more time to move in, buy everything, get an internet connection, and get an electricity contract. It's a long-term investment.

      A regular apartment is cheaper in the long term. Your rent is lower, because you don't rent the furniture with it.

      Look for regular apartments ↓

      Furnished apartment

      Furnished apartments are very expensive, but they have benefits:

      • Everything included
        You don't need to get an internet contract, an electricity contract, furniture, appliances or cookware. You can just move in, and focus on other problems.
      • Immigrant-friendly
        You can book an apartment before you arrive in Germany. They don't ask for documents that immigrants don't have, like a Schufa.
      • Less competition
        These apartments are too expensive for most people, so there is less competition for them. They are a little easier to find.

      Furnished apartments are a good temporary solution while you look for a regular apartment. They are too expensive to live in permanently.

      Some furnished apartments have a booking fee or a cleaning fee1, 2. If you rent for less than 6 months, you might pay 19% VAT1, 2.

      Look for furnished apartments ↓

      Flatshare (WG)

      Sharing an apartment with other people is cheaper and easier:

      • Shared costs
        You can split the cost of rent, internet, electricity, TV tax and other bills. You save a lot of money.
      • Lower deposit
        Your deposit can't be more than 3 times your cold rent. Your part of the rent is lower, so your part of the deposit is also lower.
      • Many things included
        Your roommates might already have most of the things you need. You don't need to get an internet contract or an electricity contract.

      Finding a WG is a little easier, but still very hard1, 2.

      Usually, you must pass an interview with your roommates. Most WG interviews are like a personality test, but interviews for a Zweck-WG are more formal.

      Look for flat shares ↓

      Student housing

      Student dorms are one of the cheapest options, but they are hard to get. Student housing has long waiting lists.

      Look for student housing ↓

      Buying an apartment

      If you just moved to Berlin, don't buy an apartment. It's harder than finding an apartment to rent.

      It's really hard to get a mortgage without EU citizenship or permanent residency, and a steady job.

      Step 1: Look for apartments

      Ask your network

      Ask the people you know: friends, colleagues, classmates… Many people find an apartment this way.

        If you already live in Berlin, ask your Hausverwaltung if they have other apartments to rent. They prefer to rent to someone they trust. They can put you on a waiting list, and show you unlisted apartments.

        If you are in university, your university has help clinics for new students, and boards where they put apartment listings1.

        Classified ads

        Short term and furnished apartments

        You can rent a vacation apartment. You rent by the day, and you can rarely do your Anmeldung there.

        WGs, flat shares and roommates

        Dorms and student housing

        Housing companies

        Facebook groups

        Real estate agents

        People don't hire agents to find an apartment. They are mostly useless1. They cost a lot of money, but they don't improve your chances. Many agents only accept clients with a high budget (over 3,000€ per month).

        Other tricks

        • Install the eBay Kleinanzeigen and ImmoScout24 apps, and get notified of new apartment listings.
        • Turn on push notifications for the Facebook housing groups you follow.
        Facebook group notifications 1
        Facebook group notifications 2

        Step 2: Choose apartments to visit

        Most people can't choose where they live. They take what they find1. You should look for a place you like, but you can't be too picky.

        How to choose an apartment

        • Is the price fair?
          The ImmobilienScout24 rent atlas shows rent prices in the area. Furnished apartments are often much more expensive.
        • Can you register your address there?
          Always choose an apartment that lets you register your address. If you can't register your address, it makes your life harder. — More information
        • Should you live alone or in a WG?
          To save money, rent a room in a flat share (WG). It's cheaper, and the apartment already has internet, electricity, appliances and sometimes furniture. It saves you a lot of work.
        • What comes with the apartment?
          Apartments often come without appliances, curtains, and light fixtures. When an apartment is mit Einbauküche, it includes a stove, fridge and sometimes a dishwasher. You must buy your own washing machine. WGs and furnished apartments usually include everything you need.
        • Is the housing company good?
          Check which housing company (Hausverwaltung) owns the apartment. When you have a problem with your apartment, you must talk to them. Some housing companies are really bad.
        • 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 more charm.
        • Which floor?
          • Top floor
            These apartments are quieter; you hear less traffic, and there is no neighbour above you. They get more sunlight. They are hotter in the summer1, especially old apartments with bad insulation. Ask if they improved the insulation in the recent years. If you live in the attic (Dachgeschoß), the walls are at an angle, so the apartment can feel smaller.
          • Upper floors
            These apartments get more sunlight. There is less traffic noise. Check if there is an elevator. It's harder to move in without an elevator.
          • Lower floors, ground floor
            Apartments on the lower floors are darker and louder. They are less safe because of break-ins. Neighbours can often see inside your apartment1. Some ground floor apartments come with a garden.
        • Street or courtyard?
          Does the apartment face the street or the courtyard? On the street side, you hear the traffic more. On the courtyard side, you hear your other neighbours more. The courtyard side often gets less sun.
        • Balcony or not?
          A balcony is nice to have, especially if you work from home. Some apartments come with garden or rooftop access.
        • Storage and parking
          Many apartments come with a storage room in the basement (Kellerraum), and bicycle racks in the interior courtyard. Some buildings have parking spaces in the basement. A parking space in the basement garage usually costs around 120€ per month. Check if there is street parking.
        • Gas or electric?
          Some apartments have gas heating and gas stoves.

        How to choose a location

        • Neighbourhoods
          Berlin has a few popular neighbourhoods (Kiez): 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 apartments in those areas. To save money or live in a quiet area, look for apartments outside the Ringbahn.
        • Crime
          Berlin is a safe city, even at night, but some parts 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
          Main roads are very noisy because of trams, cars and ambulances1, 2. Ambulances, trams and trains are very loud. You can hear even with your windows closed1. Busy areas with lots of bars and restaurants are also loud, even late at night. Google Maps shows the busy areas in orange. If you want a quiet apartment, don't live in those areas. This old noise map can help. The big red line is from Tegel airport, which closed in 20201.
        Berlin ambulance noise
        • 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
          You don't need a car in Berlin
          . If you want a car, check if there is enough parking space nearby. In central neighbourhoods, parking spaces are harder to find, and you need a parking permit. Your building might have a basement garage. Basement parking costs around 120€ per month. Single garages are harder to find. You can park your motorcycle on the sidewalk.
        • Parks and nature
          Berlin is one of the greenest cities in Europe1. There are many parks and green spaces, even in the centre. To be closer to nature, live near Brandenburg or Grunewald.
        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.

        Common apartment scams

        • The lease is only for a few months
          Fixed-term leases are only valid in some situations1, 2. The lease must specify why it's fixed term, or the clause is invalid, and you can stay for as long as you want. This also applies to sublets, but not to student residences and vacation apartments. This is not always a scam; many landlords just don't know the law.
        • The lease says the apartment is furnished, but it's not true
          Rents are limited by the Mietpreisbremse, but that does not apply to furnished apartments. Landlords pretend that the apartment is furnished to charge more rent. Conny can help you reduce your rent.
        • The previous tenant wants to sell his furniture or his kitchen
          Sometimes, the previous tenant (Vormieter) wants to sell all their furniture or kitchen to you1, 2, 3. If you don't take the furniture, you don't get the apartment. They often charge too much, because they know that someone will buy it to get the apartment.
        • You must pay a bribe
          The previous tenant or the landlord asks for a bribe to give you the apartment1. This is illegal, but they know that someone will pay it.
        • 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 pay an agent fee (Maklergebühr or Provision), unless you hired the agent1, 2. Furnished apartments often have a booking fee1.
        • Identity theft
          The scammer creates fake apartment listings. When you apply for the apartment, you must send many documents, like a passport and a bank account statement. They use those documents you send to steal your identity1.

        Here are a few tricks to avoid scams:

        • Wait before you pay
          Don't send any money before 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 pay the deposit in 3 instalments. You never have to pay a fee to see an apartment, or to apply for it1.
        • Wait before you send documents
          Don't send your pay slips, your Steuerbescheid or a copy of your passport before you see the apartment. You don't need to share these documents to visit an apartment, only to apply for it. You should censor the parts of the documents that they don't need to see.
        • Only pay by bank transfer
          In Germany, people pay their rent by SEPA transfer. Never send money by Western Union or other payment services1. If you pay with cash, ask for a receipt. Use Wise to transfer money from another country. You have until the day you move in to pay the rent and the deposit, so you can also come to Germany, open a bank account, then pay your rent.
        • Use common sense
          If the rent is too low, it's probably a scam1, 2. There are no cheap furnished apartments in the centre. If it's too easy to get the apartment, it's probably a scam.
        • Look at the account age
          Scammers often use a new account to publish apartment listings. If the account is only a few days old, be careful.
        • Use Google
          Search the landlord's name and IBAN on Google. You can also search for parts of their messages on Google1. If they are a scammer, you might find some warnings online, or identical ads with different photos. If the IBAN does not start with "DE", be careful.
        • Use Google Street View
          Scammers often use photos of a different apartment. Use reverse image search to see if the photos come from another listing. Check if the apartment looks the same on the photos and on Google Street View. Is the balcony the same? Are the windows the same shape?

        Step 3: Contact the landlord

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

        • Speak or write in German
          You get more responses if you use German.
        • Call and write
          Some landlords only answer phone calls. Others only answer emails. Call as soon as you can, then send a message.
        • Introduce yourself
          When you contact the landlord, include all the important details about you: your name, age, job, salary, when you want to move in, who will live with you, what documents you have1, and a personal introduction. A cover letter and a photo can help1, 2. Use example messages to write your message. Lingoking can translate your message and cover letter to German.
        • Send many applications
          You must apply for dozens of apartments, not just one or two. It's not enough. Some people send hundreds of applications before they find an apartment.
        • Be prepared
          Landlords get hundreds of messages and dozens of applications per day. Make their life as easy as possible. Fill the application form in advance, and bring all the required documents with you.
        • Be flexible
          There are really nice apartments outside of Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain or Neukölln. Search in all of Berlin, including outside the Ringbahn. Berlin has good public transportation; you don't need to live in the center.
        • Be first
          If you find an apartment you like, act fast. Contact the landlord now1, 2. They get hundreds of message a day, so you can't wait. If you get ImmobilienScout24 Premium, you see the ads before others, and your messages go to the top of the list1.

        What landlords want

        Landlords prefer quiet, long-term tenants who pay their rent on time. They want to avoid problems.

        Landlords want tenants with…

        • A good income
          Your rent should be less than 30% of your monthly Netto income1, 2. Many landlords ask for this. Two incomes are better than one. If you have a good salary, include it in your introduction messages. 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 on your probation period. If you have a good job, include it in your introduction messages.
        • A stable residence permit
          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 if you are in another country. If you are not yet in Germany, try finding a temporary furnished apartment.
        • German speakers
          If you speak German, it's easier to find an apartment. It's less work for the landlord. It's another good reason to learn German.
        • No dogs, no pets
          Landlords prefer people without pets. It's harder to find an apartment when you have a dog. Only 20% of apartments explicitly allow pets. Some websites let you filter for apartments that allow pets.
        • No foreign names
          People with foreign names get rejected more often1. If you apply as a couple, let the person with the most German name apply for the apartment. You will get more responses1.

        Step 4: Visit the apartment

        The landlord will invite you to visit the apartment (the Besichtigung). You can usually apply for the apartment during your visit.

        What to bring to the visit

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

        Berlin apartment documents

        You must send personal documents to people you have never met. Some scammers pretend to be landlords. They create fake listings to get your documents and steal your identity1.

        Only send documents after you see the apartment.

        Remove bank account numbers, passport numbers and tax IDs from your documents. The safest way to censor a document is to print it, censor it with a pen, and scan it again.

        You need these documents to apply for an apartment:

        • Schufa report
          This is like a credit report. You can get one for free. If you are new in Germany, your Schufa is empty. You can bring a work contract or a tax return, to prove that you make enough money. Furnished apartments from Homelike, Spotahome, Wunderflats don't ask for a Schufa1.
        • Passport or personal ID
          You must show it when you apply for the apartment. Bring photocopies of your ID, just in case.
        • Proof of income
          Bring a work contract, 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.
        • Employment contract (optional)
          Some landlords want to see your employment contract1. It proves that you have a stable income. It's harder to find an apartment during your probation period.
        • 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 Mietbürgschaft template.
        • Application form (optional)
          If an agency listed the apartment, download their application form and fill it in advance. If you like the apartment you visit, you can apply immediately. You can usually find the application form on their website.
        • Copies of everything

        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? Does your bed fit in the bedroom?
        • 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. If you visit the apartment during the day, it can be quieter than in the evening, when all your neighbours are at home.
        • Noise
          Can you hear the noise outside? Traffic, ambulances, bars and other noise can be a problem.
        • Pets
          Are pets allowed in this apartment? Most apartment listings show this information.
        • Internet access
          Some buildings can't get a fast internet connection. Use this tool to see what internet options are available there.

        Visiting a flat share

        If you visit a WG, the process is different. It's not a visit, but an interview. You meet your future roommates, and they decide if they like you1, 2. These interviews can be very informal: you might meet to have a drink or even play board games together. This takes a lot of your time.

        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.

        Step 5: Sign the lease, pay the deposit

        After you sign the lease (Mietvertrag), 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 send any money before you sign the lease and see the apartment. If you pay with cash, always ask for a receipt.

        How to pay the deposit ➞

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

        1. The signed lease — You need this for your Anmeldung, and to apply for a residence permit.
        2. The Übergabeprotokoll — You get this document after you get the apartment keys.
        3. The Wohnungsgeberbestätigung — You need this for your Anmeldung

        Step 6: Move in

        After you find a place, you must leave the old apartment, and move into the new apartment.

        How to move out of an apartment ➞

        How to move into an apartment ➞

        You must register your address, put your name on the mailbox, and change your address.

        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.

        You should also get liability insurance and join a tenants' association.

        Need help?

        Where to find help ➞ Apartment questions