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

Berlin apartments neighbourhood

Is it hard to find an apartment?

Yes. It's really hard1, 2. You must send dozens 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 in 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 flatshare, 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 information
    • 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, they are adjusted once per year based on your usage.
    • Nothing is included
      Apartments usually come without appliances, 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.
    • Rent is paid by bank transfer
      You usually pay the rent by SEPA transfer. You rarely pay the rent with cash, and never with cheques.
    • Rooms are counted differently
      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.
    • Floors are counted differently
      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 furniture, appliances, 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.

    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.

    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 is limited to 3 times your cold rent. Your rent is lower, so your 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 also very hard1, 2. There is a lot of competition.

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

    Look for flatshares ↓

    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 much harder than finding an apartment to rent.

    If you don't have EU citizenship or German permanent residency, it's really hard to get a mortgage.

    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, ask your diaspora, your colleagues, and classmates.

    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

    Facebook groups

    WGs, flatshares and roommates

    Dorms and student housing

    Short term and furnished apartments

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

    Housing companies

    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 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 something 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. Some apartments don't. It's usually illegal, but it often happens with sublets and temporary apartments. — More information
      • Should you live alone or in a WG?
        If you want to save money, you can rent a room in a flatshare (WG). The apartment already has internet, electricity, appliances and sometimes furniture. It saves you a lot of work.
      • What is included?
        Apartments often come without appliances, curtains, light fixtures or even a stove and sink. When an apartment is mit Einbauküche, it includes a stove, fridge and sometimes a dishwasher. You will probably need to buy your own washing machine. If you live in a WG, all those things are usually included. Furnished apartments also come with everything you need, including electricity and internet.
      • 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 the insulation was improved 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 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?
        Do you want an apartment that faces the street, or the courtyard? In the street, you hear the cars and sometimes the ambulances. In the courtyard, you often hear your other neighbours more.
      • Balcony or not?
        A balcony is really good to have, especially if you work from home. It's like an extra room where you can relax.
      • 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. If you want to pay less, or live in a quiet area, look for apartments outside the Ringbahn. It's not that far! Each area is different, and each street in that area is different.
      • 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 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. If you live too close to train or tram lines, it can be very noisy.
      • Parking
        You don't need a car in Berlin
        , but if you want to buy a car, check 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.
      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 will hear trams all day. Tram make loud screeching noises when they turn.

      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. This is not a scam, just a rule that many people ignore. Sometimes, a temporary apartment is your only option.
      • 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 previous tenant wants a bribe
        In some cases, the previous tenant or the landlord will ask for a bribe to give you the apartment1. This is illegal, but they know that people will pay if they 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.
      • 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 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 instalments. You never have to pay a fee 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. You should also censor the parts they don't need to see.
      • 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 pay with cash, ask for a receipt. If you are not in Europe, you can use Wise to send money to the landlord. This is not needed, because you have until the day you move in to pay the rent and the deposit. You can also 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 the centre. If it's too good to be true, it's probably a scam. 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. 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.
      • Use Google Street View
        Scammers often use photos of a different apartment. 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, you must contact the landlord. Here are ways to improve your chances:

      • Speak or write in German
        You 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, salary, when you want to move in, who will live with you, what documents you have1, and a personal introduction. A cover letter with a photo can also help1, 2. Those example messages can help. 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. Fill the application form in advance, and bring all the required documents with you.
      • Be flexible
        Don't just look in popular areas like Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain or Neukölln. There are beautiful, cheap, quiet apartments in other areas, and there is less competition for them.
      • Be quick
        If you find an apartment you like, contact the landlord quickly1, 2. If you like the apartment, apply immediately. Don't wait! There is a lot of competition, so you must be quick. The landlord will receive hundreds of messages a week1. If you pay for ImmobilienScout24 Premium, you can see the ads before other users, and your messages have priority.

      What landlords want

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

      Here are some things landlords prefer:

      • 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 in 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
        It's easier to find an apartment if you speak German. 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. Most websites have a 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 for an apartment visit (Besichtigung). This is your chance to see the apartment. If you like it, you can apply for 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 faster.

      Berlin apartment documents

      You must send documents to people you have never met. If you want to find an apartment, you don't have a choice1. Scammers can use these documents to steal your identity1. Only send documents if you have seen the apartment, and you want to apply for it. Before you send the documents, remove bank account numbers, passport numbers and tax IDs from them. There are many tools that can censor documents, but the best way is to print the document, censor it with a pen, and scan it.

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

      • Schufa report
        This is like a credit report. If you are new in Germany, your Schufa could be empty. This is normal, and landlords know it can happen. You can get a free Schufa. You can also bring a work contract or a tax return, to prove that you make enough money. Most furnished apartments (from Homelike, Spotahome, Wunderflats) do not ask for a Schufa1.
      • Passport or personal ID
        You must show it when you apply for the apartment. Also 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.
      • 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 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. You can usually find the application form on their website.

      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 become a big problem.
      • Pets
        Check if dogs or pets are allowed in this apartment. Most apartment websites show this information.
      • 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.

      Visiting a flatshare

      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 can take a lot of work.

      The interview for a Zweck-WG is usually shorter. Your roommate wants to save money. They care less 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 pay anything 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, it's time to move out of your old apartment, and 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 an electricity provider 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. After you join a Mieterverein, you must wait a few months before you use their legal services1, 2, so join before you have problems.

      Legal insurance can also help with landlord problems. You should get legal insurance before you have problems with your landlord.

      If your rent is too high, Conny can help you reduce it. You can learn more in my review of their services.

      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.

      Related guides:

      Need help?

      Where to find help ➞ Apartment questions