How to find an apartment in Berlin

How to find an apartment in Berlin

Finding an apartment in Berlin is a daunting task, but these resources should make it easier for you.

For those who want to move to Berlin, finding a place to live is the first step, and also the hardest. Finding an apartment can take anywhere from 1 to 6 months. Fortunately, we're here to help.

How to prepare?

In Berlin's competitive housing market, you need to come prepared if you want to stand a chance. Before you start flat hunting, make sure you have all of these:

  • Time. You won't find an apartment in a week. Finding an apartment in Berlin can take months, especially if you have a low budget. Don't lose hope!
  • A Schufa. This is like a credit score. Here is how you can get a free Schufa. If you are new in Germany, you might have an empty Schufa. This is normal, and landlords know it can happen. You can also bring a work contract to prove that you can pay the rent on time.
  • Money for the security deposit. Most landlords require 3 months of rent for the Kaution. This is the legal maximum they can ask for. If you don't have enough money to cover the deposit, open a Mietkautionskonto or get a Mietaval from your bank. Your bank will act as your guarantor and cover your deposit.
  • A copy of your passport or ID. You must show it when you apply for an apartment.
  • Enough money for the first month's rent.
  • A bank account from which you can transfer money to your landlord. Germans use bank transfers, not cheques or cash. See our guide on choosing a bank in Germany. Most banks require a proof of residence to open an account, but you can't get a proof of residence without an apartment. Some banks let you open an account without a proof of residence.
  • Bank account statement, work contract or other proof of income (optional). A proof of income improves your chances of getting the apartment. This is very important for freelancers who don't have guaranteed work1, 2. Landlords often ask for your last 3 pay slips or a work contract. If you don't make enough money, you can get a Bürgschaft (see below).
  • Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (optional). This is a document from your previous landlord that confirms you don't owe him/her any money. It has no specific format, and can be a simple letter.example
  • Bürgschaft (optional). If you don't have a steady income, you can ask a parent or friend to be your guarantor. If you don't pay the rent on time, your guarantor will have to pay it. This is a good option for students, freelancers and people with a low income. The Bürgschaft letter has no specific format. If your mother or father is your guarantor, you can use this Mietbürgschaft template.

Where to look for apartments?

General apartment search

Classified ads

Housing companies

Facebook groups

Short term and furnished apartments

WGs, flat sharing and roommates

Specific needs

What should you know?

Agent fees: Since 2015, you should never have to pay an agent fee (Maklergebühr or Provision) when renting an apartment, unless you hired the agent1, 2.

Crime: Although Berlin is a generally safe city, some areas are more dangerous than others. In general, I would advise against living right next to the stations highlighted on this crime map (Kottbusser Tor, Görlitzer Bahnhof, Hermannplatz, Alexanderplatz), but living a block or two from them is perfectly fine.

Flat sharing: the German term for a shared apartment is a WG, for Wohngemeinschaft. If you are looking to sublet a room in a shared apartment (Untermieten), you should look on WG-Gesucht.

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). It's what you will pay at the end of the month.

Kitchen not included: Many apartments come without a furnished kitchen. The kitchen will be completely empty, with only the water pipes coming out of the wall. This is what it looks like. You can usually buy the kitchen from the previous tenant, or get your own from a furniture store like IKEA. You can also look for apartments with a kitchen (mit Küche, or Einbauküche).

Nebenkosten: The Nebenkosten is what you pay for the utilities. This usually includes central heating, hot water and city taxes, but it doesn't include the GEZ. 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 at the end of 2017.

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 Chausseestraße, 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.

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 AirBnB. If they get caught, the landlord can end their lease immediately1.

Public transport: You can use Mapnificient to find areas with a reasonable commute. Generally, anything inside the Ringbahn is easily reachable by public transport. Berlin's public transport network is divided into 3 zones1A, B and C. If you work in zone A and live in zone C, expect long, expensive commutes.

State-subsidized apartments: Some apartments are listed as WBS erforderlich. These apartments are subsidized by the state, and are only accessible to tenants with a Wohnberechtigungsschein1.

Scams: There are many fake apartment listings on the sites mentioned above. Scammers take advantage of desperate apartment hunters by requiring deposits for apartments that don't exist. This guide and this guide will help you spot apartment rental scams.

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. See this guide for more details.

Quadrameters: The size of German apartments and rooms is 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.

Wohnungsgeberbestätigung: When you move in, you will get a document from your landlord that confirms you live there. That's the Wohnungsgeberbestätigung. You can't register your address in Germany without it. You need to register your address to open a bank account, get an internet connection, get a work visa etc., so you must get this document. Always confirm that the landlord can give you a Wohnungsgeberbestätigung before signing anything, especially if you sublet an apartment or rent a vacation apartment on AirBnB. You can learn more about this document in our other guide, How to register an address in Berlin.

How to improve your chances?

Finding an apartment in Berlin can be extremely demanding. The Berlin rental market is extremely competitive, so you need to work hard to find a place.

Call, don't write: Landlords don't have time to answer emails, so if you find an apartment you like, call immediately. Speak and write in German to improve your chances.

Come prepared: When you visit an apartment, having all the documents with you can improve your chances1. This includes your Schufa, your Wohnungsgeberbestätigung, copies of your identity document, your work contract, bank account statements and your Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung.

Don't have pets: Many landlords prefer tenants without pets. Pets make it harder to find an apartment.

Write a cover letter: Write a simple cover letter in German explaining who you are and what you are looking for. This will differentiate 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.
  • Einbauküche: This means the apartment comes with a furnished kitchen (sink, counter, drawers).
  • GEZ: A monthly TV tax everyone must pay. 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 an apartment with the permission of the landlord1.
  • 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 confirms you don't owe him/her any money.
  • Rundfunkbeitrag: see "GEZ".
  • WG or Wohngemeinschaft: A flatshare, an apartment where multiple people live together share the rent.
  • Wohnberechtigungsschein: A document that confirms you can rent a state-subsidized apartment.
  • Wohnfläche: Living area. This is the total size of the apartment or the room you are renting.
  • Wohnungsgeberbestätigung: A document your landlord gives you to confirm that you live at a certain address. This document is required for the Anmeldung. The landlord must sign this document. The main tenant can also sign it with the permission of the landlord1.
  • Vermieter: The landlord.
  • Zimmer: Room.

What's next?

Once you have found a place to live in Berlin, the next steps are to register your address at the Bürgeramt, find a good liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung), get your internet connected, and find a power company.

After moving in, make sure your name appears on the building's doorbell. In Germany, apartments rarely have door numbers1. If your name is not on the doorbell, you will never get your mail.

Comments

  • Leave a comment