housing in germany

Housing in Germany: What you need to know?

Obviously one of your key concerns if you are looking to move to Germany is finding a place to live. Just as with any aspect of a move, it is important to remember that you are moving to a new country; that means that customs, terms, and practices can be far different than those you are used to.

With that in mind, here are the basics of renting an apartment or flat in Germany.

  • German descriptions do not include the kitchen, halls, or bathroom (WC or water closet). For example if you want a 2-bedroom apartment with a living room and dining room you would be looking for a four-room (vier Zimmer) home.
  • Furnished apartments are very rare and very expensive.
  • Be prepared for an “unfurnished” apartment to not have lighting fixtures, kitchen appliances, closets, cabinets, and even lighting fixtures.
  • German lease agreements may be long and complicated. It is advisable to have a legal advisor guide you through the document.
  • German law is fairly specific on some areas of the landlord-tenant relationship and the items covered by the law may not be in the lease. However, they still apply. This is another case for employing professional help, either a legal advisor or a real estate agent.
  • Fixed term leases are notoriously hard to end early.
  • Your monthly payment consists of two different parts. The rent and such items as property tax, waste collection, some cleaning and maintenance, and water, called the Umlagen or Nebenkosten. The rent cannot change during the term of the lease. If the cost of any of the other items is increased during the lease your payment is likely to increase.

What Documents You May Need?

  • Proof of identity like a driving license or passport.
  • A letter from your employer stating how much you will be earning.
  • A copy of your last few bank statements.
  • A copy of your credit score or rating. Most landlords prefer a German based report, but as a new arrival this can be problematic. A copy from your previous residence is better than none.
  • If you have someone who can sign as your guarantor, be sure to bring his or her information.

What are the Average Apartment Rents?

For the most part rents are semi-expensive. Apartments near the city centre are substantially more expensive.

Here are some examples for a one-bedroom apartment.

  • Berlin €400 to €800
  • Dortmund €300 – €500
  • Munich €600 – €1200

Some Apartment Renting Basics

  • Make sure you understand everything in the lease and that all of the rules and regulations are covered. Ask questions until you are satisfied that you understand what is expected of you and of the landlord.
  • Deposits are typically 2 or 3 month’s rent. If you leave the apartment in good order it will be returned with interest.
  • Make sure you know the local ordinances concerning waste collection, plus the contacts for any utilities and necessary services.
  • Make sure to know who is responsible for maintenance of common areas, such as stairwells and entrances.
  • If you wish to have a pet, make sure that it is allowed.

Finding An Apartment

There are four basic methods of finding an apartment.

  • Use one of the many apartment finding websites or apps. One advantage of using these is that you can often take a virtual tour which will give you a better idea of how the apartment looks and helps you narrow your search. You can find good starter lists of websites here, here, and here.
  • Hire a real estate agent, called an Immobilienhändler. German law states that the agent’s fee is paid by the landlord.
  • Newspapers will have a number of listings. However, this method is not as good as either of the previous ones.
  • Word of mouth and referrals from friends and family often offers the best deal and sometimes presents less of a hassle. This of course is a bit more difficult to find if you are moving to the country for the first time.
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