How Do I find a Flat in Berlin or other German Cities

Be prepared to bring your own kitchen

Daisy patterned armchair and watering can
How to find a Flat in German Cities. Dieter Spannknebel-Stockbyte@getty-images

Finding a flat or a room in Berlin can be an exhausting task. But it’s doable when you know your steps. First, you need to know about three different types of renting a flat in Berlin.

 

WG - Flat share

Very common among young people (professionals and students). There are websites dedicated only to this type of living, the most popular being WG-Gesucht. You will also find many FB groups that will connect you with renters, for example Berlin Housing or Berlin Startup Flats&Flatshares.


Many offers are short term, as many people in Berlin want to rent a room for a week or two, while they are gone for holiday for example. It  was happening in Berlin long before we’ve heard about AirBnB. Before you start  the room hunt, you need to prepare yourself for some struggle as there is a big competition. You will hear hundreds of times that the room is already taken and in many cases you will find yourself sitting on a little casting with other contestants, at which flatmates (Mitbewohners) will decide whether they want to live with you or not.

Zur Untermiete - To Sublet

It is good to know this term. It simply means subletting, and is another very common form on a renting market. People who offer such lease are usually going abroad to study or work, and don’t want to loose their apartment, therefore they decide to sublet it. These contracts are usually short-term or mid-term - from a month to a year.

On the other hand it is not that legally complicated as renting as the main occupant. Usually it is just some sort of a contract between you and the current renter. You should make sure while renting this way, that your contract is in order, which means in agreement with the main landlord, as subletters don’t have same rights in Germany as the main renter.

 

A sublet is often the only way to get a flat quickly and uncomplicated. They also come with furniture and are most suitable if you are looking for something short term, up to six months. It might be the best solution when you first come to a German city to have a look around and check where you'd actually like to live for a longer time. 
 

Mieten - To Let

This is how you call a situation when you are renting your apartment directly from a landlord. So if you are looking for some place for long term this is the way to go. While looking, you need pay attention to words Kaltmiete and Warmmiete, cause depending on which one it is, this will make a difference to your final monthly payment. Kaltmiete tells you only the basic price for the flat, with the Warmmiete come all the utility bills. On the websites listing flats, very often the price you will see first, will be the Kaltmiete. So this is something to pay attention to, cause the difference between Kaltmiete and Warmmiete could be about 200-300 euros. Once you decide to take the flat, there is also a security deposit to be paid - the "Kaution". Please also make sure that you have a list of following documents, as these are a must:

  • Schufa which is a credit check agency.
  • A copy of your photo ID and/or a residence permit.
  • Bürgschaft - a letter guaranteeing that someone, e.g. a parent, can cover the costs in case you can’t. Instead of it you can present:
  • Einkommensnachweis - income statements from the last three months.
  • You'll also need a Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung - a letter from your previous landlord stating that you don’t owe rent. 

Renting a flat might be a bit different than in your country. E.g. you might have to buy a new kitchen or buy it from the former tenant for the so called "Abstand". You might even find the flat void of lamp sockets. 

 

Where to find a flat in Germany

Popular websites to search for a flat are ImmobilienScout or Immowelt. Immobilien means real estate, so remember that one in your flat search.

 

The Good News and The Bad News

Just a heads up - finding a flat in Berlin can be a real challenge.

The city is clearly struggling with some flat shortages, as there is more and more expats coming to enjoy its vibrant atmosphere. So you need to prepare yourself for some sweat and tears. It is also very common that the flats are not furnished. The good news is that once you land your perfect flat, you just became a happy Berliner and you can just relax and enjoy your life. German rental market in general is very focused on a renter and not the landlord. That must be the reason why most Germans rent their flats for years instead of buying.  Berlin went even one step further as lately it became first German city with a rent cap law, to make sure that rents do not rise too fast.