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Housing is by far the most important thing when one relocates abroad. Everyone needs that sanctuary, a place to retreat after a hard day’s work – a home away from home. We relocated from Singapore to Germany early this year and had our fair share of adventures searching for our new home. While there are many guides out there, offering the nitty-gritty details on renting an apartment in Germany, this article offers a more personal take on the process. Read on for more information on renting an apartment in Germany, including links and anecdotes… so you won’t make the same mistakes we did.
What types of houses can you rent in Germany?
There are three types of houses available for rent in Germany: apartments, Wohngemeinschaften (shared apartments) or fully furnished short-stay accommodations.
For singles, couples and expats with a small family, a German rental apartment near amenities such as supermarkets with easy access to public transportation to get to work would be most ideal. The real estate scene in up and coming cities is booming. As of 2020, more than half of the total German population live in apartments.
Expats with larger families might prefer a house on the outskirts of the city. These houses are typically large and can accommodate a growing family’s needs. However, they are often far away from many amenities, with few public transportation options, hence owning a car is key.
Wohngemeinschaften (WGs) or flat sharing in English, is an apartment where many tenants share a single rent. This is the best option for those who want to save money on rent. Communal living means shared bathrooms, kitchens and living spaces. But tenants usually share household expenses (e.g. utilities, internet etc.) as well. This is more ideal for single expats, or students who aren’t provided university lodging. If you get along with your flatmates, you’ll always have fun people to hang out with.
A close friend of ours live in a shared apartment, and she’d experienced the best and the worst of it. Unfortunately, she rented from a flatmate from hell who didn’t understand the meaning of personal space and was, to be honest, a little psychotic. She barely lasted three weeks there before deciding to move out. Thankfully, she found a better place immediately after that, and have lived there happily ever since. So, for those who’re considering shared living, do screen your potential flatmates carefully. You’d have to live with them for a while, so better be sure about them.
Where can you go to look at houses for rent in Germany?
We were extremely lucky to have a relocation specialist handling matters related to accommodation. They really eased the process of renting a home in Germany. Even though the agents handled the communication and give you a list of homes to choose from, it really can’t hurt to do a little research of your own. If your company provide a real estate agent for you, congratulations! You’ll have less headache trying to navigate through the renting process. If not, you can also check out the real estate websites below!
My go-to website to browse through the available rentals is Immobilienscout24.de. They have an extensive list of rentals to choose from, and an excellent search filter to narrow down your options. Plus, I love how most listings come with many pictures of the home, including the floor plan to look at. To me, first impressions always matter, and I will skip listings with little to no pictures. Can’t afford to depend on my imagination when apartment hunting. Other real estate websites include Immowelt.de and NestPick.
Most of the apartments available for rent in Germany come unfurnished. If you’re looking to rent a furnished apartment, HC24 and Wunderflats are good places to look. However, bear in mind that the monthly rent for a furnished apartment is quite pricey.
What are the documents needed for renting an apartment in Germany?
You will need to provide a copy of your identification documents (e.g. passport, residence permit). Proofs of no previous rental debt and income – I believe that if you are renting through your company’s agent, they will take care of these for you.
How much is the average rent in Germany?
It really depends on the city, and the location of the apartments. Apartments located in prime locations in bigger cities such as Frankfurt, Munich and Cologne can average about €900 upwards. The cost of living in smaller cities in East Germany for example is cheaper. We live in Leipzig, and I’ve seen 2-room property approximately 45-65 square meters renting for €450 per month.
What should I consider when renting an apartment in Germany?
Of course, there are many things to consider when renting an apartment in Germany of your dreams. Location is key – it needs to be accessible to your place of work and have good amenities near your apartment. When we were looking at apartments, we shortlisted the ones nearer to the main train station because there was always a chance that I might need to commute to Berlin to work. English speaking jobs in Leipzig were few. Plus, the main train station is also very near the main shopping district. So, we wanted to be near that too.
The neighbourhood is important too. Consider how the place would be like when it’s dark. Is it adequately lit; would you feel safe if you were to come home after dark? Is it a family-friendly neighbourhood, or do you prefer a neighbourhood with a constant buzz of activities?
I fell in love with a listing in our current apartment building at first sight. The apartment was brand new, with an elevator, two separate bathrooms, two balconies and underfloor heating. Plus, the monthly rent was within our budget – ‘twas was a dream apartment. However, some local friends commented that the apartment was near the “most dangerous street in Germany”. So, my husband and a friend went to check out the apartment and the surrounding neighbourhood and have declared it a safe place to be.
Seven months on, living near Eisenbahnstraße isn’t a bad thing. It’s where we get off the tram home, and no matter how late it gets, it’s safe. Our apartment is at the boring end of the street – quiet, safe, and family-friendly. The main train station is just three tram stops away, making travelling intercity for work and leisure super convenient
Number of Rooms
In Germany, the number of rooms includes the living room. So, when a listing says that an apartment has 2 rooms, it means it has one bedroom and one living room. Hence, if you’re looking for an apartment with a master bedroom, a guest room, and a study room, you’d be looking for a 4-room apartment.
When renting an apartment in Germany, For some strange reasons, it is supremely difficult to find apartments with ensuite bathrooms. Most apartments come with just one bathroom for the entire home. This arrangement isn’t ideal when we have guests over. Imagine waiting for your turn in the bathroom in the mornings.
WIFI and Heating
Especially now when everyone’s working from home, a good WIFI connection is essential to ensure a productive workday. I had assumed that every rental apartment in Germany should be equipped to install a home router, lo and behold… some older apartments don’t have ports to connect a home router. Do ask your landlord if the apartment has a WIFI port, you wouldn’t want any surprises after you’ve signed the contract.
Heating is extremely important during winter when it’s cold outside and you just want to stay warm in the comforts of your living room. You will be presented with choices of apartments with radiator heating or underfloor heating. We chose an apartment with underfloor heating because it heats more efficiently. The individual thermostat in every room enables us to control which rooms we want heated when required, which means reducing the amount of energy needed. Most rentals offer a base rental price or cold rent. Warm rent is the base price + additional utility costs like heating, garbage disposal and water.
Other miscellaneous considerations
Before signing the contract, enquire about the deposit, minimum occupancy period and whether the heating is included with the base rent advertised. If you own a car, does the building provide parking (at an additional fee), or not. Also, if you have a pet, or thinking of owning one, check the apartment buildings’ restrictions. Some landlords don’t allow pets or smoking indoors for example.
What to expect when renting an apartment in Germany?
- Unless you’re specifically looking for fully furnished homes, most rental apartments in Germany come empty and only fitted with bathrooms.
- Kitchen is not included unless the listing says “Einbauküche” or EBK. Most tenants move with their kitchens, but I find it really troublesome. Alternatively, outgoing tenants can discuss with their landlords to have the kitchen remain and handed over to the next tenant at a fee, of course. We were offered to inherit a fully functional, and good quality kitchen at an additional price paid to the previous tenant. We would have taken up that offer because even our custom kitchen from IKEA cost us upwards of €4000.
- Take into consideration which floor your new apartment will be on. Most older buildings have no elevators, and might not be easily accessible for people with additional needs. Ground floor apartments usually have a larger porch or a space to do some gardening. But if they are street facing, they offer less privacy. Homes on the top floor sometimes come with sloping ceilings and skylight windows. In summer, expect your home to be warmer than the apartments on the lower floors.
- Expect to pay up to three months’ worth of deposit upfront. This is mandated by German law, and the sum is used to cover any rental debts or claims for damages made against you by your landlord at the end of your tenancy. This sum would be stated clearly in your rental contract. Ensure that you are only paying the contractual amount, and nothing more.
- Most rentals come with a minimum of 12-24 months of occupancy. Hence, it is important that you check the condition of the apartment thoroughly, including WIFI arrangements before you sign the rental agreement. The minimum notice period should you decide to terminate your tenancy depends on the agreement between you and your landlord. Should your landlord wish to terminate the contract early, the minimum notice period is 3 months.
Registering your address in Germany
So now you’ve finally signed the agreement to your new home for the next years. The next step is to register your address (anmelden) at your local citizen’s office (Bürgeramt). You must do this within the first 14 days, or as soon as possible to obtain your certificate of registration (Anmeldebestätigung or Meldebescheinigung). This document is essential when applying for health insurance, registering for university if you’re a student, and applying for a residence permit.
The certificate of registration is a piece of paper issued by your local citizen’s office containing your personal details and address.
Documents needed to register your address:
- Passport and Visa
- Rental agreement issued by your landlord (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung) – a document provided right after you sign the contract.
Note: Registering for a German address is not only for foreigners moving in, so the entire will be conducted in German. If you’re extremely lucky to have an English-speaking officer, the process will be quick and flawless. However in most cases, bring a German-speaking friend with you, or rely on Google Translate to clarify your doubts. I went with my non-German speaking husband who’s gone through the process, so we’re good.
Do I need to re-register with the Citizen’s office if I move to a new place?
Yes, you’ll have to formally register your address each time you move, the same way you had the first time. And if you’re moving out of Germany for good, you’ll need to unregister completely. This piece of paper is called “abmeldung” and is used to cancel long-term contracts such as mobile or internet plans.
I hope that you’ve found this article on renting an Apartment in Germany informative. Do leave your thoughts and comments below! Click here to read about how expats can go about opening a bank account in Germany!