Looking for an Apartment in Germany – 3 Tips for Expats

Not trying to make it sound such an impossible task, but for an expat, looking for an apartment in Germany is indeed comparable to the tasks of Hercules. It is definitely an ordeal you may not want to go through and for many, it is a horrible experience best left untold. But why is looking for an apartment in Germany a horrible experience? Are there any insider tips an expat can use when looking for an apartment in Germany? We have compiled a list of 3 tips you can use when looking for an apartment in Germany and reasons for each one. Brace yourself and read on:

Tip # – You Need to Understand German

You do not need to be native level but a good understanding of German is very important, either that or find a German colleague or friend to help you. Why? Because looking for an apartment in Germany means you need to read the ads in the local paper which are of course written in German. You can’t find ads in the internet, it is often in the local papers, and if not, you might hear of it from someone who is a local, so knowing some German terms for finding an apartment in Germany is really essential. Here are some terms which you need to know as a start:

  • Mieter = tenant (that’s you!)
  • Vermieter = landlord
  • Miete = Rental fee that you pay
  • Kaution = security deposit
  • Zimmer = number of rooms. Be wary of this though, a 3 zimmerwohnung might look to you like a 3 bedroom house but in Germany, the number of rooms pertains to the living room, the dining room, and any other room. It is only the bathroom and the kitchen which are not part of the count. So a 3 zimmer means a wohnung with a kitchen and bathroom (toilet might be separate from the bathroom), one bedroom, and the dining room and living room, far from the 3 bedroom you imagined.
  • Wohnung = house or apartment
  • Bauhjar = the year that the house or apartment was built. Usually in ads, this is abbreviated to BJ.
  • QM = square meters area of the wohnung
  • Du = the shower (which means only the shower and no toilet or bath tub)
  • Bad = the bath tub (does not come with shower)
  • WC = toilet

Tip # 2 – You Need the Help of an Agent

Not a secret agent, a real estate agent! Why? Because in major cities in Germany, it is nearly next to the impossible to find an apartment up for grabs if you don’t have an agent. More so, your German real estate agent has super powers that neither you nor your helpful friend or colleague has. Finding an apartment on your own can take months, but with the help of an agent, the time will be significantly reduced, just be prepared to pay up though.

Tip # 3 – You Have to Make Sure You Can Handle it Financially

Ah the fees. Lets see, if you found the apartment on your own, your vermieter may ask you for 2-3 months of kaution (see, you are already learning German here), plus a month’s rent. If you have an agent, be prepared to pay -2 months rent plus 9% vat apart from what you need to pay your vermieter. Take note that an unfurnished apartment does not have anything, not even lights or a sink, so that’s more punches to your bank account. Whew! Looking for an apartment in Germany will leave your wallet weeping for sure!

That’s it expats! The 3 tips when looking for an apartment in Germany. While it may seem that moving to Germany is a lot of work, you might be surprised at how much you might like the country. In fact, you may not want to go back to your home country after settling in. Cheers to your Germany Adventures!


Saskia Petz

Tanja Traut

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