The key to a good settlement is to find & rent the perfect flat in Berlin to live in. I would say it’s the first thing you have tick off your list along with finding a decent job. Competition has grown considerably in the past few years as the city has attracted more and more people. It’s not as easy as it used to be. Here are a few tips to stay ahead of the wave.
Renting a flat in Berlin : Mission impossible ?
Finding a flat in Berlin has become increasingly difficult the past years due to the general gentrification of many parts of the city. Rents are have also gone up due to the renewal of the city since the beginning of the 1990’s. So if you have heard it is very easy to find a flat in Berlin, you might be disappointed.
It is however somewhat still easier than in other cities in Europe like Paris or London.
With a little bit of patience (between 2 weeks and 2 months depending on your money/luck/connections) and organization you should be able to find a flat in Berlin. I will only cover here how to find your own flat to rent in Berlin. If you want more information about finding a roommate or a flat share, please go to the dedicated page this way.
If you somehow have the means to buy your own flat instead, i’ve also made a guide to buy an apartment in Berlin this way, based on my experience.
Hunting the perfect nest
Once you have found the areas you would like to settle in, there a different ways to find the precious gem. There are of course, a few dedicated websites:
Immobilienscout24, Immonet and Immowelt are sites with a lot of serious offers. I’d recommend creating an account on all 3 of them to receive daily updates about offers with your search criteria (search agent). Some offers are not on one and vice-versa. It’s easy and it’s quite important as it allows to be fast and be the first to reply to new inserts. Speed is key in Berlin.
Speed is key in Berlin
Be aware that most of those websites are offering unfurnished flats in Berlin, so i also made a little guide on the best ways to find furniture in Berlin here too. Those ads are also using a lot of abbreviations to describe the flat. You can find at the end of this post a little glossary of abbreviations often found on those websites. It might come useful. One more thing: don’t forget the deposit which can be worth 1 to 3 month of rent to pay at once.
As a reference for rent price, here is a map made by ImmobilienScout in 2015 to show the average price depending on the location in the city along the Ubahn-Sbahn lines. It shows the average price of a 30-year-old 70m2 flat, without utilities (kalt-miete).
As a rule, total costs are structured that way : Rent (Kalt Miete) + Running costs (Nebenkosten) + Utilities (Heizung & Strom).
In some cases, heating costs are included in the running costs when there is central heating in the whole building. Just be sure to include all costs when evaluating an opportunity. Remember that you will also have to open an electricity & gas contract on your own as well. It is usually not done by the landlord.
Blend in and be organized
When you have found the flat in Berlin, the pearl you would like to chase, that’s where the fun begins! If you have just arrived in Berlin, it’s going to be slightly more difficult. Most of landlords are asking this infamous SCHUFA record. However, some of them are happy to give you keys in return of a 2 or 3 months-rent-worth deposit. It is no doubt that you maximize your chance when speaking to them in German as it shows you have been/will be here for a long time. (Commitment powa!)
To be honest, it can be quite hard if you want a flat in the hippest corners of Kreuzberg or Friedrichshain. That’s because EVERYONE wants to move there. In the most wanted areas, it can be become quite intense and some potential tenants don’t hesitate to come to directly with all necessary papers to directly take the flat if they are interested. It might be a good idea to do the same. It’s also reasonable to expect mass group visits in those areas.
A useful paper that might help your case is a “Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung” (Roughly; free of rent-related debts certificate). It is a paper provided by your former landlord that states your left your tenancy without any debts. If you come from abroad, make one in English with this long German word as a title. It it not guaranteed every landlord will accept it, but it’s better than nothing. Here is one in German for reference.
An alternative strategy might be to find people soon leaving their flat and looking for a “Nachmieter” to take it over, the new tenant starting a new contract with the landlord.
Think social too
Another tip is to make sure to belong to as many expat related Facebook groups as possible where many offers are published everyday. It may give you access to offers you may never see on other platforms. It’s quite difficult to be refreshing your news feed in the hope of uncovering a gem, but the search function with the right keywords will generate relevant results in those groups too. If you master any other language than English, you can apply the same principle in french, spanish, italian, turkish, polish, etc groups. Some groups to consider:
- Expatriates in Berlin
- Expats in Berlin
- Rent a flat in Berlin
- Apartments/roomates Berlin
- Berlin apartments
- Wohnung in Berlin
- Berlin apartments share – rent
To accelerate your search on social media, you can also turn to flatberlin.co which is fetching offers posted on Facebook and gathering them in one minimal interface (thanks to Jeremy for putting that together).
The golden road to finding a flat in Berlin
Several full-services agencies are also offering fully furnished rentals with an extra fee. They usually don’t make you pay anything until you sign the contract. Then the fee is included in the rent. The rent is higher than average but it does sometimes comes with cleaning & other services. This might a good solution for the first few months of your life in Berlin or if you come only for a short-time for a project or something. This is also a good solution to get around the evil circle of “no-flat -> no anmeldung -> no bank account -> no-schufa -> no-flat” issue. Landlords don’t require SCHUFA records with those platforms.
They often speak English can make it easier for you if you need a fast solution to find a flat in Berlin. They often don’t require a SCHUFA record (or credit record)
A good solution to get around the evil circle of “no-flat -> no anmeldung -> no bank account -> no-schufa -> no-flat” issue.
Tip 1 . Do not hesitate to first move in a temporary rental for the time you rent a flat in Berlin, it’s very easy to rent out a room for 2 weeks to some person going on holidays for example. You’ll be then more efficient. You can of course go with AirBnB or consider Wimdu, which is a German competitor to AirBnB.
Update April 2016: Those services are now regulated in Berlin. Hosts now need a license to be able to list their property on those platforms or alternatively, only rent a single room while still having residence at the same address. In any case, the guest can never be fined in case they stay at non-permitted listings. You can still use those services with peace in mind.
Tip 2 : As of October 2015, the owner of the flat has to pay any agency fees when renting out a flat and not the other way around. Good news for tenants.
Tip 3 : You will find that inserts have sometimes strange abbreviations to describe the place. Here is a list of the most common ones.
- Whg (Wohnung) = flat
- App. (Apartment) = studio
- DG (Dachgeschoss) = flat located under the roofs
- WG (Wohngemeinschaft) = well, we explained that there 🙂
- Maisonette =a flat with 2 floors
- MFH (Mehrfamilienhaus) = multi-flat building
- möbl. Zi. (möbliertes Zimmer) = furnished room
- zur Miete = for rent; z. verm. (zu vermieten) = for rent
- zum Kauf = for sale
Flat size – Layout
- Zi (Zimmer) = Room(s), without bathroom & kicthen
- qm or m2 (Quadratmeter)= square meters
- ca. (circa) = approximately
- Wfl. / Wohnfl. (Wohnfläche) = living space
- Nfl. (Nutzfläche) = usable space
- SZ (Schlafzimmer) = bedroom
- Bad (Badzimmer) = bathroom
Rent & Utilities
- Miete = Rent
- jährl. (jährlich) = yearly
- JM (Jahresmiete) = annual rent
- MP (Mietpreis) = Rent price
- mtl. (monatlich) = monthly
- K or Kaut or KT (Kaution) = deposit, 3 MM Kaution =3 months worth of deposit
- KM (Kaltmiete) = the base rent before nebenkosten
- WM (Warmmiete) = cold rent plus all additional costs
- NK (Nebenkosten) = usually water, sewage, trash collection, Hausmeister service, etc.
- Prov. (Provision) = commission paid to the agent
- Nachmieter : someone that is looking for a new tenant after him/herself
- zzgl (zuzüglich) = excluding (internet or electricity for example)
- incl./inkl. (inklusive) = including
- EBK (Einbauküche) = kicthen with all necessary items
- TG (Tiefgarage) = underground garage
- Bad mit F (Bad mit Fenster) = bathroom with window
- Parkett = Hardwood floors
- Laminat = Fake hardwood floors made with synthetic composites
- Spülm. (Spülmaschine) = Dishwasher
- WaMa (Waschmaschine) = Washing machine
- möbl. (möbliert) = furnished
- Aufzug = elevator
- Blk. (Balkon) = balcony
- Terr. (Terrasse) =Terrace
- ISO (Isolierverglasung) = insulating glass
- Kabel (Kabelanschluss) = cable TV – Internet
- off. Kamin (offener Kamin) = fireplace
- F-Raum (Fahrradraum) = bike storage room
- AR (Abstellraum) = storage room
- Wanne = bath tub
- Du (Dusche) = shower
- . (renovierungsbedürftig) = needs renovation
- renovierte = renovated
- kpl. san (komplet saniert) = totally renovated
- AB / Altb. (Altbau) = older building (usually before 2nd world war, which is obviously rare in Berlin)
- NB ( Neubau) = new construction
- Bj. (Baujahr) = year of construction
- EB (Erstbezug) = first tenancy after renovation or new build
- Hell / Helles = light
- sonniges = sunny
- mod. (modern) = modern
- grosszugig geschnitten = the layout is generous. there is a lot of space
- HZ / Hzg. (Heizung) heating
- FW (Fermwärme) district heating piped-in from a local heating plant
- FB-Hzg. (Fußbodenheizung) = ETH (Etagenheizung) = in-floor / radiant heating
- GZ-Hzg. (Gaszentralheizung) = central gas heating
- E-Hzg. (Elektroheizung) = electric heating
- ÖZ-Hzg. (Ölzentralheizung) = central oil heating
- ZH (Zentralheizung) = central heating
- EG (Erdgeschoss) = ground floor
- 2 OG (2nd Obergeschoss) = Second floor
- 1. Etage = First floor (i.e., one above ground level)
- 2. Stock = Second floor
- UG (Untergeschoss) = basement floor
- VH (Vorderhaus) = front building
- HH (Hinterhaus) = back building
- PLZ (Postleitzahl) = Postal code
- Seitenstrasse = side street
- rhg (ruhig) = quiet
- Uni-Nähe (Universitätsnähe) = near university
- Umgeb. (Umgebung) = area, neighborhood
- . (Verkehrsanbindung) = access to public transportation
- Zentrum = city center
- NR (Nichtraucher) = non-smokers only
- WBS erford. (Wohnberechtigungsschein) = subsidized housing only rented to holders of a special permit (WBS)
- Tiere (Tierhaltung) = pets allowed
- ab sof. (ab sofort) = sofort frei = available immediately
- ab. 1 Mai = ab 1.5 = Apartment is available from 1st May
- bezugsf. (bezugsfrei) = No current tenants in the flat