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Finding an Apartment in Berlin

Moving to the German Capital City, Berlin, is an exciting experience for anyone. The quality of life in Berlin is very high, and there are lots of beautiful properties to choose from and eventually call home! Being the largest city, it offers countless opportunities to individuals and there are many reasons why Berlin is one of the best cities for expats.

However, finding an apartment in Berlin has become very competitive over the years, so it’s wise to become fully informed about the process and see what you can do to get ahead of the competition and secure your apartment.

Neighbourhoods and Areas to live in Berlin

You may already have an idea of the area of Berlin that you would like to live in, or perhaps, you may still be in the early stage of choosing a neighbourhood. One of the most important things to remember is to try and be flexible when choosing a location. Don’t limit yourself to one location. Different areas in Berlin offer different advantages and limitations. Broaden your search area when finding an apartment in Berlin, and you’ll be more likely to succeed with ease.

Kreuzberg

One of the trendiest neighbourhoods of Berlin. It’s often frequented by students and younger expats. Consider this area, if you want a livelier experience of Berlin, and can handle a busy and hectic environment. 

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Neukölln

A larger area that is home to many expats, and has a significant population of Turkish expats. It has seen some renovations recently, so it’s home to ample popular bars, cafes, and leisure parks.

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Friedrichshain

A quieter neighbourhood that mainly attracts older expats, residents and younger families. It’s also home to many local artists.

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Prenzlauer Berg

Another quiet area to live in, but Prenzlauer Berg is more affluent than other neighbourhoods. You will find families and older expats that move to Berlin for a long term.

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Mitte

Another prospering neighbourhood, but you will find more businesses and corporate individuals living here. It’s very central and accessible, so it attracts entrepreneurs and professionals, from all over the world, especially from the technology industry.

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Keep these areas in mind, but it’s difficult to split Berlin into specific types of neighbourhoods when compared to other cities. The feel of a neighbourhood can change, even just one or two blocks away, so it’s important to not rule out an area without doing a bit of proper ground research first.

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How to Find an Apartment in Berlin

Finding an apartment in Berlin can be very challenging and competitive! It is increasingly becoming a more popular city to live in, so it’s important to be prepared, in order to make yourself visible amongst other renters. 

Prepare Documents Required

You will need to bring the following documents with you every time you view an apartment:

  • Schufa (Credit Report) – If you have only just moved to Germany, then it’s likely that you won’t have anything on your schufa, which is a credit report. Any prospective landlords will understand this, but it’s important to get it anyway. Be proactive and bring something else along with you, such as an employment contract, which will prove you can afford the rental payments. The Schufa Record is created for you once you Register in Germany ‘Anmeldung’.  If you do not have one, you can get a Schufa record from Postbank.
  • Identification – Your passport will be enough and you will need it to apply for the apartment of your choice, so make sure to take it with you or create copies.
  • Proof of Income – Your future landlord will want to know that you can afford the rent each month, and will want to see proof of what you are earning. They will usually want to see three months of pay slips, if you are employed. If you are freelancing, you’ll need to bring your tax information (P60, or Steuerbescheid in German) for the last year, or copies of your bank statement will help to prove how much you have in savings. If it’s a German bank account, this would be more appreciated by landlords.
  • Bank Statements – These aren’t always necessary to bring, but they would help your case, especially if you are a freelancer.
  • Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (Certificate of freedom from rent debt) – This is a document from your former landlord confirming that you are up to date with your rent and don’t owe them any arrears. It’s basically a reference to say you are a good tenant and pay on time. This is optional, but it would be favourable to have it with you.
  • Mietbürgschaft (Rent Guarantee) – If you haven’t got, or can’t prove a steady income, then you can still rent an apartment with a guarantor, who guarantees that she or he, will pay the rent if you are unable to do so. This is often a family member and is an option that is often used by students. If you are in this position, get a guarantor in place before viewing an apartment.

Prepare a Security Deposit

Deposits in Berlin are quite high and are usually the equivalent of three months of rental payments. Some tenants won’t have this kind of money at their disposal, so you can obtain a Mietkautionskonto (Rental Deposit Account), which is a rental deposit account, and the bank will be the guarantor for your deposit.

Get a German Bank Account

Most of the time, you need a German bank account to pay your rent, because cheques and cash won’t be accepted, nor an account from another country. Most banks require an anmeldebestätigung (confirmation of registration) to open an account, which is the confirmation of your address in Germany, but there are some banks that will let you open an account without this. Services like TransferWise can be used to move funds from your current bank account to your new German account.

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Where to Look when Finding an Apartment in Berlin

By now, you will have a good idea of what areas you would like to live in. You now need to find the properties available for rent. There are plenty of agencies, websites and portals that you can search on. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Lists of websites, portals and agencies to find apartments in Berlin:

Websites & Portals

Housing Agents

Online Searching for Smaller Portals

Sometimes it pays to look for lesser-known portals and websites when finding an apartment in Berlin. The majority of tenants will be searching on the bigger websites, so you will have more competition. Try searching for more independent websites or agencies. Also, vary the times of day you are looking. People tend to place adverts early in the morning or late at night, so those are the best times to search, to increase the chances of getting in touch before anyone else.

Make the effort to speak over the phone and meet

Don’t just automatically send an email or send a text message when you find somewhere you like, as this might take longer till you get a reply. Many landlords tend to appreciate a direct approach, so if they have listed a telephone number, give them a call straight away. If they don’t answer, simply leave a message. This proves to be more effective than being one out of the many emails they receive.

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Steps To Take For Viewing The Apartment & Securing it

When meeting the landlord, the first impression tends to help a lot with the landlord’s decision making. Below you can find some useful tips to use during the process and in order to prepare well, which will increase the chances of finding an apartment in Berlin.

1. The viewing

Viewings are usually done in groups with other potential tenants. If you see somewhere you like, you need to be quick! Get there as early as possible, to avoid the possibility of the apartment being rented out before you can even see it. Furthermore, landlords tend to stop viewings once they receive many applications.

2. Documents

Make sure you take all of the documents you will need to the viewing. Landlords will usually tell you what they need before the viewing, sometimes a list is provided. Follow the document advice given earlier. It’s better to take too much with you than not enough.

3. The deposit

You have applied for the apartment and have been accepted, which is often the hardest part. You now need to pay your deposit (equal to three months rent) and the rent for the first month. You will usually have to pay this when you sign the contract, and it’s sometimes asked for in cash.

4. Inspecting the apartment

You will have the chance to view the apartment and make sure there is nothing wrong with it. Check if there are any damages, wall markings or leakages and if any, make the landlord fully aware, or you could end up being liable for them when you leave. In German, this is called Übergabeprotokoll, or the handover protocol. Despite being a long process, approach this step with caution and dedicate the time required.

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Additional Tips when Finding an Apartment in Berlin

Here are some other things to consider when finding an apartment in Berlin.

Consider a temporary move

Finding an apartment in Berlin is much easier when you are actually living in Berlin already. Even if you are looking to rent for a longer time, it’s wise to rent somewhere for a short period to help with your search. Renting a room for a couple of weeks, or even staying at an AirBnB, could make all the difference.

Speaking German will help

So you might not be able to speak the German language yet, but if you can, then it will improve your chances immensely. Even taking someone with you that can speak German will give you an advantage. Writing a cover letter, in German, to a potential landlord would also be a nice touch and give you the chance to introduce yourself. A guide to learning German in Berlin. Want to study online? Here are 12 Great Apps to Learn German.

Cover all bases

Whilst it’s best to call and speak to the landlord as soon as you see their advert if they don’t answer (leave an answerphone message if possible), then send a message to them too. Some landlords would not want to speak on the phone, so cover all bases. During such process, persistence is key.

Be an ideal tenant

You are more likely to be considered for the property you desire, if you are the perfect tenant, in the eyes of the landlord. Having a stable income, that is at least three times your monthly rent payment, will make you a tough tenant to turn down. Also, have all your documents in order, so you make it easier for you and for your landlord to navigate.

Cold rent and warm rent

Kaltmiete is cold rent, and this means you will have to pay a bit more on top of the monthly cost for utilities and maintenance. Warmmiete means warm rent, and this would include the utilities, so the price you see would be the final price you pay.

As mentioned above, knowing some basics of the German language is crucial. We have prepared a full Glossary for German Rental Ads.

Hopefully, this guide for finding an apartment in Berlin has equipped you with all of the information and tools necessary, to find the perfect apartment in Berlin. Your hard work will be worth it when you’re living in this vibrant and welcoming city.

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