Having just gone through the trials and tribulations of finding an apartment to rent, I can sympathize with the stress, confusion and anxiety that comes with this process. So here are a few guidelines which will hopefully make things a little easier.
First, where the heck do you start looking? I subscribed to a daily update of properties in my city sent straight to my inbox from ImmobilienScout24, which is arguably the website where you can find the largest volume of properties for rent or sale. Whilst I really like the site and find it very user-friendly, my one bugbear is that you are unable to filter the results to search for pet friendly apartments. Since I am bringing my dog over and it is my primary consideration for selecting where I wanted to live, this was a major problem with the site for me.
A slightly smaller variety of properties (with many duplicates from ImmobilienScout24) can be found at Immowelt, where if you click on “weitere kriterien” you can search for pet friendly apartments by checking the “haustiere erlaubt” box.
Similarly, WG-Gesucht is a great resource where you can filter results and search specifically for a room in an apartment (WG Zimmer), a studio apartment (1 Zimmer Wohnung), an apartment (Wohnung), or a house (Haus).
You will need a short explanation for the terminology used when renting an apartment.
Zimmer means room. A 2 room apartment has a living room area and one bedroom, along with a kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen and bathroom are not considered in the room numbers. A 3 room apartment therefore has 2 bedrooms and so forth.
Haustiere are pets. Nach Vereinbarung basically means “permissible if agreed to”.
- Bezugsfrei ab means “available from”.
- Kaltmiete is your “cold rent”. That means rent before electricity and sometimes heating, water, and other maintenance are included.
- Nebenkosten are additional costs such as electricity and whatever else is agreed to by the landlord.
- Heizkosten are heating costs.
- A Dachgeschosswohnung is an apartment in the attic of a house.
An Erdgeschosswohnung is a ground floor apartment.
An Einbauküche is a built in kitchen. This is what you will be looking for if you don’t feel like buying a kitchen and installing it (see my previous post on this for more).
A garten is a garden (fairly obvious) but the important thing to note is that most gardens are shared amongst many tenants so if you want a private garden you’ll be looking for the term “eigene garten.”
You will need to contact the landlord or estate agent to set up a viewing. At these viewings it is not unusual for up to 20+ people to show up, so be on time, dress nicely and make sure you have any documents requested on hand. Most landlords need a copy of your passport and proof of income at the very least. I also included a training certificate for my dog, my credit record and references from previous landlords.
I wanted my own garden and a pet friendly apartment, so I chose to live outside the city centre. I have a 40-50 minute commute to work but I would be paying a lot more for what I got if I was right in the centre.
Before you sign your rental agreement (take a German friend or colleague, trust me!) you will need to agree on a few things with the landlord. First, the kaution or deposit. As I mentioned in a previous post, this can legally be up to 3 months cold rent plus 16% tax. You can either open a bank account specially for this deposit, or you can choose to go with a kaution guarantee option (if your landlord permits it). There are two options here: a product from the bank that is essentially a loan or a product from an insurance company that is… well… insurance (duh). Some banks won’t give this guarantee to expats who have recently arrived. I am currently getting permission from my landlord to follow the latter route using Kautionfrei.
The second agreement needs to be regarding the “renovation” of your apartment. This basically means that you have to repaint the apartment. As far as I know there is no way around this, so what needs to be agreed is whether you will paint the apartment when you move in or before you move out.
There are many apartment scams doing the rounds, so always be alert. If the landlord cannot show you the apartment as they are “currently in a different country” or if anyone asks you to part with your money before the contract is signed and you have your keys, you have the right to be more than suspicious.
Happy house hunting and I wish you all the best!