How to find a flat in Berlin

A easy guide to help you find your home in the coolest city in Europe

Finding a flat in Berlin may sounds like an impossible mission. For some this search can take up to 9 or 10 or 11 months. And I know personally people that took over 1 year. It is hard and it is getting harder as we speak.

The secret to a good time trying to find & rent the perfect flat in Berlin is persistence and patience. Have all your documents ready, find out if your visa – if you need one – grants you the right of your own or if you need to share and start searching. If you’re a EU Citizen you’re fine, if you’re here on a student visa, maybe not. Check your status before anything, ok?

But the second most important thing to check off of your list is to find a decent job. The amount of money you earn will be the key factor for the owner to decide to rent his flat to you. Use the rule of thirds on this one: your rent should be 1/3 of your salary. If you can’t, at least less than 1/2.

Finding a flat in Berlin : Is it really that hard?

Finding a flat in Berlin has become more and more difficult the past years due to the gentrification of many neighborhoods here in Berlin and some other social economic issues in EU . Rents are also going up due to the restoration of the city since the beginning of the 90s and the prices start really changing after the World Cup in 2006. In 2006 people started to realize that Berlin was indeed a cool place to live. So if you have heard it is very easy or super ultra cheap to find a flat in Berlin, you might be disappointed. You’re over 10 years too late, my friend.

But It is still relatively easier and cheaper here than in other cities in Europe, specially cities like Paris, Vienna or London.

With a little bit of perseverance and lots of patience between 2 weeks and 12 months depending on your budget, connections, friends and luck – and organization you should be able to rent a flat here.

In this post, we 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 WG, let me know and I will make another post about that. Since I never lived in a WG I don’t really have that information for you. The same goes for those looking for information about buying your flat, this post is not for you since I never even researched that. But feel free to try find information on our super facebook group. We’re super helpful and I’m sure somebody can point you to the right direction.

I’ll add some useful links for WGs and on most of the links you can find apartments to buy, but unfortunately that’s all I ca offer.

How to find a flat in Berlin

Find a flat in Berlin online

Once you have an idea of the areas and neighborhoods in Berlin you would like to live in, go online and search the shit out of those websites. I mean, REALLY, ok? We’re living in a super amazing apartment here in Berlin for the past 4 years thanks to the first option. (And thanks to my obsession with getting this done. 3 weeks of looking up flats and visiting apartments from 8am to 8pm.)

Immobilienscout24, Immowelt and Immonet are sites with a lot of serious offers. Like I said, we found ours in the 1st one and most of our friends have found theirs on those sites too. I strongly suggest you to make an account on each of those sites and sign up for the newsletter. They can send you daily emails with suggestions based on what you need, how much you can pay and where you want to live.

I tell you to use all options you can because some apartments are not on one and vice-versa, you know? Since it is online, what harm can do to you? One more email every day? Besides, you can cancel the emails at anytime.

Another thing you need to do it prioritize finding your flat over anything else in your life. It is super important to be as fast as you can when you apply for flats. Most times the first one to send out the documents and information needed, is the one winning the apartment. Speed is the key factor in Berlin. In my experience, if you have it scanned in your phone, send it as soon as you step out of the flat you visited and liked.

Be aware that most of those websites are offering unfurnished flats in Berlin. Ours came only with the stove and kitchen closets but we’ve visited some that didn’t even had that. Fridge, washing machine, blablabla we had to buy it. Put those costs under your pencil as well, ok? And speaking about extras: don’t forget the deposit which can be worth 1, 2 or even 3 months of rent, has to be paid at once. In my case it was 2 but I know cases of 1 and 3.

It is also super crucial to know the difference between a Kaution and a Provision. You’ll see a lot of people telling you to find a flat provisionsfrei (free of provision) and they are right. A kaution is a deposit, a money that you’ll see it again if everything is in order once you leave the flat. Provision is the fee you pay to the agency that is advertising the flat and you’ll never see this money again.

Those ads are also using a lot of abbreviations to describe the flat. Confusing as hell, if you ask me, but what can we do? I hope they’re using the time they saved with all those abbreviations wisely. You will find at the end of this post a small glossary of abbreviations often found on those websites. I hope it helps.

How are the prices of flats in Berlin?

ImmobilienScout did a while ago a very good map of Berlin, using the design of Berlin’s public transit, to show the rent prices.

In this map you can find the average price of a 70m2 flat with 2 rooms and no utilities (Kaltmiete) depending on the U/S-Bahn stations you choose. The map was done last year (2015) but the prices haven’t changed since then (March/2016). We pay around 8€ per square meter in Neukölln (warm) but we are living in the same flat for almost 4 years. Prices are not what it used to be.

If you want, click on the map to open a bigger version in another window.

Alternatives to finding a flat in Berlin

Several full-services agencies are also offering fully furnished flats. Of course that this will come with an extra fee (duh!). But they usually don’t make you pay anything until you sign the contract. And later this fee is included in your rent so you don’t “feel it” as much. Here is a long list of agencies and websites that can super help you find what you need in terms or short-term flats in Berlin:

 

Those agencies usually speak good English can make it easier for you if you need a fast solution to find a flat in Berlin, and many of them you can resolve everything online. Loads of my friends used their services and most of them are super happy about it.

They don’t require a Schufa record or credit record or anything like that but you’ll have to pay a fat deposit. It is more expansive but you’ll not have to worry about going to Ikea or anything like that. Just think twice if you have pets, ok? You will have to pay for any damage on the furniture.

Another super pro tip: It is ok to first move in a temporary rental for the time you’re looking for a flat in Berlin. It is by far the easiest way to organize yourself. I’ve lost count how many friends stayed in hostels for months just to save a few hundred euros in the end. 100 or 200 bucks more is nothing compared to the peace of mind you will need for this impossible task that is to find a flat in Berlin.

It’s very easy to find a room for 2 or 3 weeks from some person going on holidays for example. You can ask your friends, search or Airbnb or something similar. If you use this link you’ll get 18 bucks for free, people.

The 3rd pro tip of this post is: Since October 2015, the owner of the flat has to pay all agency fees when renting out a flat, ok? And not the other way around. Good news for tenants. Double check if everybody is following the rules because getting your money back can be quite hard.

More useful information to find a flat in Berlin

If you have just arrived in Berlin, it’s going to be a bit more difficult to understand the process. But don’t panic, ok? Just try to maintain yourself calm, breath deeply and think positive.

Things that helped me to find my flat:

Get your Schufa record ASAP, make tons of copies and never give the original to anyone. You can get yours at any EasyCredit here in Berlin and pay at any Postbank. Some douches will tell you you need a bank account to pay but for the bank account you need an address and for an address you need the Schufa. Those people have a special place in hell, ok? If you have any question, like I said, come to us on our facebook group!

After getting your Schufa, the other thing you need is a bank account. I strongly suggest something like the Number26 that is for free, gives you a credit-card and you can have every info you need in English. If not, go for the Sparkasse. I know that the branch at Hermannplatz has many English speaking people working there.

And speaking about languages, try to learn some basic German. When speaking to landlords, it is no doubt that you maximize your chance when speaking to them in German. It will show them that have been/will be here for a long time. Some of them just need to know you’re not flaking out in 6 months, you know?

The pro tip level “You’ll thank me later” on this section: don’t EVER send the money before having the keys in your hand. You’ll not believe the amount of scammers saying that they are in UK or wherever and need to rent the flat in Berlin, ok? The keys will not arrive in the mail, the contract is void and you’ll never see your money again. High demand means paradise for scammers. Be careful.

And open your mind about where you wanna live, ok? Go beyond Kreuzberg, Prenz, Mitte and Friedrichshain. The prices there are most times way higher then the rest because everybody wants to live there. Wedding is a wonderful area, Treptow is super cute and Neukölln too and I can’t stress this enough: There is life outside the ringbahn, people! You should try it! 5 minutes more inside the bus or the train won’t kill you on your way back.

The search for flats there can be become quite intense and some potential tenants don’t hesitate to show up with all necessary papers to directly take the flat if they are interested. I mean, have all the possible documents ready even before seen if the flat is worth it, you know? It might be a good idea to do the same but the competition there is tough.

I still remember trying to visit an apartment in 2012, in F-hain that had more people visiting than space to move around. Mass group visits are the worst. You can’t see the apartment properly. In Brazil we have a saying that goes something like “buy a pig in a poke”, in other words you’ll not see everything and will ended up with a contract signed and a crappy flat in Berlin but in a super good location, you know?

Another useful paper that might be helpfull for you is a “Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung” (Roughly translated into free of rent-related debts certificate). It is kind of a Schufa. It is a paper provided by your former landlord (if you had one) that states your left your former house/flat without any debts. If you come from abroad, make one in English with this long German word as a title. I didn’t have that because in Brazil we don’t even have a document like this, but if you can get it from you last landlord, do it. It is not guaranteed every landlord will accept it, but it’s better than nothing.

The glossary you’ll need to find your flat in Berlin

If you don’t understand German very well, the list below will help you out a lot. I found lists like this all over the web and this is a compilation of everything I found.

House types

  • Whg (Wohnung) = flat
  • App. (Apartment) = studio
  • DG (Dachgeschoss) = flat located under the roofs. The top floor usually.
  • WG (Wohngemeinschaft) = A flat where each room is rented by somebody. A residential community/shared flat.
  • Maisonette =a flat with 2 floors
  • zum Kauf = for sale
  • zur Miete = for rent; z. verm. (zu vermieten) = for rent
  • MFH (Mehrfamilienhaus) = multi-flat building
  • möbl. Zi. (möbliertes Zimmer) = furnished room

Flat features:

  • EBK (Einbauküche) = kicthen with all necessary items
  • TG (Tiefgarage) = underground garage
  • Bad mit F (Bad mit Fenster) = bathroom with window
  • möbl. (möbliert) = furnished
  • Parkett =  Hardwood floors
  • Spülm. (Spülmaschine) = Dishwasher
  • WaMa (Waschmaschine) = Washing machine
  • Aufzug = elevator
  • Blk. (Balkon) = balcony
  • Terr. (Terrasse) =Terrace
  • ISO (Isolierverglasung) = insulating glass
  • Laminat = Fake hardwood floors made with synthetic composites
  • Kabel (Kabelanschluss) = cable TV – Internet
  • off. Kamin (offener Kamin) = fireplace
  • F-Raum (Fahrradraum) = bike storage room
  • Wanne = bath tub
  • Du  (Dusche) = shower
  • AR (Abstellraum) =  storage room
  • ren.-bed. (renovierungsbedürftig) = needs renovation
  • kpl. san (komplet saniert) = totally renovated
  • NB ( Neubau) =  new construction
  • AB / Altb. (Altbau) = older building (usually before 2nd world war, which is obviously rare in Berlin). Those flats usually have higher ceiling.
  • Bj.  (Baujahr) = year of construction
  • EB  (Erstbezug) = first tenancy after renovation or new build
  • Hell / Helles = light
  • sonniges = sunny
  • grosszugig geschnitten = the layout is generous. there is a lot of space
  • renovierte = renovated
  • mod. (modern) =  modern

Location:

  • EG (Erdgeschoss) = ground floor
  • 2 OG (2nd Obergeschoss) = Second floor
  • 2. Stock = Second floor
  • 1. Etage = First floor (i.e., one above ground level)
  • UG (Untergeschoss) = basement floor
  • HH (Hinterhaus) = back building
  • VH (Vorderhaus) = front building
  • Seitenstrasse = side street
  • PLZ (Postleitzahl) = Postal code/ZIP code
  • rhg (ruhig) = quiet/peaceful
  • Zentrum = city center
  • Umgeb. (Umgebung) = area, neighborhood
  • Uni-Nähe (Universitätsnähe) = near a university
  • Verk.-Anb. (Verkehrsanbindung) = access to public transportation

Flat sizes and layouts

  • Zi (Zimmer) = Room(s), without bathroom or kicthen
  • Bad (Badzimmer) = bathroom
  • SZ (Schlafzimmer) = bedroom
  • qm or m2 (Quadratmeter)= square meters
  • ca. (circa) = approximately
  • Nfl. (Nutzfläche) = usable space
  • Wfl. / Wohnfl. (Wohnfläche) = living space

Utilities and Rent

  • Miete = Rent
  • JM (Jahresmiete) = annual rent
  • mtl. (monatlich) = monthly
  • jährl. (jährlich) = yearly
  • KM (Kaltmiete) = the base rent before nebenkosten
  • WM (Warmmiete) = cold rent + all additional costs
  • MP (Mietpreis) = Rent price
  • Prov. (Provision) = commission paid to the agent
  • K or Kaut or KT (Kaution) = deposit, 3 MM Kaution =3 months worth of deposit
  • NK (Nebenkosten) = usually water, sewage, trash collection, Hausmeister service, etc.
  • zzgl (zuzüglich) = excluding (internet or electricity for example)
  • incl./inkl. (inklusive) = including
  • Nachmieter : someone that is looking for a new tenant after him/herself

Heating:

  • HZ / Hzg. (Heizung) heating
  • FB-Hzg. (Fußbodenheizung) = ETH (Etagenheizung) = in-floor/radiant heating
  • FW (Fermwärme) district heating piped in from a local heating plant
  • E-Hzg. (Elektroheizung) = electric heating
  • GZ-Hzg. (Gaszentralheizung) = gas heating (central)
  • ZH (Zentralheizung) = central heating
  • ÖZ-Hzg. (Ölzentralheizung) = central oil heating

Other useful things :

  • bezugsf. (bezugsfrei) = No current tenants in the flat
  • NR (Nichtraucher) = non-smokers only
  • WBS erford. (Wohnberechtigungsschein) = subsidized housing only rented to holders of a special permit (WBS)
  • ab. 1 Sep = ab 1.9 = Apartment is available from 1st September
  • ab sof. (ab sofort) = sofort frei = available immediately
  • Tiere (Tierhaltung) = pets allowed

This list wouldn’t be as complete as it is without the incredible post on Settle in Berlin. Please check them out for the infos about WG that are lacking here.

If you have any question or information you’ll like to add to this post, leave it on the comments below. The idea of this post if to help people figure it out the ways to find their dream house here in Berlin, so if you can help, please do!

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