Flat, apartment or house? As soon as the idea of moving has been conceived, whether for professional or private reasons, the question arises as to which is the best place to live. As in every country, also in Germany there are certain characteristics and procedures for finding your future home. Some things may be different, so we have put together the most important tips and tricks.
In general, accommodation prices in Germany are determined by location, the size of a home and its amenities (remember kitchens, bathrooms & toilets are not included in the room count). Most of the houses or apartments are let unfurnished, if you are looking for a partly or furnished home you will always find some exceptions.
What you have to keep in mind: Unfurnished apartments in Germany means indeed completely unfurnished. They do not have built-in cabinets, closets or even lighting fixtures. You will often have to buy everything, perhaps even the proverbial kitchen sink, stoves, refrigerators, kitchen cabinets, curtain rods and lights.
In Germany, landlords are not obliged to fit a kitchen in an apartment before renting it out to you. The advantage is that the rent is lower and you can choose what kitchen you’d like to have. If you don’t want the hassle above then look specifically for the term EBK (Einbauküche) in the advertisement, meaning the apartment actually comes with a kitchen.
Compared to other countries, Germans don’t have a very strong buying culture in the field of real estate. Many people prefer renting apartments for years, even for decades. Therefore purchasing your own kitchen can be nice as you get to have it exactly as you would like it to be. In addition, if you do decide to leave, you can either bring your kitchen with you or sell it onto the next tenant or your landlord.
How to find an accommodation
In Germany, it makes little sense to look for a “For Sale” sign in front of the houses. It is not a common way of offering a property. Many offers are published in newspapers or on various websites, providing extensive listings on apartments and houses for sale as well as rental units. Another option is to get advice from a real estate agent called “Makler/Immobilienmakler”, which is much more timesaving, but also the most expensive way. Estate agents charge a commission “Makler-Courtage/Provision” determined by the purchase price or the rent. In terms of renting, the commission is about two months of base rent (“Kaltmiete”, excluding extra charges like for heating, electricity, gas, water, waste disposal) plus value added tax and will be charged if a leasing contract will be signed.
Exception: Since 2015, a new law has been in force according to which only the person assigning the real estate agent pays the due commission.
Attention: Never pay a fee before the contract has been signed – not even a handling fee
The first steps in finding an accommodation
Even if you are quite familiar with the German language, it might be difficult to understand the typical German rental expressions. Here you find a glossary with key words and abbreviations, which are commonly used on the German housing market, especially when you search online or through newspaper ads.
Finding an accommodation online:
Once you have found yourself a suitable home, a rent contract “Mietvertrag” will be signed. Whether you sign it in the presence of an estate agent or alone, make sure the document contains following details:
- Length of the agreement
- Rent amount
- Amount of additional costs (heating, water, garbage disposal etc. – electricity comes separate)
- An agreement on redecoration when you move in or move out
- Conditions for rent increases
- In case of furnished rooms, an inventory check of all items (check the presence of the landlord whether all the items are in good order. If damaged, have this documented in writing, so that you don’t have to pay for the damage when you move out)
- The general house rules
Now that the contract has been signed and sealed, we’re ready to go. The adventure of moving is imminent and that means packing boxes and perhaps also making various furniture stores insecure.
Next steps after the move
After the move is done, you just want to put your feet up, but there are still some important things to do: the new address must be communicated to authorities and possibly service providers. To make sure you don’t forget anything, we’ve put together a checklist with the most important points:
- Registry office
The German registration law requires that every inhabitant in Germany must be registered with the authorities. The place to go is the “Einwohnermeldeamt”. Registration process at the Einwohnermeldeamt must be done in person or by an authorised representative within a maximum period of 14 days. The period begins with the move or the validity date of the rental agreement. The confirmation of registration is also required for other institutions, such as banks or for getting a residence permit.
After moving to a new country, an account should be opened as soon as possible so that incoming salaries and payments for rent, deposits and utilities can be processed. It should also be noted that unlike in other countries EC cards and cash are more popular in Germany than credit cards.
- Internet, telephone and cable TV connection
In addition to the provider’s costs, in Germany you have to pay a radio contribution called “GEZ” if you have equipment with which you can receive public service programmes, irrespective of actual use, e.g. TV sets, but also PCs and smart phones.
- Health insurance
With regard to health insurance in Germany, there are basically two starting institutions. On the one hand, posted employees are considered who usually remain under the social security system of the country of origin, there is no extra insurance required. On the other hand, anyone who permanently settles in Germany as an EU citizen or by means of a residence permit needs a German health insurance.