HOW TO FIND AN APARTMENT
How does the housing market in Berlin work?
The housing market in Berlin is based on protected rentals, which gives major securities to tenants. Tenant protection laws, along with the lack of available apartments in Berlin, make the task of finding an apartment super complex. Along with the high demand and low supply, from our experience, most new expats in Berlin might experience more difficulties and challenges in comparison to the average German person, as they do not work in Berlin/ Germany for such a long time, do not speak German well, and usually cannot provide the house owners or property management company with all the required documents.
The main goal of this article is to provide you with practical tools and knowledge that will help you rock your apartment search (and therefore, increase your chances of getting a nice apartment in Berlin).
How do we start searching?
You can search for apartments online. There are several web-portals where you could define your search-parameters, such as size, price, district, and so on, and get a list of apartments which might suit your needs. In some of those postings you will already find a date for apartment viewings, to which you could just show up. In case that there is no date suggested, you can send in an inquiry. Some of your inquiries will be answered, and you will be able to attend the viewing.
I have some viewings scheduled. What should I prepare?
In order to get an apartment, you will need to show three documents which prove your financial stability:
(1) your last three payslips
(2) a confirmation from your old landlord, which states that you do not have any debts (in German: Mietschuldenfreiheitbescheinigung)
Apart from that, you will be asked for a:
(4) passport copy
and will most likely need to fill out an
(5) application form.
We recommend you create organized and nice-looking folders with all your documents, which you could submit during the apartment viewing. Remember, sometimes Germans are old school and like papers.
Additionally, you should prepare a tidy PDF file with all your documents, since some landlords agree you submit documents online. One of the best tips I can give you on that point is to merge your files to one PDF which tells your story in a coherent way.
What is SCHUFA?
SCHUFA is a company that collects data about your payment behavior in Germany. Usually, you must sign a consent form while setting up a bank account, which allows your bank to forward your data to SCHUFA.
Your data starts getting collected when you set up your bank account: if you make all your payments on time, positive information will be gathered. However, if you get into debt and do not make your payments, negative information will be gathered. From our experience, one negative entry is enough in order to damage your SCHUFA score, which might make it difficult for you to find a flat, take a loan or make certain contracts (such as private health insurance contracts).
With regards to finding an apartment, SCHUFA is your first impression on the landlord, since it provides them with the required information regarding your payment behavior in Germany.
If you have only recently moved to Germany, and just now set up a bank account, your SCHUFA might not contain any information. However, you should use it anyways, since it is better to have no information rather than negative information.
You can order it online, or alternatively get it in some of the post bank branches, such as the one in Schönhauser Allee or the one in Frankfurter Allee. Our tip: check out the opening hours before going there, since there are usually special hours to having your SCHUFA printed. The payment for the service will be directly debited from your bank account.
I cannot get those documents. What should I do?
You can try applying for apartments without the required documents, but you will probably get rejected. Another option is to search for short- or long-term sublets, or search for medium term furbished apartments.
Wait a minute! It wasn’t so difficult…Should I be worried?
There are many scams out there in the world of apartment searching websites. Of course, scammers get more sophisticated as time passes, so we cannot describe them perfectly, but the general idea is: very cheap, pretty apartments, a friendly landlord, you may immediately get the apartment.
In one of the most common scams, the so-called “landlord” will claim to have bought the apartment for their children or themselves and that they do not live in Berlin anymore. For some unclear reason, they often claim that they live in the UK or sometimes in France.
Another common scam happens during apartment viewings, where the "landlord" signs a contract with you, charges you the deposit and sets a date and time for key handover. Only during the "key handover", when you find yourself with other people who supposedly rented out the apartment - you find out it was a scam. Unfortunately, the only way to recognize this scam is through carefulness and intuition.
In general, you can recognize apartment scams if the apartment is super cheap, or if you will be asked to wire money before getting the keys, usually via a well-known platform such as Western Union or AirBNB. The best way to avoid such scams is being careful, for example: viewing the apartment before signing the contract, refusing to pay before having a signed contract and house keys, and so on.
We got an apartment contract! But…We don’t know what it says. What should we do?
It is super important to understand what you sign. This is generally true in this life. In terms of rental contracts, it´s also important to get a general understanding of the norms and standard in the world of rentals in Berlin.
We highly recommend hiring a professional who will review your rental contract, summarize it for you and make sure that everything is in order. Many lawyers offer reading and opinion services for rental contracts.
My rental contract says I should have some insurance…What is that?
One of the most common requirements in rental contracts is having a personal liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung). Please feel free to look in our article on this topic.
In short, personal liability insurance (Hafrpflichtversicherung) protects you in cases of damages that you make to others. According to the coverage on your policy, it will protect you in case that you lose your keys (which might cost a small fortune in case of a general key), from water damages from your washing machine, from breaking other people´s computers or glasses, and so on. Since it is a standard insurance in Germany, everyone has it, and people do not hesitate before filing a lawsuit against you in case of damage. Due to the super low costs, this insurance is a must-have.
You can purchase this insurance from most insurance companies, over online portals and from all insurance brokers. It is super important to review the policy, in order to make sure that you are getting the deal which suits you most.
Feel free to check our partner's offer, and get this super important insurance simply, digitally and in English.
One of the first topics that come to people´s minds while thinking about or planning a relocation is the question of housing. Of course, everybody needs an apartment. In Berlin, this is a tricky, sometimes complex task.
Here are the main things you should know about finding an apartment in Berlin: