Apartment Searching-The German Standard

Moving can be such a tedious experience for so many of us. It tops the list of life’s most stressful events. Here at Local Worldwide Relocation, we can guide you and help simplify the process. Local Worldwide works with clients looking to move regionally as well as from abroad. Our Local consultants live throughout Germany and know the regional area and landscape. They are typically fluent in German and English as well as other languages.

The first step is to define your home search parameters based on the location of your work and your personal needs. For example, do you prefer a house or an apartment/flat; what size; are two bedrooms required, would you like a balcony and a guest bathroom, what is your budget, targeted move-in date, etc. This will also include collecting information on the areas of the city, proximity to public transport, schools, district highlights such as night life, restaurants, shopping, quiet residential area, etc. We assign each of our clients to a local consultant who lives and works in the targeted region and is familiar with the local culture and nuances.

Before we begin it is important to note, the standard rental termination period is three months. With this in mind, we would recommend beginning your rental property search about 2 to 3 months in advance of your target move-in date. If you are looking to rent as of 1. July, you would want to begin your search in April or in the following months. Here is the logic: for the current tenant who wishes to terminate his or her lease on 31. June, the cancellation notice would be submitted on or before 31. March. In turn, the landlord would likely list this apartment sometime in April (or later) as available for rent as of 1. July.  Starting the search process earlier will most likely not yield more results because apartments with you targeted move-in date have not been listed yet.

Understanding a rental listing

As you become more familiar with your targeted area, you will want to look at various rental postings to help get a feel for the local market. Properties may be listed by private owners, property management companies or real estate firms. Most listings include the following information (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Basic or cold rent (rent without utilities and additional costs)
  • Number of rooms*
  • Size in squared in meters
  • If the apartment is furnished or unfurnished
  • Warm rent (rent to include estimated utilities and some additional costs). Each listing may detail this differently. Some websites also detail if heating costs are included. Your lease would detail the specific costs that are included in your monthly rent.
  • Type of apartment (for example: basement, ground floor, loft, penthouse or attic)
  • If there is a built-in or fitted kitchen (Einbauküche in German)
  • Year in which the property is built
  • The energy efficiency classification
  • If a parking space is available

*Each room is noted in apartment listing. So if you are reading an advertisement for a 3 room apartment, this means that there are two bedrooms plus a living room area.

At one point, it was standard for a Germany flat to not include a fitted kitchen, hanging or pendant lights, or bathroom cabinets. Each listing can vary.

Things you need to prepare in advance

To apply to an apartment, you will need to prepare a few items: small introduction for your future landlord describing you (and your family) , your everyday life and your reasons for moving (nice to have but not mandatory); you will need a confirmation from your employer (start date, job title, salary gross per month) alternatively your work contract if you prepared to share the sensitive information; a completed Self-Disclosure form (Mieterselbstauskunft), a credit history statement (the German one is called SCHUFA, anyone who is registered in Germany can request a SCHUFA).

The current status of the German rental market
The German rental is becoming ever increasingly competitive, fast paced and more expensive. In 2023 a decrease in home sales was reported. Increasing costs of energy and shortages in labour are also impacting record highs in rental pricing. The rates are not predicted to decrease.

In larger cities like Munich, Berlin and Hamburg, the average square meter price is closer to 16-20€ and in some smaller cities, it is as low as 8€ pro square meter. You may be applying for a property along side with at least hundreds of other applicants. Advertisements for properties are often taken off the market only shortly after they have been advertised – during this time the agents/owners are flooded with several hundred applications.

Viewing Apartments and Applying  
You will want to view the apartments/flats in business casual attire. It is important to be on time to the appointment and have your documents with you. We recommend walking through the property with an open mind and determine if this unit checks enough of the boxes off on your must-have list. It is important to consider where you can compromise and where you cannot. In bigger cities and in competitive rental markets, we really encourage you to indicate interest in a property right away. Don’t wait at all! If the apartment is suitable to your needs and there are just some minor compromises, we strongly recommend to apply immediately for all apartments that could be a potential yes. There is no binding agreement to renting an apartment by submitting an application, only the signed rental contract is binding.

I have personally been with clients in which we viewed an apartment at 10am, we had a coffee to discuss the pros and cons and contacted the real estate agent shortly thereafter to find that the property has been rented out. That said, we have also experienced the opposite happening. A client loved an apartment and wanted to deliberate overnight. I telephoned with the landlord the next morning and the apartment was no longer available. I always tell the landlord if something should change, please keep our applicant in mind.  We did view other apartments, but this client really had her hopes set on that very first apartment. Fast forward to the next week, I received a call from that landlord. The current applicant had received a job offer in another city and was no longer interested in the apartment.

We support clients throughout the home search process from selecting the search area, applying for viewings, finalizing the lease process to coordinating a handover on move-in date.

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