When my boyfriend and I were moving to Berlin, we considered many factors and consulted many websites before finding a nice apartment to live in. The proximity to parks, good transportation hubs, decent hang-outs, location of potential job opportunities or the overall feel of the neighbourhood were some of the hot topics at the time. After reading multiple blogs and Berlin guides, we finally settled in Prenzlauer Berg. Not necessarily by choice but by pure luck.
What apartment hunting feels like in Berlin? In short, a living nightmare!…At least from what I’ve heard and read on most forums. It can take months to find a place which resembles your ideal household the most. It’s rarely the perfect home, but don’t lose hope. Being patient and being permanently logged on nation-wide housing websites will eventually pay off!
Where to start?
There are many websites which help appartment seekers with their search. Here is a list of those I found useful back in 2015!
- probably the most known and used website for finding a flat share in Germany. Unfortunately it is general quite useless for couples.
- many sublets for various periods of time can be found here. Do not get discouraged by the multiple listings for couple months only. It often ends up your only first choice before finding the real place you eventually call home. Many people end up “nomading” the city every couple of month due to these short stay housing solution.
- Seems to be a site mostly used by Americans. I never used it myself, therefore I’d be aware of potential scams.
Useful Facebook groups:
You can also search for a Berlin based Facebook group connecting expats from your country such as: Americans in Berlin
The hard reality is that roughly ninety percent of the times your message is never read by the recipient/landlord. It is primarily caused by the enormously high demand for housing in Berlin, unmatched by the limited supply. I believe you have already heard. The same applies for the dedicated Facebook groups. As much as I like to be part of a community of compassionate people, in many cases you are hours too late to react to a new apartment post. Unless you keep on refreshing that page every half a minute or so. Either way, you have to keep on trying until you finally succeed! Like we all do!
The recipe for success
Of course, there is not one advise that helps all. My boyfriend and I were very lucky, searching for an apartment while still living in France. However, there are couple of things that could get your message open:
- Don’t be too picky: it doesn’t pay off. Of course, give it time and proper research. Pick the ideal neighbourhoods and have several viewings before you put down an offer. But in essence, don’t hesitate too much. At the end it might not be worth waiting for the perfect 2 room apartment with a balcony in the middle of Kreuzberg.
- German Language: write in German when reacting to a German post. It is very important that you write in the landlords native language. Although it may not be your first nor your second language, it makes a tremendous difference and it could land you an apartment visit!
- Present yourself: whether in German or in English, it is always important to present yourself decently. For example, my landlord had a preference for an eastern european couple (or at least one in a couple) not a western single, as strange as it may sound.
- Give a previous reference: tell about your previous experience with renting an apartment or living in a house share. People like references and they like that you share a little bit of yourself!
- Be genuine: tell them who you are, what they might like about you and that you are someone to rely on!
- Be short but to the point: no one likes pages long essays. Keep your email simple, have a template which you adjust to the individual ad.
- Bring a German speaking friend: once you lend an apartment visit, bring a friend or a new colleague who speaks German. It will help the communication flow plus you will be able to ask the necessary questions before signing a contract which might not be that convenient for you.