Berlin is an extremely desirable and liveable city right now. As a result, gone are the times when it was easy to find a Berlin apartment. Due to gentrification and popularity of the German capital in the last years, rents are rising along with the competition from other lease applicants. The good news is that it is still easier and cheaper to find a flat than in other European capital like London or Paris.
As with any relocation challenges, organisation and patience should increase your ability to find a Berlin flat. This could take as little as two weeks or as long as three months. The higher your budget, the faster the process will go. You may want to consider (especially if you have a family) renting a furnished apartment for two to three months while you search for a long-term Berlin apartment lease and get the lay of the land here in your new city.
THE SEARCH BEGINS
The key factors to consider when beginning your search are neighbourhood preference (it is suggested to include a liberal radius around these neighbourhoods), your monthly budget and how many rooms you require. Keep in mind that the living room is included in room counts in Germany, but the kitchen and bathroom are not. For example, if you are seeking two bedrooms, you would search for a three-room apartment.
The three websites below are the main sites to focus on during your Berlin apartment search, and they are listed here in order of importance.
Main Berlin Apartment Websites:
It is recommended to register with all three and set up your account to get hourly recommendations fitting your search mask. It is imperative that you act fast. As soon as something comes up that may be of interest to you, contact the estate agent to request a viewing. It is also recommended to save a PDF view of the exposé, as smaller apartments are sometimes taken off the site in a matter of hours to avoid agents being over-run by requests or having too many people at one viewing.
Other Berlin Apartment Websites:
Most entries on these websites are likely to be on one of the other three above as well.
Berlin Facebook Groups:
If you are on Facebook, there are several Berlin English-speaking, expat groups you should follow. In these groups, you will find mainly furnished, temporary apartments, sublets, or someone looking for a “Nachmieter”. However, there is a good possibility to also find long-term leases here also. In the case of a Nachmieter, the tenant is looking for a new tenant to take over their contract. It usually also involves the tenant wanting to sell you their furniture or kitchen. Unfortunately, because of the desperate rental situation here in Berlin, you must be wary of being swindled in these situations.
WHAT DOCUMENTS DO YOU NEED DURING THE SEARCH PROCESS?
First things, first — get your paperwork in order. Make sure it is complete by following the checklist below and compiling your documents into one PDF file. Having a complete application is absolutely essential if you want to have a chance of getting an apartment in Berlin. Competition is stiff – you might be one out of 100 people applying – so you need to prove you are a good and reliable tenant that will pay the rent on time.
1. Tenant Information – Mieterselbstauskunft
If you are employed:
You will be asked to provide your last three month’s income statements. Seeing as you are moving to Berlin and haven’t started your new job yet (if you have one), this doesn’t say much about how you are going to finance your rent living in Berlin. If you can show you had a steady and good income in the last three months, do provide those statements and a copy of your contract of employment in Berlin. There is no need to provide the whole document, just the pages that provide the names of the contractual partners, your compensation and the signatures of both parties.
If you are self-employed:
You will need to provide last year’s financial tax return (preferably in German or at least in English).
If you are not working:
You will need to provide proof of how you are going to finance the apartment (for example, proof of rental income from your own property or a bank account statement with sufficient savings).
Be aware that your income needs to be three times the amount of your total rent or you will not be considered. It is recommended that, if your income is made up of a combination of your salary, rental income and/or other forms of income, provide proof of these and explain how your total income comes together in a short letter/email.
2. Certificate from current landlord concerning non-arrears –Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung
This form is an absolute must in Germany, as your new landlord wants to be as confident as possible you are going to pay the rent! Ask us for the form, including an English translation, and have it filled out by your current landlord. Alternatively, you can provide proof you have paid your rent on time for the last 12 months. If you live at your own residence, provide proof of property ownership.
3. Credit Check –Schufa Bonitätsauskunft
Schufa is something that ALL landlords require to validate that you are not in any serious debt. However, you can only get your “Schufa record” once you are a resident in Germany. If you are brand new to Germany, you will need to find another way of proving that your credit is exemplary. For example, you might want to ask your local bank for a letter or certificate providing proof of your credit rating or your savings account.
If you are already a registered resident in Germany, you can apply for this document on the Schufa website, www.meineschufa.de, or at the post office.
4. Passport and Residence Permit
You will need to provide a copy or scan of your passport/s. You may also be asked for a copy of your residence permit. If you don’t yet have a residence permit, explain when and how you will be getting one in the form of a letter.
5. Disclosure of information (form will be provided from real estate agent) – Selbstauskunft
This form asks for your personal contact details, your income, names of people living in the apartment, pet information, and any information on your remaining debt. Filled out and signed, this completes your application for the apartment. It does not oblige you to take the contract, and the information given is officially “voluntary”. However, the truth is that you will not be considered if you don’t fill it out.
Bonus: Put all of the above documents into one PDF file, and add a personal touch by including a professional-looking photo of yourself (or family) on the first page.
Written by Emily Archer.
Emily is Managing Director of Archer Relocation. As your Relocation Consultant she is your first new friend in Berlin. Originally from Australia, Emily lived in Melbourne, Sydney and Barcelona before moving to Munich in 1999. Emily founded Archer Relocation early 2015 desiring to use her first hand experience and professional skills to assist fellow expats moving to Berlin. Archer Relocation offers the services you need to make your arrival in Berlin a smooth one, including home search, bureaucracy, immigration, and family assistance.