Looking for an Apartment in Berlin

Now, for the hard part. You may already have heard about the long lines at group visits to desirable apartments. Most people are looking at the same site: www.immobilienscout24.de

Don’t despair! Newcomers do find places to live. But it’s not unusual to sublet for a half-year as you look. Think about this as a chance to explore different neighbourhoods of the city and meet new people. And you are much more likely to find a place if you ask around with friends.

Most rentals involve making an application to a Property Management group (the Hausverwaltung) that takes care of the building for the landlord. All your dealings will go through them. They will ask you for a dossier of information to apply to be principle tenant of an apartment. Many do not consider freelancers. You would do well to include as much evidence of financial stability (from Schufa: the German credit agency)  and a steady paycheck as possible, and if you see a place you like, jump at it and send those pdfs / fax the forms asap from the closest machine. Be prepared when renting to have enough money on hand for the deposit (usually a couple of months rent).

Look at all the people lining up to see the apartment you want in Berlin.

You would do well to find a short-term sublet through www.wg-gesucht.de and www.studenten-wg.de (Craig’s List is another option, but with ex-pat inflated prices) and then pit in, in order to find the right apartment where you are principle tenant. Sublets are comparatively quite easy to get, can be long-term, and are often quite cheap (many people charge ‘old rents’). Flatshares (called WG or Wohngemeinschaften) are extremely popular, especially with students and young professionals, and also advertised on these sites (a Berlin average is about 450 EUR/month for a room). They are an excellent way to save money. You can usually find the right fit — in any case you will be interviewed for the room. In other cities, flatshares might be a sign of poverty, but here they are often preferred by professionals who like some company.

Note that the city is clamping down on holiday apartments, in order to fight gentrification, which is why it’s so hard to find a place on AirBnb, as properties now have to go through a lengthy process of applying for a license and declaring their earnings.

How long will all this take you? Well, I have friends who have found an apartment no problem in about a month’s time. But I also have readers writing in, looking for their own place on the lower end of the rental market (between 600-800 euros/month (without utilities)) who have had real difficulty finding anything quickly at that price point, battling 20-50 other applicants per rental, and applying “to dozens of adverts and getting zero replies”. One person commented that people end up “constantly moving from temporary to temporary accommodation until finally finding a longer term rental. I wish someone would have warned me, flat out that Berlin rental market is so extremely competitive and desperate”. It’s all the more difficult if you arrive without a credit history here, history of renting in Germany, German guarantor, or a stable permanent job.  If you can pay, or are willing to share, or sublet, or are really really patient, then it all gets easier.

Even more people looking at that perfect apartment you saw online…

For buying apartments, Berlin is no longer quite the deal it was. It is still cheaper than many other European capitals, you might check out www.immobilienscout24.de

Most Germans rent (about 80% in Berlin), which makes the variety and quantity of places available to buy abysmal. Be also aware many people want to buy and are looking and can’t find the right place. Be prepared to pounce!  Note you have to pay an extra 10% in taxes and fees on top of the asking price. If you care about noise, you might look into a rooftop apartment (Dachgeschosswohnung) in a pre-war building if you can find one (these are very very popular and increasingly mythical). You will want close access to a U or S Bahn train, and to be in a Kiez. There are plenty of fleamarkets, second-hand shops on Urbanstraße, and IKEAs in Berlin for cheap furniture.


Here’s the index to the Moving to Berlin Guide, click on what you want to read next!

-Introduction to the Guide

-Why Berlin?


-Looking for an Apartment

-Property Prices and Rents

-Monthly Costs


-Setting-up Checklist

-Getting Around Berlin

-Where to Learn German?

-Staying Fit

-Media, Films, and Books about Berlin

This is an independent guide to Berlin, with no ghostwritten content and no sponsored links or tips, from The Needle

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For a history and portrait of Berlin, do check out my book!

(the author asserts his right to copyright, revised 04/2019)