How to find an apartment in Berlin

Renting an apartment in Berlin is a common choice for those in the German capital. City dwellers in Berlin tend to rent rather than buy, even in the long term, and with the many varied apartment blocks available all over the city, it’s much easier than finding an entire house to rent. Read on for our top tips when it comes to finding a flat in Berlin.

Use websites or agencies

There are two main ways to find an apartment in Berlin. Either head to a rental agency, which will invariably cost you more money in rent but does mean that you get a proper contract and won’t be ripped off. New laws in Germany mean that agency fees are charged to the landlord and not the tenant however, so at least this won't be a cost incurred to yourself. Alternatively find a private rental directly through a website. Great websites for hooking up renters with rentees include Immobilienscout24, and Immowelt. Those looking to rent a single room within a flatshare can also go through expat websites or Facebook communities such as Berlin Expat.

Apply caution

Don’t hand over any money until you have signed a contract. Be aware of rogue individuals who are asking for a deposit and month's rent before you have even seen the property or signed any documents.

Be prepared

Once you find a flat, an agency or landlord may well ask for landlord references. Try to have some ready in both hard and soft formats as well as contact details for past landlords. You may also have a credit check undertaken for you by an agency and the only way to prepare for a credit check, known as a SCHUFA, is to make sure that you always make all your bill payments on time. If you've come from abroad, you could ask your previous landlord to fill out a Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung; this is a certificate which states you left your last property with no rental bill arrears. You'll also need to be prepared to pay a significant amount up front, including a deposit and up to two month's rent.

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German flat ads

Adverts for German apartment rentals may well differ from what you are used to. This means that it’s important to familiarize yourself with certain words or phrases that you may encounter. When talking about the layout of the rental, an advert may refer to the following (with English meanings in brackets): Zi or zimmer (rooms), qm or m2 (square meters), Wfl/wohnfl/wohnfläche (living space), Nfl/nutzfläche (usable space), SZ/schlafzimmer (bedroom/s) and Bad/badzimmer (bathroom). In reference to rental terms you may see the following acronyms or terms: Miete (rent), MP/mietpreis (rent price), mtl/monatlich (monthly), K/kaut/KT/caution (deposit), KM/kaltmiete (base rent before nebenkosten), WM/warmmiete (base rent plus all additional costs), NK/nebenkosten (water, sewage, trash collection), Prov/provision (agent commission), Zzgl/zuzüglich (excluding) and incl./inkl/inklusive (including).

What’s included in the rent

Note that the Nebenkosten (charges for water and refuse) are usually added on to the rent. Charges for electricity and gas are sometimes added on but usually you will need to set up your own accounts with the utility firms for this. On occasion internet and television charges are included, but most often you will need to arrange these yourself.

Consider a short-term rental

Many expats wonder how to find a flat in Berlin when they don't even know the best neighbourhoods yet. The only way to find the perfect neighbourhood, whether you want somewhere edgy, bohemian, family-friendly or upmarket, is to visit these places for yourself. A short-term rental of just a couple of weeks will give you the chance to find the right apartment in the ideal location, and not just the first one you see. You can use Airbnb for this, although Airbnb is more and more restricted in Berlin these days. You could also try to find a friend or fellow expat to stay with for a couple of weeks before you make the big move. Some new Berlin residents leave their belongings behind, rent somewhere for a couple of weeks and only arrange to move their furniture once they have found the right long-term apartment.

Furnished or unfurnished

The vast majority of flat rentals in Berlin are unfurnished. This means you will need to find cheap furniture fast. Use sites such as Ebay or Craig’s List to find basic furniture such as beds and chairs or simply head to IKEA. White goods such as fridges, ovens and washing machines will generally be in the flat already.

Do your research and be prepared

When it comes to finding the perfect apartment in Berlin you need to keep an open mind regarding rental prices and do plenty of research into transport links and local facilities. Be prepared by having all the paperwork you need ready to hand and make sure you have enough savings to cover your deposit and up to two months rent in advance.

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