Finding An Apartment In Berlin: Everything You Need To Know

Five months ago I moved to Berlin. Those were exciting – but stressful -times. Since I’ve already lived in Germany before (Leipzig), I thought that finding an apartment in Berlin would be super easy. Well, apparently I was super naïve.

Kreuzberg, Berlin

Beginning the search…

Truth is, finding an apartment in Berlin is an extremely difficult task – it can take you months. I mean, everybody wants to live in Berlin now. It’s cheap, it’s hip, it’s cool – it’s Berlin, the ‘poor but sexy’ kind of city. But because of its increasing sexiness, Berlin’s isn’t that poor and cheap as it used to be. In fact, over the last few years the city has been undergoing a slow transformation to ‘hot and expensive’. But still, the cost of life in Berlin is nothing compared to London or Paris, of course, so, yes, increasing rent prices are a bit alarming, but still absolutely tolerable.
What is not tolerable, however, is the amount of scammers that I had to deal with while I was flat hunting. During my 7 days-long search, I was attempted to get scammed 5 TIMES! 5 times I was sent the photos of the most gorgeous-looking apartments located in the most beautiful areas of Berlin, where rent was shockingly cheap. 5 times I was asked to transfer the money to a specific bank account and was promised that the key would be sent by post “as soon as the deal closes”. 5 times I was told that I could only see the apartment “from the outside” because the door “was locked” as the owner was “abroad” travelling/working/visiting his family – you name it!

So rule No. 1 – never agree to any deal until you actually see what you’re getting for it!

Finding your perfect place

There are two web-sites used for finding an apartment in Berlin – and Both in German, they might be a bit difficult to navigate through, but hey, here’s what Google Translate was made for! You have to remember, though, that it flat-hunting can be extremely difficult if you’re not in Berlin yourself.
I found that when I was still in Latvia, people were ignoring my emails, but the moment I entered Germany and got myself a local phone number, I suddenly could boast with a reasonably long list of flat viewings.

So rule No. 2 – to find an apartment in Berlin, you better be in Berlin.

Most apartments in Germany come unfurnished – there’s not even a kitchen sometimes. Rent becomes cheaper that way, obviously, but unless you plan to invest some serious money in furniture, life becomes harder. Sub-renting or flatsharing will, on the other hand, save you a lot of money – as the rooms are almost always furnished – and will guarantee that you’ll easily get to know some locals But FIY – if you decide to live with somebody else, note that Berlin is, well, a weird city full of weird people, who, weirdly enough, like to celebrate the FKK-culture. FKK stands for Free Body Culture (Freikörperkultur), which means that people like being naked all the time. Like, all the time, I’m not exaggerating. They’re cooking naked, watching TV naked, talk to you naked. For me this a bit too much information, so I opted for a roommate who likes clothing. Just like me.

Berlin Gendarmenmarkt

Gendarmenmarkt in the center of Berlin

The art of pitching

Now, if you want to live in a WG (with a roommate), you need to improve your sales skills. Think about how to sell yourself properly in a short pitch – competition in Berlin is high and you should make sure that your application will stand out in the dozens of others. It’s like courchsurfing, really.

So rule No. 3 – research potential roommate’s profile and see if there’s a way you can click.

Preparing your documents

Here’s what you might need:

  • Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (a letter from your last landlord stating that you don’t owe him/her any money)
  • SHUFA (you can get in online here)
  • Einkommensnachweis (your income statement (last 3 months))
  • Passport copy

Note: it’s not always that you need these documents but here’s a rule No. 4 – have them ready in your pocket anyways.

Berlin Mitte, next to the Museum Island

Making it home

After several flat viewings and plenty of stress, I finally found my perfect place. My filters were few but demanding: the location needed to be centric, the place had to look decent, and the price had to be as low as possible. Luckily for me, I managed to find something meeting my every criteria in Mitte, just 10 minutes walk away from Branderbug Gate! So miracles do exist.
Once the contract was signed, I moved in right away – couldn’t wait to start buying plants and photo frames, choosing curtains and carpets, filling shelves with books and, generally, making my place feel like home.

Finding a perfect home in Berlin is, by all means, an exhausting task – but if you work out a strategy, don’t give in to panic, and keep on researching, calling, and pitching, Lady Luck will definitely be on your side!

Last but not least:

  • always look for Provisionfrei, i.e. broker-free
  • Kaltmiete – bills not included in the rent
  • Warmmiete – bills included in the rent
  • Stay away from Berlin rental groups on Facebook – it’s all scam

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    Over to you! How’s flat-hunting situation where YOU come from?