Expat guide on how to rent in Berlin

Get ready to move to Berlin with our step-by-step rental guide.


6 minute read
Updated on 6 Jul 2023

Of the many reasons to live in Berlin, the comparatively low cost of living and the city’s internationality definitely stand out. But the city’s popularity also makes it hard to find a place to rent in Berlin.

This guide will show you how to find accommodation in Berlin and highlight what documents you’ll need and what to keep in mind. We’ll also guide you through the essentials of a rental agreement.

Is it difficult to find a house in Berlin?

It’s difficult to find housing in Berlin as nearly 85% of Berlin’s population rents. Add to this, there’s a housing shortage in Berlin, which is driving up rental prices and making renting a time-consuming process.

As if this isn’t enough, there’re 2 frustrating problems that internationals face when renting in Berlin.

First, landlords want you to pay rent by bank transfer from a local bank account. But you cannot open a German bank account without a registered residential address.

Second, many landlords ask for a SCHUFA report, a credit report showing your financial history in Germany. But you cannot get a SCHUFA report without a registered address in Berlin.

But don’t worry! There is a workaround to it — you can rent via platforms like HousingAnywhere. When you rent via HousingAnywhere, you won’t need a credit report, and your proof of booking can be used as an address for opening a bank account.

Hear from expats about the highs and lows of searching for housing in Germany.

How to find a place to live in Berlin?

Considering Berlin’s competitive rental market, the sooner you start looking for accommodation, the more options you’ll have. Here’re some common ways to find housing.

1. Online rental websites

The best way to find accommodation in Berlin from abroad is to use trusted online rental websites. This option is safe, affordable, and convenient, especially when you’re new to a city.

Some big local players include WG-Gesucht.de for rooms and Immobilienscout24.de, Immonet and Immowelt for apartments. But the biggest drawbacks are that the landlords on this website ask for a SCHUFA report and communicate in German.

This is why we recommend using rental websites, like HousingAnywhere, that are friendlier for internationals. By using HousingAnywhere:

  • You can book accommodation in advance, from abroad, without needing a local bank account.
  • You’ll be able to search in and speak to landlords in English.
  • You won’t have to pay rent to the landlord before seeing the place. Instead, we protect your rent for up to 48 hours after you’ve moved in.
  • You’ll receive a refund and our help in case the property is not as advertised or you’re scammed.
  • You can find places to rent in Berlin quickly by setting alerts based on your preferences.

2. Pay rental agencies

As an expat who is new to Berlin, you might be tempted to book via a rental agency. After all, they can search on your behalf and tend to have furnished apartments. However, rental agencies tend to charge a month’s rent in fees and have expensive properties. They also don’t guarantee to improve your chances of finding a place.

3. Facebook or other social media groups

You can browse through the many groups and communities on Facebook, such as Berlin Apartments, Flats in Berlin, or Berlin Housing. However, anyone can advertise on Facebook, and because of the highly competitive Berlin rental market, you could easily be scammed under the pressure of booking something quickly.

4. Ask around

Are you coming to study or work in Berlin? It’s worth asking fellow students, the student center, or your employer. They may know someone who is looking for a tenant or they may be able to recommend you as a tenant.

Documents needed to rent a house in Berlin

It’s crucial you’ve all the documents ready as finding a place to rent in Berlin is competitive. After all, you need the documents to sign the rental agreement and don’t want paperwork to worsen your chances.

Typically, you will need the following documents to rent in Berlin:

  • A signed rental application form, provided by the landlord or downloaded online.
  • A copy of your passport and residence permit (if applicable).
  • Proof of income for the last 3 months or an employment contract if it’s a new job.
  • A SCHUFA report or an alternative type of credit report.
  • Bank account information for rent collection.
  • If applicable, a letter from a previous landlord stating you left the property in good condition and with no outstanding balances.

Tips for renting in Berlin

Besides having all the documents ready, here’re some additional tips to help you find accommodation in Berlin.

1. Apply to many houses

Not only do landlords receive hundreds of applicants but the Berlin rental market is very competitive. To better your chances, start applying early and send many applications. To make it easy for the landlord, write a compelling introduction that highlights you’re reliable.

2. Look for properties that allow registration

If you’re moving to Berlin for over 3 months, look for a house where you’re allowed to register your address. Registering your address is required for various processes, such as setting up your utilities.

Keep in mind that you’re required to register your address within 2 weeks of moving in. But since the registration offices are extremely busy, we recommend that you book an appointment as soon as you sign the rental agreement.

3. Decide which Berlin neighborhood is best for you

Berlin’s 12 districts exhibit a sheer range of atmospheres. If you don’t know where to start, here’re 7 Berlin neighborhoods that are close to universities, businesses, or large expat communities.

  1. Mitte
  2. Neukölln
  3. Friedrichshain - Kreuzberg
  4. Charlottenburg - Wilmersdorf
  5. Pankow
  6. Lichtenberg
  7. Tempelhof - Schöneberg

If rent is a more important factor, narrow down your search to neighborhoods that fit your budget using the maps feature on HousingAnywhere.

No matter where you live, check if your new rental is near Berlin’s public transport stops. This will make traveling within Berlin easier, especially if you don’t live in the central neighborhoods.

4. Don’t rent an unfurnished apartment if you’re in Berlin temporarily

Houses in Berlin are typically unfurnished and you’ll only find a stove and a sink. This means that you’ll need time and money to install your own kitchen and floor, fittings and furniture.

To save the hassle, you can rent fully furnished apartments in Berlin via HousingAnywhere. Although furnished apartments are comparatively expensive, they’re a better choice if you’re in Berlin for a short or uncertain amount of time. Alternatively, you’ve to save up to buy furniture from the previous tenant or Berlin’s second-hand furniture stores.

5. Check if the rent is inclusive of bills or not

To avoid any surprise when paying the rent, check the rental ad or rental contract to see if the contract mentions kaltmiete (cold rent) or warmmiete (warm rent). Warm rent means that the service costs and utility costs are included in your rent. Kaltmiete means you’ve to account for additional costs when renting.

6. Open a German bank account to pay rent

One way to build trust as an expat is to open a German bank account. This way the landlord can deduct rent automatically every month. Luckily, you can open a bank account even without a registered address. You can use your proof of booking from HousingAnywhere as address proof.

7. Save enough money to pay a deposit

It is common practice for German landlords to ask for your deposit to be paid immediately after signing the contract and before moving in. So to book a place quickly, ensure you have enough money saved up.

Deposit is typically 3 times the cold rent. For reference, the average rent in Berlin is €749 for rooms and €1,680 for apartments.

Understand the German rental agreements to protect yourself

After you’ve found your potential dream home in Berlin, it’s time to check the rental agreement before saying yes to the house.

A rental agreement is always required. You should get a written and signed agreement as this will protect you as a tenant. And while this may seem like a no-brainer, make sure that everyone who will be living with you is included in the agreement. Otherwise, you’ll be solely responsible for rent payments, utilities, and any remaining fees or money owed for property damage.

The terminology in the rental agreement can often be complex and may even be written in German. Take time to read the contract thoroughly and pay attention to the details. In general, most agreements contain standard components such as:

  • Personal details of both the tenant and the landlord, including phone number, address, and full name; pay special attention to how your name is spelt.
  • Address and description of the rental accommodation, including whether it is inclusive of utility bills (warmmiete) or excluding (kaltmiete); inventory; and condition it must be left in.
  • Term of the lease – information regarding the start and end dates of the lease term.
  • Deposits and payment information – bank details, when is the rent due, when can it increase, how much are the deposit, penalties for terminating early, and the possibility of extending the contract.
  • The maintenance and repairs section should indicate who’s responsible for covering the costs in case of a repair job.
  • Subleasing – the agreement should state when subleasing is or isn’t allowed.
  • Additional terms and conditions include pet policies, parking restrictions, and noise regulations.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions to the landlord or seek legal guidance if you’re uncertain about the contract.

Please reach out to content@housinganywhere.com if you have any suggestions or inquiries about the content on this page.

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