Considering moving to Germany? Thousands of people, whether it be for studying, working or interning, find that Germany offers everything they need to succeed. Better still, there’s a moderate cost of living, a unique environment and a surprising number of cultural opportunities.
And if you’re thinking Germany could be your new or temporary home, then living in Berlin must have crossed your mind! Berlin can be described in so many ways. It can be trendy or historical, with a bustling metropolitan vibe that’s always bubbling with promise. HousingAnywhere's very own born and bred Berliner, Max Zowodny, says that locals often compare his hometown to New York, as it was in the 70s and 80s: "Berlin is a young, fresh melting pot which never sleeps and where everything is possible. It almost feels as if the whole city were a start up..."
Berlin’s very neighborhoods exhibit this sheer range of atmosphere; from the eccentric to the sleek, the city has a myriad of residential communities that can be hip, artistic and even geared to one of the fastest-growing expat factions in all of Europe. Not only will you find students and regular workers, but also a multitude of digital nomads, who like to travel through Berlin due to its excellent coworking spaces and community support.
In short, if you want to place yourself in the prime epicenter, “where things are happening”, Berlin can offer one of the most inspiring locales in existence! Now all you have to do is pack your bags, secure your job or university placement, and know how to go about renting an apartment.
This informative guide will help you understand all of the processes that are involved when you need to find a room in Berlin, including; how to rent an apartment, the documents that you’ll need, understanding your rental agreement and a few of the city’s top ranked expat neighborhoods.
Are you ready to learn all there is to know about renting in Berlin? Let’s get started, so you can benefit from living abroad as soon as possible!
The requirements when relocating to Germany can be somewhat different than other countries, which is why it’s imperative that you have updated information at your disposal. Just because a country is part of the European Union doesn’t mean that all of the member countries follow the same steps and regulations for immigration!
In Germany specifically, your country of origin determines what you’ll need and if you’ll be required to apply.
The good news is that if you are from the following areas, you will not need a residence permit:
You must register for a residence permit within two weeks of your arrival if you are in Germany as a student (or a worker) and come from:
If you’re from one of these countries, not only is a residence permit a legal requirement, it may also be needed when signing a rental agreement or any other important German documents.
However, if you come from any other country, you will need either a student visa (obtainable from your local embassy or consulate before your arrival) or a visa for work and paid internships (along with proof of employment). Upon arrival in Germany, you will then need to apply for a residence permit immediately.
To apply for a residence permit, you will need:
A passport that will be valid for the entirety of your stay in Germany
Proof of enrollment at a German university, or proof of employment
Certification of health insurance coverage
Proof of financial support
Rental agreement for accommodation in Germany
A rental agreement is always required when you are renting a room or an apartment in Germany. If your landlord says that one isn’t necessary, then insist upon an agreement, or begin to look for another property. Keep in mind that a rental agreement not only protects the landlord, but the tenant as well.
The terminology in the rental agreement can often be complex, filled with legal jargon and may even be in another language. Resist the temptation to overlook the details and sign on the dotted line without reading through the contract thoroughly. Even if it may seem overwhelming, know that signing a rental contract is essential, and you should always make an effort to understand what you’re signing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek legal guidance if there’s anything in the contract you’re uncertain about. Above all else, never settle for a verbal agreement with a landlord; a signed rental contract is essential.
While one rental agreement may differ from the next, to be legally binding, most contain standard components such as:
Information regarding the length of the tenancy and requirements
Terms and rights
Penalties for terminating or extending a contract
Deposits and payments (it's worth noting that it is common practice for German landlords to ask for your deposit to be paid immediately after signing the contract and before you have moved in)
Dictionary of terms and jargon
Be sure that your name is correct. While this may seem like a no-brainer, this also means that everyone who will be living in the space should be included in the agreement. If only one person is on the contract, then that person will be solely responsible for rent payments, utilities and any remaining fees or money owed for damages to the property.
There are typically two types of rental agreements:
Fixed-period rental agreements with:
Indefinite rental contracts with:
No end date to the term of the lease
The contract may be terminated by the landlord for legal reasons, or by the tenant, even though a fee may be imposed
There must be a notice given before the lease termination, usually ranging between one and three months
As tempting as it is to take a peek, ensure you have all of your documentation ready before you start scrolling through room or apartment listings for rent. After all, you can’t sign a rental agreement without these papers, so first things first!
These documents will typically include:
A signed application form that you have received from the landlord or have downloaded online
Two copies of your photo identification
A copy of your resident permit (should it be required)
Proof of income for three months
If applicable, a letter from a previous landlord stating you left the property in good condition and with no outstanding balances
Be sure to check sooner rather than later that you have all of the required documents in your possession as part of your “Moving to Germany Checklist”. Sometimes, it can take a while to have a particular document replaced, and you definitely won’t want any admin obstacles to finding the apartment of your dreams! Remember that housing is in high demand throughout Berlin, so when you find something that fits your needs, it’s best to act as soon as possible.
Once you sign your rental agreement, you’ll be required to register your new address with the Bürgeramt (registration office). If you plan to stay for over three months, which is typical if you’re studying or working in Germany, then you’ll need to register. Registration is also necessary if you plan to sign any other contracts, such as opening a bank account. The offices are always extremely busy, so be sure to make your appointment as soon as you’ve signed your rental agreement, or if possible, schedule an appointment before you've even signed the rental contract; you'll need to prepare yourself for the long waiting list of available slots.
Now that you know all of the documentation and additional requirements that you’ll need when renting in Berlin, you can start focusing on the fun part! Finding housing can be a great adventure. You just have to know where to look and the best way to search.
First, you’ll want to sign up with a trusted housing platform. There are also real estate agencies, but they can be very expensive, and the fees are often not listed upfront. Some expats may set out on their own to look for an apartment, and Facebook does have many groups and communities where you can look for listings. However, remember that the housing market in Berlin is extremely competitive. Often, a listing can rent out within hours, so you have to stay ahead of the game. As Max, our Account Manager in German Sales and Supply notes, "because of the extremely competitive Berlin rental market, there are a lot of of scammers and on Facebook, anyone can advertise".
At HousingAnywhere we have scam-detection technology built upon machine learning. Furthermore, we keep your money safe until 48 hours after you've moved in, to give you the chance to scope out the place. In case you have been the victim of a scam, we'll give you your money back and help you find another place. Facebook simply doesn't offer this level of security. In addition to this, HousingAnywhere can notify you when a property that matches your preferences is listed, so you can immediately jump on it.
While Berlin has a patchwork of neighborhoods, ranging from modern townhouses to Soviet-style apartment blocks, there are certain areas that appeal in particular to international students and workers. This can be due to their proximity to the universities or business sectors, or if they have large expat communities with plenty of events to attend.
Some neighborhoods you may want to keep in mind include:
The historic center of Berlin is comprised of the East and West districts. You’ll find the Brandenburg Gate and the Jewish Memorial, plus a host of eateries and great places to people watch.
For working, the Mitte startup community is thriving, with an abundance of hip co-working spaces. There are also a lot of tech industries, which is why the area is called “Silicon Allee.” If you’re there to study, it’s probably to attend the world-renowned Humboldt University of Berlin.
The quirky, alternative side of Berlin appeals to young internationals due to its diverse demographic and fun, bohemian atmosphere, filled with vegan cafés and vintage shops. Many expats love its large Turkish and Arabic community, with a true international flair.
This area of Berlin was the most damaged after the World War II bombings. Now it has been rebuilt, however, with creativity and ingenuity, as well as a large Turkish market.
Innovative co-working spaces are popular here, and you’ll also find the Hertie School of Governance and Macromedia University of Media and Communication.
Unter den Linden is the retail epicenter of Germany, with work opportunities at Apple, Gucci and Chanel. It’s also close to the Technical University of Berlin, University of the Arts and the ESCP business school.
You can expect to pay a premium for housing, but you may find it well-worth the geographical convenience.
This area is a favorite with young professionals and families, as it’s clean, safe and has a big healthy-living scene. KulturBrauerei is also nestled here; once a brewery, now a gigantic nightlife and dining complex. A prime meeting point for expats.
Artists, writers and philosophers love the area, as studio space is much cheaper. So, you’ll also see a good share of co-working spaces, which is ideal if you’re a digital nomad.
This area is known for its sports and activities, as well as its musical roots. Many artists, such as David Bowie, recorded here. It’s also a hub for alternative lifestyles with a large gay community.
The Berlin School of Economics and Law is in Schöneberg, so there’s a thriving student area boasting inexpensive housing.
This beautiful district was once comprised of seven villages and is filled with recreational areas. Freie University of Berlin offers the new Philological Library, making this a center point for students.
Now that you know the key steps to renting in Germany’s capital ‒ including the ins and outs of rental agreements, how to apply for a residence permit and how to find an apartment ‒ you can relax and begin planning your move to Berlin. Becoming an expat in another country isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but there are many things that you can do to ensure that you’re ready to acclimatize and prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed. Thousands of young internationals make the leap to relocate abroad every year. Simply follow a few practical living tips, and soon you’ll be on the adventure of a lifetime and living like a Berlin local! You’re going to love every moment!