Renting in Germany: how to find your accommodation


Updated on Jul 24 • 6 minute read

Whether you’re moving to Germany for work or for study purposes, one of the most important parts of starting your new life abroad is to find yourself a new home. The rental market is slightly different in almost every country, so our experts at HousingAnywhere bundled their knowledge of the german housing market. With this guide, we’ll explain the German rental process and help you find a place as quickly as possible. Jetzt geht’s los (Let’s get started)!

Types of housing in Germany

First, let’s take a look at what you can expect when moving to Germany. Depending on whether you’re an international student, budding young professional or seasoned expat professional, there are different trends and types of accommodation in the German market for you to consider.

Accommodation for students

Moving to Germany for a semester, and exchange program or even for your entire course is becoming increasingly popular, especially since Germany is doing its best to become one of the top educational destinations in Europe. This has resulted in a competitive housing market with prices that have risen quite quickly over the past few years. Thankfully, major cities like Berlin have taken measures to protect tenants from paying even more (Mietdeckel).

As you might expect, rooms (Zimmer) and studios are the most popular among students, alongside sharing an apartment. This shared living (referred to as Wohngemeinschaft, or WG) often consists of roommates who don’t neccessarily know each other. Another note is that subletting is also quite common. For example, someone rents an apartment from a landlord, only to sublet one or more rooms to another tenant. So you might just end up living alongside your de-facto landlord. These arrangements can be pretty informal, which makes them great for shorter term stays. If you’re looking to stay for any length of time, though, make sure you get a proper rental arrangement on paper.

Accommodation for young professionals

As a young professional starting or continuing your career abroad is super exciting! However, living in a room somewhere might not be your style any longer. While having an entire apartment to yourself might be a bit too pricey in the competitive markets of the larger German cities like Berlin or Munich, a studio apartment might offer you the right balance between space and privacy.

A pretty solid middle ground, especially if you’re tired of having to share your bathroom and kitchen with people who are not as cleanly as you are! Or, if you’re a social butterfly, sharing an apartment with some other expats and Germans of your generation might be exactly what you need to kickstart your social circle in Germany.

Accomodation for expats

As an expat, this probably isn’t your first moving abroad rodeo. You’re making moves in your career and you’re bringing your partner or even your family along for your new life in Germany. You’re looking for something a little more spacious and permanent, so renting a spacious apartment in Germany is probably the way to go for you.

Depending on the length of your stay, you might want to make your place your own. No worries there, as apartments on the German market are often let in an unfurnished state, so you’re free to decorate to your own taste, down to the curtains and the kitchen appliances. That said, there’s also a wide variety of fully furnished options available that are tailored to expats and their families during their year(s) abroad. Are you living in an apartment on your own? Subletting is legal, so you could always get yourself a roommate and save yourself some money by splitting the rent at the same time!

How do I find rental accommodation in Germany?

Now that you know what to look for, 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.

The first thing you need to know is what city am I going to live in? Each one of the large German cities has its own housing market and varies in terms of safety, cost of living and international scene. Lucky you, because our German market expert Marle discusses all the best places for internationals to live in Germany.

Now that you know where you want to live, you’ll want to sign up with a trusted housing platform. You have the option of using a real estate agency or expat housing service, but they can be very expensive, and the fees are often not listed upfront. You might also feel like setting out on your own to look for an apartment, and social media like Facebook do have many groups and communities where you can look for listings. However, remember that the housing markets in bigger cities are extremely competitive. Often, a listing can rent out within hours, so you have to stay ahead of the game. As Benny, our Lead Account Manager for Germany notes, "because of the extremely competitive rental market, there are a lot of scammers and on Facebook, anyone can advertise".

Because of the extremely competitive rental market, there are a lot of scammers and on Facebook.

At HousingAnywhere we have scam-detection technology built upon machine learning, which prevents scam listings from appearing on the website in the first place. 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 the place doesn’t match what was advertised (such as a single, instead of a double bed), 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 makes your search easier by notifying you when a suitable property is listed, so you can immediately jump on it. And by jumping on it, we mean you can talk directly to the property owner.

Preparation: documents needed to rent in Germany

When renting an apartment in Germany, there are a number of documents that you need to have ready to go. Not all landlords will require every document, but making sure you’re prepared will save you time and make your search for your new home that much easier.

  • Rental application form or rental application letter, usually handed out at the viewing, containing all your basic contact information and/or a bit about yourself.
  • Copies of a valid Passport or ID card.
  • A copy of your residence permit (if you require one). - Proof of income (Einkommensnachweis), which could be bank statements and payslips showing your salary or, if you’re completely new, your employment contract in Germany, proof of scholarship or any other document that proves you can afford your tenancy.
  • A document provided by your previous landlord, indicating you have no outstanding rental payments. (Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung);
  • A Credit Check (SCHUFA) When trying to rent through conventional channels, expats can get stuck in a circular catch-22 situation due to this report. To get a lease or open an account at a local bank, you need a SCHUFA credit report, but to get a SCHUFA report, you need a German address. which you can't get because you don't have a SCHUFA report. See the problem? Thankfully, landlords on HousingAnywhere know this and will often accept alternative proof income and/or financial health instead.

As the rental market is quite competitive, make sure you have these documents ready to send by email. This way you can cement your interest with the landlord or real estate agent (Makler) right after your (virtual) viewing, by sending all the necessary documents right away.

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 (Anmeldung). Registration is also necessary if you plan to sign any other contracts, such as opening a bank account to pay the rent to your German landlord.

German rental terminology

Once you're on the hunt, it will help you to know some of the German words you might run into while looking for a home and that might boost your knowledge surrounding tenant rights in Germany. So, as a finishing touch, we’ll help you set up with a little German rental vocabulary:

  • Who is the Mieter? – Tenant, this would be you!
  • Who is the Vermieter? – Landlord, the person who is renting out this space.
  • What is a Makler? – Real Estate Agent, the one who could be the one to meet you for viewings, if the landlord isn’t personally involved.
  • What does Wohnfläche mean? – the size of a place in square meters. This includes all the rooms and ¼ of a balcony. Make sure you know what minimum apartment size for you and/or your family should be.
  • What is Kaltmiete? – Basic rent, the monthly rental price excluding any extra costs.
  • What is Warmmiete? - Full rent, including additional costs, such as electricity, heating and internet.
  • What does Untervermietet mean? – Sublet, this means the place is being sublet, so you’re not renting directly from the actual landlord. Be careful with these arrangements if there is no contract involved, but they might offer a good solution for shorter stays.
  • What does Kaution mean? – What isDeposit, which can range between 1x-3x the Kaltmiete (excluding bills). The deposit is always specified in the rental contract.
  • What is an Einkommensnachweis – Proof of income, such as your employment contract and/or bank statements which proves you will be able to afford the cost of living in this home.
  • Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung - A document, usually provided by your previous landlord, that states that you didn’t skip out and have any open rental payments.
  • Mietvertrag - The rental agreement, make sure you always read and understand it all!
  • Schlafzimmer – Bedroom, when mentioned in a listing, these are included in the amount of rooms.
  • Badezimmer – Bathroom, Unless there is more than one, these are not counted in the amount of rooms in a listing.
  • EBK (Einbauküche) – Fitted Kitchen, often found in a place that's been recently renovated.
  • Renoviert – Renovated, as you might guess, these apartments have recently had issues fixes and usually sport a brand new kitchen and/or bathroom.

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