Renting an apartment in an unfurnished state is an everyday occurrence in Germany. In fact, most Germans themselves are used to finding their new place completely stripped. Expats and other arrivals, however, don’t always realise what to look out for in unfurnished housing. These homes often seem a lot more affordable, but require a lot of preparation and work before you can move in. For some, this is quite stressful, especially for recently arrived expats. So let’s take a look at what you need to take into account when renting an unfurnished home or apartment. We’ll do so by looking at a list of the advantages and disadvantages of unfurnished rentals in Germany, to see if it’s a good option for you, or if the comfort of a furnished apartment is more your style.
Unfurnished rentals have a number of obvious advantages that make them look especially appealing if you’re in the orientation phase of finding out which type of home you’re looking for in Germany. So let’s take a look at the elements that make unfurnished apartments stand out during your search for a German home.
One of the first things that indicated whether a home is suitable for you is whether it’s in the upper or lower end of your budget. When you compare an unfurnished apartment to the same apartment in a furnished state, the unfurnished one is going to be cheaper every time. This is no surprise, as you’ll enter the home as-is, with anything missing having to come out of your pockets, as well as having to arrange everything from decoration to utilities and even construction work. While this is more work, it’s also an opportunity to find the right deal, rather than paying whatever contract a landlord has set up. This means you could save money on power by switching providers annually, or you’re able to select an internet connection that matches your needs exactly.
Speaking of meeting your needs: an unfurnished apartment in Germany is truly bare. You get to select and implement everything in your own style. You get to lay your own flooring, re-paint the colours on your walls and often you even need to make decisions down to the details for things like the lighting fixtures. And of course, you have to supply your own furnishing. So, if you’re really sure you’re going to be staying in this place for years to come, it will be worth investing the time, planning, effort and money to really make an apartment your own if you’re not in the position to buy your own place. Remember that rules about owning pets, smoking and playing instruments still need to be discussed with the landlord.
If you’re looking for homes from abroad, it’s common practise to also keep an eye on local housing websites or groups on Social Media. It’s no surprise that there’s a much larger pool of housing available than those with arrangements specifically for expats like you. Rather than just studios and apartments, you’ll also find family homes or even bigger homes, depending on where you’re looking to go. So if you’re not having luck in the furnished market, it’s tempting to take a closer look at the local market, with its lower rents, options for personalisation and bigger pool of options. However, if you’re only just moving to Germany, these unfurnished homes might just be a little bit too much for you to handle on top of all the other stresses and changes involved in migrating to Germany.
While the aforementioned could all be considered great advantages, they’re often benefits that you can’t afford as an expat - yet. They’re advantages you can make use of at a later stage, once you’re ready to perhaps move within Germany itself, having secured a permanent residence contract and/or a permanent work contract. In short, they’re advantages waiting for you when you have time and funds to take a real deep breath. Until then, what is an advantage to others may not yet apply to you and your housing needs.
First of all, making a place your own is a process that costs a lot of time and money. You would have to make sure you can get the time off from work or to be able to complete the work before you start, both of which are unlikely to happen when you’re only just getting started in Germany. To give you an example, most unfurnished apartments aren’t only lacking light fixtures, but also a functional kitchen. While you could slap in the cheapest kitchen from Ikea, it really ramps up the investment necessary to make it a net positive investment compared to getting started with a fully furnished apartment. You really do need to do everything yourself, from cabinets to connecting the plumbing.
As you’ll probably arrive with just your suitcase and a relatively small number of belongings, you’ll also have to acquire your own furniture once the apartment is at the point where you can move in. Of course, you can purchase the essentials and supplement it every month, it will take quite a while before you’re at the level of quality you could be coming home to in a furnished apartment. Additionally, if something breaks or is simply worn out, you’re going to have to go out of pocket, rather than having the landlord simply replace something with a new piece of furniture of similar quality at no expense to you.
So, now that you’ve done all this work to make the place your own and you’re planning to move to a bigger place or even on buying a place, you’ll now have to make sure that the apartment is brought back to its original state. That means that, unless the landlord or a new tenant wants to buy it from you, you’ll have to remove that kitchen, flooring and furniture you spent so much time on! Did you paint the walls? The landlord will even ask you to paint all the wall white again! So, if you’re an expat who is in Germany for an undecided period of time, a furnished apartment in cities like Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt or Hamburg is an easier and safer choice for you!