So, just like millions of people from all around the world, you want to live in Berlin. We are not surprised. It is, indeed, one of the most fascinating, vibrant and prospective cities in the world. However, renting an apartment in Berlin can be an extremely difficult process. Due to the increasing demand, the landlords can often pick from dozens of potential tenants, and their expectations can make your head spin. You have to prepare for a lot of competition. If you are a newcomer, without the necessary documents, the chances of success are pretty slim. Depending on your luck, finding an apartment might take even over 3 months – and you still have to live somewhere during that time.
Where to live in Berlin?
Berlin consists of 12 boroughs and these, of 96 neighborhoods. It all depends on what you are looking for, as every single one of them has its own vibe. If you are going to Berlin for work, the best choice would be Mitte. The central district of the city is full of office buildings of both well-established companies and startups. Mitte is also a great choice for tourists – most of Berlin’s representative landmarks (Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Museum Island) are located there. For some, it will be too uptight – in this case, we would recommend more quirky and multicultural neighborhoods like Kreuzberg or Neukölln. Young families will probably prefer Prenzlauer Berg, filled with parks, playgrounds and activities, both for parents and kids.
Renting an apartment in Berlin – where to start?
For many people who arrive in Berlin, the only option is a Wohngemeinschaft (or WG). It’s essentially a flat-share or sub-letting a room in a bigger flat. It’s quite simple – you sign a pre-existing contract, pay the deposit and voilà! You can move in, expecting that other tenants are already familiar with all the technicalities of Berlin’s real estate market. Another option is looking for something on short-term rental websites. Renting a whole flat might seem like a great idea. More privacy comes with higher price though – the average in Berlin is around 80 EUR/day. Sadly, neither of these guarantee you the rights you would have renting a flat on your own (Long notice periods, protection from excessive rent increases). Before you start, you should prepare a couple of things, because Berlin’s landlords will never accept someone unprepared.
What documents do you need to rent an apartment in Berlin?
The stereotypes are true. If there is something that Germans love more than beer and wurst, it’s paperwork. The more of the following documents you present to your potential landlord, the higher are your chances of getting your dream apartment.
- Anmeldung – Within the first two weeks of your residency (be it a flat-share or your own contract), you have to register your address. When you do that, you will receive a registration confirmation and a tax ID. You need these to open a bank account and – for example – sign an internet contract. Getting an Anmeldebestätigung (registration confirmation) enables you to get an indispensable document, a…
- Schufa – It’s a German equivalent to a credit score. It is created automatically, and you can request your free Schufa at meinschufa.de. You have to fill a form and send it with a copy of your ID and residency confirmation by mail. You will receive your free Schufa by mail too. If you are in a hurry, you can pay around 30 EUR and get one from most banks immediately.
- Bewerbungsbogen – It’s a form, which you should receive from the landlord or real estate broker. If you fill it out and hand it in, you express your interest in the property. From those who provide it, the landlord chooses the tenant.
- Money for the security deposit – By law, landlords can ask for up to 3 months of rent, as a security deposit, and most of them require exactly that amount.
- Copy of your ID or passport
- Bank account info – Germans prefer to use bank transfers over cash. If you are staying for an extended period of time, consider opening an account in a German bank.
- Proof of income from the last 3 months – showing the landlord that you have a stable source of cash will increase your chances – you can present recent pay stubs, or (especially if you are a freelancer) income bank statements.
- Mietkostenfreiheitsbescheinigung – This scary-sounding word is simply a confirmation from your current/previous landlord that you do not have any rental debts. If you’re coming from a different country, you can ask your landlord to write a note and later translate it to German. However, most owners prefer tenants that already lived in Germany for some time, and can provide a Mietkostenfreiheitsbescheinigung from a local landlord.
Looking for an apartment in Berlin
Armed with all the necessary documents, you can start the apartment hunt. Nowadays, most people carry out their real estate searches online. The most popular ads websites are: immobilienscout24.de, immonet.de and immowelt.de. If you don’t speak German, you can try websites specifically aimed at expats, e.g. justlanded.com and easywg.de. There are also some websites that are available in English (athome.de), although the adverts from the owners are not translated, and there is no guarantee they will speak English.
There is also some vocabulary you need to learn to search effectively. Kaltmiete means “cold rent”, so it’s just the basic cost for the apartment. Warmmiete – “warm rent” includes the Kaltmiete and additional costs: water, gas, electricity, etc. These may vary, depending on the number of people living in the apartment, location and building type.
You have to know that most flats available for rent in Berlin are unfurnished. This may come as a surprise, because in Germany it means… totally unfurnished. In some cases, an apartment does not include even the basics – like kitchen cabinets, sinks or light fixtures! It’s a cultural thing – a lot of Germans rent a single flat for many years. The landlords provide only basics, so the tenants can furnish it the way they want. If you find such a place, you have to prepare for additional expenses. If possible, you can ask previous tenants to leave behind some furniture and equipment – for a fee, of course.
An alternative – renting a serviced apartment
As you can see, renting an apartment in Berlin can be problematic. If you don’t have the time or willingness to arrange everything, a temporary living solution is an ideal option. Whether you are moving from abroad, staying in Berlin only for a limited time or searching for a temporary home, Serviced Apartments can represent a quick and easy accommodation, tailored to your needs. Serviced Apartments give you all the comforts of a home away from home. They are fully furnished and include a fully equipped kitchen as well as services like cleaning. All ancillary costs (water, heating, electricity, TV and internet access etc.) are included in the rent price and washing facilities as well as a private letterbox are provided.
VISIONAPARTMENTS offers 135 fully-furnished, serviced apartments in different sizes and styles located in Berlin Mitte, within 5 minutes walking distance from Alexanderplatz. A studio apartment starts at 1,090 EUR per month. If you rent a Serviced Apartment you don’t have to worry about anything – all furniture and equipment comes with it. You can book your apartment today and move in tomorrow. The company only needs a few contact details to prepare the contract and you will have to pay a small deposit, usually the amount of a monthly rent. The minimum rent period is 2 days, and you can leave the temporary home whenever you like – without cleaning it or searching for a new tenant. This solution is particularly suitable for expats, people relocating from abroad or for a comfortable stay while searching for a long-term home.