To buy or not to buy

The first step is to determine if you want to buy or to rent your new place.

If you’re a “when in Rome” type, you’ll rent. This is typically the best option for your first accommodation, because it gives you more flexibility while you get familiar with the city and its different neighbourhoods. If you want to buy a home, it’s a good bet you’ll want to have first-hand knowledge of the city and its neighborhoods to avoid a bad investment.

Lots of Germans opt for house and flat shares called Wohngemeinschaften, or WG. If saving as much  money as possible is a priority, this is a good idea: you’ll share the kitchen and bathroom, but also the common costs (rent, electricity, internet). WG is also an easy way to make new friends and settle in quickly in your new hometown. In Germany, lots of trainees and working professionals live in WG, especially in large cities.

Looking for the perfect house and sending applications

When it comes time to look for housing, it’s important to note that the market varies from one city to another. You’ll want to devote some time to researching the market of the city you are living in before landing in Germany. If you can swing it, a pre-move trip to your new city can be useful to make appointments and explore the city.

The easiest and most complete way to look for housing is to do online research on real estate websites such as ImmonetImmovelt or Immobilienscout24. If the language barrier is an issue, you can also do research on English-language websites such as RoomsterRoomlala or atHome.

In large cities (especially Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt), competition for housing is fierce – you may need to send several applications before actually finding your new home. You will then need to be quick in sending your reply as a first-come, first-served rule often applies.

Visiting houses

To set yourself apart when making visits, bring the two most critical pieces of documentation: your last three months’ salary slips and a photocopy of your passport. Having a letter from your previous landlord stating that you pay your rent in time would be an extra brownie point. While visiting houses, ask questions! Are there plans to modernize the building? How much did the previous tenants pay for heating and water? What is included in the rent and other ancillary costs?

Cost of real estate

As in other countries, the cost of a rental unit varies by region. You might also know that rent is regulated in some German large cities, particularly where the market is tense — Berlin, Munich and Düsseldorf come to mind here. Prices can’t exceed 10% of the average rent of defined areas. It prevents you from excessive increase in rent (unless substantial renovations are being done).

Check our article Purchasing power and price level [↙] to get more information of rental prices in Germany. If you are looking for a house in Berlin, Immobilienscout24 made a map of the monthly average rent for a one-bedroom flat in Berlin following metro map. Check it out on City Lab.

Home sweet home

You’re still not going to be out of the woods yet even once you find the house of your dreams and the landlord accepts renting to you.

First, you have to sign a lease agreement. In Germany, this must be concluded in writing. In most cases, the lease specifies the rent amount without heating. There is usually an additional charge for ancillary costs, which is paid to the landlord each month along with the base rent. Ancillary costs are often electricity, gas and water supply, but it varies from one lease to another so it is important to ask the landlord what the ancillary costs include before signing a lease. Since it may be difficult to understand all the conditions of this lease agreement, and who will be in charge of different costs, we recommend you not to sign it directly but to take time to read it. If you have some German friends, ask them to read it!

Entering your new home (and leaving it), you will have to make an inventory of all you have in the flat and its condition. This is an important moment which must not be underestimated. Be obnoxiously scrupulous in checking all the corners of the house so that you won’t pay for deterioration when leaving the house – you’ll thank yourself later.

Here you are, welcome home! Now it’s time to move.

Here you find the most important information needed to answer your questions about Market research. If you know other tips or want to share your experience, do not hesitate to contact us. You could even send your testimony which could be published on our website! Thanks for your contribution to the Leon community!