How to get an apartment in Berlin
You may know, we moved from Istanbul to Berlin some time ago. We left our established life in Istanbul and started to build a life from scratch, in a brand new city. This was a very exciting and challenging process. New job, new apartment, new everything. I believe the most challenging one was finding a place to live. Berlin has experienced a heavy influx of expats and rents keep increasing. Finding a nice place without paying above average rent is almost impossible, you have to be very lucky. We had some furnished short term rentals in Berlin as well as regular long term rental. Let me share some experiences we made and I wish you all good luck finding your home in Berlin!
We stayed in a furnished short term apartment when we first arrived in Berlin. There are many options especially if you are coming for a short period or if you do not want to buy any furniture. However, if you have a pet like us, your job becomes much more difficult with a furnished house. Also, by law, you can not rent for less than 2 months in Germany. Even on AirBnB, it is not possible (or let's say legal) to rent below a period of 2 months. We found our first home on Xpatrentals.com. There are many really pretty options on this site. Not only in Germany, they also have rentals in other places such as Netherlands or Dubai. The most important criteria for us was the acceptance of cats and of course the price. At the en we ended up with 4 options that met our criteria and were available on our preferred dates, so the selection process did not take too long :) We thought that we would have a nice house after 2 months ... It wasn't like that, but I will come to that part soon. The process works like this: You apply for the house you like and then they will ask for some information and documents from you. The whole process went remotely and online. It is possible to carry out the process in English as it is designed for expats (not always usual in Germany). If the landlord approves, they send over a contract. You have to wire the first month's rent and deposit (usually 1 month rent) in advance. Since we only rented for 2 months, they did not ask for an income certificate etc. On the day of arrival, we met directly at the apartment and they showed us everything. It took quite long because we went through a list with all items on the list and had to check if it is really there. This included counting the forks and such. The same process when we returned the keys at the end of our rental period. So a bit more complicated then what we were used from AirBnB. If you are looking for a short term furnished apartment, the most useful sites are:
Long term rental
Frankly, I did not like the neighborhood and furniture of this house so we started looking for a long-term, unfurnished home right away. After exploring Berlin for few weeks, we decided on some neighborhoods we liked and started to look for a place there. The most common pages are immobilienscout24.de and immowelt.de. We already had some appointments with a few real estate agents to look at the apartments. The process is always the same, you make an appointment, sometimes it is private for you, sometimes it is a collective home tour (with 20-30 other people), then they give you an application form and a list of necessary documents. Here the fun part starts. At the beginning we thought that we will see a place and say "I take it" and then they will give us the keys. Turns out not in Berlin. It is similar like doing a job application. You have to earn the house, and be chosen by the landlord. Not to speak of a dozen documents you will have to prepare. If all the required documents are not ready, you are eliminated from the beginning.
So what are these necessary documents? Application form: A sort of CV with general information about you Payslips of the last 3 months or your employment contract in case you just started the job. Documents from the previous landlord that you have paid your rent regularly Personal liability insurance, especially if you have a pet Schufa registration: A document specific to Germany. It's basically a document that shows you pay your bills regularly and can be obtained online. Sometimes the landlord obtains it for you when you authorise them to do so.
We are homeless! We were very comfortable when we first arrived, Burak has payslips from his job in Turkey and we had some money in our account. But no landlord did accept the salary abroad. When we applied for a few apartments and got the answer "If there is no salary in Germany, there is no house", we started to say, let's pay the rent 1 year in advance. But no success. We were running out of time because our lease was about to end we were likely to end up with no apartment. Fortunately we still had the chance to extend the current rental, but I didn't want to. Just when we were about to loose hope, we got an approval for an apartment we applied to and actually really liked. The real estate agent said confirmed everything and I immediately let our current landlord know that we would not extend it the lease, since he was also waiting for a decision for few weeks. While we were waiting for our new lease contract during the day, a mail from the real estate agent... The landlord did not accept us because we did not have a salary in Germany!!! Of course, I immediately wrote to the current landlord that we wanted to extend it. In the meantime, 6 hours passed. But apparently it was too late!! So here we are with no apartment and on the street in 3 weeks, with a cat! So at the end we ended up renting a 2 square meter storage unit and moved all our belongings there and returned to Istanbul at the beginning of July. We spent the summer here. Luckily we found a great AirBnB for August before we left, again for 2 a months period. This time we didn't take the risk and and did mention the cat. So I had to spend some hours at a cafe with the cat while Burak was taking over the keys. Anyway, when we liked this house, we immediately and lived here for 6 months. After we both got a job here in Berlin we finally moved in to our current unfurnished apartment.
We finally found a place in an area we really liked. This time, the process went very smooth and easy. We forwarded all the documents and after 2 days the confirmation and lease contract arrived. We were very happy at first, but we also learned how costly and difficult the process buying furniture is. Of course it is super fun, but there are so many options that it is very difficult to choose. And moving is such a pain. We spent a looot of time at IKEA. Here are also some website I really like and I would definitely recommend: