Finding apartments, flats and condos in Germany
Locating a long-term rental in Germany can be challenging.
In this section you’ll find useful general information on renting flats in Germany. More specifically, finding longer-term rental apartments in Germany’s capital, Berlin. This includes a sample listing of estate agents who provide helpful services when seeking up-market condos in the city. Also, a checklist before signing a rental contract.
This website also features a furnished, deluxe flat available for rent in Berlin. The offering is from a private person and thus different from what you may find based on the guidelines below.
Additionally, find more information about the metropolis Berlin. Quick facts and a short history aim to familiarise you with Germany’s capital city.
Germany is renowned for a high ratio of renting homes compared to owning them. 80 percent of Berlin’s citizens rent. The demand for residential homes and property far exceeds the supply. This background drastically impacts housing affordability.
Similar to many metropolitan areas across the world, affordable homes are a hot a topic in Berlin too. Even if Germany’s capital might not command rent levels as seen in New York, London, Tokyo or Sydney, the cost of renting remains high. Rents have roughly doubled over the last decade. Incomes have not kept up. The trend is largely driven by the desire to live in an attractive city. A shortage of homes in Berlin contribute to spiralling rental costs. In addition Berlin now headquarters five of the forty companies listed in Germany’s stock index DAX (Zalando, HelloFresh, Deutsche Wohnen, Siemens Energy , Delivery Hero). That’s up from zero several years ago. Simply stated, demand greatly exceeds the supply.
Rent Control: Brake, Cap or Expropriate
To counter rising rental costs (not only in Berlin), Germany’s government introduced new legislation in the form of a “rental price brake” (“Mietpreisbremse”) in 2015. This mandated that new tenants could not be charged more than 10 % above the average rental price for a lodging of comparable quality in the same quarter of a city. However this method of rental price control did not work effectively on the market.
On the contrary, rental prices rose even more sharply in the ensuing years. Frustrated by ever-increasing rental prices, Berlin’s ruling party introduced further measures with a new regulation calling for a “rental lid” (“Mietpreisdeckel”) in 2020. The objective was to freeze, cap and even lower rental prices over a course of five years. This law was declared null and void in 2021 by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court. The court decreed that Berlin’s House of Representatives had no right for such an extensive resolution. Unwinding the rental lid now allows afflicted landlords to claim back payments from their tenants for forfeited rent in 2020.
But the clash is not over. Later in 2021 a non-binding referendum took place amongst Berlin’s citizens shortly before city’s municipal elections: Berlin’s residents were asked whether the city should expropriate some of Germany’s largest residential property firms such as Vonovia and Deutsche Wohnen. These public companies hold thousands of homes in the capital city.
The thinking was that such drastic measures would in all likelihood benefit lower-income sectors who depend on affordable accommodation to make ends meet. These “big landlords” hold vast numbers of commonplace apartments in less attractive areas of the city and often charge exorbitant rents. Many experts believe this new initiative may again miss the mark on making housing more affordable. Instead large investors are expected to shift their assets to other more profitable ventures if such a policy is ever implemented.
Against this backdrop, finding the right home on a rental basis in Berlin is a challenge. To better prepare you for this situation, we provide a checklist practical tips on renting in Germany, and then offer a list of seasoned estate agents in Berlin who will help you on your journey.
Checklist for renting accommodation in Germany
Keep an eye on these eight things
German rental contracts and agreements are not standardised. However they underlie general legal assumptions. If certain sections and articles do not comply with German law, you may simply ignore these. In the case of a dispute, it may even be to the advantage of the renting party if a proprietor lists clauses that are not in accordance with governing law.
In any rental contract for accommodation, these few important points are worth keeping an eye on:
- You and any other person who plan to live in your rented household should be listed in the agreement.
- Make sure that the apartment or house is precisely described in terms of its address, size (square meters), number of rooms and accurately lists any additional features ie. a built-in kitchen, closet etc.
- Contrary to a most standard rental agreement (Standard-Mietvertrag), a time-limited contract (befristeter Mietvertrag) should state the exact reason for its limited time duration. Note that such agreements may be to the detriment of the renting party. A befristeter Mietvertrag is not as flexible as a standard agreement by German law. For example, you cannot terminate the agreement before its expiration, nor can you extend it if the owner does not agree. By the way, a rental agreement that states a minimum stay of up to 4 years usually falls into the category of a standard rental agreement – see next point.
- A standard rental agreement may be terminated by either party with a three-month advance notice. However, according to German law, the owner of the home (landlord) must prove that the accommodation is needed for personal use.
Sometimes a standard rental agreement may state a minimum stay (up to 4 years is allowed). This is of course negotiable before sign off. Please be aware however that a 3-month termination notice is not possible by either party during the agreed minimum period.
- Most rental agreements are broken out by a fixed monthly rent (Kaltmiete / “cold rent”) and extra charges like heating and water. These charges are known as Nebenkosten or Betriebskosten in German. Together these two components constitute the full rent (Warmmiete / “warm rent”). Monthly, full rental payments thus include both the fixed rent as well as a prepayment for all the extra charges. Once a year (mostly during the middle of the following year) the proprietor will send you an exact statement (Nebenkostenabrechnung) of the actual extra charges with supporting documents listed against all your prepayments of the past year. Depending on your consumption, you will either receive a refund or be required to settle any back payments. In case you’re unsure that the extra charges accurately reflect actual consumption, ask the landlord for a copy of last year’s statement to check.
- Please note that electricity (Strom) is mostly not included in the monthly extra charges (Nebenkosten). Instead, you need to sign up with a provider of your choice to ensure that your new home lights up and all your electrical appliances work. Similarly, a fixed-line telephone connection is not included in the Nebenkosten. Sometimes cable TV may be included in the extra charges, but not always. It’s probably best to get a triple-play telephone/cell-phone + TV + Internet package from a provider that operates in the vicinity. In both cases (electricity and/or phone+TV+Internet), it’s worthwhile checking portals such as Verivox or Check24 to find the best provider for such services. By the way, the Berlin apartment on offer includes all charges. This means that everything is included with a single, monthly prepayment.
- Almost all rental agreements include sections that detail renovation obligations when moving out and decorative repairs during the period of rent. Many cases have ended in German courts between disputing parties. As a result, a plethora of inconsistent recommendations exist and lead to much confusion in the market. To keep things simple, here’s a rule of thumb which is sure to avoid later conflict: Make sure that the house or apartment is fully renovated before signing the agreement and detail any shortcomings you find in written and signed form before moving in. When you move out, make sure your temporary abode is in the same state as you found it when you moved in ie. fully renovated. That’s mutually fair. If the contract states any decorative repairs (Schönheitreparaturen) by the renting party after elapsed time intervals during the rental period, you can simply ignore these. After all, you plan to return the home in the same state as you found it.
- Last but not least, please ask your agent for the Rules of the House (Hausordnung). This is usually a document of several pages that list basic policies on resting times, things to note if pets are allowed, keeping pots, plants and barbecue gear on your balcony, and other guidelines that encourage amicable relations within the house community.
Check the baseline information
Standard versus time-limited rental contracts
Fixed monthly rental costs and extra charges
Your obligations upon termination
Know your “Hausordnung”
A lengthy contract may seem overwhelming to any newcomer to Germany. Yet, rest assured, it is the basis for a trustworthy relationship between tenant and owner, and clearly outlines rights and obligations with respect to neighbouring parties in the same building.
Usually your estate agent will furnish you with a rental contract. As a reference, you can find a sample rental contract template for download at no charge on the Internet. Use Google Translate for an English version of the sample rental contract.
Rental websites and agents in Berlin to get you started
Most foreigners moving to Berlin will rely on the services of estate agents to find a comfortable place to live
If you plan to buy a property or are looking for a decent place to rent, your first port of call may be an estate agent and realtor. At the same time it makes sense to visit websites that offer rental apartments and flats in the city you will be moving too.
Indentifying the right Estate Agent
The classic approach of finding furnished apartments in Germany rests on contacting an estate agent who will suggest several available options from his portfolio. Usually the agent will then plan personal visits together with you to inspect the apartments of choice or recommendation. Once you have made your choice, this will be set in stone by a rental contract provided by the estate agent.
The good news is that German law requires the landlord to pay the estate agency fee. In other words, this service is free for you. You just need to find a reputable agent who has many available apartments to view in his portfolio. This “high-touch” approach means you actually get to see the apartment before reaching a contractual agreement. The downside of this method is that it takes time and effort by both you and the agent. In other words handling a large number of inquiries of this nature is quite difficult. Thus the offering is rather limited and finding the best estate agent is often quite challenging.
Online Estate Agents
In recent years there has been a noticeable trend in the increase of “online estate agents” that offer a large selection of furnished apartments for rent. Their approach is “low-touch” and their business model resembles that of finding a hotel for a short holiday. On their excellent websites you’ll find high quality photos of rooms to aid you with your selection. You can then book the apartment online with a minimum of personal interaction.
On the one hand this approach provides you with a large selection of rental offerings. Next to the descriptive photos, you’ll find exact information on their location in the city. The downside is that you’ll have to make a choice without a prior visit and that can be risky, particularly if you are planning to stay for a longer period.
Some of these “online estate agents” provide a best-of-both-worlds approach. You need to check with them if they offer a personal visit to apartments you find attractive before you sign off a rental contract.
A List of Agents in Berlin
Here is a non-exhaustive list of reputable agents who offer professional rental services in Berlin spanning all of the above methods:
|furnished rental apartments|
|furnished rental apartments|
|focused on Berlin|
|traditional high-end estate agent for Germany|
|rental apartments in European cities|
|rental apartments in European cities|
|German estate agency website|
|German estate agency website|
|German website for furnished rental apartments|
Some estate agent websites are in German. You might want to use Google Translate to view their offerings in English. Click on the tab “Websites” on the right and enter the website address of the agent.
One website worth not missing is Germany’s largest online portal for buying and renting apartments called immobilienscout24.de. The company claims that around 180 million viewers visited their website in 2021. The website is only available in German so it’s best to use Google Translate as outlined above.
Here are four terms used on German websites allowing you to narrow down the searchable listings:
- Kaufen = Buy
- Mieten = Rent
- Ort = City
- Land = Country
Also check this website which offers a comprehensive list of German housing terms and abbreviations often used in classified ads.
The Old And The New – Finding The Right Abode
Be aware that Berlin offers a true hodgepodge of living quarters. Most of the city’s houses and apartment buildings were destroyed in air raids towards the end of World War II. In the aftermath of the war, many buildings were erected quickly and on the cheap. You’ll still find lots of beautiful pre-war buildings with high-ceilinged rooms and stately entrance portals. They are sure to astound the visitor. But don’t expect modern amenities in them. Despite their charm, you might have to walk several stories on an old flight of stairs to reach your apartment. You may also end up living in an unbearably hot environment during the summer months and face high heating costs in winter due to bad insulation.
Since the beginning of this millennium, many new real estate projects have been initiated. Although in German, it’s worth checking out the website Neubaukompass on new development projects whose photos will give you a good idea of recent, modern apartments.
Relocation Contacts In Berlin
For those of you who are in the fortuitous position of working for a company that covers all expenses of moving to Berlin, these relocation services may be worth reviewing: