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Tip of the week: How to stand out from the flat-finding crowd in Germany

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Tip of the week: How to stand out from the flat-finding crowd in Germany
Notices from students searching for an apartment. Photo: DPA
16:29 CET+01:00
Live in a big city in Germany and think it's next-to-impossible to find your dream flat? It's easier than you think, especially with the right resources (and attitude).

January in Germany is hardly a time when we picture packing up boxes and carrying them through the cold into a new flat. Yet it is actually the top month of the year for searching for a flat in Germany, according to Immobilienscout.de.

Whether it’s your New Year’s Resolution to snag a schicker flat, or your old contract is ending soon, read ahead for our tips on how to stand out from the crowd when looking to rent a flat in Germany.

1.Use all of your channels

Throughout Germany there are a slew of websites which make it easy to filter your search criteria for a flat, such as Immobilienscout24, WG-Gesucht and Immowelt. But it helps to cast your net wide, also mentioning your search to friends, colleagues and even acquaintances who might be moving soon. A few years’ back, I complained to a neighbour about my futile online flat search, and to my surprise he told me he was vacating his flat soon, quickly solving my problem.

Also don’t be shy about contacting housing associations directly: they may know of a few flats which have not been advertised, or might be able to put you in touch with a real estate agent who can help direct your search.

SEE ALSO: Rising rents and stiff competition: What you need to know about Germany's housing market

2. Create a profile of yourself

While word of mouth is often the best way to go in a flat search, finding a good deal online isn’t impossible, even in competitive areas. Many websites give you the option to create a profile of yourself, adding a photo and filling in criteria of what you’re looking for - be it the ideal size of the flat, . It also allows landlords to get a sense of you when you apply for the flat online.

Photo: DPA

3. Use Technology to its Fullest

The second time I searched for a flat in Berlin, I was spoiled by my first experience in 2012: contacting the woman behind a reasonably-priced sublet after it had already been up for a few days, scheduling an appointment and being offered the apartment right away. Looking again a few years later, it couldn’t be so hard, right?

I signed up to another site, and spotted my ideal flat. I planned to apply in an hour when I arrived home, but saw the ad had already been taken down. Nowadays, especially in big cities in Germany, it goes without saying that many people have signed up for automatic alerts on flats that meet their search criteria. Landlords, often swamped with hundred of inquiries within a few hours of a posting, will often quickly remove the post.

Take advantage of these alerts, and be ahead of the game by having a message prepared to send off as soon as you receive one. Some sites, such as Immobilienscout24, automatically save a standard message you can send - just be sure to change the Sehr geehrte(r)...part of the text you send out so that you don’t accidentally greet Frau Schmidt as Herr Kohl.

6. Treat the flat viewing like an interview

Treat a flat viewing like you would as an interview for a job. Once you’ve mapped out the address, aim to arrive 15 minutes early, especially if you have never been to the area before or live in a city prone to transit delays (here’s looking at you, Berlin). Think of a list of questions, ranging from how big the storage space is to where is the closest supermarket. Actively asking about the flat signals more interest and enthusiasm than passively viewing it.

According to Immobilienscout24, a full 80 percent of real estate agents and landlords agreed with the statement that an applicant should be “sympathetic and authentic”. This was even higher than the 65 percent who said that the applicant should have all of the criteria requested, such as a SHUFA certificant showing their credit score.

SEE ALSO: Renting in Germany - what you need to know

7. Stay in contact with the landlord/real estate agent

If it doesn’t work out with your flat of choice, don’t despair. Stay in touch with the landlord or real estate agent in case another  flat opens up. Sometimes they will have a list of other apartments available which they can offer as an alternative. This is all the more reason why it’s important to make a good impression and have your documents organized when you meet with them the first time around.

8. Be extra prepared

Many landlords will ask you to submit an online form with extra information about yourself. However, even if you have already sent in the requested paperwork online - such as a SHUFA, bank statements, proof of income and passport copies - it doesn’t hurt to bring along an extra binder with laminated paperwork of these documents to show you’ve taken the extra step of conveniently compiling everything in one handy place. Especially when attending flat viewings filled with enough people to be attending a concert (it’s happened to me a few times), this can also make you stand out from the crowd.

A full 61 percent of landlords prefer to have all of your documents in digital form, whereas 46 percent prefer paper, according to Immobilienscout24. Why not be extra prepared for those who are seeking both?

9. Increase your flat finding power

Many people look together for a flat with another person (or  perhaps even more especially if you're a student). To simplify the arrangements, there are helpful tools such as the "shared search" function in the iPhone app from real estate websites.

Users of the app can share apartment advertisements, comment on them via a chat function and coordinate viewing appointments. This saves a lot of time and effort, as all information can be viewed and edited by the search partners together. Thus one does not lose valuable time, because sometimes each minute counts with the hunt for the dream dwelling.

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