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EXPLAINED: How to get a Kleingarten in Germany

An estimated 5 million people in Germany make use of a garden allotment; here's what you need to do to become one of them.

A garden gnome with sunglasses sits among flowers in an allotment garden in Mainz.
A garden gnome with sunglasses sits among flowers in an allotment garden in Mainz. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Fredrik Von Erichsen

In Germany, a Kleingarten or Schrebergarten is a small plot of land, similar to an allotment, which city-dwellers can rent to use as their own garden, to grow flowers, vegetables or just to enjoy the sun. 

These little gardens are extremely popular; there are over 900.000 throughout the country, and the Federal Association of German Garden Friends estimate around five million people use such a garden. 

Why is the Kleingarten so popular in Germany?

The fondness for allotments in Germany goes back to the mid-19th century.

The cramped living conditions and poverty in the inner cities quickly led to a steep decline in physical and psychological well-being for much of the population. 

To alleviate this hardship, some local communities started offering the poorest families small patches of land near the city to grow their own vegetables, and others started providing green spaces to local communities for children to play in.

READ ALSO: The story of Germany’s oldest national park as it turns 50

The latter type of garden was given the name Schrebergarten after the physician Daniel Gottlieb Schreber, who made the revolutionary demand for playgrounds for children in the mid 19th century in order to get them off the dangerous streets. However, these eventually became used more often for their parents to grow fresh produce. 

How can you get a Kleingarten?

The first thing to note is that, in order to get an allotment garden, you first have to join a communally organized garden association.

After joining a garden association and being allocated a plot, you lease the piece of land rather than renting it, which means that you are given the piece of land for an indefinite period of time with the possibility to grow fruit and vegetables there.

Trees bloom in the plots of the allotment garden association "Gartenidyll" in Saxony-Anhalt.

Trees bloom in the plots of the allotment garden association “Gartenidyll” in Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

How can I find an available Kleingarten?

One way is to search online for the regional or district association responsible for your neighbourhood and get advice from them about free gardens in your area. Links to all of the state-wide regional garden associations can be found on the website of the German Allotment Garden federation (BDG).

Sites like eBay Kleinanzeigen and the website of your local garden associations can also be a good place to check. 

Another option is to go directly to your local allotment garden association and ask on site, or to simply ask acquaintances and people in your neighbourhood.

How quickly can I get a Kleingarten?

Depending on where you live, you might have a long wait before you get your hands on your very own patch of green. Demand for allotments has risen sharply in recent years, especially in major cities. But don’t let that dishearten you.

One useful tip is to put your name down on the lists of all of the eligible garden associations in your area to increase your chances of getting a spot.

How much does a Kleingarten cost?

According to a study by the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development, the average rent of an allotment garden in Germany is 18 cents per square meter per year. 

The plot area of an allotment garden usually ranges between 250 and 400 square meters, so for a 400 square meter allotment garden you can expect to pay an average annual rent of €72. 

But the cost varies widely depending on where you live. In big cities with high demand, you will pay significantly more for your garden than in a small town. In Berlin, for example, you can currently expect to pay a rent of around 35 cents per square meter.

Rent is only one part of the total cost – there are also the association fees, insurance, waste collection and water costs to factor in too. But, as a rule, the ancillary costs are significantly higher in larger cities than in more rural areas. 

All in all, including the lease, you should budget for annual fixed costs of between €250 to €500.

Flowers hang in a garden in the association "Kleingärtnerverein Oberursel" in Hesse.

Flowers hang in a garden in the association “Kleingärtnerverein Oberursel” in Hesse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

What else should I be aware of?

Joining a garden association means that you must abide by certain rules and communal expectations.

READ ALSO: Why you should trim your hedge in Germany this February

Many allotment garden associations have fixed rules about keeping animals, so you should find out in advance whether you are allowed to keep chickens or rabbits or if you are allowed to bring your domestic pets to the garden.

The association rules may also specify what you can plant in your garden. For example, they may state that one-third of the total area is for growing fruits and vegetables, another third is for lawns and flower beds, and the final third is for structural use.

You should also not forget that joining an association means joining a community and that helpfulness, tolerance, and a relatively sociable nature are essential if you want to have your own patch of green space in the city.

Useful Vocabulary

To lease = pachten

Plot of land = (die) Parzelle

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PROPERTY

How soaring German property prices are out of reach for buyers

With prices soaring in Germany's real estate market, more than half of renters say the dream of owning their own home seems increasingly out of reach.

How soaring German property prices are out of reach for buyers

Though Germany is traditionally a nation of tenants, the soaring cost of rent and the attractiveness of owning property means many are considering investing in their own home. 

But according to a new survey conducted by mortgage broker Interhyp, most tenants who are currently renting in Germany believe they will never be able to afford to buy a flat or house in their local area. 

The survey of 1,000 buyers and prospective buyers shows that the majority find the prices daunting and many consider buying a property in their own region either “unaffordable” or “barely affordable”.

Average property costs €540,000

According to the mortgage broker, house prices have gone up by 10 percent each year for the past two years in a row, leading many renters to see home ownership as an increasingly distant dream.

Data from Interhyp suggests that price rises in the real estate market have continued unabated this year and may even be accelerating. 

In the first quarter of 2022, the average cost of building or buying a property, including ancillary costs, was €540,000  – an increase of 14 percent against the same quarter last year. 

In 2021, meanwhile, the increase in the first quarter was nine percent against the previous year. In metropolitan areas, the average prices are significantly higher than elsewhere. In Munich, one of Germany’s most expensive cities, the average house price stands at €905,000, while the average property in Hamburg costs €750,000.

READ ALSO:

High prices are ‘off-putting’ 

Though Germany’s real estate market has long been considered a stable investment, it appears that spiralling prices are causing would-be buyers to lose confidence.

According to Interhyp’s survey, 65 percent of renters feel deterred from purchasing by the high property prices, while 44 percent think that the cost of property has become increasingly divorced from its actual value.

“Many of those we surveyed have the feeling that prices are rising ‘unceasingly into the immeasurable’,” explained Jörg Utecht, CEO of the Interhyp Group.

More worryingly, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents believe that there’s a real estate bubble in Germany, with 58 percent blaming the low interest rates set by the European Central Bank (ECB) for the current property boom.

Not everyone agrees that prices are increasing due to low-interest mortgages, however: 46 percent believe low housing stock and faltering construction levels are responsible, while 36 percent say its down to speculators and investors. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The hidden costs of buying a house in Germany

Inheritance and gifts are key

For many people who are trying to calculate the affordability of buying, it’s important that they don’t have to sacrifice their entire lifestyle to pay off a mortgage, Utecht said. 

“People do want a property, but not at any price,” he said. “Above all, they want solid, bearable and manageable financing, where holidays and restaurant visits are still possible.”

When it came to the factors that respondents thought could assist them in buying a home, 40 percent said their DIY or renovation skills could help, 35 percent said luck would be a factor and a third (33 percent) said a persistent search could be decisive.

Flats in Berlin

Flats in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Zacharie Scheurer

For more than a quarter of Germans (27 percent), an inheritance, a gift or the support of parents is a prerequisite for being able to afford a deposit or mortgage, while 67 percent were also forced to rely on their own savings. Unsurprisingly, 77 percent also had to rely on a loan of some kind.

The average value of the respondents’ savings was €128,000, the average ‘gift’ received was €94,000 and the average inheritance was €158,000.

“The high purchase prices can often only be afforded through inheritance, donation or high savings,” comments Utecht. “Those who cannot fall back on funds from the family usually need a high income and quite a few years to build up savings before a property purchase is possible.”

State aid was also considered to be a crucial part of helping first-time buyers get on the property ladder: 42 per cent of the buyers surveyed had used subsidies from the federal government, the state or local authorities to help purchase their first home.

READ ALSO: Where in Germany can you still snag a home for under €100k?

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