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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 Germany’s property boom could be slowing down

Prices continue to rise steeply in the German property sector - but experts are seeing signs of a trend reversal.

How Germany's property boom could be slowing down

What’s going on? 

The Federal Statistics Office has just released its latest figures on property prices – and let’s just say it’s not great news for would-be buyers. 

In the first quarter of 2022 – from January to March – house prices shot up by an average of 12 percent compared to the previous year. It was the fourth time in a row that properties had gone up in value by more than ten percent in the space of a year. If these latest figures are anything to go by, Germany’s property boom is still in full swing.

Nevertheless, there are few things about the property market in the Bundesrepublik that are giving experts pause for thought. 

The first is the fact that, from quarter to quarter, property prices don’t seem to be rising as rapidly as they were last year.

READ ALSO: How soaring German property prices are out of reach for buyers

In fact, from the fourth quarter of 2021 (September to December) to the first quarter of 2022, the cost of buying a flat or a detached and semi-detached house only went up by around 0.8 percent. 

In the previous two quarters, prices had risen by 3.1 percent and 4.1 percent respectively.

“This indicates a slight weakening of the dynamics,” the Statistics Office said. 

The second issue is that, with interest rates on the up, demand has all but collapsed. The third issue is the concerns of the Bundesbank that property prices could well be over-inflated. 

Does that mean people aren’t buying property right now?

Kind of. In any case, far fewer people were seeking out places to buy in the first few months of 2022 than they were throughout 2021.

According to the online property portal Immoscout24, the demand for properties for sale in the first quarter of 2022 dropped by 17 percent within one year.

Adverts for residential properties are staying up for far longer than they used to, and sellers are having an increasingly tough time finding buyers.

High-rise buildings in Erfurt

High-rise flats and older buildings make up the Erfurt skyline. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Martin Schutt

Instead, it seems like Germans are returning to their age-old love affair with renting rather than buying. This could partly be to do with the fact that interest rates look set to rise over the coming years, making cheap mortgage deals increasingly hard to come by. 

“These developments could have a dampening effect on price trends in the medium term,” said ImmoScout24 managing director Gesa Crockford. This could offset the slight uptick in interest rates.

READ ALSO:

So what’s the outlook? 

Not all too rosy, unfortunately. Though prices could continue to rise in the medium term, some experts believe that the property boom will slow down after a decade or so. 

This is partly due to stuttering construction rates: at the moment, the construction industry is struggling against some serious headwinds, from ultra expensive building materials to endless supply bottlenecks. 

Germany’s Central Bank (the Bundesbank) has been warning for some time that property prices are inflated beyond their actual value.

In cities in particular, prices are between 15 and 30 percent above a level that can be justified by longer-term economic and demographic factors, the Bundesbank stressed in February.

This trend was amplified by the Covid pandemic, which saw people increasingly seeking living space outside of the cities where supply is scarce. 

Experts from German bank LBBW also say they expect a price correction if interest rates continue to rise strongly and the economy fails to recover. 

In this scenario, LBBW believes that price declines of 20 to 25 percent are possible.

Of course, this may not apply to all regions of the country equally. There tends to be big differences in price trends, for example, between the former East and West of Germany. 

One other area that’s still going strong is the buy-to-let market. While demand for homes for personal use is slipping, it seems there’s still a big appetite for so-called “capital investments” that are occupied by renters.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The German property tax declaration owners need to know about

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