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Renting For Members

'Start early': Your best hacks for finding a rental home in Germany

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
'Start early': Your best hacks for finding a rental home in Germany
A view of the central Berlin district of Moabit. Exploring every avenue - including less sought-after locations - can help you find a rental flat. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Monika Skolimowska

From offering landlords extra money to posting on social networking sites, our readers have tried everything in their search for the perfect apartment in Germany. Here are their best tips for a successful house hunt.

Looking to move? Find your next rental apartment here.

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Alongside delays at the immigration offices and second-rate Wifi, finding a flat in Germany is one of the things foreigners tend to struggle with the most.

With major housing shortages in most German cities, there's often a long queue of house-hunters lining up to see any half-decent properties - and to make matters worse, people with foreign names or documents can face discrimination.

To give our readers the best chance of finding a home in Germany, we recently put out a survey asking for all your best tips and tricks. Though many people agreed there was an element of luck involved, here are some hacks that may come in useful during your search.

Getting started

When it comes to starting a frantic search for a new place to live, it can be hard to know how to go about it. Should you ask around for insider tips to catch deals before they come on the market or opt for the tried-and-tested websites and search portals?

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This was a question that divided our readers, with almost half (48 percent) saying they preferred to use popular sites like ImmoScout24 and Immowelt and around 35 percent saying that word of mouth was the best way to go.

A smaller percentage (8.7 percent) said their preferred method was searching on online listings sites like Facebook and Ebay Kleinanzeigen, while 4.3 percent went directly to major landlords like Vonovia and Deutsche Wohnen.

What everyone seemed to agree on, however, was that exploring as many avenues as possible was the best way to maximise your chances of finding somewhere.

A miniature house with new house keys.
A miniature house with new house keys. Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

"Don't do just one thing, use multiple channels," advised 38-year-old Pipsa in Berlin. She got lucky in her house hunt after making a post on LinkedIn and recommended that other people try this route as well.

"Try every avenue," said 79-year-old Jaton West, who lives in the Berlin district of Lichterfelde West. "Friends, postings in grocery stores, realtors, post your own solicitation in neighbourhoods you’re interested in - every possible avenue."

If there are particular buildings you like the look of, Jaton suggests trying to track down landlords or letting agents in that building to see if any flats could soon be available.

READ ALSO: 'Choose a smaller city' - How to find the best place in Germany to move to

But Brian, 42, suggested house-hunters should also be cautious when it comes to suspicious looking ads - no matter how desperate they are.

"Do not react to any rental ads posted in the wee hours when Germany is sleeping," he said. "They are almost all fakes or scams."

Timing is everything

Of course, in a crowded market, getting the right tip-off at the right time can be the difference between months of frustration and finding a new place quickly.

Karl in Berlin said people should be as proactive as they can by networking and asking around as early as possible.

"By the time an apartment reaches a website or an app it is too late," he said. "You need to get the place before it has a web listing. Stay off the internet and talk to people."

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Others agreed that searching was a full-time job and advised being quick off the mark when getting in touch with landlords about properties.

The advice of 29-year-old Sara in Berlin was: "Always being on ImmoScout24, replying to ads within minutes. Apply to everything that checks your boxes, even if you haven't seen any images yet. Some landlords don't include any until they send you an email with a viewing invite."

With some neighbourhoods more sought-after than others, Sara also suggested that people should be open-minded about location to snap up a deal that others people may have overlooked.

In some cases, using automated bots and apps that find relevant ads and either alert you or send enquiries can help you get your foot in the door without being tied to your desk all day. 

Woman on her smartphone

A young woman browses the internet on her smartphone. Using apps or bots to automate your house search can help you find a flat more quickly. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

If things are still taking along time, don't lose heart. Instead, focus on things you can control, like being ready to move when the time comes.

"Pace yourself," said 42-year-old Brian. "It will take quite a long time to find a suitable place and be lucky to be given a viewing appointment and beat the competition and be lucky to be chosen by the landlord."

READ ALSO: Six confusing things about renting a flat in Germany

Brian advised people to do everything they can to ensure their current home is quick to move out on if they find a place at short notice.

"Start decluttering your current apartment, start downsizing or selling stuff and do Schönheitsreparaturen (aesthetic repairs) before finding an apartment and still at the looking stage," he added. 

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Money talks

Unfortunately in an economy like this, it's often the people with the deepest pockets who end up snagging the best apartments. 

"This won't sound good, but money solves problems," said 37-year-old Berliner John. "I paid to get to my application 'prioritised'." 

Obviously, trying to bribe someone to get the flat you want definitely isn't advisable, but having a well-stocked savings account and paying for some premium services may well be.

A number of readers suggested the pro version of ImmoScout24, which can speed up your search by making your applications more visible and giving you extra information about your chances of getting a property. 

Euro banknotes in a wallet

Euro notes and bank cards in a wallet. Having money saved up can help you in your house search. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Monika Skolimowska

Hamburg resident Robin, 44, recommended starting any search months in advance and putting as much money away as possible to impress potential landlords.

"Have as much as you can saved up to 'sweeten the deal' with six months advance pay up front," he said. "Get a realtor if you can find one that actually takes the time to help."

READ ALSO: Why renting is still cheaper than buying in Germany

Another tip of Robin's was to seek out furnished properties - which are often more expensive - as these can be much easier for foreigners to get. There are plenty of sites where you can look for either long- or short-term furnished rentals, including HousingAnywhere and Wunderflats.

If you're unable to flash your cash to find the property you want, a killer cover letter can also go a long way.

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"You need to write a detailed and well thought introductory message and be able to prove your incomes and credit record," said Charlie, 30.

Gherson, 50, in Cologne, agreed: "Draft and send a great cover letter to the landlord," he advised. "And have a car available to look for places."

Though luck and money are great resources to have in the dog eat dog world of house-hunting in Germany, making a great first impression as an efficient and reliable tenant can also go a long way. 

Thank you so much to everyone who completed our survey. Although we weren't able to use all the responses, we read them all and they helped inform our article.

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Comments (2)

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Thomas Pfeffer 2024/07/02 18:35
Thank you for the article. A minor point, but the expression is “dog eat dog” world. 😀
  • paul.krantz 2024/07/03 08:11
    Thanks - that's been corrected
Lyssa in Mainz 2023/12/22 08:33
Unfortunately in an economy like this, it's often the people with the deepest pockets who end up snagging the best apartments. This is absolutely true. Many landlords in my area only rent to Americans connected to the military because they can charge twice as much. I pay €3500 for our house, but the old German renter paid €2500.

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