­čÜĘ This blog post – and the guide “How to find a flat in Berlin” – are now over 6 years old. And I am now looking for a new flat in Berlin. You can read about that here. And a whole new guide will be written at the end of the process as well! ­čÜĘ

berlin-housesThe days when it was easy to find a flat to rent in Berlin are long gone. While rent, in comparison to other EU capitals, remains reasonable, trying to find an adequate place is complicated. An additional annoyance is that estate agents charge the tenant in Germany (normally 2 months rent + VAT), rather this cost being borne initially by the landlord. Add this to the 3 months rent needed for a deposit and it is a hefty amount of cash up front.

So I wonder here whether social media can help? Masses of people knowing a little should be able to outwit an outdated market model where masses of money is made due to the asymmetric distribution of information.

Below I outline what sort of place I am looking for, and I hope via Twitter, this blog, and Facebook, I might be able to find something directly, rather than have to go through an agent. Your help would be most appreciated!

1) Location
berlin-karte-cropMore or less anywhere central / east / north east Berlin. I am a cyclist, and hence do not need to be close to a U-Bahn or S-Bahn station. Something within about 5km of Unter den Linden would be super, to keep cycling distances manageable. This ideally means something within the red line on the map here – Mitte, Tiergarten, Wedding, Gesundbrunnen, Prenzlauer Berg, Pankow, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Neuk├Âlln. Edges of Treptow and Lichtenberg could also be OK.

2) Flat size, features
2 rooms, and a built in kitchen (Einbauk├╝che) are absolute musts. Ideal: a balcony, and hence not on the ground floor. Possible: furnished, safe parking for a bicycle.

3) Price, contract and availability
Up to ÔéČ600 / month cold, ÔéČ750 / month warm. Available from the start of January 2014┬áend of October*, or sometime shortly after that, and rent at least until Summer 2014. Sub-letting (untermieten) is OK, but I would need to be able to put my name on the doorbell.

So tweet me (@jonworth), comment below, or e-mail me if you know of something!

* – October was the original search. But I am now doing it all again in December 2013 / January 2014!


  1. Steven

    hello- great Blog- what do you mean by having to make an offer on an apt you like?

  2. @Vida- yes, still in Berlin. And all good – I now have a proper place in Kreuzberg. I’ve also written up more of my experiences here.

  3. Hi Jon
    Are you still in Berlin? How are you finding the renting process now?

  4. @Nick – I’ve subsequently written a much more detailed piece about this. It should answer your questions!

  5. Nick Carthew

    Hi Jon. Very good and clear information that I hope will be of use. I am being posted to Schonefeld next Feb, but speak no german. Hence am finding it very difficult to use the web sites (translating every piece of text is rather slow and does not always result in the correct message getting across). If you have any pointers that might help I would love to hear from you.

  6. Yes, it worked to find a sub-let, and it worked 3 months later to find some places to see for a proper miete, although in the end I went for a place I found on ImmobilienScout instead. There’s much more detail about my experience here.

  7. Jonathan

    Hi Jon,

    Did this experiment work out in the end? Or did you still have to go the big payment direction? I ask as this is something I might also be embarking on soon. I am also form the UK, and currently flat hunting in Berlin (been here 5 months), but happy to find a sublet for now, with the end goal of one day being the main tenant on the next search once more settled. These costs, plus kitting out a new kitchen and whole apartment are ridiculous. So would like to hear how it went.

  8. OK, so this worked to get a flat in the first place. And that flat allowed me to get a bank account, and hence a SCHUFA-Auskunft. *BUT* now I have to move again, as staying where I am cannot carry on…

    SO I am on the search again :-/ Suggestions most welcome!

  9. Really amazing that these agents with their fees still survive everywhere when the internet and some socially-enabled database would be a perfect solution for 80% of rentals.

  10. Rebecca Crawley

    Well, it’s not just in Germany that the tenant gets to pay the agent’s fee. I just found out that the same is true for Luxembourg where I’m moving shortly. One month’s rent, plus 15% VAT.

  11. Forgot to add: If you’re comfortable moving around every half year or so – you’re probably not taking a large truck of household items with you – Zwischenmiete can also be quite cool to see different places. You’ll move every half year or so, get to see different neighborhoods, have completely furnished places, and much less competition – as the majority of people prefer long term contracts. Also, it’s mostly an agreement between the former (and latter) owner, who just wants to rent their place to someone they can trust to pay the rent and leave their home in one piece – if you are able, just offer to pay some months upfront, and it’s a done deal.

  12. No real-estate agent fees? Search the obvious sites for Zwischenmiete, that is people letting their rooms or apartments while out traveling/studying/whatever. The place will be furnished, probably also a flat-share if that appeals to you – some can be quite spacious with enough room for independent living but a more social touch nevertheless. It’ll give you plenty of time to make contacts and come across some real nice place off-the-market.

    Certainly better than paying two months rent for some overpriced sub-optimal place just because you need something on short notice.

  13. Oliver H

    Well, the money you don’t have to pay as a deposit rightaway you can use for the real estate agent, if need be. Incidentally, some of them might agree to defer the payment to a later point, though probably not a lot (and it’s probably best not to ask them until you’ve actually signed the rental contract ­čśë )

    I am not sure about the situation in Berlin. I know in Munich, it is nigh impossible to get something without an agent, especially on short notice, and in Hamburg, I’d say it’s about 80% of the market that’s in the hands of real estate agent.

    A good idea is usually to check what large housing societies exist in town – private or public. As they are owners, they are not allowed to charge extra.

  14. Oliver H

    Jon, regarding the deposit, you can actually pay it in up to three installments. While some landlords balk at that, they can’t get out of it because it’s explicit in the law – if they want money (as opposed to, e.g., a bank guarantee), they have to accept monthly installments. “(2) Ist als Sicherheit eine Geldsumme bereitzustellen, so ist der Mieter zu drei gleichen monatlichen Teilzahlungen berechtigt. Die erste Teilzahlung ist zu Beginn des Mietverh├Ąltnisses f├Ąllig. Die weiteren Teilzahlungen werden zusammen mit den unmittelbar folgenden Mietzahlungen f├Ąllig.” (┬ž 551 BGB)
    That can help to at least distribute the bulk of the payments a bit so you have some time to make some money. In fact, some housing societies allow you to spread the payments even more, to one third up front, one third after six months and the last third after 12 months.

  15. Oliver – thanks for the tip! ­čÖé I am not too opposed to the deposit part though – the estate agent charge is more of a headache!

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