Finding a flat in Berlin

So you’ve thought about it, and decided to come to Berlin to teach English. Berlin is one of the most popular places to live in Europe right now and whilst rents traditionally have been cheap, the influx of people means that prices are increasing rapidly. That said, Berlin is an extremely affordable capital city to live in and definitely one of the most enjoyable. I have outlined the key points here. For more detailed information, please see the links at the bottom of the page.

Finding a flat, particularly in one of the more fashionable districts such as Kreuzberg or Prenzlauer Berg, can be a real headache. However, other central areas such as Wilmersdorf, Neukoln and Wedding can be little bit cheaper and easier. For those willing to trek to the outskirts like Pankow and Lichtenburg, very affordable places are available.

You can ask around at your school, or put a note on the noticeboard, but you probably won’t find anywhere with this method. You’d do better to hit the internet (recommended sites below).

Types of flat

As a ‘just about to move’ or ‘newly arrived’ English teacher, you will be realistically looking at 2 housing options:

Flatshare/Wohngemeinschaft (WG)

Usually the cheapest option, although not always the easiest to find. The abundance of would-be flatmates and shortage of rooms means that you will usually be competing against 20 others. Viewings are organised like castings so you will often be invited at the same time as your competition.

You will be interviewed about practical matters such as your income and long-term plans as well as personal things like hobbies, bad habits and sociability. WG’s are organised like communities and your prospective comrades will be looking for someone who is a good fit so you should push the fact that you are friendly, sociable and tidy.

Be prepared to send hundreds of emails and get 3-5 responses. Finding a WG as a couple is almost impossible.

WG-Gesucht is your best resource for WG.

Average cost: €300 – €400 per month. Bills included (warm)

Sub-let/untermieten

If you value unmolested use of the bathroom or kitchen, you can look for a sub-let. Again, these are usually organised like castings but with the interview questions will obviously focus on your financial might and steady employment rather than on your personal attributes. Sometimes you will be applying for a zwischenmieten. This is when the main tenant is temporarily moving out of Berlin for work, studies or holiday, but wants to come back. Somewhere can be found for a few days up to 6 months. The short-term ones are reasonable easy to find. 

Average cost: €400 – €600 per month. Bills included (warm)

Again, WG-Gesucht is a great website. You can also check out Immobilienscout.

Short-term serviced apartment rent

Unless you are loaded (which, lets be honest, English teachers never are), you won’t want to consider this option unless you find yourself in an emergency. These flats are aimed towards the higher end of the market and so prices are high. However, all bills and internet are included so if you’re in a bind, this could be a short-term solution.

Contact Crocodilian if you’re looking for this type of apartment.

Staying with a friend

If you have any in Berlin, drop them a line!

Sleeping on the street

Not a good idea. In winter, it can drop to -20 degrees.

Most English teachers will be looking for a flatshare or sub-let to start off with. It is almost impossible to find a flat as a main tenant as these require 3 months of pay slips and employment contract, a SHUFA (credit report) and a letter from your previous landlord stating you were a good tenant.

In my experience, flat hunting in Berlin is challenging and there is a great deal of competition for the best places. Be persistent and don’t give up!

More information

For those who are interested in moving to the city, I can recommend the excellent Guide to moving to Berlin 2014 by Joseph Pearson which contains all the information you need to know.

For more specific information on finding a flat, have a look at How to finding a flat in Berlin by Jon Worth.

For some personal experiences, check out Olga in Berlin and Welshie Goes Walkabout.

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4 Responses

  1. Rachel Daw says:

    Hi David,
    I am about to follow in the footsteps of many and move to Berlin to do the CELTA.
    I have found a very nice-sounding flat in Weißensee, moving in with 2 German girls. I know it sounds far out, but I have had numerous bad experiences with flatshares in Germany so I thought I’d jump at the first one that sounded like it had sane people in it!
    I was just wondering whether the Untermietvertrag that I’ll sign with the girl whose flat I’m subletting will be sufficient for getting a tax number etc. in order to be able to work?
    Thanks!
    Rachel
    PS. My own blog is currently private whilst I finish fiddling with it, but was conceived along largely the same lines as your own 🙂 Thanks so much for your invaluable tips!

    • Hi Rachel,

      Sounds like you have a good WG lined up. Weißensee isn’t too far away really, Berlin has good public transport.

      You will need the rental contract when you go to register your address at the Burgeramt. Everyone who lives in Berlin needs to go there up to 14 days after moving in to a new place. I think you’ll be fine with the untermietvertrag. I’ve registered with a similar contract before with no problems. Make sure you find out who is the main tenant or Hauptmiete though, as they will likely ask for that. Once you’ve registered, they will give you a piece of paper called Anmeldung. As I remember, this is the paper that you take with you to the Finanzamt (as well as every other official thing), so you should get it sorted out quickly.
      I’ll check out your blog as soon as you’ve finished 🙂

  2. Bastien says:

    There is also a nice step by step guide there : http://www.settle-in-berlin.com/find-a-flat-in-berlin-apartement/

    I found it was quite complementary of the other links you gave and it has german abbreviations too to decipher the classifieds.

  1. November 27, 2014

    […] term readers of this blog may remember a previous posting about flat searching in the fair city of Berlin, written smack bang in the middle of a frustrating, time-consuming and […]

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