How not to find a flat in Berlin

Long 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 near-fruitless flat search. That post focused on options for English teachers just off the boat – in other words, digs that you are able to get when you arrive in the city. Well, thanks to the joys of untermieten (sub-let) and the passage of 3 months, I find myself yet again spending up to 2 hours a day desperately sending emails to prospective landlords. However, this time I’m focusing my energies on tracking down a hauptmiete (main tenant) flat. Constant viewings and the pointless applications (pointless because the landlord inevitably chooses someone else) can really get you down.

Maybe it’d be easier to not find a flat – some tips:

Set yourself a realistic budget

Wait, you mean un-realistic right? Well…no sorry. A Berlin-based English teacher is never going to be rolling in wads of European cash which makes accommodation searching problematic if your better half isn’t an investment banker on 150k + bonus per annum. Being freelance doesn’t help either as the agency will want copies of invoices, a tax declaration, bank statements and DNA samples (open to negotiation). You might find you have to stretch that hard earned money a bit further, or move to one of the outlying districts.

Choose a fashionable area

Carrying on from the last point, if you don’t want to find a flat (especially on limited money), choose one of the super-duper trendy districts like Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain and to a certain extent Neukolln. You won’t want to think about Marzahn or anywhere else out in the sticks. Places like Wedding, Wilmersdorf and Schoneberg can offer a happy medium.

Have high standards

A sure-fire way of avoiding your traumwohnung. Sure, it’s possible to have high standards and find a flat, or have low standards and fail to find a flat, but you narrow your options nicely with this age old tactic. Go for the luxuries such as double glazing, fitted kitchens and structural integrity. To avoid failing, you should check out those flats in a slightly worse state of repair or be prepared to stretch your budget.

Use only

I can’t really comment much on this, but I’ve heard from a lot of people that only using Berlin’s primary flat searching avenue doesn’t provide a wide range of options.

Don’t pay agency fees

For anyone coming from the UK (I have no idea about other countries), Germany’s estate agents fee’s will be a shock. I remember cursing as I shelled out £200 for a Bristolian’s turn-key service, but in Berlin this would represent an outrageous bargain. Standard prices for quite literally opening the front door are around 2 and a half times of the basic monthly rent. Add this to the deposit (3 months rent) and you’re in for a pretty lean month. Of course you can search for provisionfrei, but this significantly reduces your options.

Sit back and relax

Flat searching in Berlin is hard. The hardest city I’ve personally ever looked in, although many of my German friends tell me that Munich and Hamburg are even worse. Food for thought certainly.

Best of luck.

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9 Responses

  1. racheldaw18 says:

    Oh dear God, I’m about to move to Berlin and try exactly this… I’ve done the whole WG Gesucht thing before (albeit in smaller Hannover and Bamberg), and it does take a while, but I found it’s worth persevering!
    What kind of English are you teaching, btw? I’m starting a CELTA in the Berlin School of English in April.

    • Hey Rachel! Berlin is the worst city I’ve ever flat hunted in. Hands down. Although I’ve heard other cities in Germany i.e. Munich, are even worse. Doesn’t seem possible really. You can find short-term sub-lets easily enough, but then you have to search again 6 months down the line. You’re right, it’s worth keeping faith.
      I’m teaching business English freelance. Almost all the work you find in Berlin will be freelance which has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Most of the teaching is to adults in a business setting. The good news is that it is reasonably easy to find some work. Most of the interviews I’ve been to have offered work, although it’ll most likely be a sub class at first and then you have to wait for more classes to come in. This means that you could be waiting 2-3 months to get a full-ish timetable. You’ll more than likely have to work for multiple schools as well. Berlin is certainly not the easiest place in Europe to teach (go to Spain for that), but it’s a fun and lively city to be in. Best of luck with your CELTA! Are you doing it full-time/4 weeks?

      • BerLingo says:

        Sorry I have been so slow to reply to this, David, but thanks for the info! I think I have found myself a 3-month sublet in Weißensee post-CELTA, because I figured that if I have still not found a job by the end of the contract period, I’ll have to hang my head in shame and slouch back to England, anyway.
        So I’m living in accommodation owned by the Berlin School of English during my CELTA (the 4 week slog-your-socks-off intensive version, as you said) and then moving to this flat with two German girls roughly my age. I’ve been telling people at work that part of my reasoning behind moving to my Lieblingsland is to get better at German, so I figured I needed to move into a German-speaking WG as a good start!
        I’d love to find a job (or indeed three!) teaching Business English, so I’m reassured by your positive interview experiences 🙂 Do you find you spend a lot of time traversing the city between classes? I’m worried I might not be able to afford rent + an AB travel card for very long…

  2. If Germany is your favourite country, then I’m sure you’ll have a great time here! Berlin is certainly a fun place to live, although I find German to be a difficult language to learn. Maybe I’m just lazy though.
    Schools will try to organise blocks of lessons together, but I do have a fair bit of travelling between classes. I think that finding some work is quite easy, but getting a full timetable can be more of a challenge. The best way is to print out some CVs and go school to school handing them out. If you send them by email, you might not always get a reply.

    • BerLingo says:

      Haha yes, I have always found German pretty tough, but I just love the challenge. Their wacky idioms are the best bit, I think.
      You’re the second person to have told me that whizzing around Berlin, smiling at lots of DoSs / school admin people, armed with personal documentation is the way to go. I wonder how much detail of the CELTA course future employees require? Presumably everyone who takes the CELTA completes the same amount of hours of study, so would employers be more interested in the kind of things you wrote assignments on etc.?

      • In my experience, what you did on the CELTA and even the final grade you get is completely insignificant to potential employers. They are more interested that you have the qualification. Experience also plays an important part but I’m sure it’ll be possible to find classes without. You’ll probably find that you get a few classes to start off with – sub classes especially, and then you’ll get more as time goes on and with good feedback etc.

  3. Bastien says:

    Good tips. If you want to decipher the abbreviations put in the german classifieds or on ImmobilenScout. There is a handy guide there. It’s nice to make a sense of all that German ! 🙂

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  2. February 10, 2015

    […] recently moved to my first Hauptmiete flat, home furnishing (and the positioning of said furnishings) has suddenly become a keen field of […]

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