Be prepared to find your own place to stay in Germany. While you should not have any major problems, the search for an apartment or room can still be a challenge.
The rental market across Germany is far from uniform; average rents vary considerably from city to city. Generally speaking, housing is more expensive in the west and the south of Germany than in the east and the north (except for Hamburg, which has one of the most expensive housing markets in the country). Finding somewhere to stay can also be challenging in smaller university towns, where students looking for inexpensive housing outnumber the other inhabitants.
As a rule, you should at least start your search before leaving for Germany. Having a general idea of average rents certainly helps with budget planning! Knowing in advance what to expect in terms of apartment-hunting allows you to be off to a running start when arriving in Germany.
German students and young people often share apartments, the so-called Wohngemeinschaft. You will find the abbreviation WG in newspaper classified ads (which are normally published on Wednesdays and/or Saturdays) and on websites. In most cases, people will advertise an empty room in an established WG, but you may also encounter a group in the process of establishing a new one. Living in shared accommodation is a good way of getting to know others and becoming immersed in your new surroundings. Sharing a rental with others also allows you to live in a larger and nicer apartment than you could normally afford on your own!
Needless to say, living together requires getting along with one another. Most German WGs are selective when it comes to choosing new members. The search for a room in a WG could therefore take some time – be prepared to stay in temporary accommodation first.
Today, most apartment-hunting in Germany is done through the internet. Many websites are available, though most of them are in German only. Here are some useful websites:
During your search, you might come across a large number of ads placed by real estate agents, either on behalf of landlords or prospective tenants. Real estate agent fees and business conditions vary across Germany. Dealing with someone who understands the local market and is able to show you a variety of apartments can certainly be helpful – just be cautious when entering any formal agreements and find out all terms and conditions first. It is not unusual for tenants in Germany to pay their real estate agent a finder's fee equal to about three months' rent.
As is the case in Canada, rental agreements are usually made in writing, and landlords typically require a deposit of one to three months' rent.
Approach your apartment hunt with common sense and caution, and nothing should stop you from finding comfortable living quarters!
Finding an accommodation can be challenging in the best of circumstances, even more so when the search is undertaken in a foreign country. Young-germany.de has published some tips on the differences between visiting a private versus a shared apartment (the latter is called a "Wohngemeinschaft" or simply "WG" in Germany).
Germans tend to be punctual and this extends to an appointment to see an apartment. If you are going to be late, it’s best to call ahead about the delay.
Reliability is highly regarded in Germany. If you decide not to visit an apartment you had previously arranged to visit, it's best to cancel the appointment rather than to just not show up. Behave as you’d like to be treated.
If you have interest in an accommodation, show it in a low-key way — still letting your potential landlord or roommates know your excitement about the place. Don’t go overboard, however, with multiple telephone calls or text messages.
Differences between visiting a private or shared apartment start to appear in the expected etiquette upon your actual visit. When visiting a private apartment, you should present yourself in a serious, smartly dressed way. A nice appearance can really raise your chances of getting your first choice location. When visiting a WG in contrast, it’s not as important to be so serious, but rather natural and authentic, after all your future roommates are trying to decide if you and they would be a good match.
Politeness and courtesy are almost sub-points, but they’re important to keep in mind.
In principle, you should always be honest, but once again there are some differences between visiting private or shared accommodations. When looking at a private apartment, you shouldn’t lie, but it’s best to leave out details about your lifestyle such as what times you return home or if you smoke. When visiting a shared apartment, however, you should do your very best to be honest with your future roommates about issues such as whether or not you smoke or how long you’d like to stay.
Bring a buddy
When looking at a apartment, it’s advisable to bring along a friend. Two pairs of eyes are better than one, especially if you don’t have much experience in searching for your own place. If you’re not able to take someone with you, then it’s a good idea to take photos of the place. It’s amazing how many small details you forget! In the case of a shared apartment, it’s not advisable to take someone with you on the visit, unless there are concerns about misunderstandings of language.
Proof of finances
In Germany, it’s customary for a landlord to request proof of income and to have potential tenants fill out information as to their financial status, unless the rental costs will be paid by a third party. Thus it’s best to already be prepared with these documents when visiting an apartment. When visiting a room in shared accommodations, however, you don’t have to bring these official documents. The other WG residents will inquire as to your professional activities.