Housing: A place where you feel at home

Germany offers a wide range of high-quality rental housing. Many Germans prefer to rent rather than to buy a home. In this section we explain how to find a place to live and what you need to keep in mind, both before and after moving in.

Housing: A place where you feel at home

The first 100 days in Germany

Our video shows you the important things to know and do in starting out in Germany.

Looking for housing

Your first accommodation

Germany offers a wide range of high-quality rental housing. Many Germans prefer to rent rather than to buy a home. In this section we explain how to find a place to live and what you need to keep in mind, both before and after moving in.

Your first accommodation

There are a variety of options for your first few weeks in Germany, before you have found permanent housing: A hotel room costs an average of about 90 euros per night. You can expect to pay roughly 500 to 1,200 euros per month for a temporary, furnished two- or three-room flat, depending on its location. Youth hostels usually charge between 20 and 30 euros per night. There is also the option of using online portals to rent a room from a German family, which has the added benefit of helping you make contact to local residents.

The next step: To buy or to rent?

In contrast to many other countries, most Germans rent their homes - for good reason: There is an abundance of high-quality rental housing in every location and price range, from small flats to villas with gardens. These rental properties are often in excellent condition and equivalent to owner-occupied dwellings in terms of quality. In addition, renters are protected by law against excessive increases in rent, and landlords are not allowed to terminate a lease without cause.

House and flat shares

House and flat shares, called “Wohngemeinschaften”, or “WG”, in German, are good alternatives for people who want to make friends quickly and save money on the rent. Usually in this kind of shared accommodation, each person has their own private room. In most “WGs”, the kitchen and bathroom are shared, as are the rent and electricity, Internet and phone costs. The kitchen or shared living room tend to be the heart of a “WG”. There, you can cook together or sit and chat. If you want to be alone, you can simply shut the door of your own room behind you.

In Germany, house and flat shares are not only for students. Trainees and working professionals also live in shared accommodation, especially if they are new to the town or like the conviviality of living together. There are lots of such “WGs”, especially in larger cities.

Students often find a house or flat shares on their university notice boards or student union web sites. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) also offers numerous tips on how to search for accommodation.

The Asta Bielefeld for example, has compiled a list of links to “WG-Börsen” Web sites with offers of house and flat shares all over Germany – of course, these are also open to working professionals. On these sites, you can either search for a house or flat share in the town where you are, or post an ad yourself.

Looking for housing

Whether you want to rent or buy: Information about available housing can be found in the advertising section of the newspapers and on real estate websites, which is where most flats and houses are listed today. Housing supply and demand depend to a large degree on the respective region. In rural areas, renters or buyers tend to have their pick of what is available, but in larger cities owners can usually choose from multiple offers. Finding housing can be time-consuming, particularly in the metropolitan areas surrounding Munich and Frankfurt.

Yannick from Burundi
After being accepted for a job with a company in Hamburg, I set off immediately to look for a flat to rent there. Sometimes I visited flats with 30 other applicants. Mass visits like that are the rule in the big cities. That makes it difficult to make your mark on the landlord or landlady. And so it’s important to be well prepared. The best thing to do is take your Schufa record, statement of income or your work contract with you. Without those documents, your chances are practically nil. In the end, it took me nearly three months to find a flat – I’d never imagined that! I was lucky and was able to find a suitable flat through a friend. My tip: lots of companies help their international employees to find a flat, just ask! Moreover, not all towns have such a shortage of housing.

In urban areas it may be wise to consult a real estate agent. Realtors are not permitted to charge more than three months' rent as a commission for their services. Furthermore you only have to pay a commission if you are the one who requested the agent for the search. If you only contact an agent due to a real estate ad, you do not have to pay any commission under German law.

As in other countries, the cost of a rental unit varies greatly by region. Rent and ancillary costs such as heating, water and gas will cost you about 14 euros per square metre in large cities. The average cost in small towns and rural areas is about eight euros per square metre.




German lease agreements must be concluded in writing. In most cases, the lease specifies the rent amount exclusive of heating. There is usually an additional charge for ancillary costs, which is paid to the landlord each month along with the base rent. What is considered an ancillary cost may vary from one lease to another. Electricity, gas and water are often included, but not always. Before signing a lease, it is therefore important to ask the landlord what the ancillary costs include and what other charges you may incur.

A successful move-in

Registering with the power and water utilities. If your landlord does not take care of electricity, water or gas, you will have to make your own arrangements with a provider. Your landlord will probably be able to give you contact information for your regional provider.

Arranging for telephone, Internet and (cable) television service. Germany has a variety of telecommunications service providers. It pays to compare them, and online portals can be helpful. Many providers offer discounted packages that include both telephone and Internet service. There are also options tailored to mobile use, for example using UMTS technology (3G). A tip: Since it may take several weeks for your telephone and Internet to be connected, it is a good idea to contact a provider before you move in, if possible.

Fees for television and radio. In Germany, fees are charged for radio, television and Internet use. If you use these media, you are required to register with the German licensing office, called Gebühreneinzugszentrale or GEZ. This can be done either online or using the registration forms that are available at most post offices and banks.

Put your name on your mailbox and doorbell (if your landlord has not already done so). Your mail will not be delivered unless your name is on your mailbox. There is no need to register with the post office.

Change of address order. Don't forget to have your mail forwarded from your home country to your new home. And if you go away for an extended period, you can ask the German post office to forward your mail, even abroad.

Registering with the local authorities

Anyone who lives in Germany is required to register with the local authorities. You should do this no later than two weeks after moving in. To do so, you need a valid identity document. If you are renting, you must submit a completed certificate of the landlord (Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung). Generally you can find the form and the address of the responsible registry office on the website of your new city.

Marie-Ange from France
Shortly after moving here, I went to register my address at the Citizens’ Registration Office in Berlin. I tried to get an appointment with them but the assistant told me there was no free slot for the next three weeks. That posed a problem for me, because you have to register within two weeks. My tip: enquire in plenty of time – on the city's Web site, for example – and make an appointment in advance. Without a registration certificate, you might have problems, e.g. in opening a bank account. I’ve often heard that it’s easier to get an appointment in other towns.

Settling in

Getting off to a good start

To make sure that you feel at home in your flat and your neighbourhood, we have compiled a few helpful hints:

Introduce yourself. When you have settled in a bit, introduce yourself to your neighbours - this is not required, of course, but it is a way of getting to know people quickly and lets you know who your neighbours are.

Quiet hours. In general, noise is prohibited between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. so that everyone can get a good night's sleep. This means keeping music at a low volume and avoiding things like running your washing machine during those hours.

Pets. Under the law, you are allowed to keep small animals that are normally in cages, aquariums or terrariums. In the case of larger animals, such as dogs and cats, you need to obtain advance permission from your landlord. Whether a pet is large or small: If you want to get along with your landlord, make sure to give advance notice of any pet you want to bring into your home.

Cleaning responsibilities. Almost every German state has agreements specifying which tenant is responsible for cleaning the hallway or the walkway in front of the building. But don't worry - what may seem to be an annoying chore can quickly turn into a weekly opportunity to chat with your neighbours!

Tap water in Germany is carefully inspected, so it is normally perfectly suitable for drinking and cooking. In old buildings with old pipes, however, you should have the water tested.

Separating waste. Did you know? We Germans are the undisputed world champions in separating waste materials. With our blue, yellow, green and black containers, we collect, separate and sort our waste materials for recycling, which benefits the environment.

Albiruni from Indonesia
Before I came to Germany, I’d never heard of sorting waste. Where I come from, rubbish is rubbish. The German waste-sorting system seemed complicated to me at first and it took a while for me to get used to it. The rules vary from town to town. The Internet was of great use to me in this case, as I found some useful information on the town’s Web site. It’s a nice feeling to be helping the environment at the same time.

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