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.