All of us have been in the situation when you need to find an apartment to live in. Whether you got a new job in another city, about to start university degree or simply moving in with your partner – one of the most important steps is finding a place you can call home for next moths or even years. I have moved a lot during my student life, from one city to another, sometimes 2 or 3 times within one city due to different circumstances. Therefore, in this blog post, I have compiled a guide for you on how to find an apartment with links on different websites.
STEP 1. DO A RESEARCH.
Start with a simple research on the city you are planning to move to – what areas of the city are the best, cheapest, family/animal friendly. Maybe you need a kindergarten or school nearby, or good connections to the train station. The easiest way to do so – is visit official city portals or as an option – ask fellow expats.
Almost every city in Germany has its official city profile, which, in many cases, is also available in English. Here are some examples of official city profiles:
- Munich – https://www.muenchen.de/int/en.html
- Cologne/Köln – https://www.cologne.de/
- Berlin – https://www.berlin.de/en/
- Bonn – https://international.bonn.de/
- Bremen – https://www.bremen.eu/
- Hamburg – https://www.hamburg.com/
- Düsseldorf – https://www.duesseldorf.de/international.html
- Frankfurt am Main – https://frankfurt.de/english
- Essen – https://www.essen.de/welcome_to_essen.en.html
As you can see, the websites above provide a lot of information about the city of your choice, accommodations, entertainment, sightseeing, night life and so on. This can be your starting point in the research.
Another option is to ask somebody who already lives in the city. No need to worry if you do not know anybody yet – you always can find a dedicated community of expats in the city you are moving to. Whenever I have a question or need a recommendation, I can always ask a group of fellow expats who have already been through same situation. As an example, I live in Cologne and I find these communities extremely helpful:
STEP 2. SEARCH FOR ACCOMMODATION
In case you are moving to Germany for your studies, my suggestion would be to rent a room in a student dormitory. It is a great opportunity to immerse yourself into student life, connect with fellow students, and learn language and culture. I, personally, have only positive memories of my dormitory life. My neighbors were always nice and polite; we exchanged presents on holidays, cooked and partied together.
Usually information about accommodation in your university dormitory is available on the website of respective university. You can apply any time online. My strong recommendation is to apply as soon as possible. Some university dormitories don’t even require an enrollment certificate on the early stages of application. You need to provide one only once you sign a contract agreement. Be sure to secure the room on time since sometimes the demand can be rather high! As an alternative, you can research the website of Study in Germany and find dormitories in your city.
In case, you don’t want to live in the dormitory or simply didn’t get a room, no worries! You can always try private dormitories or single apartments. Sometimes the universities also provide the list of websites where you can search suitable apartments.
I have created the list of websites I have used to find apartment. These can be useful for anyone who comes to a city no matter of the reason:
- WG-Gesucht (https://www.wg-gesucht.de/) – in my view one of the best websites to find a dormitory room or single apartment. The website is available in three languages: German, English and Spanish, although sometimes the headers of the ads and descriptions of apartments provided by owners are only available in German.
The best way is to browse through all of the ads and send direct requests to owners to view the apartment. However sometimes, the owners might get too many messages in their mailbox and might not be able to get back to you. In that case, when possible, contact them via the phone instead of sending a message or simply try WhatsApp. This will show that you are interested and your message will not get lost in tons of others.
WG-Gesucht also offers some helpful insights and article on the accommodation search:
- Example of successful flat application: https://www.wg-gesucht.de/en/artikel/accommodation-search-example-of-a-successful-flat-application
- How to increase the scope of your ad: https://www.wg-gesucht.de/en/artikel/3-tips-for-your-search-how-to-increase-the-scope-of-your-ad
- 3 Steps to Help You Find the Flat share of Your Dreams: https://www.wg-gesucht.de/en/artikel/these-3-steps-help-you-to-find-the-flatshare-of-your-dreams
If you have any questions regarding the website, you can also visit their FAQ section and check if it is useful. https://www.wg-gesucht.de/en/hilfe.html
- Immowelt.de (https://www.immowelt.de/suche/) – another good website to find an apartment. Here you can apply a wider range of filters depending on your needs and wants. Unfortunately, the website offers only German language. What you need is to select two things. In the section Was Suchen Sie? (What are you Looking for) you enter Mieten Wohnung (Rent an Apartment). And in the next section Wo suchen Sie? (Where are you Looking) you enter the city of your choice. Then just press Suchen (Search) and you your search is ready! You can either register on the website free of charge and start your search or simply contact the owners by inserting your information in required fields.
- Meinestadt.de (https://www.meinestadt.de/) – very useful website with the information on regions and cities of Germany. Unfortunately only available in German. Apart from accommodations, you can search for jobs; buy a car; get information about touristic attractions as well as current and future events. In addition to the accommodation ads, you can find real estate agents there and moving companies or artisans to help with installments and furniture building. In the top middle of the website in the section of Ort oder Postleitzahl Eingeben (Enter Place or Postal Code) type in the city you want to live in or respective postal code. It will redirect you to the website of the city of your choice. Afterwards just go to the section of Rubrik Auswählen (Choose Category) -> Immobilien (Real Estate) -> Wohnung Mieten (Rent an Apartment). And here you go, you can see all the types of places available for rent!
- Immonet.de (https://www.immonet.de/) – another great website to search for accommodations of different types in German language. And they have App as well, which you can download on your phone and do the search on the go! Cool, right? Apart from accommodation listings, it can offer you a wide range of information on the rental services, moving companies etc. The search principle is just as on the other website – in the section Wo suchen Sie? (Where are you Looking) you type the name of the city and next to it press Mieten (Rent). Useful thing here is that not only can you search for rentals of student room or shared apartment, but newly build apartment, house, single apartment, garage place or even place for office. Another useful thing I found on the website is approximate calculation of moving expenses. You simply insert the Wohnfläche bisher (Size of your previous/current apartment) and Entfernung (The distance to your future apartment). Here is the link: https://www.immonet.de/umzug/umzugskosten.html
- Immobilienscout24 (https://www.immobilienscout24.de/ – another great option for your accommodation search. Very similar in concept to other websites. Offers a lot of different information on your accommodation search with various options, not only a lot for renting, but buying of private apartments as well as office spaces. On the main page just press Immobilien (Real estate) section. Then on the left you can choose Mieten (Rent), write the city of your choice and on the right side you choose what type of property you want to rent. There are such options as Wohnung (Apartment), Haus (House), Wohnen auf Zeit (Temporary Living), WG Zimmer (Room in Dormitory) and so on. Just choose what you need and there you go!
- Wunderflats (https://wunderflats.com/) – slightly less popular website for apartment as others, but definitely worth taking a look at. it is available in English, which is just awesome. And the selection of apartments for rent is pretty nice. The only issues, is that for now they have ads only in more or less bigger cities and towns in Germany. Small places, like Schmalkalden or Meiningen are not there yet.
- Vonovia (https://www.vonovia.de/) – another option for accommodation search. It offers quite a decent number of apartment ads (not as many as previous ones though).The website search is in German, but searching for an apartment is pretty easy and intuitive.
- Ebay Kleinanzeigen https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de/s-wohnung-mieten/ – another option to search for apartment or room. Not as useful, as another websites, but worth a shot if you are in need of apartment and have checked everywhere already.
- Facebook – last, but not least. Facebook is not only the place to connect and share, but for accommodation search too. There are many dedicated groups called Wohnung in Bonn/Cologne, where people just post their apartments ads for rent. Last time I lived in Bonn, Facebook was exactly the place where I found my apartment. As another Facebook option, you can visit one of the groups of Expats in Cologne/Bonn/Berlin etc. and ask for their input as well.
IMPORTANT: In many cases if you are looking for apartment from private property owners, it usually comes to Kaution – security deposit that can comprise 1 or 2 months’ rent. Don’t worry, it will be returned to you after the ending of rental period provided the apartment you are leaving is in a good condition and no damage has been done.
PLEASE NOTE that in some cases, the owners might require SHUFA Auskunft – it is very easy to do. SHUFA is simply your credit record. It serves as a proof to the owner that your credit record is clean and you can pay the rent. It costs around 29, 95 Euros and you can apply for it in all apartments search portals listed above (except Ebay-Kleinanzeigen and Facebook) or directly via SHUFA website.
Link to the SHUFA Website: https://www.meineschufa.de/index.php?site=7&via=menu. Simply go down to the end of the website and click “Jetzt Bestellen” (“Order now”). Insert your personal data and wait for your certificate.
SCAM ALERTS! Be very careful, there are multiple scammer, which will try to trick you into sending them money in advance! Do not! Do the money transactions only with signed contract on your hands, detailed information of the owner, and previously have visited the apartment.
USEFUL TIP. When you visit the apartment for the first time, check the condition of the rooms very carefully. Whether there are scratches, visible damages, marks etc. So that afterwards, landlord can’t pin this on you so to say.
Thank you very much for reading my post. I hope it will be helpful for you. Myself, I know how big of struggle it can be to find an apartment in Germany, so brace yourself and good luck!