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Moving to Berlin: I need a place to live (a little social media experiment)

berlin-housesThe days when it was easy to find a flat to rent in Berlin are long gone. While rent, in comparison to other EU capitals, remains reasonable, trying to find an adequate place is complicated. An additional annoyance is that estate agents charge the tenant in Germany (normally 2 months rent + VAT), rather this cost being borne initially by the landlord. Add this to the 3 months rent needed for a deposit and it is a hefty amount of cash up front.

So I wonder here whether social media can help? Masses of people knowing a little should be able to outwit an outdated market model where masses of money is made due to the asymmetric distribution of information.

Below I outline what sort of place I am looking for, and I hope via Twitter, this blog, and Facebook, I might be able to find something directly, rather than have to go through an agent. Your help would be most appreciated!

1) Location
berlin-karte-cropMore or less anywhere central / east / north east Berlin. I am a cyclist, and hence do not need to be close to a U-Bahn or S-Bahn station. Something within about 5km of Unter den Linden would be super, to keep cycling distances manageable. This ideally means something within the red line on the map here – Mitte, Tiergarten, Wedding, Gesundbrunnen, Prenzlauer Berg, Pankow, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Neukölln. Edges of Treptow and Lichtenberg could also be OK.

2) Flat size, features
2 rooms, and a built in kitchen (Einbauküche) are absolute musts. Ideal: a balcony, and hence not on the ground floor. Possible: furnished, safe parking for a bicycle.

3) Price, contract and availability
Up to €600 / month cold, €750 / month warm. Available from the start of January 2014 end of October*, or sometime shortly after that, and rent at least until Summer 2014. Sub-letting (untermieten) is OK, but I would need to be able to put my name on the doorbell.

So tweet me (@jonworth), comment below, or e-mail me if you know of something!

* – October was the original search. But I am now doing it all again in December 2013 / January 2014!

Photo: "Prenzlauer Berg" by Georg Schroll on August 29, 2009 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

9 Comments

  • Oliver H |

    Jon, regarding the deposit, you can actually pay it in up to three installments. While some landlords balk at that, they can’t get out of it because it’s explicit in the law – if they want money (as opposed to, e.g., a bank guarantee), they have to accept monthly installments. “(2) Ist als Sicherheit eine Geldsumme bereitzustellen, so ist der Mieter zu drei gleichen monatlichen Teilzahlungen berechtigt. Die erste Teilzahlung ist zu Beginn des Mietverhältnisses fällig. Die weiteren Teilzahlungen werden zusammen mit den unmittelbar folgenden Mietzahlungen fällig.” (§ 551 BGB)
    That can help to at least distribute the bulk of the payments a bit so you have some time to make some money. In fact, some housing societies allow you to spread the payments even more, to one third up front, one third after six months and the last third after 12 months.

  • Jon |

    Oliver – thanks for the tip! :-) I am not too opposed to the deposit part though – the estate agent charge is more of a headache!

  • Oliver H |

    Well, the money you don’t have to pay as a deposit rightaway you can use for the real estate agent, if need be. Incidentally, some of them might agree to defer the payment to a later point, though probably not a lot (and it’s probably best not to ask them until you’ve actually signed the rental contract ;) )

    I am not sure about the situation in Berlin. I know in Munich, it is nigh impossible to get something without an agent, especially on short notice, and in Hamburg, I’d say it’s about 80% of the market that’s in the hands of real estate agent.

    A good idea is usually to check what large housing societies exist in town – private or public. As they are owners, they are not allowed to charge extra.

  • T |

    No real-estate agent fees? Search the obvious sites for Zwischenmiete, that is people letting their rooms or apartments while out traveling/studying/whatever. The place will be furnished, probably also a flat-share if that appeals to you – some can be quite spacious with enough room for independent living but a more social touch nevertheless. It’ll give you plenty of time to make contacts and come across some real nice place off-the-market.

    Certainly better than paying two months rent for some overpriced sub-optimal place just because you need something on short notice.

  • T |

    Forgot to add: If you’re comfortable moving around every half year or so – you’re probably not taking a large truck of household items with you – Zwischenmiete can also be quite cool to see different places. You’ll move every half year or so, get to see different neighborhoods, have completely furnished places, and much less competition – as the majority of people prefer long term contracts. Also, it’s mostly an agreement between the former (and latter) owner, who just wants to rent their place to someone they can trust to pay the rent and leave their home in one piece – if you are able, just offer to pay some months upfront, and it’s a done deal.

  • Rebecca Crawley |

    Well, it’s not just in Germany that the tenant gets to pay the agent’s fee. I just found out that the same is true for Luxembourg where I’m moving shortly. One month’s rent, plus 15% VAT.

  • Brusselsblogger |

    Really amazing that these agents with their fees still survive everywhere when the internet and some socially-enabled database would be a perfect solution for 80% of rentals.

  • Jon |

    OK, so this worked to get a flat in the first place. And that flat allowed me to get a bank account, and hence a SCHUFA-Auskunft. *BUT* now I have to move again, as staying where I am cannot carry on…

    SO I am on the search again :-/ Suggestions most welcome!

So, what do you think ?