International House Hunters – Apartment Hunting in Germany

One constant that Amanda & I have shared over our past ten years together is that we have moved quite a bit.  We have moved between apartments, between cities, between States, between houses, and now between Countries.  With websites like Rent.com or various Realtor sites in the US, we had tools available to us to help us narrow our search down for a new place.

But, trying to find a place to live our next three years in Germany was a bit more challenging.  We found a nice website that showed available rentals, but the whole site is in German.  We could use it though to get a general sense of the sizes, types, and locations of homes & apartments for rent.

As part of our delegation, we have been assigned a Patin (which translates loosely from German as ‘Godmother’) to assist us with all things Germany.  She helps us with translations, finding a place to live, registrations to live & work in Germany, helping us find services like utilities and cell phones.  Basically, Birgit is such a fantastic and wonderful person who has already helped us tremendously!!

In October, we had a weekend to go look and find a place to live.  We looked at about 7 different places, and settled on the 2nd one we visited.  We saw homes, apartments, and townhomes.  One place was built in the 1500s, and the one we selected was built in 2008.  Basically, we saw a full spectrum of different places.

Apartment hunting is a bit different in Germany vs. the US.  First, in Germany, people will rent a place for many, many years.  In the US, rental agreements may be year-to-year or even less.  Since people typically rent for long periods of time, when they leave, they normally take their kitchens and hanging light fixtures.  When looking for a place to rent in Germany, you have to specifically confirm if the kitchen and/or lights will stay in the apartment.

In our case, the apartment was built in 2008, and is fairly modern.  It did come with a kitchen and appliances, but not the lights.  We spent an afternoon in December in our visit to get the apartment keys at IKEA, and purchased 14 hanging light fixtures.  This is a bit more of a challenge than it looks as you have to buy matching lights not only with each other, but to match the decor of the apartment.  We placed the lights in each room where it is to be hung, and Birgit is arranging to have someone install them for us for our return in January.

In Germany, refrigerators are not as large as American ones.  The one that comes with our apartment is of good size for the refrigerator part, but the freezer reminds us of the college dorm-type ones.  So we purchased an American size refrigerator/freezer and had it installed in the pantry of our apartment.

We also needed to buy a clothes washer & dryer.  Living in a home, we have super-sized washer/dryer than can clean a king size bedding set.  Well, in Germany, these large appliances are not available.  But, we did find a very nice washer/dryer set made by Bosch that was also delivered and installed in our apartment.  Later blog posts will talk more about how these operate.

Signing a lease was an interesting process considering we were signing a legally binding document that was totally in German.  Thankfully, Birgit walked us through each section of the lease describing what we were signing.  In Germany, there is a ‘cold rent’ and ‘full rent’.  A ‘cold rent’ is basically just the rent for the apartment that does not include any utilities.  Our full rent includes water, trash, recycling, building maitenance, and some other items.  There is actually a charge that is shared by all tenants of the building based on the area of the roof and the amount of rain water that is collected and processed into the sewer.  Germany is really, really serious when it comes to the environment.

But, in all, we were really happy with the place we found.  And, we could not have done any of this without our Patin Birgit!!  In later posts, I’ll share more about our apartment, where it’s located, and the area.

Our new apartment building

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