Where to look
There are three major internet portals, Immobilienscout24, Immowelt and Immonet. These are the sites most apartment-seekers use for their apartment hunting. If you are a student, you could also try WG-Gesucht, which mainly lists rooms in shared flats, but also has a few listings for rental apartments. While these sites are all well established and heavily frequented, fewer people tend to be aware that Ebay’s small ads site (Ebay Kleinanzeigen) also lists rooms and apartments. This can reduce the competition for apartments and rooms, because fewer people are aware of these ads. As an alternative, you can also look in newspapers, like the Berliner Morgenpost or Tagesspiegel. Both have real estate sections in their Saturday editions. Whichever route you take, you’ll have to be quick once you identify a potential apartment. The market is incredibly dynamic and apartments/rooms get snapped up quickly.
Here today, gone tomorrow
Online listings tend to disappear after just a couple of days. If a listing has been live for longer than a week or two, there’s probably a very good reason (over-priced, poor condition, inconvenient location). Demand for apartments and rooms in shared flats is incredibly high and landlords get a flood of applications, which means they tend to delete their listings after a few days. The unfortunate truth is: First come, first served.
How can I improve my chances?
Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do. Most landlords will ask potential tenants to provide personal information, a credit rating statement, the last three months of payslips, a copy of their passport/identity card and a statement from previous landlords confirming that they are free of rental arrears. Generally, landlords will check that your income is at least three times as high as your rent. As rents have risen at a much faster rate than wages, this is where many would-be tenants experience difficulties. If you have all of this paperwork, you definitely have a real chance. If, for whatever reason, you don’t really want to disclose so much information from the get-go, you’ll probably need to talk to the landlord directly. Potential tenants who fail to provide the required information are, in many cases, simply rejected out of hand.
How can I check whether the asking rent is fair or not?
You can take a look at Berlin’s 2017 rent index (Mietspiegel), which is available, in German, online. All you have to do is enter the address of the apartment you are interested in and the index will provide you with an overview of the typical basic rents (i.e. excluding heating, warm water and other utilities) in the area. Since the rental price brake (Mietpreisbremse) came into force in 2015, landlords aren’t allowed to charge more than ten percent above these local comparable rents when they re-let their apartments. There are a few exceptions to this rule, which you can read about here.
Why is Berlin’s housing market so over-heated?
Simple answer: The city’s population is growing at an incredible rate. In 2016, the majority of new-Berliners arrived from overseas, primarily from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Syrians were the largest single group, accounting for 13,491 new arrivals, followed by Poland (6,108). Similar numbers of people arrived from Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Romania and Iraq. In terms of domestic migration, 11,754 North Rhine-Westphalians upped sticks to Berlin in 2016, joining 20,442 new arrivals from Brandenburg. That last figure might sound like a lot, but still falls far short of the 29,296 Berliners who headed in the other direction to start a new life in Brandenburg.
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