Finding an apartment, or even a shared flat, can be difficult in Berlin–especially if you are new in town. The good news is that Honeypot is here to help make your move as smooth as possible and to welcome you to Berlin with open arms!

In this post, you’ll find 15 tips to assist you in your search for the perfect home.

Before you start

There are three important things to consider:

1. Where in Berlin do you want to live? You can use tools such as this interactive chart to help determine where you can afford to live.

2. Do you want to live in a shared flat or in your own apartment? A shared flat in Germany is typically referred to as a WG - short for Wohngemeinschaft.

3. What features should your new home have? It’s important to consider factors such as the number of rooms, which amenities are included, and on which floor you’d like to live. Features such as a balcony can be nice, but keep in mind they can also limit your available options!

Finding your new home fast

4. Keep an open mind, and be flexible: It’s tough, but true. Although it is important to know what you want in a new home, your chances will ultimately increase if you are also willing to make compromises! It’s also important to be patient. This process takes time, and it is normal to go through several viewings before finding the right place. (Think of it like job hunting: you’ll send applications, have multiple interviews, and finally the right offer will be on the table!)

Bonus Tip: The most important thing to know when looking at the price of a rental flat is the difference between “Warmmiete” and “Kaltmiete.” Kaltmiete translates to “cold rent,” and is the basic rent for the apartment without taking into account any additional costs. Warmmiete translates to “warm rent,” and includes the Kaltmiete plus additional costs such as water, property tax, gas, electricity, and waste disposal services. (These “side costs” are called Nebenkosten in German.)

5. Harness the power of social media: This point is especially relevant for EU residents that have an existing social network within Europe, but is useful for everyone in the era of the internet. Much like with your job search, success in your housing hunt depends on your existing network of friends and acquaintances. In Berlin especially, you will have greater success applying for a flat through a personal connection.

How should you get the word out? Use your social media presence such as Facebook or Twitter! Even if you currently live outside Europe, you probably have connections you aren’t even aware of. You might be surprised how many of your Facebook friends know someone who has a friend who knows someone currently living in Germany. They might be able to help you out!

Honeypot mascot, Bearpot, holding a megaphone.

Bonus Tip: Optimize your Social Media outreach. Share your post when most of your friends and connections are online (such as in the evening between 8pm and 9pm). Use pictures and hashtags (#) to make your post stand out. Ask your followers to like and share your post to extend your reach and keep your post visible for a longer period of time. You may even want to consider investing in paid ads to further expand your outreach.

6. Set up automatic alerts: Most apartment and shared flat platforms allow you to generate automatic email alerts if a new offer is posted that matches your requirements. You’ll have much better luck if you are one of the first to see a post. If many people have already responded, it’s less likely that you’ll get a reply.

Bonus Tip: If you are looking for something short-term for your first days or weeks after your arrival in Berlin (but you don’t want to spend your time at a hotel or hostel), we suggest you explore short term rental websites such as Airbnb, Wimdu, HomeAway, and Wunderflats!

7. Know the secrets of searching online: Look where no one else does! 90% of people searching for housing will be searching on the same, well-known platforms. Therefore, it is helpful to look on lesser known online portals. You may also want to search at times when fewer people are online (for example, ads tend to be placed early in the morning or late at night) to make sure you are reaching out to the most recent offers.

Bonus Tip: There are several large groups and pages on Facebook focused on apartment hunting in Berlin. You may also want to consider joining smaller groups (ideally with less than 200 or so members) to increase your chances of getting a response!

8. Always try for direct contact: If there is a phone number provided in the ad, always call directly. In the time of Whatsapp, you can even leave a voice message! This is a great option as many people work during the week and may not be able to answer a call. Leaving a voice message gives them the opportunity to listen whenever they have time – whether it’s in the Ubahn on the way to work, at the gym, or during a lunch break. It’s a great way to introduce yourself and explain your situation.

9. Be creative and brazen: Try putting up an apartment or housing request in the form of a note at busy areas around your desired living location. This could be in a café, at your favorite gym or yoga studio, or even on a telephone pole.

Bonus Tip: Do you already have a specific neighborhood in mind? If so, try to find supermarkets in or around this area. Many stores have a “schwarzes Brett für Anzeigen,” a board where ads can be placed for selling, buying, and renting!

10. Always keep required documents on hand: If you are looking for a flat, you must arrange the following documents and take them with you to viewings. In many cases your application will not be accepted if these documents are incomplete or missing:

  • Copy of personal ID
  • SCHUFA Auskunft” – credit report (SCHUFA is a credit investigation company)
  • Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung” - Certificate of Rent Paid
  • You may also need an assurance signed by a guarantor (for example: your parents) and proof of their payslips from the past 3 months if you cannot provide a confirmation of your own income yet. Depending on the landlord, your contract of employment could also be enough proof.

Honeypot mascot, Bearpot, holding a clipboard.

11. Let the viewing marathon begin: This stage can be exhausting and frustrating for many flat hunters. The good news is that once you have conquered the apartment obstacle, you will feel as though you have finally arrived in Berlin – what a relief! Here are some important things to keep in mind to make it through your apartment viewings:

  • Dress nicely, be friendly and polite, and shake the estate agent’s hand – in order to be successful, you must stand out from the crowd. A nice appearance and friendly demeanor will help you score extra points against your “competitors.”
  • Make sure to hand in a copy of all your documents in person at the viewing.
  • After the viewing, send a second copy of your documents to the agency or landlord as quickly as possible via email.
  • In your email, thank the landlord or property agent for the tour and let them know how much you enjoyed the viewing.

An important note about scams!

Given Berlin’s competitive housing market, it’s natural for renters to feel pressure to find a flat. Because of this, people may sometimes try to take advantage and attempt to trick you – especially in cases when there are many people applying for the same flat.

Follow these quick DOs and DON’Ts to save yourself from falling victim to a scam:

12. DON’T ever pay a deposit in cash! Although this practice is common in other countries, it is not the norm in Berlin and you should be suspicious of anyone who asks you for a cash deposit. If you pay in cash and you do get scammed (fingers crossed this will never happen to you), you will have no way of proving that you transferred the money. This makes it nearly impossible to file any claim or report the scam to the police.

13. DO always have a valid contract set up! If you are not sure about the contract because it is written in German, please ask a German speaker to go over the contract with you before you sign anything. Any upstanding landlord will understand your need to take time to check that everything is legitimate.

14. DO conduct your own research about the landlord! Look for any suspicious signs. Ask them for pictures, or for their social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) accounts, and call if you have not met in person yet. Always ask for a viewing - if they decline saying they are abroad and want you to send them the deposit first, this is a clear sign of a scam! Also be wary of landlords whose phone number or current address do not match the country of their bank account.

15. DON’T fall for scam emails! Many scam networks have set up automated emails trying to reach as many people as possible – they do not hesitate to target everyone, regardless of gender, age, or background. Please do not trust someone you have not met face to face, even if they send you a scan of their passport, bank statement, address, or the contract with a signature. And of course do NOT transfer money (especially via Western Union) under any circumstances!

Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to finding your dream flat in no time. Happy house hunting!

Geneva Brooks

Geneva Brooks

Geneva is a Talent Relocation Manager at Honeypot. When she's not helping developers realize their dream of moving to Europe, she's exploring Berlin's specialty coffee shops and history museums.