Why Finding An Apartment In Berlin Is So Hard

So the reason I haven’t posted on this contraption the last few weeks is because all my free time and spare mental capacity has been tied up in my search for an apartment.

Now that I finally got one sorted out, I’m tallying the damage.

I can’t count the hours I’ve spent, but my gmail account tells me I sent 28 ‘I’m interested’ mails and inspected 12 apartments in the last three weeks.

There are a few reasons finding an apartment took me so much time and effort.

1. Language
‘Hello, I’m calling about your apartment. Do you speak English?’
‘No English?’
‘None at all?’
‘… OK, I guess goodbye then’

2. Competition
Many of the apartment viewings are set up like open houses. The landlord sets a time and whoever’s interested shows up. Every one of these i went to had at least eight people checking out the apartment, and sometimes as many as 20. It’s really discouraging to write your name on a ‘I’m interested’ list with 14 other names on it.

3. Furniture
In a market with so many students and people moving around, I’m amazed at how hard it is to find furnished apartments. Most flats rented through agents don’t have anything,not even a sink or basic kitchen counters.

If they do have furniture, you have to buy it from the current renter. One of the apartments I saw was €460 per month, but the renter wanted €6,000 cash for the kitchen, appliances and the couch.

4. Fakes
All the apartment listing websites are lousy with scams. It’s always some variation on ‘I’m not living in Berlin at the moment, but my incredible apartment can be yours if you transfer the deposit to my bank account.’

Some of them are hilariously blatant, like the ad whose pictures still had the watermark from ‘MontrealLiving.com’ still on them. Another crafty lister literally took a picture of a two-page Dwell Magazine spread, and you could still see the fold between the pages.

Still, others were pretty convincing. Pictures of realistically cluttered apartments, nice but not silly-central parts of town, etc. I think I fell for three of them.

After awhile, I could tell the fakes by the longness and kindness of the replies to my letters of interest. For real apartments, typical replies looked like they were written by Cormac McCarthy: ‘The apartment is free. Come tomorrow 6pm’ and signed Mr or Mrs (I’m endlessly amazed at the German slowness to use first names. It’s like living in an episode of Mad Men!).

The fake ones were like ‘Berlin is lovely in the summertime! I miss my beautiful home and garden…’ and went on to specify all kinds of information (‘the washing machine works fine not too loud’) that no one would ever need to know on a first inquiry.


So that’s why it took me awhile. I’m still nervous about having to furnish a whole apartment by myself, but at least when I move out, I can apparently charge the next renter a few thousand euros for my trouble.


Filed under Berlin, Personal

3 responses to “Why Finding An Apartment In Berlin Is So Hard

  1. Dirk

    I thought you would be used to all that by now??? Dude, I ended up moving to Sweden now, because

    1. looking for an affordable appartment in Copenhagen that does NOT have only a 1 square meter bathroom/toilet/shower

    2. 80% never reply, probably because I am writing to them in English.

    3. how do you feel about 3 months deposit AND 3 months rent in advance?… Right…. bye…

    Oh, and my nicest story:
    Went to see an apartment, and after making my way there (2 hours instead of 40 minutes, because whole Copenhagen was flooded from the huge thunderstorm) it turned out that it was not the appartment from the pictures, but a total shithole instead. Who falls for that??? Maybe some people are like “alright, since I made my way out here, I take the shit hole”…

    Sweden was a breath of fresh air in comparison. Nice people, who actually answer. 🙂

    Glad you found a place!!! Pictures looked nice. I also have to furnish now… will take me a while though. the deposits here are so incredibly high, I am basically broke 🙂

  2. Mitch

    no offense, but if you are living in a foreign country, why don’t you at least learn enough of the language to say “Can we speak in English please?” IN their native language? Wouldn’t that just be common decency and courtesy? It can’t take that much effort to learn one sentence.

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