- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Berlin Guide (PDF)
Expats looking for accommodation in Berlin will find a wide variety of options ranging from homes amid Cold War-era East German high rises, the sophisticated neoclassical buildings of Prenzlauer Berg, or the experimental collectives of Kreuzberg.
The city has long been renowned for its reasonable housing options, and foreign nationals looking to dive head first into Western Europe's coolest capital will find a real-estate market defined by oversupply and subsequent low costs.
For those fortunate enough to consider purchasing property, apartments in Berlin's cutting-edge central district of Mitte are somewhat reasonable; especially in comparison to the exorbitant sums paid for precious space in the likes of London or Paris. However, most of Berlin's population is too poor to purchase property, and therefore the majority of the capital’s residents rent property.
Types of accommodation in Berlin
Expats moving to Berlin will be pleased to find that few other European capitals have as much variety in terms of property. From old-world townhouses to Soviet-era apartment blocks, Berlin is home to a truly eclectic range of accommodation options.
The standard of accommodation in Berlin is generally excellent. Even in buildings with a somewhat dated facade, one will find that the apartments themselves have either been superbly maintained or even completely modernised. Refurbished buildings with beautiful amenities are also plentiful but are naturally more expensive.
Generally, accommodation in Berlin tends to be spacious. In fact, apartments tend to be around 40 percent larger in Berlin than in other European capitals.
While expats may find furnished properties to rent in Berlin, these will mostly be holiday lets that are available for the short- to medium-term and often cost quite a bit more than the average. Generally, property in Berlin will be unfurnished, and we recommend that expats consider investing in some basic items of furniture. It may come as a surprise to some that unfurnished properties in Berlin are typically empty, often without carpets, light fittings or large kitchen appliances. The advantage of this is that tenants are allowed more leeway in terms of decor. While many people do paint their apartments, tenants are required to repaint in white or neutral colours at the end of a lease.
Finding accommodation in Berlin
There are a number of different ways to find a property to rent in Berlin. Expats who are lucky enough to be relocated to Berlin by a company may find that their employer assists them in securing suitable housing. For those without such luxury, the best place to start the search for a home in Berlin would be online. While some sites and accommodation portals may provide listings, it is always beneficial to have some knowledge of German terminology.
Alternatively, print publications such as Zitty or the Immobilien issue of Zweite Hand (secondhand), which is published every Saturday, also contain property listings.
But by far the most efficient and stress-free way of finding accommodation in Berlin is by using the services of an agency. Known as Mitwohnzentrale or Mitwohnagentur, these agencies have intimate knowledge of the city's property market and can assist new arrivals in finding a home that meets all their requirements. It is important to note that estate agents in Berlin do charge a fee for their services.
Renting accommodation in Berlin
Affordable real estate has attracted scores of young creative expats to both Berlin's centre and its outlying suburbs. That said, the face of the Berlin housing market is changing in small ways, and expats should take note. Rent has steadily increased in the city and average incomes in Berlin are still relatively low compared to other cities in Germany.
Those arriving in Germany without a firm job offer need to have a substantial amount saved to cover the cost of accommodation while they look for employment.
Making an application
Once expats have found a property that meets their requirements, they will be expected to complete a detailed application form and provide evidence of their income and legal status in the country. In some cases, they may be asked for a reference from a previous landlord or a certificate (Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung) indicating they have no outstanding rent due.
Leases and deposits
Most landlords ask for up to three months' rent to cover the security deposit on a place in Berlin. The deposit is refundable and is usually returned at the end of the tenancy provided there are no damages to the property. Otherwise, cleaning or repair costs will be taken out of the deposit before the balance is refunded.
Utility bills are usually not included in the rental price and are payable by the tenant. These will commonly include electricity, water, gas and refuse.