As is the case in most countries, expats in Germany generally tend to rent property rather than buy due to the short term nature of most expat assignments.

However, this trend also applies to local Germans, most of whom rent property instead of buying throughout their lives.

Types of rental property in Germany

The types of property available vary according to where one is based. In the city centres of major German cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Munich expats will find that most people will live in apartment buildings. However, the further one goes into the suburbs the more chances there are of finding houses with gardens suitable for families.

Finding rental property in Germany

Most expats moving to Germany enlist the help of estate agents (makier) in finding properties. The advantages of using these services are that these professionals have an intimate knowledge of local property markets and they can really help those who struggle with the language barrier when it comes to negotiating and understanding local property laws.  While renters won’t usually be expected to pay agent’s fees, the properties promoted by agents do tend have higher rental rates.

Online property portals are a great source of information and allow expats to do some background research before arriving in the country. Expats who are able to find a property through an online source will save on agent’s fees.

Rental contracts in Germany

When expats have found a suitable home in Germany they will have to sign a mietvertrag (rental contract) to secure the property. The contract contains various details about the property in addition the rights and obligations of the tenant.

Most rental contracts in Germany are one year long and if either party wants to terminate the lease early they’ll need to provide three months' notice. Expats should ensure they are aware of whether the quoted rental amount includes additional utility costs. They'll also need to pay a security deposit of one or two months' rent.  

Tenants should ensure they are present with the landlord or estate agent when an inventory of all the items and any damages is carried out before they move in. If there is any damage to the property at the end of occupation, the landlord will be entitled to deduct these costs from the tenant's security deposit.

Once the contract is signed both parties are legally bound it is therefore essential that expats fully understand the document.