I am pleased to write that finally, as of last Friday, four and a half long weeks of apartment hunting came to an end! We will move into our new home this weekend. Julius and I are lucky that the first three weeks of our search occurred before he started his school year, because apartment hunting takes quite a bit of time and mental and emotional energy!
some peculiarities about apartment hunting in Germany (and particularly Munich):
Figuring out the system. Apartments are listed to rent on this internet site, where you set up an account, create a profile, enter search criteria, view listings and contact owners/realtors directly through the site or via phone. When you spend a lot of time on this web site, you learn what to look for, how to spot scams, when new listings often appear, etc. We looked at lots of other apartment web sites at the beginning, but found out pretty quickly that most other search engines don’t actually have their own unique listings; rather, they almost all link you over to immobilienscout24.de.
The Munich housing market. Munich is one of the most expensive cities in Germany and affordable housing is hard to come by. The supply does not meet the high demand. We once saw a listing that had appeared online 25 minutes before, called the owner immediately, and were notified that forty people had already inquired. We responded to one apartment listing per email and were told that we were #120 on the list. We found ourselves asking, “How are we ever going to get anyone to pick us?”
The apartment viewing experience. Because of this incredibly high demand and the large volume of responses, realtors usually book multiple people at 15 minute intervals for apartment viewings. So, you show up with 6 other people, have 10 minutes in the place to look around and barely time to speak with the realtor and ask any questions. It’s a funny business. The realtors don’t really even have to sell the apartment; the potential renters are trying to sell themselves!
All of this contributes to the plight of a “newly married couple, recent university graduates beginning careers (he: teacher in training, she: educated as pastor, US American), seeking our first apartment together in Munich.”
some of our challenges:
Our lack of proof of financial security. Most apartment owners want a credit check (SCHUFA), and when you’ve just graduated and have never had a credit card, this is difficult. They also want proof of the last three months of steady income. When you are about to start your first jobs, this is impossible. We had our work cut out for us to convince folks that we could afford to pay for an apartment! Not only did we need to prove we could pay rent every month, but one also needs a good chunk of change to start out, because all of the extra costs add up! For every apartment, there is also a security deposit due at the beginning of the contract (3x monthly rent), a fee if the apartment is handled through a realtor (2.38x monthly rent), and then there’s the kitchen issue. In Germany, a majority of people take their entire kitchens with them — the cabinets, appliances, kitchen sink and all — whenever they move. So if you find a place with no kitchen, you have to purchase one and pay to have it installed. Potentially, the up-front costs just to get into a new apartment are equal to 6-8 months rent.
Considering the above challenges, we set a modest vision of what we’d like to find.
At least 30 square meters (yes, that’s 322 square feet) and 2 rooms (bathrooms and kitchen are not included in room count), something within the inner area of Munich public transportation and walking distance from a nearby stop. In the ideal case, there would be a kitchen included, and all of this for 750 €/month or less, including utilities.
Finding an apartment to fit the criteria — especially the price category — was hard to do. Most places with the right size and the right proximity to public transportation were more like 900-1000 €/month.
However, after inquiring about dozens upon dozens of apartments and being invited to come look at 4 of them over a period of 4 weeks, we got an apartment!
Meet our new apartment:
I am truly a novice at the real estate game in Munich, but for others who may be battling with the difficulties of apartment hunting (or will in the future), here are my
tips for successful apartment hunting and for staying sane in the process:
- Timeliness! Sit by your computer, wait for new listings, call immediately (actually, this may detract from your sanity…)
- If you get an appointment to view an apartment, treat it like a job interview. When there are so many people applying to get an apartment, the decision might just come down to making a good personal impression. Dress well. Be charming. Be memorable. At the apartment we ended up getting, we told the realtor about a little shop in the neighborhood that sells American goods. I said, “You can buy American peanut butter there, and that’s a big plus for the neighborhood!” She remembered this comment and kept bringing it up as we continued to communicate with her after the viewing. I think it’s probably why she picked us!
- Be upfront about your financial situation. Lay it all out. We told the realtor where we stood and asked, “What can we do to increase the likelihood that we get this apartment?”
- Have familial support. We have been so lucky to be able to live with Julius’s parents throughout the process. As frustrating as the apartment hunt became, we knew that they weren’t going to put us out on the street before we found something. This is how we survived all of the disappointments. If you don’t have a place to stay while you search, I recommend getting started months before you have to move, if possible!
More pictures to come when we get moved in and it starts looking like a home! Thanks to all of you who have encouraged and celebrated with us through the past month!
Feel free to share your tips in the comments below if you have gone through the apartment-hunting process in Munich or elsewhere in Germany.