How to House-Hunt like a Pro
I attended “Tag des Wohnens 2019” (Day of Housing). Here are the key insider tips a student needs to know for successful house-hunting in Berlin.
Whether you are about to start your Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. in Berlin, I know first-hand that landing this academic opportunity was the result of a long, arduous process: you studied hard, hopefully didn’t have to pull (m)any all-nighters, dealt with unexpectedly overwhelming bureaucracy, got frustrated, took some time off to avoid burnout, then got back and studied a bit more. And while your hard work finally paid off when you received the letter of admission to one of Berlin’s universities, you then came to realize that finding a place to call your humble abode in the “arm-aber-sexy” metropolis comes, paradoxically, with a high, quite literal price.
Without further ado, I present to you my key takeaways from the event “Tag des Wohnens” (“Day of Housing”), held at studierendenWERK BERLIN on September 27, 2019.
#1: Apply for accommodation at studierendenWERK BERLIN!
studierendenWERK BERLIN’s halls of residence offer affordable housing for students enrolled at Berlin universities having a cooperation contract with studierendenWERK. Unfortunately, as the ever-growing demand for student accommodation significantly exceeds the current supply, waiting lists are long. However, last-minute cancellations are not uncommon, and you may be positively surprised to find yourself at the top of the list. This is especially the case if you are open to living with flatmates, as the waiting time for studio apartments tends to be longer.
Furthermore, the “Fairteilen” (“Fair Sharing”) programme allows students who are already residents at one of studierendenWERK BERLIN’s halls to share their room with a fellow student for up to 6 months. If you have a friend who meets the criteria and is willing to share their room with you until you have found a place of your own, simply contact administration at studierendenWERK BERLIN. The monthly fee for the guest student is only 60 Euros and is meant to cover the additional utility costs.
#2: As a rule of thumb, the total rent including heating (the so-called “Warmmiete”) should not exceed one-third of your monthly income.
During house-hunting, you will often be asked to submit proof of your income — or the income of your guarantor (“Bürgschaft”), if you have one. For your application to be considered, your monthly earnings must generally be three times higher than the respective total rent. But even if your income covers that, competition among prospective tenants is high, and real estate agents tend to be partial towards the candidate with the highest salary. Therefore, it makes sense not to exclude the option of a shared accommodation, a.k.a “WG”. While this may beat the purpose of this article, if you are really keen on living on your own, you may want to explore the possibility of moving at the outskirts of the capital, or even parts of Brandenburg that are well-connected to Berlin. Chances are that you may even get yourself a studio apartment in a fancy “Altbau” at the price of a room in a Berlin WG, and without having to search too long.
#3: Search in as many outlets as possible!
Start with tip #1, but don’t stop there. The more outlets you use to house-hunt, the higher the chances are that you will quickly find a place to call home. These outlets can include:
- Your own network of family and friends
- Social media, such housing groups on Facebook
- Berlin’s student villages
- Real estate websites
- Websites focusing on WG ads, such as wg-gesucht.de, or wg-suche.de
- The portal www.inberlinwohnen.de for properties that belong to state-owned housing corporations
- And last but not least, the customer centres at real estate companies or housing cooperatives (“Wohnungsgenossenschaften”), which you can approach directly during their office hours.
#4: Organize your paperwork!
To apply for studio apartments (and more often than not, for shared accommodation as well), you will need the following documents:
- Proof of income for the last 3 months
- A signed “Bürgschaft” (“guarantee”), if your studies are going to be partly or wholly financed by a third party, such as your parents or the Federal Training Assistance Act
- If applicable, a “Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung”, i.e. a form signed by your previous landlord, whereby it is declared that you do not have any outstanding rent debts, and
- “Schufa”, that is, proof of positive credit, which you can download online.
- Optional but highly recommended when applying for studio apartments: a CV, as well as a short cover letter that explains why you would make the ideal tenant! (Unfortunately, due to competition, you would have to treat your application for housing as a job application.)
#5: Be your own ideal flatmate!
During the infamous WG castings, you will want to stand out from the rest of the candidates. To leave a good impression and increase your chances to be accepted, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Be nice
- Look presentable
- Let them know that you can afford the place
- Show that you are thoughtful
- But also don’t go out of your way to be likable! Be authentic!
Keep calm, and good luck!
Photo: Miriam Schacker
Photo: Miriam Schacker
Photo: Miriam Schacker