INFOYER I German Wiki - Housing in Germany

Finding suitable accommodation in a new country is often considered one of the first steps in the process of ‘settling down’.  The task of finding a place that you may be calling home however is a challenging one. Familiarizing yourself with the nuances of house hunting in Germany before setting out on the quest for a home, is sure to help to a great extent.

Accommodation in Germany

If you are looking for a one bedroom apartment with a living room and dining room, you are in search for a drei Zimmer (three-room) flat. Bathrooms, WCs (toilets), kitchens and halls are excluded from the room calculation. It is seldom that you find möbliert" or furnished apartments in Germany. The few that exist are considerably more expensive than an unfurnished flat. It is however important to note that unfurnished places are completely bare. There is usually no built in furniture or even lighting. You will need to fend for your own furniture, electronic gadgets, sanitary fittings, curtain rods, lighting etc.

Among the various means you may choose to adopt to find accommodation in Germany, the following are the most popular:

One of the simplest ways perhaps is through an Immobilienhändler – a real estate agent. Earlier, the agent’s commission was to be paid by the tenant moving in. Laws have changed in recent times and now the property owner must pay the agent’s fees. Because this is a recent development, it is advisable to check regarding the agent’s fees before signing any contract.

The age old method of gathering useful information through word of mouth is no less effective. Asking friends or co-workers or other people in your personal or professional networks continues to be one of the best ways of finding a place anywhere in the world.

Other potentially useful resources are newspapers and the internet. The downside to relying solely on newspapers is that often an attractive offer is grabbed even before you can reach the person concerned on the phone. There are a wide number of real estate websites where you can filter your search according to location, budget, size etc. Some even have listings in English and occasionally offer the advantage of being able to look at uploaded photographs.

Housing in Germany: List of relevant terms

Certain terms or abbreviations that you may come across while going through newspapers or websites may be confusing despite knowing the language. So here’s a list of relevant terms and abbreviations and what they stand for:
Short formLegend
qm (Quadratmeter)Indicating size in square meters (sq.m.)
Zi (Zimmer)Indicating number of rooms
BJ (Baujahr)Indicating the year it was built
Bad / DuscheBathing facilities only

Some apartments have separate Bad & WC
WC Toilet with no bathing facilities

Some apartments have separate Bad & WC
EG (Erdgeschoss)Ground floor
OG (Obergeschoss)Upper floor
DG (Dachgeschoss)Terrace / attic floor
Gepfl. (Gepflegt)Well maintained
Möbl. (Möbliert)Fully furnished
Ruh (Ruhig)Quiet

Referring to the neighborhood
ZH (Zentralheizung)Central heating
Balk. (Balkon)Balcony
Gart. (Garten)Garden
Gge. (Garage)Garage

Often used as storage space and to park bicycles
Ka / Kt / Kaut (Kaution)Security deposit

A refundable sum usually amounting to 2-3 months´rent. Refund with interest subject to condition you leave the apartment in.
NK (Nebenkosten)Also referred to as ‘Umlagen’ at times: additional costs that may include costs of heating, waste collection, maintenance of common areas such as staircase, water (also waste water collection- Wasserentsorgung) and part of the owner’s property tax. Electricity, gas bills as well as heating are usually paid separately but in some cases fall under ‘Nebenkosten’. The costs associated are subject to change during the lease tenure.

Housing in Germany: Informations about rental contract

Housing in Germany: Related issues and tips that you may like to make a note of

  • Making a list of things in the new flat, or noting any defects/shortcomings in the apartment before you move in, is a wise step to avoid any confusion in the future. 
  • Ensure that you don’t create loud noises, especially in the afternoons and at night between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. respectively. 
  • Waste segregation is a must in most cities. You may need to use the community trash containers if you don’t have them within the apartment compounds. There are separate ones for metal, plastic, paper, glass (separated further colour wise: brown, white & green) and one for the rest. You may need to seek help from the sanitation office to dispose large waste such as furniture or even an old abandoned car can be towed away by appointment normally done on designated Sperrmüll (large trash) days.  
  • Laundry to be hung for drying only indoors or in designated areas. 
  • Cars, bicycles or baby wagons to be parked only in designated areas.
  • You need prior approval from your landlord for keeping pets in the house. 
  • Main entrance doors to be kept closed between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. 
  • All doors and windows in the apartment are to be locked when you are away for long periods.
  • Satellite connections, television and radio antennas are to be installed conforming local laws with prior permission of the property owner.  
  • Immediate intimation to landlord about any damage to water, electrical lines or gas is a must.
  • You might be responsible for cleaning of common areas such as staircase, halls, front yard etc. if the rental agreement says so.
  • Grilling, barbeque-ing or open fires on a balcony are strictly prohibited.
  • Throwing things from windows or balconies is unacceptable. Flower pots or other things on windows or balconies to be positioned securely. Ensure that watering your plants does not inconvenience your neighbours below. 
Most of the information above is with regards to renting an ‘apartment’. The rules of renting a standalone ‘house’ and the associated utilities and services needed may differ considerably. It all depends on the terms and conditions of the agreement. 
Once you have found yourself the perfect apartment or house, your new address must be registered with the Einwohnermeldeamt (relevant local authorities). 
Today one has the option to seek the services of companies (both big and small) who provide a wide range of relocation services. The type of assistance available is diverse and often includes help with various applications – work/residence permit, licenses, address registration, finding schools for children, work for spouses, doctors, language courses, utilities and service providers and setting up of bank accounts. The process of relocation can be almost stress free if you avail of the benefits associated with the rapid development of this industry.