May 31, 2015

7 Tips on how to search for an apartment in Munich

After almost two years in Silicon Valley I am moving back to my beloved Munich: Bye bye San Francisco Bay and here I come Bavaria!!!


Screen shot of the Munich official site


I am very happy to be back but searching for an apartment is a pain and in Munich MORE. In my first move in 2010 I needed 2 weeks to find my beautiful place in Glockenbach. It wasn't easy but it was definitely not as challenging as it's going to be this time...

Munich has changed a lot since 2010. The rental market has gone crazy (price-wise) and the competition has increased to a point where the process is similar to applying for a new job.

The good news are that back in 2010 I didn't have a blog to share the (painful) experience of apartment hunting in Munich but this time I do, so keep reading and let me know if it is useful!

1) GERMAN

You are in Germany so... they speak German. Yes, they also speak English BUT all rental ads are in German and the landlords and real state agents prefer to speak German.

You don't understand a word of German? Well... have you consider hiring a relocation agent or a real state agent? If this option is not within your budget then I suggest you invest in German classes so you can understand the rental ads and be able to arrange visits/open house appointments.


2) THE RENT

The German way of describing rent can be confusing, so let's have a look:

Kaltmiete (or Nettomiete)  is what you pay for the place with no utilities/services. The Germans call it "cold rent".

Then you have the Nebenkosten (or Betriebskosten) which cover garbage disposal; the cleaning, maintenance and heating of the common areas of the building, such as the lobby, the stairs, the patio/garden/inner courtyard and usually the water bill.

The Heizungkosten are the heating costs. They are included in the Nebenkosten ONLY WHEN the house has central heating. If the apartment has its own heater (for your use only), then you need to pay it extra (on top of the Nebenkosten). In this case the monthly amount you are required to pay is an estimate based on the previous tenant's use. At the end of the year you get a a reimbursement or a bill with the difference between the estimate you paid and your real heating usage. This is called "Jahresabrechnung".

Warmmiete means "warm rent" and it includes the Kaltmiete + Nebenkosten + Heizungkosten. Many people think that Warmmiete includes all utilities and services... WRONG!

The Warmmiete does NOT include the following:




3) THE KITCHEN

The kitchen is usually not included in the rent, I mean the room itself is... but not the content is not. In Munich you get two scenarios:

a) THE KITCHEN IS EMPTY: if you are the first tenant or the apartment has been fully rehabilitated... the kitchen has no furniture, no appliances, nothing... so yes, you need to go to Ikea...

 
Screen shot of Ikea kitchen


b) THERE IS A KITCHEN... FOR A PRICE: you are probably renting a place that has tenants who moved into an empty kitchen, built their own and bought the appliances. Now they are moving out and selling!

In this case I have seen both: honest people asking for a fair price and "others" trying to make money out of me. So be careful, ask for the paperwork and if you don't feel comfortable buying the kitchen, then no worries! it's usually a no-deal breaker!


4) WEBSITES TO SEARCH FOR AN APARTMENT IN MUNICH

The most popular site to search for an apartment in Munich is:

This is the equivalent of Craigslist (USA) and Idealista (Spain).

Screen shot of ImmobilienScout24 site


I have started using this site as well. I like it although I find that all the apartments in this one are also in Immobilienscout24 so if you have limited time... what's the point?

Before internet you needed to buy the newspaper to search for an apartment and in Munich the paper to buy is the Sueddeutsche Zeitung... Nowadays with the above sites specializing in rental listings I don't know if the online section of the Sueddeutsche is useful anymore... but hey, if you have time: check it out!

This one is a site where landlords offer their properties directly, no middleman, no real state agent, which means that you don't need to pay Provision. I haven't used it so let me know what you think... the concept sounds interesting...

OTHER SITES TO SEARCH FOR AN APARTMENT:



5) COVER EMAIL + SELBSTAUSKUNFT + WOHNUNGSBEWERBUNG

5.1) The cover email: once you find an apartment online it's time to make contact and ask for an appointment to see the place. I always send the cover email in German. I don't know if you'll get the same response rate if the email is written in English... but English or German... you need to be professional as you would do in a job application.

Lines like: "Hey, I've seen your ad and I'd like to see the apartment. Best, Ryan" won't get you anywhere. You need to sell yourself as an attractive potential tenant.

In my cover email I always tell a little about my husband and I, who we are and what we do in Munich; our background, our job situation, our combined income and why we are interested in the apartment. I also offer to send our Schufa certificate, proof of our income and references.

Screen shot of the official Schufa site

5.2) Selbstauskunft: after visiting the apartment, if you'd like to rent it then you need to fill a form that is called Selbstauskunft. In this form you tell the landlord about you personally and financially. Most forms ask you details about your family, where you work, what you do and how much you do annually.

5.3) The rental application is called Wohnungsbewerbung in German. This is a group of documents that introduce you/your family as potential tenants for the apartment. Same as when you are applying for a job: you send your rental cv + supporting documents (Schuffa certificate, proof of income and references).

You send your rental application after the owner has learnt about you in the Selbstauskunft and think that you could be a good potential tenant.

6) LEASING IN GERMANY

If you don't understand German, I suggest you hire a lawyer or a relocation agent that can help you understand what you are about to sign. The lease contract you sign will be in German because you are in Germany.

Here are some links that can help you learn about leasing an apartment in Germany:

  • Mieterverein München: Association of tenants in Munich
  • LMU: Tips to lease an apartment in Munich by the Munich University
  • Toytown: for first-time renters in Munich
  • Expatica: understanding your rights


7) SMALL LAST TIPS WHEN READING RENTAL ADS 

7.1) What "3 Zimmer" really mean: in Germany 3 rooms doesn't mean that the apartment has 3 bedrooms like in many other countries... it means 1 living room + 2 bedrooms.

7.2) Kaution (deposit) is usually 3 months but in some cases it can be higher.

7.3) The Provision (commission) is the real state agent fee. It is usually 2,38 VAT included.

  • Before June 1st 2015: the tenant pays for this fee.
  • As of June 1st 2015: a new German law comes into effect and now it's the owner/landlord the one required by law to pay the Provision.


This are exciting news for all of us searching for a new place in Munich, it can save me 3 months of rent! BUT I am unsure how effective this new law is going to be. Germans love order and ruses: "Ordnung über alles"! But in Munich the market is really aggressive and competitive, sometimes there are 50 families competing for the same apartment and think about it! if just one of them offer to stick to the old system and pay the Provision... who do you think the landlord is going to pick? The ones following the rules or the one breaking it?

And that's all for today. Let me know if this info is useful and good luck with the search!!!

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