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When I first went to Germany for work, I was shocked by the problems I encountered with finding an apartment. My company found me a temporary accommodation before I arrived (a single room in a cellar, in so-called "Wohnen auf Zeit") but that company required a job contract to be faxed!

When I've searched for normal apartments, everyone wanted to see me personally and additionally asked about my job contract.

If I wanted to go to Germany to look for a contract or job, would it be possible at all to find some apartment before I get there? It seems unlikely since I wouldn't have any job/contract in advance, and I couldn't be there personally.

I expected it would be possible to simply find something on the internet, correspond with the owner/renter, negotiate the price, and pay by bank transfer, no problem. But maybe I was expecting too much...?

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    I cannot say mutch for Polish nationals, but for example there are Hungarian companies who lend out rooms in Stuttgart for Hungarians without having to go through most of the loops (for mid/long term). There are also a lot of companies that do the same but in London (yes I know, that's not Germany). You might want to check whether there's something similar for Polish people in your destination city. – SztupY Mar 14 '14 at 21:50
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    Judging from media reports, there seem to be many very shady companies housing guest workers from central and eastern Europe in western Europe. So it's good to be careful. – gerrit Mar 14 '14 at 22:35
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    Based on the experiences of a friend of mine, it's non-trivial for EU citizens recently moved to Berlin to get a flat, let alone as someone who hasn't moved there yet... – Gagravarr Mar 15 '14 at 6:12
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There is an important difference between Polish and German flat rent market. In Poland you often find landlords accepting the first tenant they get, without doing any background check nor demanding any deposit (in German: “Kaution”). In Germany on the other hand (or in most Western countries), it is normal that you have to provide a secure and stable source of income, or at least have some other people (usually your parents) that are financally secure to pledge, that they are going to pay instead of you, should the need arise.

It is indeed difficult to find a flat in this crazy circle: You can't get a work permit because you have no flat, and you can't rent a flat because you don't have a job. I've been there myself.

I got over this with the help of my parents. They had to fax their pay record from last 3 months and sign a declaration, that they are going to cover my expenses. It works fine, you may have to shop arround though. Not every landlord will be fine with accepting something like this.

But don't sweat! There is another, cheaper way! There is a site called https://www.couchsurfing.org/ where you can find people willing to accomodate you for some time. I wouldn't count on a longer stay than 1, maybe 2 weeks but hey! It's free! This maybe just long enough to find yourself a flat and do all the work you need to get things going. The other good thing about couchsurfing is, your host can be a valuable source of information. He can show you the city and maybe even help in looking for a flat. Afterwards you are not completely alone in the city. You have somebody to hang out with.

If you are alone in a City and need on the ground support it won't hurt to ask lokal priests for help. They are usually nice people, most of the younger ones know english and could help you with filling out complicated forms in german.

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    (+1 for this very informative comparison) I made a small change: “Pfand” has broader legal or historical meanings but nowadays it is mostly heard for deposit on glass bottles and the like. The deposit you pay to a landlord is called “Mietsicherheit” or, more commonly, “Kaution”. – Gala Mar 17 '14 at 10:07
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    @GaëlLaurans yes you are right. I just forgot the proper word. – Smiling_Man Mar 17 '14 at 10:15
  • This is really a cultural difference here, which I have a big problem to comprehent. For me only the money counts, not the income. The income can dissapear withing a few weeks, having a high income with high expenses also doesn't make anyone a perfect renter. On the other hand, if I have the money, why would anyone care if I have a job or if I want a job? – user41 Mar 17 '14 at 10:21
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    I'ts not cultural. Its a different stage of the market evolution. Try to look at this from a landlords perspective. You have a flat, wich generates costs. If you rent it to somebody with lots of money but no source of income, chances are, he may run out. There is as well no guarantee that he won't spend it elswere instead of paying rent. If he has a job, there are legal ways to get to his salary before him so it's more safe. Unfortunately it is very very difficult and expensive (because of ridiculus law) to get rid of a not paying tenant, so it is important to chose your tenant carefully. – Smiling_Man Mar 17 '14 at 10:35
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    The proposal to get someone else (with steady income) on board is a sound one, but it probably only works with German residents so the landlord would be able to get hold of them legally. There are two options, and landlords usually propose adding the third party as bondsman. The easier one (for all sides) is to simply get that third party added as renter - under German law the landlord can then request the rent from all parties equally. – Patrick Georgi Mar 19 '14 at 8:34
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Yes, this is possible. You can find a temporary, furnished, and likely expensive apartment through a portal such as ownerdirect, airbnb, or similar services. This one you would rent for a short period, perhaps a week or a month. You would likely have to pay in advance, so use online reviews to see if someone can be trusted. Then, with this as a basis, start your job and in the meantime search for apartments. It is entirely normal that home owners want to meet potential tenants before.

This is exactly how I did when I moved to Canada.

  • Why the downvote? – gerrit May 22 '14 at 17:15
6

Ah yes, finding a place to live in Germany… 3 apartments in the last 9 months, but now I'm finally happy with where I am : )

The truth: Chances of getting a contract on your own before you arrive will be very slim to impossible. And once in Germany, it may take quite a while to get an apartment to your liking. I suggest finding a cheap hotel that can rent a small room for a long-term stay (around 400€-500€ per month). My polish friend did that for 5 months in a smaller city before finding an apartment. You'll have to share a kitchen and bathroom, but you'll have a roof over your head, and in hotel's they won't be picky as long as you pay on time, and you can leave whenever you like. (Even if you rent a small apartment, you usually have a cancellation period of 3 months, so you might find yourself paying rent for both the temporary room and your apartment if you suddenly get the apartment you have been wanting.)

Once you are in Germany, go meet landlords face-to-face and behave the best you can. Landlords generally have the following requirements:

  • They want to meet face-to-face. Not speaking German will make life difficult unless you are working in a profession that they are familiar with. For example if there is a big company or university nearby known to regularly employ foreigners. Or if you are a temporary health-care worker from eastern Europe, then you'll fit the cliche and the Landlord will know what to make of you. Also If you don't speak German, it's a good idea to bring a native German friend along. It shows the landlord you are integrated (i.e. have German friends), which is very important for them to feel they will be able to deal with you. Make a serious impression. Show them that cleanliness, order and calm and quiet in respect to your neighbors are valuable to you.
  • They don't like tenants who only plan to stay for a few months.
  • Some guarantee that they will get payed rent in the long run. (Point 2 is why income is more important than having saved money. In Germany, stability (German: Bodenständigkeit) generally matters a lot. Companies have a tough time firing people who are under a standard contract for legal reasons. Landlords also can't just simply throw out tenants because they feel like it. A landlord's greatest fear is to be stuck with a tenant after six months, that he can't get rid of and who doesn't have a stable income to require them to pay rent.

Looking for an apartment on the internet usually works, although in rural areas it can also pay off to check announcements in the local newspaper. A site to check out is wg-gesucht. It's mostly used by students and young people, and you'll find accordingly small/medium apartments and lots of flat-sharing possibilities. Nothing big, nothing fancy. For more expensive apartments and houses check out immobilienscout - although here they generally require a commission (German: Provision) of 2 monthly-rents in addition to the safety deposit (Kaution).

  • So it's actually some legal background behind it? Problems with kicking off a tenant just because the landlord want to have the appartment free? – user41 Mar 19 '14 at 9:21
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    Yes, it's some kind of right to a roof above your head; and if you're having financial troubles, the state doesn't want the landlord to just throw you out on the street. Or for example, if you have been living in an apartment for 2 years, the landlord can't just kick you out because they want their sister to move in. – Rafael Emshoff Mar 19 '14 at 9:28
  • So they are enforcing stability on the cost of mobility? Can one say so? – user41 Mar 19 '14 at 9:32
  • Definitely feels like it, yes : ) – Rafael Emshoff Mar 19 '14 at 10:41
  • Rafael: That is not entirely correct. If you cannot pay (i.e. you are behind by something like two monthly rents) the landlord can kick you out immediately (fristlose Kündigung wegen Mietrückstand). And if he wants his sister to move in, that works as well: Ordentliche Kündigung wegen Eigenbedarfs. – Jan Jun 13 '17 at 22:57
5

The situation will probably largely depend on your location. In large cities (such as Berlin or Munich) it will probably be more difficult to find a place than elsewhere. That said, it shouldn't be completely impossible to find at least a temporary accommodation on the internet. One will of course have to be careful to avoid all shady companies but that applies to anything on the internet. A simple Google search (using keywords "Wohnen auf Zeit" or "Zeitwohnen", possibly with the target city) should give plenty of possibilities, such as HomeCompany. Finally, your knowledge of German might also be an important factor in finding a flat since not everybody in Germany knows English well enough to use it in a business setting.

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