How I found my apartment in Germany (including signing my tenancy and landlord agreement) before arriving in Germany

One of the big hurdles when moving overseas is finding a place to live.  You need to think about your temporary accommodation – its budget, its proximity to necessary locations, its contract stipulations in regards to stay.  You need to get a bank account and other identity documents – including figuring out whether or not you can use your temporary housing to arrange this.  For those that need to look for work, you also need to find work while juggling the fact that you don’t have a permanent place to stay, you don’t have a bank account (yet) and you are waiting for official identity documents.  And to top it off, the fact that you don’t have these things, in turn,  your ability to get housing – since landlords typically will want some identity documentation and so on.

Don’t fret though, because it’s not as bad as it seem.  You can talk to the bank or to the real estate agent to find if there are any loopholes or flexibility in meeting their requirements.  I’ve found that a lot of the discussions online, even the official text on a website, does not necessarily reflect the reality.  I’ve talk to bank managers on other types of documentation that I can provide.  I’ve talked to customer support to see if they can accept other types of documentation since I don’t have the document that they need.

Because of this, I developed an impression that 1) it’s difficult to find a place in Germany and 2) you need to find a place after arriving.  But these impressions have been proven false because not only have I found a place in Germany, but I’ve been able to do all the paperwork before arriving!

It is possible for you to find online sites and startups that will not only show apartment listings, but will show photos/videos of the apartment, will allow you to book online AND will also serve as a conduit between yourself and the real estate agency/landlord.  This is important and very convenient when you are finding your way around the non-English speaking world – I’ve found that even with Google Translate enabled, certain site functions don’t work and it starts to get exhausting constantly translating information to and from.  Not only that, but I was looking for decently priced and high quality housing for up to 12 months, which strikes out those digital nomad oriented ‘coliving’ types of websites.  Even then, I still persevered and found my awesome apartment here in Berlin.

I believe that being able to obtain the information that you need, in as real-time and real quality as possible – is an important asset for e-commerce websites.  The information that I’ve obtained is as real as it can get and I trust the legitimacy of these sites (after looking at the reviews, the profiles, the company information and so on) enough to finalize all paperwork without being there in person.  Not only that, I found that websites with no dedicated localization (and therefore, I need to rely on Google Translate), are not that trustworthy for me.  If there is a feature that can’t be translated or it’s rendered useless because of translation then it makes for a bad user experience.  So, if you’re going to localize your site then at least do it properly.

Anyway, back to apartment hunting in Berlin.  The types of documentation that you may need to produce (other than identification) may include evidence of salary or a guarantor letter if you are a student.  You will also need to state your study / work and your purpose of visit.  With work, it is helpful to state your job title and whether or not you are a freelancer.  I’ve also sent my correspondence in German (with the help of Google Translate!) as it was a bit awkward switching to English only.

Once you get the keys and move in and it’s all good, arrange an appointment to have your residence registered at the Bürgeramt.  Originally, I was going to go there the day before I move in, but decided to cancel as this would have been a fruitless exercise.

With your residence registration, you will need the signed lease agreement and also an additional form called the Wohnungsgeberbestätigung signed by the landlord – this confirms that you have actually moved in and you’re residing there now.   The reason for both is that you can have a signed lease agreement, but you also have a certain amount of time to be able to inspect the property and give your final wishes/concerns to the landlord about the property.

Part of the official statement: Notification must declare a residence confirmation so that they can comply with their statutory reporting obligations within two weeks after the move.  In the case of the registration of the new residence, this confirmation of residence must be submitted to the reporting authority (the Lease is not sufficient)

After moving in, make sure to take a number of photos of the property.

You may also need to do an Übergabeprotokoll which is a sheet which shows damages in advance.

Anyway, I just thought to publish this entry hopefully as motivation for those that are stuck in the housing rut while preparing to move overseas!