Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to find a place to live in Berlin

Renting a room in Berlin


I have been asked the flatshare question several times for the past month or so, so I figured the best way to do this would be to write the answer down as this might be useful to those about to undertake an apartment search in Berlin.

I decided back in November that I would like to extend my trip to Europe now that I don’t have a desk job anymore and can dispose of a one-year Shengen multi-visa.

Like in most other spheres, one has to do some research before taking action. Initially I only briefly looked at the prices for apartments and rooms and set my limit to 300 EUR per month for a room. Later I lowered that to 200 EUR monthly as everything around 300 EUR turned seemed to be overpriced compared to other offers.

Basically there are two ways to find a room in Berlin:

  • Internet
  • Friends and acquaintances

The latter would seem the easy way out and had I had an enormous amount of friends in Berlin, that would’ve been prone to work. However, having been 3 times in Germany and not once in its capital, I only had one friend in Berlin who I’d met in Russia several years prior to that at a youth parliament. She asked her friends here in Berlin if anything was available and at the time there was nothing, however later when I’d already found the place, she said something came up, so this option is definitely not to rule out. Also, she graciously offered me to spend several nights at their flatshare if I wouldn't find anything before starting the trip.

Internet is as always a source of both useful information and garbage, in the end I’ve found the following sites useful for my apartment search

Craigslist – I would say it’s tourist-oriented (or perhaps even American tourist-oriented). A lot of ads are in English, the prices are generally not low, it’s half vacation rentals and half flatshares. A lot of scams, but you can see them from miles away either in the actual ad or later when you receive a reply or replies and it’s obvious the sender hasn't read your message at all and suggests you pay via a money wire first and then they will send you the keys with UPS.

Couchsurfing – the devoted member that I am, I couldn’t not look there. Long-term stays and rentals are not what CS is about, but I’d say it’s not impossible to find something there, but you better personally contact somebody who you think might be willing to have you stay for some a couple of months than posting in groups.

WG gesucht would seem the be the most popular place to search. It has the most offers, also pretty user-friendly.

Immobilien Scout 24 is highly advertised on most flatshare sites, but I think it’s mostly apartments for one/couple/family, not WGs. Most are not furnished.

WG Company is where I found my flatshare. Extremely basic interface, but the lowest prices, no vacation rentals offers, not tourist-oriented for the most part. Obviously this is the one I’d recommend most.

In general it’s best for you to (also) be able to speak German, but it’s definitely not obligatory, some flatshares actually wish to speak English (mine, for instance), most young people speak English quite well and it’s not unusual to live in an apartment with people from Portugal, Italy, UK, Finland, etc.

I also have to tell you that I keep hearing that it was unusual to find an apartment via the web without having seen or talked to the person and I quite agree, but I was dead set on already having a place to stay upon my arrival, so I just ploughed my way in, I would say. In the course of two or two and a half weeks I sent out approximately 50 inquiries, about 40 of which never even earned me an answer. I did it the Couchsurfing way though, most of them anyway, it wasn’t just a copy-paste message to the entire planet, but it was a little bit personalized and aware of questions or remarks in the WG offer. You don’t have to bare your soul there or come off as pretentiously interested, but a personal touch will definitely receive more attention than a robotic message.

Apartments are divided into 3 categories, namely:

  • Zweck-WG / “flatshare with an aim”
  • “flatshare without an aim”
  • something in between

"Aim" means you all live together to save money and there’s a high chance that it’s the one thing you have in common. Having no aim means it’s either friends living together or people with similar interests who like to cook together, go out and share their lives with each other. Something in between is a mix both and it seems it’s what most flatshares are or become after having been the first option.

In the end I had two flatshares interested in me. I had a skype webcam interview with a group of people in a WG with a view on the TV tower who later chose somebody who wanted to stay for a longer period; and the one where I live right now. I ended up paying only 100EUR a month and yes, that includes all utilities and Internet. I was a bit baffled too, honestly. And they agreed to have me here after only two emails. That had me worried a little bit, because it just didn’t seem real and I even wanted to pre-book a cheap hotel for a couple of days, but it all worked out perfectly in the end. I live in Neukölln near the Ringbahn which means I can be in any other district of the city within minutes. Plus, there’s a direct bus to the central station (less than 30 minutes) and Schönenfeld Airport (less than 40 minutes) and several supermarkets within walking distance. Also, cappuccino starting at 1EUR in nearby bars/cafes. Plus, I quite enjoy my flatmates, on the one hand, they mind their own business, but on the other hand, we can chat and hang out together and all of it is very relaxed and stress-free. I’m quite delighted.

And before I forget:

This German life: the perfect WG

4 comments:

Rebecca Davis said...

Hi! My friend and I are taking a gap year in Berlin but are finding it incredibly hard to find a room to share. Would you perhaps have the contact details of this place you stayed for us to give a shot?!
Rebecca

shahadat hussain said...

Nice post. Find a roommate in everyone 1 click shows results on map dynamic filtering system room share extensive search criteria new rooms mailed to your inbox route plot for your house visit cnd much more... All for free!

janondrej said...

In general it’s best for you to (also) be able to speak German, but it’s definitely not obligatory, some flatshares actually wish to speak English (mine, for instance), most young people speak English quite well and it’s not unusual to live in an apartment with people from Portugal, Italy, UK, Finland, etc.

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