Renting in Germany: a guide for home-seeking expats (2023)

Understand your rights as a tenant with this guide to the German rental market, including tips on where to look for houses and apartments for rent in Germany.

Moving to a new country can be a challenging experience, especially when finding the right place to live. In this guide, we take a look at how the renting process works in Germany.

  • Do many people rent in Germany?
  • Should you rent or buy?
  • Finding a property to rent in Germany
  • Property portals in Germany
    • Finding temporary housing and furnished apartments
  • Descriptions of properties to rent in Germany
  • Applying for a property to rent in Germany
  • German tenancy agreements
  • Cost of renting a home in Germany
  • Deposits and utilities in Germany
  • Moving in and out
  • Tenant’s rights in Germany

Hypofriend

Buying a home in Germany? The certified German mortgage broker Hypofriend can help. They combine advanced algorithms to tailor the right mortgage product to your personal circumstances. Unlike most comparison websites, they do not solely focus on the cheapest product, but on the product that is right for you, ensuring long-term financial security.

Do many people rent in Germany?

While most countries swing strongly in favor of either renting or buying your home, the options are balanced in Germany; just under half the population renting their accommodation. More than half of the population live in apartments, making detached family houses somewhat harder to find, particularly in urban areas.

Renting in Germany: a guide for home-seeking expats (2)

Living in Munichcan be expensive; the city has the highest rents. A 2017 study by the Hans Bockler Foundation found that Bonn was the city where renters spent the largest proportion of their salaries on housing costs, at 30.3%.

(Video) Watch THIS Before Starting Your Apartment Hunt In Germany

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Should you rent or buy?

House prices and rents have risen dramatically in Germany in the last decade. That trend shows no sign of abating. In 2017, rents on new contracts rose by 4.5%, slightly down on the 4.9% recorded in 2016.

There are no restrictions for expats looking to purchase a property, making it an attractive investment for many expats planning on staying three years or more – i.e. long enough to outweigh the purchase costs. Find out more in Expatica’s guide to buying a home in Germany.

Data from Statista based on the last quarter of 2017 shows that Munich, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Ingolstadt, Freiburg, Berlin, and Hamburg were the German cities with the highest rental costs per square meter.

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Finding a property to rent in Germany

You don’t usually have to pay estate agent (Makler) fees when searching an apartment to rent in Germany, as these are the burden of the person letting out the flat.

If you want to pay an agent to help you find a home, this can alleviate some of the pressure of searching for a property yourself – but at a price.

Property portals in Germany

As in many countries, online property portals are an increasingly popular way to find homes in Germany. Many of these sites are only available in German, however, these can often be translated using Google. Some of the most popular housing portals in Germany include:

If you’re looking for a bargain, a flatshare (Wohngemeinschaft) is usually cheaper than living alone.

(Video) Renting in Germany: A Kazakh Expat's Unique Tips & Insights | Meet Alexander

Finding temporary housing and furnished apartments

Flatsharesare often informal. Flatseekers can find them through flat-sharing websites as well as forums and message boards. If you’re considering an informal flatshare, it’s important to remember that without a contract, you’ll find it harder to invoke your rights as a tenant.

Sub-letting is legal in Germany and can be an option for temporary accommodation.

Good places to find sublets are usually among your network of friends and acquaintances and on the internal message boards of large organizations. Several online portalsallow you to search for furnished apartments and flatshares.

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Descriptions of properties to rent in Germany

Properties advertised in Germany usually state their size in square meters of living space (Wohnfläche), as well as indicating the number of bedrooms (Schlafzimmer) and bathrooms (Badezimmer). In addition, some sites list the total number of rooms (which typically doesn’t include bathrooms), the energy rating, and the year of construction.

Many German properties are let unfurnished, often without curtains, light fittings, and kitchen appliances.

Renting in Germany: a guide for home-seeking expats (3)

Apartments may be in divided former family homes, such as farms or townhouses, but purpose-built apartment blocks and tower blocks are also common. A split townhouse may be called a Mehrfamilienhaus, while Appartementhauser or Wohnblock is more common for purpose-built apartments, although the terms are somewhat interchangeable.

A Wohnsilo is a somewhat derogatory term for a tower block. These are apartment buildings with dozens or hundreds of units spread over eight or more floors.

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(Video) How I Found Apartment In Germany | #accomodation #germany

Applying for a property to rent in Germany

The Germany property market is competitive, so it’s important to get all your documentation in order. You should expect to submit:

  • An application form, usually handed out at the viewing;
  • Copies of your photo ID and residence permit (if you require one);
  • Proof of income (Einkommensnachweis), typically wage slips for the last three months;
  • A certificate from your previous landlord indicating you have no outstanding rent due (Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung);
  • Your credit report (you can order this online through Schufa).

If you don’t have one of these documents, indicate the reasons for this on your application.

You may be able to increase your chances of success in a competitive market by including a letter from your employer (in lieu of proof of income) or asking a friend or relative to act as a guarantor (if you have no reliable income, e.g., as a student).

German tenancy agreements

Minimum tenancies can be lengthy in Germany. It’s not uncommon for a landlord to request an initial lease period of two years.

Make sure the lease agreement includes all the relevant details. You should understand the conditions for breaking the agreement before the end of the initial contract period.

Most tenancies are unlimited. This means that once the tenancy has begun, the landlord can only end it by evicting the tenant through the courts or giving at least three months’ notice. The tenant can contest this notice. It is usually only possible where the landlord has a good reason for the notice. Likewise, rent increases require justification, unless they follow a course in the tenancy agreement.

Limited contracts exist where the landlord has a good reason for being unable to continue renting the property after a certain period, such as a need to use it themselves or planning to sell. Extensions or renewals are rare.

In both cases, the tenant can give notice according to their contract. A three-month notice period is typical after the initial contract period.

Cost of renting a home in Germany

How much you’ll get for your money varies significantly depending on where you’re living in Germany, and in each city, you can easily double or triple the estimated minimums by looking for a central location or a larger, family property.

Rooms are typically on the smaller side, with two-bedroom apartments under 65 square meters being common.

Renting in Germany: a guide for home-seeking expats (4)

Average rents in Germany are typically described as a cost per square meter.

(Video) House Hunting in Germany: The Highs and Lows (Expat Tips!)

According to the Federal Institute for Building, Urban and Spatial Research, the apartments in Germany are rented out for an average of €8 a square meter, with prices ranging from around €4 per square meter (Wunsiedel/Vogtlandkreis) to €10 (Berlin) to €16 (Munich).

Thanks to heavy international investment plus an economy that weathered the financial crisis relatively well, Germany’s properties are in demand. Rents are rising across the board. As legislation restricts rental increases for existing tenants, prices are often increased dramatically when a new lease is arranged.

This means that even if you take over a lease from a friend or rent an identical unit in the same building, the rent for the new lease may be much higher. In 2015, rent control laws (Mietpreisbremse)were introduced, but a report by the German Institute for Economic Research in 2018 found that they had only had an effect on a tiny proportion of tenants.

Deposits and utilities in Germany

A deposit (Kaution) is common, generally equal to three months’ rent. It should not be more than this amount, and must be deposited in a special savings account.

Utility costs are not typically part of the rent, however. This should be laid out in the tenancy agreement. The property is typically described as Kaltmiete, literally the ‘cold rent’, i.e. without heating or utilities. A Warmmiete will include heating and possibly the other costs (Nebenkosten) such as management fees and other utilities.

Moving in and out

An inventory and inspection should be completed when you move in and out, accurately describing the contents of the property and the condition. Tenants are typically allowed to decorate, including painting walls. However, tenants must return the property to a neutral state (usually white walls) and remove any added items (such as carpets or curtains) before moving out.

When moving in or out, it might be worth enlisting the help of a relocation company. If you’re making a small move or need help with cleaning, online platforms such as TaskRabbit can offer you some assistance.

Tenant’s rights in Germany

Germany law is broadly in favor of the tenant. If you have any concerns, you can contact the national tenants’ association, the Deutscher Mieterbund (German only), or find your local tenants’ association (German only) called a Mieterverbände.

A landlord has the right to evict a tenant for not paying their rent after two months. However, the eviction process is slow, taking more than six months in some cases.

Dramatically increasing rents in popular urban areas mean that some landlords and developers have a strong interest in changing tenants so they can then increase the rent. This led to some unscrupulous tactics, including failure to properly maintain the building. Legal methods are also possible, including paying tenants to leave.

Some cities, including Berlin, have strict limits on the amount that rent can be increased over a given period so if you find yourself facing a sudden rent increase after you’ve already signed a tenancy agreement, it’s important to seek advice. Generally, rental increases should happen at most once per year and up to a maximum of 20% over three years.

(Video) Our Tips for Searching for an Apartment in Germany | Easy German 367

FAQs

Can a foreigner rent a house in Germany? ›

You'll need the following required documents for renting in Germany as a foreigner: Your ID or passport. A Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung—a document to prove you don't owe previous landlords money. Your potential landlord might not ask for this but it's best to have it if possible.

How to rent an apartment in Germany without Schufa? ›

If the letting agent doesn't mention being able to offer accommodation without a SCHUFA, just ask them. Even if they don't advertise the fact, many are able to provide leases with especially if you're ready to pay the rent several months in advance.

How much is house rent in Germany per month? ›

In general, the average monthly expenses in Germany can add up to €1,698 for a single person or €3,561 for a family of 4. However, these averages can vary depending on where you live, as rental prices are higher in cities popular among expats. For instance, the average rent in Germany is €800 per month.

How to find a flat for rent in Germany? ›

There are various websites you can search, immobilienscout24.de, immowelt.de and deutsche-wohnen.com being some of the more popular ones. Also keep an eye on social media sites as people often post rooms or apartments to rent there.

How much does it cost to live in Germany with rent? ›

The average cost of living in Germany in 2023

As a basic estimate, you can expect your total costs to be between €1200 – €3000 per month as an individual living in Germany. At the cheaper end of this range, you would likely be living in a flatshare outside of the city centre.

What do I need to rent in Germany? ›

What documents do I need to rent a flat in Germany?
  1. A copy of your ID or passport. ...
  2. Salary confirmation or bank statements. ...
  3. Credit record documentation (Schufa record) ...
  4. A guarantor. ...
  5. Renting through an estate agent. ...
  6. Available online property portals. ...
  7. Renting through word of mouth.

What is SCHUFA in Germany? ›

Schufa is a credit rating agency in Germany. They give a credit score to German residents. If you have a good Schufa score, it's easier to find an apartment or get a loan.

Can a foreigner get a SCHUFA? ›

For foreigners, the issuance of a SCHUFA report is usually only possible if you have already lived in Germany for some time and have a German bank account. If this is the case, you will need some other proof of your financial reliability.

Are bills included in rent in Germany? ›

Utilities are calculated apart from the rent in Germany

Usually, the first price you see for an apartment is the cold rent. However, this is not the final price you will end up paying, as you still need to add utilities (Nebenkosten) for water, heating, garbage pick-up, sometimes TV cable, etc., to the rental price.

Is it better to live in Germany or USA? ›

When taking into consideration the cost of living in Germany vs. the U.S., Germany really comes out on top. And not just in comparison to the US. Germany's cost of living remains lower than many other countries at a similar development level.

Is Germany cheaper than USA? ›

Living costs

Germany is generally cheaper than the USA. However, living in big cities, such as Munich and Hamburg, can be expensive. In general, you'll need around €850 per month to cover your expenses in Germany. This amount includes groceries, health insurance, rent, and other related costs.

How much salary is enough to live in Germany? ›

According to Statista, in 2021, the average gross annual salary in Germany was 47.700 euros a year, or 3.975 euros a month. The numbers above are for all of Germany. However, the average gross salary will depend greatly on your location, professional experience, education, size of the company, and gender.

Which German village has the cheapest rent? ›

It's a tranquil place of idyllic courtyards and walls adorned with overgrown vines built on a 500-year-old agreement: Inhabitants of the Fuggerei neighbourhood pay no more than € 0,88 in rent each year – that's about US$1. Yes, you read that correctly. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips?

Can I rent in Germany without a job? ›

Can I get an apartment without a job? There's no legal reason why you can't get a flat without a job. However, landlords will certainly want to check that you're able to pay the rent for the duration of the lease. As such, if you don't have a job yet, you might need to offer additional proof in order to rent.

Which city in Germany has cheapest rent? ›

The City of Halle

Halle is one of the cheapest cities to live in Germany. It is a city in eastern Germany, located in the state of Saxony-Anhalt. It has a population of about 238,000 people and is known for its university, historic buildings, and cultural events. Halle offers affordable housing options.

Is Health Care Free in Germany? ›

In Germany, healthcare is partially free due to the social contributions to the public healthcare system. This means that individuals can receive medical services free of charge for the most part. However, some low copayments apply, such as the €10 charge for a visit to the general practitioner (GP) every quarter.

What is the cost of living in Germany for expats? ›

The cost of living: average values for Germany in 2022

According to Destatis, it adds up to €2,507 a month, with 37% of this going towards housing and energy costs and 15% on food, alcohol, and tobacco (as of September 2022). If you calculate this on an annual basis, the average cost of living in Germany is €30,084.

How can I move to Germany without a job? ›

Germany Job Seeker Visa in 2023: Move to Germany Without Job Offer. To Apply for a Germany Job Seeker Visa in 2023, you do not need a Job. The Germany Job Seeker Visa is a type of Work Visa that is issued by the Germany Government to anyone who can come to Germany and then Find a Job.

What does cold rent mean in Germany? ›

Cold rent means that you pay basic rent for the residence and there are no extra costs included in your monthly payment. Warm rent means that your monthly payment includes the basic rent for the residence and additional costs – called Umlagen or Nebenkosten.

What do I need to live in Germany for a year? ›

A residence visa is required if you intend to stay in Germany for more than 90 days for work or study or if you intend to move to Germany permanently.

What is proof of income in Germany? ›

You will need an official document called a "Finanzierungsnachweis", which is written proof of your financial income. This must be given when you, as a prospective student, apply for an entry visa to Germany. The latest time you can do this is when you apply for a residence permit.

What is the average credit score in Germany? ›

Standard & Poor's credit rating for Germany stands at AAA with stable outlook.

Does credit score matter in Germany? ›

Typically, a credit score is only applicable within its respective country. If you decide to move to another country, you'll likely need to build a new credit score. Your credit score in the U.S., for example, probably won't affect your score when establishing credit in Germany.

What is a good credit score in Germany? ›

You should strive to maintain a SCHUFA score of 97 % or better. This way you will not run into problems with the bank or landlords in the future. Generally, a SCHUFA score above 90 is considered to be a good one.

Can I get SCHUFA before moving to Germany? ›

Your Schufa is automatically created as soon as you register your address upon moving to Germany. Your previous credit score from wherever you moved from does not influence your Schufa in Germany, and you can't use your American credit score, for example, to apply for a loan—no matter how good it may be.

Can I get a SCHUFA without a German bank account? ›

Apply in Person at a Bank

It does not matter if you do not have a bank account with these particular banks, they will still be able to process your SCHUFA for you. To get your SCHUFA done quickly, you can go to any of these Berlin Postbanks or Volksbanks. Bring all of the aforementioned documents with you.

Can a foreigner open an account in Germany? ›

To open a bank account, you usually require the following documents: a valid passport, a residence permit, a certificate of registration, and a wage statement (depending on the type of account).

Do you have to pay for water in Germany? ›

As with all utilities in Germany, water is more expensive than the US, and you can expect to pay four times more than you would in the US. Potable water is usually metered and you can expect to pay around 1.60 Euro per cubic meter (1000 Liters).

What is the average gas bill in Germany? ›

Energy prices portal Check24 said the average gas price in October for a typical household consuming 20,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) stood at 3,726 euros ($3,702.15).

How much is a bottle of water in Germany? ›

A 0.33-liter bottle of water costs 1.77 euros and a soda costs 2.17 euros. You can give yourself the commodity to eat out from time to time, but there are better options if you are concerned about your finances.

Are taxes higher in Germany or USA? ›

Are US taxes higher than in Europe? As for who pays more in taxes, it depends on a particular country. The US has higher rates compared to Eastern European countries (Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary), but lower rates in contrast with Western European states (France, Germany, Denmark, and the UK).

Is Germany a good place for Americans to retire? ›

The cost of living in Germany for seniors

Compared to North America, Germany is certainly affordable. Your retirement pot may go further than in the US, yet not as far as in some of the cheapest countries in the world for expats. It's possible to live comfortably on $1,500 to $2,000 a month (housing included).

What is the downside of living in Germany? ›

Cons of Living in Germany:

High taxation. No air conditioning. Wet and cold weather, especially during winter. Language barrier.

What are the pros and cons of living in Germany? ›

Some of the benefits of living in Germany include a strong economy, good healthcare system, and diverse culture. However, some drawbacks of living in Germany include high cost of living, complex bureaucracy, and chilly weather.

What is the cheapest city in Germany to fly into from the US? ›

The cheapest airport in Germany is Dusseldorf International – we've found flights from $341.

How much do Germans spend on groceries a month? ›

Groceries in Germany

Germans generally spend 15% of their income on food, beverages, and tobacco. On average, a single-person household spends €200 per month on groceries; a couple will spend around €365, while a family of four spends around €520.

What is the average price of a house in Germany? ›

The average sales price of single-family and duplex homes in the biggest cities in Germany varied between approximately 5,000 euros and 11,000 euros per square meter in the third quarter of 2022.

What is the middle class income in Germany? ›

Reading note for Panel B: A single person in Germany with an annual disposable income between USD 23 000 and USD 30 000 is considered to be part of the lower middle-income group; a person with a disposable income between USD 46 000 and USD 61 000 is part of the upper middle-income group.

What is the average income in Germany in US dollars? ›

Average income around the world
RankCountryAvg. income per year
15Finland53,510 $
16Austria52,760 $
17Germany51,660 $
18Belgium50,490 $
64 more rows

Which is the most English speaking city in Germany? ›

These are the German cities with best English skills. If you're an international looking to move to Germany, you'll want to find a city where English is spoken a lot. Which cities are these in Germany? A study shows: The German cities with best English are Karlsruhe, Munich, Dresden, Bremen and Düsseldorf.

Why do Germans rent instead of buy? ›

The need for housing after WW2 in Germany

This meant that rents remained cheap for a long time, and so most people were happy to stay in rented accommodation. This government-built, high-quality supply of social housing laid the foundations for Germany's preference for renting over buying.

Can you get a job in Germany without speaking German? ›

In short: yes, there are English-speaking jobs in Germany.

Foreigners who look for jobs in tech startups or digital departments have a higher chance of finding work in Germany without speaking German.

Can I live in Germany without address? ›

Registering your address in Germany is mandatory.

By law, everyone staying longer than three months in Germany must register their address (anmelden) within 14 days of moving into a new apartment. Not registering your address within 14 days can result in a fine of up to €1,000.

Can an American rent an apartment in Berlin? ›

Typically, you will need the following documents to rent in Berlin: A signed rental application form, provided by the landlord or downloaded online. A copy of your passport and residence permit (if applicable). Proof of income for the last 3 months or an employment contract if it's a new job.

Is it cheaper to live in Germany or France? ›

Deciding where to move to will depend completely on your preference when assessing the above information. France is a great location to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle, and being 10% cheaper than Germany, may be a better choice financially for retirees.

Can I live in Germany without a residence permit? ›

A residence visa is required if you intend to stay in Germany for more than 90 days for work or study or if you intend to move to Germany permanently.

Does buying a house in Germany qualify you for a residency visa? ›

Technically, you cannot get German citizenship or permanent residency simply by investing in real estate. However, if you can live in Germany relying solely on your own funds, then you may be granted a temporary residence permit if you purchase real estate.

Can I rent an apartment in Germany without a job? ›

Can I get an apartment without a job? There's no legal reason why you can't get a flat without a job. However, landlords will certainly want to check that you're able to pay the rent for the duration of the lease. As such, if you don't have a job yet, you might need to offer additional proof in order to rent.

What is the difference between cold rent and warm rent in Germany? ›

Cold rent means that you pay basic rent for the residence and there are no extra costs included in your monthly payment. Warm rent means that your monthly payment includes the basic rent for the residence and additional costs – called Umlagen or Nebenkosten.

Can you rent in Germany without a visa? ›

If you intend to stay in Germany for more than 90 days or to work there and you do not also hold an EU citizenship, you need a visa or residence permit. You can either: apply for a visa before you travel, or.

Why is rent so cheap in Germany? ›

Why is renting cheap in Germany? Well, even though the country's policies might have been slightly more balanced than in other countries, its rental market is still robustly regulated, and the regulations are quite favorable to renters.

How long can I stay in Germany as a US citizen? ›

A Schengen visa is required if you intend to stay in the Schengen area for up to 90 days within a 180 day period for business, visitor or tourist purposes.

How hard is it to move to Germany from the US? ›

It is not difficult to move to Germany from the US if you have a valid reason, such as a job offer, a letter of acceptance from a German university, or wishing to join your partner. However, generally speaking, everyone outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland needs a solid reason to receive a German residence permit.

Can I move to Germany with no job? ›

Moving to Germany as an EU Citizen

As long as you can find a place to live, you can simply pack up and go! You can work in any profession you want, and technically, you don't even need a work offer or contract.

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