Germans are adverse to debt and the idea of owning a home is ludicrous to over 80% of the population in Berlin. With life-long renters a society norm, the length of tenancy is very different to what you may be accustomed. It is not unusual for a property to be rented by the same person/s for 8 – 10 years, in fact most Germans will only live in 2 or 3 houses throughout their lifetime. As a result of this attitude towards housing, the rental market in Berlin may seem unusual to outsiders. For example, homes or apartments are generally rented with a bare kitchen, except for a cheap oven and a stand-alone sink. Germans like to own their own kitchen cupboards and appliances and will generally take it with them when they move.
Because the rental market is so competitive, purchasing may appear to be a lucrative investment. You need to realise, though, that within this liquid market you are faced with high sales taxes and fees and a marketplace where a quick flip-over or sell is unlikely. Therefore, a purchase in Berlin should realistically be a long-term investment. For most expats, renting is the best option.
The choice of apartments in Berlin, both modern and older style, is bountiful, but so are the number of people seeking accommodation. Group showings of up to 20 people are not uncommon, even when you arrange an appointment directly with the agent.
The rental system in Berlin favours the tenant, so when applying for a property the process is in-depth and can seem a little arduous, sometimes even taking up to 3 weeks. This is to ensure that the landlord is making the right decision and protecting him/herself. Don’t feel put out if they ask you for a translated employment contract and a copy of your visa, in addition to the standard credit check. This is all very common.
When you are offered an apartment, you are required to pay a bond or security deposit. This is likely to be up to three-months cold rent (this is the rent you pay excluding outgoings); many landlords will allow this to be paid over a three-month period to lessen the load on the tenant.
Rental prices in Berlin are reasonably static and exceptionally affordable though in some of the more desirable areas the rents have been gradually increasing to meet the demands.