The prospect of finding an apartment can seem daunting, especially if you’re coming from outside of Germany. On this page, we will give you a run-down of key information and tips you’ll need for securing accommodation in Berlin. The market is competitive, so be sure to start early!
We also urge you: be cautious! Do not agree to something too soon, make large payments without having received the key or contract, and do not sign anything without reading and understanding the whole document first. You can never be too safe, and if it sounds way too good to be true, it probably is.
Where in Berlin should I live?
The Hertie School is located in the centre of Berlin in the Mitte district. Berlin is a big city with twelve districts and many smaller areas or “Kieze” within these districts.
If you want to live really close to the school, try to concentrate your search on central areas such as Mitte, Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, Prenzlauer Berg, Neukölln, Charlottenburg or Schöneberg. However, you also should not be afraid of moving to one of the less central districts as Berlin has a very well-connected and (mostly) reliable public transportation network and you can get to the Hertie School from almost everywhere within 1 hour travel time maximum. You can check travel times and routes for journeys using public transportation.
Especially as an international student, it may be easiest to book short-term accommodation initially and then look for something long-term once you have arrived in Berlin. Going for viewings spontaneously and even visiting a place multiple times is easier when you’re here in person.
You could take a look at the following options:
- Hostels - see, for example, www.hostelworld.com for numerous hostel listings with user reviews
- Furnished flat agencies - www.uniplaces.com ; www.thestudenthotel.com ; www.visionapartments.com ; www.crocodilian.de ; www.lieblingsmieter.de ; www.white-apartments.com ; www.siliconallee.com ; www.nena-apartments.de ; www.ota-berlin.de ; www.belvillage.com ; www.schoenhouse.de ; www.smartments-business.de ; www.vondereurope.com ; www.berlin99.com
- Private short-term rentals - www.wefindflats.com ; www.nestpick.com ; www.housinganywhere.com ; www.exberlinerflatrentals.com ; www.coming-home.com ; www.tempoflat.de
There are different options depending on your requirements:
- Student dormitories – Usually affordable and functional. The rent upfront typically includes cleaning and maintenance costs. Overall, it’s a great option if international, dormitory-style living with students from other Berlin universities is what you’re looking for. StudierendenWERK, House of Nations and Berlinovo are some examples.
- Modern alternatives to student dorms – Some private housing providers like the The Social Hub, the Urban Club and Neon Wood offer an alternative to traditional student dorms. They can act as a combination of student accommodation, long-term rentals, hotel rooms and communal/co-working spaces. Their modern concepts for student accommodation and sleek designs can be very attractive but also pricier than regular student dorms.
- Furnished/unfurnished room in a shared flat (“WG”) – A Wohngemeinschaft or WG is a shared apartment. Sometimes students on a year-long exchange or working professionals going for a project abroad will sublet their rooms and post openings on housing search websites and social media groups. By subletting a room, you also save on having to furnish the apartment yourself.
You can also create a WG of your own if you’re looking for a place with other people. You can apply for empty apartments that you can then furnish with the people you’re moving in with. This could be nice if you wish to stay put in the same apartment during your studies and even after graduating. This typically would involve a long-term contract and consequently more effort on your part, but it would also mean not having to think about moving every year. Do note that renting furnished flats can be much more expensive than renting an unfurnished one.
You could try searching Wg-gesucht, craigslist, immowelt, immobilienscout24, ebay-kleinanzeigen or uniplaces.
Once you get to Berlin it can also be worthwhile looking in local newspapers like Berliner Morgenpost, Berliner Zeitung (Wednesdays and Saturdays) and Tagesspiegel (Saturdays). Zitty and Tip are local culture magazines which also have some listings for accommodation.
- Studio apartment (furnished/unfurnished) – If you’d rather have your own space altogether, studio apartments are the way to go. These tend to be a little more expensive since you’d be bearing all the costs. But if your budget allows, renting a studio may be a good option. As with furnished WGs, renting pre-furnished studio apartments will be more expensive, but you would save the trouble of furnishing it yourself.
Possible places to search include: https://www.thelocal.de/rentals?city=berlin (an English search version of Immobilienscout); https:///www.immobilienscout24.de — German only; https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de — German only classifieds; https://www.lieblingsmieter.de; https://www.wohnungsboerse.net; https://www.woloho.com — weekly mailing list of local listings
Hertie-specific housing markets
After you enrol at the Hertie School, these two closed groups for our community are great resources:
- Hertie Housing and Marketplace – A Facebook group especially designed for Hertie students to find housing and buy and sell furniture. It’s safe and effective. Look for shorter sublets and send the owners messages once you find something that fits you.
- Hertie School Connect – Our internal networking platform, where members of the Hertie School community post both professional opportunities and housing availabilities!
What documents do I need to secure an apartment?
Finding a free apartment is half the battle won. To prove you can legally rent a place, landlords in Germany typically want to see the documents below. It’s good to keep them handy so you can proceed with any potential offers without delay. Note, though, that depending on the type of housing, not every document may be necessary (especially for short-term or student housing).
- SCHUFA-Auskunft (credit check) – SCHUFA is a German organization that provides official credit checks. Many rental agencies and landlords will ask you to provide one, especially if it’s for a long-term contract. You can easily apply for one on this website. Some short-term and student-focused places don’t require a SCHUFA, however.
- Einkommensnachweise (proof of income) – Most rental agencies and landlords will require proof that you have stable, regular income, e.g. your last three paychecks, a confirmation of scholarships payments, etc.
- Bürgschaft (guarantor) – If you don’t earn enough money yourself, you can ask someone to be your guarantor and promise to pay your rent if you do not. They would sign an official document and provide an ID to ensure this (you can find templates online or get a form from the landlord or housing agency).
- Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung – Confirmation from your former landlord that you are not in arrears.
- Ausweis (photo identification) – Your passport or a national identification card.
For your search
These tips might help you get replies from landlords and make the process more rewarding:
- Begin your search for a long-term spot after you’re in Berlin – This is a sure-shot way of knowing what you’re getting into. In-person viewings and meetings with potential landlords and flatmates will increase your chances.
- Have a message template so you can send requests quickly – Time is of the essence here. Keep search engine filters and notifications on and your message template for landlords ready. As soon as an apartment pops up, make sure to personalise it a bit and hit send!
- Take your time drafting the first message – The only way for potential landlords to get a good idea of who you are is through your first message. Be sure to include not only the professional side of your life but also the more personal aspects. What are your hobbies? How do you spend your free time? When can you move in? It need not be too long; just an elevator pitch is fine.
- Include a social media handle – It can help to let people know that you’re a real person. Including social media handles may increase your chances of getting replies.
- Read the full ad – Often people see photos of a place and send a message without reading the description. Not only can you miss important information this way, but also sometimes people include code words at the bottom for you to use in your message so that they know if you really read the ad or are just sending messages to everyone. Also, it’s generally a good idea to read everything before applying, just so you know what you’re getting into.
- The accommodation should allow for an Anmeldung (city registration). You want this in order to have a registered address in Berlin and to be able to proceed with other bureaucratic processes in Berlin (e.g. opening a bank account, applying for your residence permit if you need one).
- Make the apartment hunt your priority – Be persistent and devote at least two weeks, if not a month, to finding an apartment. Also, be flexible with meeting times and places.
- Don’t forget to follow up – The competition is high! Each landlord gets many messages. Don’t get lost in the crowd, and follow up periodically (not excessively) with places that you really like. This will keep you on top of an inbox and show that you’re interested.
- Keep all necessary documents handy – Having all documents on hand and not spending too much time scrambling for them will help you be quick and flexible when the right place comes around.
- Find groups and connect with people – Sometimes you can skip messaging the landlord if you know the previous tenant who can put in a good word for you. This saves time and energy for everyone involved. Social media groups can be great for this.
Once you’ve received an offer…
- Watch out for step-up leases – Sometimes landlords include a step-up lease in their contract, meaning your rent would increase regularly over a period of time or per year. Take note of this when you’re going through the contract.
- If you’re looking to rent an entire apartment together with other students and create your own WG, be aware that one or more of you will probably be asked to function as the main tenant or Hauptmieter. The Hauptmieter pays the entirety of the rent to the landlord and is therefore also liable for the other flat mate(s). Therefore, just pay extra attention and think over who will be the main tenant.
Navigating German terminology
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides a useful list of housing-specific German terms here.
In Germany, renters have many legal protections. Should you face problems with your apartment or have disputes with a landlord, roommate, or neighbour that require legal mediation, you may want to join one of Berlin's renters' associations.
For a small annual fee, members of the renters' association can speak with lawyers who can review rental contracts, provide counsel on rental disputes, and legal advice.
A few other organizations in Berlin provide free counsel for renters in Berlin
Mieterservice at ASUM
Multiple locations in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg
Tel: 030 293 431
DE - Free
DE - Free
OH: Tuesday, 18 – 19 Uhr
No appointment needed, just come by (early)
Finding accommodation in Berlin
When it comes to finding accomodation in Berlin, it's very important to start your search early.