Finding a home in Germany can be a frustrating task. If you have never resided outside the United States, chances are you are in for a few interesting… lessons. So, to get you to a good start, here are some things to take into consideration when finding a home in Germany.
Type of homes
Freestanding houses, row houses, and buildings with three to four apartments, are the types of homes you most likely be encountering when looking for your next home. For the most part, most bedrooms tend to be small; there are no closets; the dining room and the living room are together; kitchens are small, and one and a half bathrooms are common. Also, if you are tall and considering an apartment on the top floors, be aware of slanted ceilings!
Not many homes have a designated garage. Most people just park on the streets. Before you sign a lease, you probably want to make sure the garage is included in the lease and is not at an extra cost. Most modern, and expensive, homes have adjacent garages built into them.
Many landlords do not speak English; however, this is changing with time. If your landlord does not speak your language, it is a good idea to find a friend or colleague that speaks the language to go with you to help you translate. It is important to understand all the information on the lease before signing up your future home. The help of a realtor might be a good idea, but it might cost you depending on the services they are providing. More on realtors later!
If you are a pet owner, or if you are planning on getting a pet while in Germany, make sure this is allowed on your lease. Many places allow pets, but others do not. Be sure to ask your landlord if pets are welcome and if there is an extra cost for them before you sign the lease. Also, look into pet insurance in case your pet gets in trouble.
Two months down deposit is the usual amount for a down deposit. If all is OK, when the time to move outcomes you should get this money back. One thing to remember, make sure that you are allowed to paint your rooms, and if you must paint them back to their original color upon departure. Some places might require you to repaint the rooms back to its original color. Also, be careful with paint damages to the floor! Good practice to take photos and video of the place before moving in.
Moving in Housing Allowance (MIHA)
If you are entitled to overseas housing allowance (OHA) then you are entitled to Moving-in Housing Allowance, the miscellaneous type (MIHA/Miscellaneous). MIHA is a supplemental pay to help offset your cost of moving into a home outside of the US. You can find more information here MIHA/Miscellaneous.
Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA)
The purpose of Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) is to help you to pay for expenses incurred when staying at homes or apartments out in the economy while you find a home. This must be approved beforehand by the housing office. Also, you will need a non-availability statement from the housing office in order to get pay for your TLA place.
There are also the usual utilities – heating (gas or oil), water, electricity, trash, and waste water. Sometimes these costs are included in the rent, but normally they are paid separately by the renter. Good to know: Reading meters and learning how to use a German heater come in handy. But, more on this later.
The rules for realtors have changed a lot lately. There was a time when the tenant had to pay a finder’s fee even when the help provided by them was next to nothing. This fee was usually a one month’s rent! However, the law has changed; now the landlord is the one that must pay for the “finder’s fee.” Be aware that sometimes you do want to hire a realtor to find you that specific perfect place you are looking for. When this is the case, the realtor is performing a job for you and you must pay the realtor. Make sure you are aware of this law and talk clearly with the realtor before doing any business with them.
Telephone and Internet Services
Believe it or not, many homes in the market do not have access to fast Internet connections. If The Internet is important to you, and probably it is, make sure the home you are moving in is capable of delivering high-speed Internet service. You can check if the address of the home you want has fast Internet by checking an Internet service provider like ETS in Landstuhl.
Homes in Germany are not as big as in the US. Many families opt to leave some or all of their furniture in storage when coming to Germany. The furniture options here in Germany might be limited depending on what you are looking for, for example, mattresses. If you decide to leave your old mattresses in the US, or the mattresses are too old for a PCS move, be aware you will have limited choices of mattresses when arriving in Germany.
Germany takes recycling seriously, and you will be required to recycle as well. Paper, glass, plastic, bio waste, and regular trash all belong in their separate containers. If you do not recycle you might find yourself with no space on your regular trash container, it is highly recommended that you do get into the habit of recycling. If you don’t, you will end up paying more for trash pickup than you have to. Besides, it is a good thing to recycle! You can read more about recycling here: A few tips about recycling in Germany.
These are just a few things to keep in mind when finding a home in Germany. Obviously, there are a lot more things to worry about when finding a home in Germany, but being aware of some of these things might help you a lot in the future. Happy hunting!