Last Updated on April 13, 2021 by A. Scott, BSDH
After you land a a job overseas, the next step is finding a place to live.
In parts of Europe, such as Germany, having a permanent address near to your place of work is a requirement for your residency permit. So, considering how crucial it is to find property abroad, how can we make sure that we get it right?
Read our guide and learn how to rent the perfect property in Germany.
Residency Permit in Germany
As a US citizen, you can apply for residency from within Germany. You will need to submit your contract, address in Germany and pay a fee. You will not need to apply for a visa before arriving.
The German Federal Government website provides more information about immigrating to Germany as an American or a Canadian citizen.
If you don’t already have family or friends who can provide accommodation until you find a place of your own, you can look for apartments online, or even by word of mouth.
Property for rent in Germany – look online!
In Germany, most real estate websites are very thorough, providing photos and descriptions of the rental properties. A common website for apartment and house hunting in Germany is immobilienscout24.de.
If you are trying to find property for a job in Switzerland, immobilienscout24.ch also exists.
To apply to rent a property, first contact the landlord to make sure that it is still available. Some houses and apartments may still be listed even after they are already rented, so be careful not to waste your time.
Next, you must fill out an application and bring it to the in-person viewing. If the realtor does not provide a link to download an application, they will usually provide it at the viewing. The person wishing to rent the property must be present for the actual viewing.
SCHUFA credit score
You may need to submit a SCHUFA score, or credit rating, in order to rent a property such as an apartment or a house in Germany. If you are new to the country and have not yet established a credit rating, your SCHUFA score will likely be unfavorable and you may not be able to get an apartment with it.
This system works much like the credit rating system in the U.S. As an American citizen, you may already know how tricky it can be to get credit when just starting out. You may be able to circumvent the need for SCHUFA by renting from someone you know or renting in the company’s name.
Some employers will rent property on your behalf for the first year and deduct the rent from your salary. Also, if you know someone that will rent to you in good faith, you can avoid the SCHUFA maze. In this way, your overseas property rental experience will be far less complicated.
Shared accommodation and property for rent in Germany and Switzerland
So, what if you cannot find a way around the SCHUFA requirement? If you don’t have anyone else to rent on your behalf, think about moving into a shared living arrangement.
In Germany and Switzerland, a WG or Wohngemeinschaft is a shared apartment and a Wohnheim is a dormitory. Neither of these requires a SCHUFA to rent.
Another example of a WG for rent, this time in Switzerland.
An example of a Wohnheim, or dormitory, for women in Switzerland.
When you find an apartment or a room to rent, you will need to pay a deposit. Your new landlord will likely need two or three times the monthly rent as a deposit. It is a good idea to budget for this possibility.
Rooms in a Wohnheim, or apartments in a WG, tend to come fully furnished. However, you may need to supply your own bed linen. A WG may be set up like a college apartment with private bedrooms and shared public spaces, such as kitchen and living room. However, it could also be a regular apartment.
A Wohnheim also has private bedrooms and shared public spaces like a kitchen, library, T.V. room, laundry room and recreation room.
Some rooms in a Wohnheim have a private bathroom, while some require sharing between tenants. Each floor in a Wohnheim usually has a kitchen for shared use. Crockery and cutlery is likely to be provided, but must to be cleaned and put away by the tenants after use, to be ready for use by the other tenants.
Each resident will usually have a separate lockable cupboard and private refrigerator space. Again, the kitchen must be kept clean by all who use it.
Housing Cooperatives are common in Europe
Renting property in bigger cities is becoming more competitive and more expensive. You can expect to pay upwards of €800 for a three room rental apartment.
If that is more than a third of your net income and you would like to keep your living costs low, consider applying for an apartment under a WohnungsBau Genossenschaft, or housing cooperative.
Although these cooperatives often have long waiting lists, the rent prices are controlled and are much cheaper than the market rates.
Renting in Germany – an empty property?
If you have ever been to Ikea, the Swedish furniture store, you will have seen that even the smallest of household items are available to buy. Why? Because in Europe (at least central and northern Europe) when you rent or buy a house, it is often completely bare.
To be clear, that means no kitchen cabinets, stove or sink, no lights and no fixtures. A toilet, a bathroom sink and a tub should be provided, but that is about all.
Expect to buy window coverings, lamps, an air mattress, utensils, crockery and cutlery ahead of time, so that you can be ready for your first day in the apartment.
To furnish your newly rented house or apartment, you could buy all-new furniture from a furniture store, or just buy things secondhand.
Purchasing well-maintained, secondhand furniture is quite common in Europe as they are not a throw-away society, but one that values recycling and upcycling.
It is also common to find complete kitchens and other appliances from local people in the area at a fair price. You can connect with people who are selling household items in your area in Germany on sites like Craigslist Germany and eBay Kleinanzeigen.
Moving abroad often requires considerable expense. In addition to planning for the property rent and deposit, you must also budget for the apartment furnishings, and Germany is no exception to this.
As it may also take time to find an apartment, it may be wise to plan for temporary accommodation as well.