Finding an apartment, Germany-style

It’s been official for a few months now that John and I will be in Germany for another year, although because anything can happen between saying we get to stay and actually getting the military orders that extended us, we were hesitant to really announce it. But hooray! The Barber’s will be abroad for another year!

After we both got our orders, we also received word that we would be able to move out onto the economy for the next year. We picked the areas in Stuttgart that we would most like to live in, started setting up appointments to view the available apartments…and soon realized the process is not nearly as easy as it is in the States. I’m almost hesitant to write that I think we have FINALLY found a place because the contract hasn’t been signed yet, but it has been three long weeks of searches, disappointments and surprises.

What we’ve learned so far:

1. Kitchens aren’t necessarily guaranteed.

I’m not kidding. The very first apartment we walked into was nice – weird angles, but good location and a great porch, so we could have made it work. Except in the area designated as a kitchen – there was nothing. Apparently, the previous renter took it with him when he left. Although the landlord could have put another one in, doing so would raise the rental rate considerably. So it was on to the next one. And that was a great apartment in another good location…the catch? The kitchen was for sale, and it could have been all ours for the low, low price of 3,000E (or approximately $3900). John and I politely declined. And made sure to Google translate the entire message to make sure we weren’t missing the detail that said no kitchen provided.

See the space inside the little cove past the sliding glass doors? That is where the kitchen is supposed to be.

See the space inside the little cove past the sliding glass doors? That is where the kitchen is supposed to be.

2. Germans love dogs everywhere – except in their rental apartments.

Another new fun change in the next year is that our dog, Caesar, will be joining us. Which is great, especially because Germany is SO dog-friendly. Honestly, it is not uncommon to see a dog in the mall or in a restaurant. Germans love their hunds. That doesn’t quite extend into the home-rental realm, unfortunately. I found one great apartment, but was told that as cute as our dog was (I had to provide a picture), she didn’t want him in her apartment. In fact, the choices narrow considerably when a “haustiere” is involved. The apartment that we, fingers crossed, will be moving into was okay with the dog but tacked on an additional fee.

3. You need an apartment more than the landlord or rental company needs you.

A good apartment in a good location is a hot item, and unless you jump on it quickly, you are out of luck. Which means you have to be relentless in your pursuit once you find a place you like. The landlord or rental company doesn’t need you – chances are they have multiple potential renters lining up behind you ready to snatch the apartment up. This also means that the rental companies don’t need to call you back or respond to your emails if they don’t feel like it. I’ve had to make a spreadsheet to keep track of all the places I have called and which ones have called me back to keep it all straight. It takes work!

4. Germans like to rent, not buy, so a 1-year lease is not ideal.

On more than one occasion, I’ve found a place that I really, really liked – only to be told that the landlord is really looking for someone to sign a long-term lease. And one year is NOT a long-term lease in Germany. More Germans rent than buy, because real estate is quite expensive, so long-term contracts are the norm. This only narrows the field of possibilities more.

Even though I do believe we have found, and will be getting, the apartment we like – I am still setting up appointments to view places just in case. Fingers crossed that it all works out…because this one comes with a kitchen and everything! 🙂

 

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