I

It’s raining outside. Coldplay is crooning over the coffee shop’s speakers. I’m sipping a flat white made by a man named Sam. The ash pollen has calmed itself, so I can breathe easier. It is a good day.

I made a decision, too. Yesterday, I asked the woman I’m renting from if I could extend my apartment contract through the new year. She said yes! Now, I know my housing situation until January 12, 2019. Now, I can focus on other things, like business networking and language lessons.

II

Finding an apartment here is no joke. It’s not like America where you can walk into an apartment’s leasing office, ask all your questions, find out the prices and availability, and get a tour. No, here, you have a seemingly endless array of Facebook groups and apartment-listing websites that get so much traffic apartment ads are, sometimes, only posted for 15 minutes before the renter is inundated with pleas from potential rentees and takes the ad down.

Just for fun, I’m going to list all the Facebook groups I’m a member of and scoured when I was looking for a place to live.

  1. Berlin Housing
  2. Short-term accommodation
  3. Berlin Startup Flats, Flatshares, Offices, Wohnungen, WG
  4. WG Zimmer Wohnung in Berlin Room Flat Apartment
  5. Temporary Flat Rentals In Berlin
  6. Rent a flat in Berlin
  7. Berliner Wohnungsbörse (Wohnung, Mitbewohner, WG gesucht Berlin)
  8. Short-term accommodation Berlin: WG, Zwischenmiete, flat-share, Zimmerbörse
  9. Flats in Berlin
  10. Berlin rooms and flats to rent
  11. Berlin Startup Offices: Rent Space, Desks, Co-Working
  12. WG, Zimmer, Wohnung, Flat, Room ❤️ Berlin !!
  13. Queer Housing Berlin WG
  14. WG-Zimmer & Wohnungen Berlin
  15. Berlin LONG TERM rooms/flats
  16. Apartments/roommates in Berlin

Sixteen. Sixteen Facebook groups. Some have hundreds of members. Some have thousands. All of them are susceptible to scammers. I contacted one apartment renter who “lived in London” but wanted me to sign a lease without seeing the apartment……..and to think, some poor soul might actually agree to that…….

For your German lesson today:

  • zimmer = room
  • Wohnung/en = apartment/s
  • Zwischenmiete = sublease
  • WG = Wohngemeinschaft = shared flat

 

III

When I was looking for an apartment, I would check these groups for new posts, at least, twice a day. If I found something interesting, I would message the renter with a little blurb about how wonderful a tenant I am. If the apartment was still available, I would be invited to a viewing. Sometimes, these viewings are public, and, sometimes, they’re private. The private ones are better because you have more of a chance to make a good impression.

I was never more thankful to be my own boss than when I was looking for an apartment. On more than one occasion, I’d see an apartment listed, contact the seller, and be invited to a viewing the same day before 5pm. So, I’d rush out of the office to try and lock down the apartment before anyone else did!

 

IV

There’s a shortage of apartments here. People bought them years ago when they were cheap and are holding on to them for dear life. Now, as Berlin gets more and more popular, the squeeze on apartments, especially long-term rentals, gets tighter and tighter and rents rise higher and higher.

Berlin is one of the cheapest big cities in Europe (when compared to London, Amsterdam, etc.), I’ve been told. If you want to live by yourself, within The Ring, you’re going to be looking at about 900€/mo in rent. To give you an idea of the differing rents in my neighborhood (Neukölln), my first apartment here was a small studio for 825€. My second apartment was a “two room” (it actually had four rooms: a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and small bedroom) for 900€. My current apartment is a large studio (with a separate kitchen) for 700€.

The most common renting situation is a short-term one for 2-3 months. This usually happens because the renter is traveling to a warmer country, lolz, and they don’t want to be responsible for paying two sets of rent. I’ve heard stories of people moving 6 times in a year because they can’t find anything longer-term (in the neighborhood they want). And, of course, I’ve been here six months and have lived three different places.

 

V

My apartment is not perfect. The hot water tank is tiny. I’m sure you’ve seen those extra small hot water tanks in some restaurant bathrooms. They’re perfect for hand-washing, because they produce about five minutes of hot water, and if you’re using more than five minutes of hot water in a restaurant bathroom, you’re probably having some sort of breakdown. At home, though, you expect bathroom breakdowns as you’re staring at your first gray hair in the steamed up mirror. “Not today, Sam!” shouts the universe.

I get a five-minute, semi-warm shower. My existential crises must take place in other parts of the house.

My bathtub is large and beautiful and perfect for soaking, but because of the water tank situation, it takes about an hour to fill by boiling water in every pot on my stove and using the electric kettle. The courtyard is a concrete slab that houses our dumpsters that some man with a terrible cough drags out to the curb every Monday at 6am…..The apartment buildings were expertly engineered to overlap each other and share multiple walls, so I can hear all twelve (exaggeration) of my neighbors yawn. It’s dark in the winter, and I’m really wondering if a family of pigeons is going to fly in my windows this summer.

But, the floors are big, beautiful, dark, wooden slats, and the kitchen is well-equipped and I love cooking in it, and I have a bed for guests, and I have my plants, and the woman I’m renting from has been wonderful, and I feel safe, and it’s mine.

Now, if only I can get Dominos to deliver to my address…

 

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