There are many ways to go about apartment hunting. Start by making a list of your "must-have" points, followed by "nice-to-have" points. For example, you might have your heart set on a backyard, but would be willing to compromise on a guest bedroom. Knowing where you are willing to compromise will help you make a quick decision.
When looking for a property it always helps to dress for the occasion. Due to the shortage in the housing market, landlords often choose between several candidates.
Don't be offended if you are asked to document your financial stability (including a copy of your employment contract and three months of pay stubs). This is common. Whichever way you choose, make sure you have ample time and a good sense of humor!
If you are lucky enough to have a relocation agent, then the search will go more smoothly. Relocation agencies generally know the market inside out and can save you the hassle of contacting real estate agents by pre-screening the market, rental contract negotiation, etc. The depth of service and fees varies.
The best way to look for an apartment is to consult one of the many real estate websites. Since most of the ads posted online show pictures of the rooms, building from the outside, view and surrounding area, apartment hunting online may help you make a decision more quickly (and may save you a few visits to apartments whose descriptions are attention-grabbing, but whose pictures reveal a different story). The leading national real estate portal is www.immobilienscout.de, followed by www.immowelt.de and www.immonet.de.
You can also consult the classified ad section of the local newspaper. The main local newspapers all have a special real estate section - usually on Friday/Saturday, which can also be found in their online version. The housing section can be found under Immobilien/Mietgesuche/Mietwohnungen.
Whether you look for a property in the newspapers or online, the majority of homes for rent are advertised by real estate agents (Immobilienmakler), who charge tenants two months' rent plus 19% VAT if you successfully rent one of their properties. Occasionally there are listings with the phrase Provisionfrei (provision free), which means you don't have to pay rental fee to a real estate agent. You need to act fast on these listings; they tend to go quickly. Also, when house hunting, make sure to get detailed descriptions of the properties and an exact address before you go on a visit - it is not uncommon for the same property to be listed with several agents.
Popular house and apartment hunting websites are:
No matter how long you intend to stay in Germany, temporary housing or serviced apartments are options worth exploring. For those expats planning to stay for a few months or a few weeks, serviced apartments allow for comfortable living without the impersonality of a hotel. And if you have just arrived but are looking for a permanent long-term home, serviced apartments allow you to feel immediately at ease during what can often be a difficult transition period. There is a wide range of temporary housing options - from furnished apartments to private apartments rented out through an agency. Renting a private apartment or house for a trade fair, business trip or private visit is a low-cost alternative to a hotel.