Ask überlin: How can I find an apartment in Berlin?

by Guest Blogger

The latest installment in our ask überlin series was written by Stephan Brenner of Expath – a company that helps expats get established in Berlin – and illustrated by Josh Bauman of Caffeinated Toothpaste fame.

Can anyone recommend a shipping company that caused you medium-to-low trauma (from London to Berlin)?

I’d be interested to find out what anybody knows about the rough prices or best services for shipping things here from abroad? (London to Berlin, especially!)

If you’re anything like me, you have a mom in California who is just itching to sell or (gasp!) donate your boxes of assorted trinkets and angsty teenage poetry, so she can use her garage for car-related matters again. But what can pack rats like us do? Shipping is, by all accounts, very expensive (especially since the US Postal Service got rid of international surface mail in 2007). Here are several realistic suggestions  – and an obnoxious one.

The first option, for those arriving from very faraway places, is to simply bring it along on the plane. Two suitcases, a stuffed carry-on bag, multiple seasonally inappropriate layers of clothing on your person and voilà! In addition, depending on the airline, paying for extra baggage may not be a comparatively bad option, and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis (see Fare Compare’s Worldwide Baggage Fee Chart).

Similarly, when coming from European destinations, using a car filled with one’s precious belongings is a popular option. If you can’t drive, negotiating with rideshares to transport your luggage along with yourself for the price of one or two additional passengers is also a possibility (see Mitfahr Gelegenheit and, specifically for rideshares from London to Germany, the Deutsche in London forum).

For smaller parcels containing important  items (i.e. things you may want to track or insure), and for very quick international shipping, the standard UPS, DHL, FedEX and local post office would be secure options and they usually help take care of customs, but they’re not cheap. With the not-so-standard delivery companies, one would be well-advised to first check online for other people’s experiences. For a comparison tailored to your unique situation, try Shiply.

Handle with Care by Josh Bauman

Also consider local moving companies and international freight forwarders (with shared containers) like UPakWeShip and EuroUSA. This is the slowest option and you absolutely must pay attention to customs regulations (especially for new items) and where your shipment can be picked up. For more information, have a look at the forums on ToyTown Germany dealing with this topic.

Taking a load with you whenever you return to Berlin from a visit home, and having friends and family bring along items when they visit is a great way to increase your cheap-suitcase collection.

The last, and most obnoxious, advice is for you to simply come to terms with the realization that you don’t actually need all those things. Two suitcases are more than enough for the transition, and almost anything else can be found quite cheaply here in Berlin.

What are your thoughts on renting houses as opposed to apartments? Is it easy to get garden flats? Do you know of any areas where it might be easier to find them or a house? Or as soon as you hit areas which have houses does it suddenly turn boring?!

In which area should I stay when I visit? Where should I live when I move here?

I am really curious to how much an apartment costs. And like any city there is certainly a range, but if you could shed some experiential advice about monthly rent, good areas for english speakers, bad neighborhoods for english speakers, and anything you think might be useful on the topic of a room.

Berlin real estate is currently a contentious topic, as it is becoming more challenging to find and obtain the perfect set-up – at first glance. Price, size and location are factors that, when varied even slightly, can lead to very different and potentially interesting results. Getting what you want takes time, a strong spirit and the willingness to compromise (at least in the beginning).

Cozy by Josh Bauman

The all-important questions here are whether to rent temporarily or long-term, and whether to live in a shared apartment (“Wohngemeinschaft”, or simply “WG”) or alone. Temporary arrangements are sometimes significantly more expensive, but not a bad place to start – especially since there’s less hassle and bureaucracy involved (try Craigslist). This gives you an address to register and some breathing room to get a lay of the land. Shared flats are also not very bureaucratic, but there are interviews! Your potential flatmates will only accept the candidate with their idea of the perfect personality. Listings can be found at WG-Gesucht and Studenten-WG. For those craving independence, privacy and a longer commitment, who can spare some time for the process and are willing to diligently prepare and deal with setbacks, renting one’s own apartment is the way to go.

When looking for an apartment, as Patrick Wilken points out in his excellent response to the original query, a good price in Berlin is roughly €10 per square meter “warm” (i.e. including costs like heating). In other words, a monthly rent of €500 for a 50sqm apartment is generally not a rip-off and would be considered a bargain in the more desirable areas.

Very roughly speaking, the two Eastern quadrants within the S-Bahn ring are the most sought-after areas by expats. Apartments here are among the most challenging to find and obtain because demand exceeds supply. However, looking just outside of these areas, a difference of mere minutes with Berlin’s magnificent public transport, may yield excellent value for money, especially in terms of space – and much less of a fight to actually end up signing a contract. The downside here is that the buildings and neighborhoods may not be as pretty or lively. As Patrick mentions, Wedding is very up-and-coming and Moabit is still underrated. Our advice is: to go and explore the different areas yourself. You may just be pleasantly surprised, and if you happen to get a bad vibe, then skip it. To find rental apartments or houses (usually in quieter neighborhoods and on the outskirts of the city) check out Immobilienscout24 , Immowelt and Immonet for listings. As with much else, having a network of friends in the city will expose you more directly to available rooms and flats before they’re on the market.

Garden Flat by Josh Bauman

The best advice to actually GET the flat of your dreams is to have all the standard documents prepared before the viewing (!) – which may take more than a week. Have the following in both paper and digital format: a copy of your photo ID (for non-EU: also your residence permit), income statements from the last three months (“Einkommensnachweis”), a letter from your previous landlord confirming that you don’t owe rent (“Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung”), your “Schufa” credit report , a neatly filled-out application form (which you receive at the viewing) and a nicely written (ideally in German) text for the body of your email. For EU citizens, a letter guaranteeing that someone, e.g. a parent, can cover the costs in case you can’t (“Bürgschaft”) may also be possible in lieu of the income statements. Decisions on whose application actually gets processed are based on the completeness and timeliness of the application, which of the applicants is most likely (able) to pay the rent and, all other things being equal, a good impression in person and in writing. An excellent way to ensure that your application makes it to the top of the pile is offering to pay six months’ or even a year’s rent in advance, especially when lacking the income statements.

Sincere thanks to Berlin real estate agents Aljona Brysch and Michael Rost for their insight and help researching this information.

Help a Berliner out. Do you have any top tips for finding rental properties in Berlin, or making moving here easier?

Win tickets to see Poliça at Postbahnhof

by James Glazebrook


[EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions] 

Oo ‘ello. Now we’ve 2 pairs of tickets to give away for the Poliça gig at Postbahnhof next Wednesday! You need to catch the Minnesota indielectro troupe before they become known as more than those-two-guys-from-Gayngs-and-their-mates and singer Channy Leaneagh’s pretty little face is plastered all over magazine covers worldwide. Here’s your chance to win 2 tickets to their Berlin gig on Wednesday 14th November, and find out why Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon calls them “the best band I’ve ever heard.” Good luck!


– Follow @uberlinblog on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/uberlinblog)
(If you are already following no need to unfollow and refollow)

– Tweet the message you see highlighted below once!
(There is no advantage to tweeting more than once)

Note: Twitter has changed its policy to no longer allow disabling of link shortening – so if you need to use a different link to get to this page that’s fine. As long as people end up on this page – that’s all that matters. The rest of the tweet must be identical to the one below.

Here is the tweet:

Want to win 2 tickets to see @thisispolica in #Berlin? Find out how to enter here: http://bitly.com/Z6Bw6M Please RT #uberwin

You have until 6pm on Sunday 11th November to enter. Get tweeting!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be 18 years or older to enter.
2. You must be following @uberlinblog (http://www.twitter.com/uberlinblog) on Twitter.
3. You must send out the above tweet EXACTLY as it appears. A failure to do so will disqualify you.
4. We will announced the winners via Twitter on Monday 12th November.
5. If users make lots of Twitter accounts in order to enter a contest more than once, they’re liable to get all of their accounts suspended. Anyone found using multiple Twitter accounts to enter will be ineligible.

We will keep a record of each tweet in a database and then a random number generator picks the winner. Good luck!

Photo Diary: End of Autumn

by Zoë Noble

Music Montag: Rolo Tomassi

by James Glazebrook

Rolo Tomassi

By Mike T West.

Sheffield noise troupe Rolo Tommasi return to our fair city tonight to shove a mathcore-shaped ray gun up yo ass!

After a year that saw them taking a break, leaving their record label, creating a new one, losing two of their original members and busily being awesome, the art rock upstarts are back tearing through Europe this month in support of their blistering third album, Astraea. Released on their own record label Destination Moon and produced by Jason Sanderson, the new LP is as complex as we have come to expect but with a fresh sense of direction. This is as much to do with new guitarist Chris Cayford and bassist Nathan Fairweather as it is the sound of five artists unwilling to dilute their sound for the mainstream.

One of the UK’s most unique and stunning live acts will be sticking a musical ice pick in your ears tonight at Wild At Heart, Kreuzberg from 9pm.

Context Travel: Topography of Terror, Nazi Berlin Tour

by James Glazebrook

Context Travel: Topography of Terror, Nazi Berlin Tour

Storified by überlin · Sun, Oct 07 2012 10:07:05

I recently spent a week tweeting for @I_amGermany, and the best thing I did by far was the Context Travel Topography of Terror, Nazi Berlin Tour. I’ve already been to the Topography of Terror, the former headquarters of the Gestapo, SS and state security, so I wasn’t expecting to learn much. But thankfully that was just the last stop on an epic, three hour walk through the city’s dark past. Our guide Herri started his story back in 1237 – the year that the Nazis said Berlin was established, so they could throw it a big 700th birthday party – and carried through to the run-up to World War Two, and its enduring effects on the city it long divided. My tweets can’t do justice to a tour that introduced me to the many historical sites I’d overlooked, and showed me the obvious attractions through fresh eyes, but maybe they’ll give you a taster. 
Brandenburg Gate! http://twitpic.com/b0d1qqI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0d0n4 recognise this? Clue: some important scenes in a major Hollywood film take place in, on and around hereI am Germany – James
Fact about the Hotel Adlon- the last emperor reserved a suite to shower in because the Palais had no hot waterI am Germany – James
Hitler cut down the linden trees on Unter den Linden in 1936 and replaced with trees smaller than the flagpolesI am Germany – James
Didn’t realise there was an British sector of Germany as well as Berlin. we used to own the whole Northwest of your country!I am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0dj9c Bundestag, #BerlinI am Germany – James
These white crosses commemorate people who died trying to cross the #Berlin wall http://twitpic.com/b0dknfI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0do01 memorial to all elected officials interned by the Nazis, in front of the Reichstag, #BerlinI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0dpg9 "Den Deutschen Volke" #Berlin ReichstagI am Germany – James
@El_7oss @Davethedick wow, in standing in front of it and still getting it wrong. DEM Deutschen VolkeI am Germany – James
Heinz Sokolowski tried to cross the #Berlin Wall after 7 years in prison. He was killed on this spot. http://twitpic.com/b0e0gwI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0e45o apparently the US embassy in #Berlin gets called Guantanamo 2, because of how it looks from this sideI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0eaar "the secret of salvation is remembrance", old Jewish proverbI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0ee9e an original piece of the #Berlin wall, a gift from a cement companyI am Germany – James
Under this pavement is Hitler’s bunker http://twitpic.com/b0eiceI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0ejkx DENKmal. More MauerI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0em39 the face of Johan Georg Elsner, who planted a bomb in an attempt to assassinate HitlerI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0eqi8 a rare example of brutalist architecture in #Berlin, the Czech embassyI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0et8z the former Ministry of Air Defence, a building of typically Nazi scale and orderI am Germany – James
Social realism, a mural of tiles commemorating the DDR http://twitpic.com/b0eu7zI am Germany – James
Flags, Finance Ministry. http://twitpic.com/b0cxr1I am Germany – James
Did you know that the Nazi book burnings was organised by academics and intellectuals themselves?I am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0ewzt Die Welt balloon, tethered to a Trabi, #BerlinI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0f1ng the Topography of Terrors, built on the ruins of the Gestapo, SS and state security headquartersI am Germany – James
@ContextEastEuro tour over, full of fascinating information, but in dire need of food.Thanks for all the replies, which I’ll answer in a bitI am Germany – James