When it comes to finding a home on the economy in Germany, military families have two primary options. The housing office maintains a listing of houses available for rent or service members can hire a realtor to help find a home.
Option 1 is available for free. The service member tells housing the desired rent, how many bedrooms and bathrooms and they will pull out a few listings of houses for to look at. They will call the landlord to let them know the service member may be stopping by. That is where the housing office help ends. You then have to get yourself to the house, which may be 30 minutes away, and communicate with a landlord that may not speak English.
Option 2 could cost you a pretty penny depending on how much you are paying for your house. If you find a realtor to help you they will have listings of homes available according to how much you want to pay and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. The realtor will also pick you up and take you to each house to meet with the landlord. You have someone with you to help translate if the landlord doesn’t speak English. Once you find a house you like, you owe the realtor the same amount as your first month of rent. So if you’re paying 1,350 euro a month for rent, you would pay the realtor the same amount in one lump sum.
Here are 8 other ways that renting a home in Germany is different:
1. You must pay a safety deposit that is equal to your first month of rent. This money is paid to the landlord who then puts it in an account that will accrue interest. When you move out as long as there are no damages to be fixed in the house you get the deposit plus interest back.
2. When paying rent you must have a German bank account to be able to transfer money to your landlord. There are no writing checks here! Some landlords will take cash but that would need to be clarified and worked out with your landlord.
3. The houses themselves can be very different than what you may be used to. Rooms can be much smaller, there are no closets, showers are very small, and there is no such thing as an “open floor plan”. If you are tall, prepare to get used to ducking so you won’t hit your head on some of their slanted ceilings!
4. Washing and drying clothes can take all day! German washing machines are energy efficient but they take around two and a half hours to wash one load of clothes. The dryers do not have vents to release the hot air, they collect the moisture in a bin that has to be emptied causing the load of clothes to take at least 2 hours to dry.
5. The heating in German housing is very efficient. There is a radiator in every room that has its own control. If you have a room that isn’t being used you don’t have to waste money heating it.
6. Paying for heat and electricity is done through the German bank account you need for rent. The company takes out the same amount every month. There are no monthly bills to show you how much you used. At the end of the year (of when you moved in) you will receive a meter card to fill out showing how much you used. The company will then send you a bill if you underpaid for the year or they will deposit money back into your account if you overpaid for the year.
7. Your landlord might live in a different town, across the street from you or even in the same house. Often times the landlords live on the bottom level of a house while the tenants live upstairs. There could be a common entry way with a shared backyard or a separate entry with no backyard.
8. Some things may seem strange, like the fact that your washing machine could be in the middle of your kitchen, your refrigerator may be a third of the size of an American fridge.
Renting a house in Germany can be overwhelming if you don’t speak German. Try to find someone to help you translate with the landlord to be sure you’re getting all your questions answered. Embrace the new culture and way of living; it’s a wonderful thing to experience in life!
Contributed by:Michelle King has been an Army wife for 2 years. She and her husband are currently stationed in Germany. Living in Europe is such an amazing experience and she is already anticipating that they miss it tremendously when it is time to move back to the US. Find more from Michelle at www.ArmyLifeTravels.blogspot.com