Finding a place to live

Finding an apartment or a house in Frankfurt is not a straight forward issue. You are faced with two key obstacles. Firstly, there is so much choice, not just in the city but also in the surrounding areas, so you will have to make some basic, uninformed choices in order to narrow down your target area. The second problem is ironically that there is more demand than supply. When you are looking at apartments you have to be quick. The best and most reasonably priced places will have a queue of applicants and will disappear off the market quickly.

First place you need to visit is www.immobilienscout24.de. This is an independent platform listing property around germany. There are many different estate agents and a lot of privately listed properties which raises the first unique aspect of house hunting. In Germany, the tenant (Mieter) has to pay the commission (Provision) to the estate agent. You will see that there are a number of prices listed beside each property:

  • Kaltmiet (monthly rent without any services)
  • Warmmiet (monthly rent including all extras like heating/water but normally not electricity. This is also shown as Nebenkosten which are the extra costs on top of Kaltmiet)
  • Kaution (deposit which is normally 1, 2 or 3 months rent)
  • Provision (commission which is fixed at a one-off payment of 2.38 x monthly rent)

If the commission payment seems extreme to you, which it did to me, bear in mind thatit is tax deductable, so save your receipt. If you want to avoid it entirely, then only look at private listings which are identifiable by the fact that it says ‘kein’ next to the Provision. There are lots of these properties listed, but they go very quickly.

If you need parking then bear in mind that some apartments have underground parking but will almost always charge you extra for this. Somewhere between about €50-120 would be normal. If you don’t want to pay this and opt for the far cheaper city parking, then just accept that you will have to drive in circles looking for a spot. There is nowhere near enough street parking for the number of cars in Frankfurt. Especially if you are in Sachsenhausen Nord or Nordend.

So next, have a look at the transport connections. If you can walk to work, you will be in a perfect situation. If not, then you will be cycling in good weather and taking public transport for the rest. The basic rule here is that you should never rely on a single means of transport. There are regular construction delays, strikes and heavy traffic days.

The buses are slow, get stuck in traffic regularly, and take ages because they don’t follow direct routes. The bus network is also sparse so you can’t traverse the city entirely on buses. It would probably be also quicker to walk.

The trams (Strassenbahn) are good, reliable because they mainly have a car-free route and are rarely affected by strikes. However there are comparatively few lines so a direct connection is desirable.

The ubahn is good, fast and hasn’t been hit by a strike since I got here. If only it was more like London, where the nearest tube station is never more than a 5 minute walk away. Combined with the sbahn lines it has good coverage and it reaches out to many of the small satellite commuter towns.

The sbahn is fast and goes straight through the important stops in the city and out to the commuter belt. The issue here, at least in the last two years, is that the mixture of strikes and construction delays has made for a frustrating experience. For example, this summer for about 6 weeks, the sbahn will stop running in the city between the main station and the south station.

Last choice is finding a good school if you need it. This may take another blog post…

2 thoughts on “Finding a place to live

  1. Hallo, first your blog is great and I replied your survey. Im moving with my family (wife and daughter) to work in Frankfurt starting in 1st august. We decided to live in Saschenhausen or Nordend at first, and them move if needed. We start to look for apartments (3 zimmer) to rent and the conclusion is that Frankfurt is a bit overpriced for what they offer and with a few options (just compared with Brussels where I live a few years ago), and go fast as you said. So my question is if arriving 2 weeks before work is enough to find an appartment? Would you recommend any agency or makler to help us on finding a place? thank you very much Gustavo

    1. Hi Gustavo, thanks for the feedback! I’m glad you find the blog useful. you are right that Frankfurt seems overpriced. There is actually a shortage of accommodation and prices have been going up steadily over the years due to population pressure. Other places in Germany seem like a bargain in comparison. Two weeks to look for an apartment is possible, but it will be a little tight. I wouldn’t want to say you can definitely achieve it. Using an agent can be quite good but you have to beware that most apartments come from agencies any and charge 2.38 months rent as commission. If you employ an agent on top to find somewhere for you, you could end up paying twice. Having said this, I used an agent to find my first apartment in Nordend because my time was limited and my German was terrible. I asked the agent to find me somewhere that was without commission so that I only needed to pay once. This apartment lasted me for 12 months and gave me time to find a second longer-term apartment on my own that had no commission to pay.
      Good luck!

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