If you are finding it difficult to get your head around the German housing market, then don’t worry, its because it is a little different from other countries and can be hard work. So here are a few survival tips for you:
- Have all of your documents ready in advance
If you haven’t already realised, the apartments move quickly in Frankfurt. If you get a positive answer from a landlord or real estate agent (Makler) for a visit, then you need to be ready. You won’t necessarily be able to choose your own appointment date and if you aren’t prepared then you will probably just miss out. So have all of your documents ready: 3 months salary statement, certificate of residency/reference from previous landlord and a Schufa credit certificate. You can do Schufa for free online at the moment but normally it costs about €30. While Schufa and the reference are often not needed, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
- Does it sound too good to be true?
Is the apartment 20sqm bigger than everything else for less money? Does it have a perfect location and no commission? You could have struck it lucky as there are sometimes some privately offered flats that are a bargain but most likely there is something wrong. Check how long it has been online as this is a good indication. Common problems though are no natural light, basement apartments, top floor apartments with no lift, no balcony or simply get very hot in the Summer. Also keep an eye out for poor window fittings and a loud road or nightlife area (Alt-Sachsenhausen) or no parking possibilities (Nordend).
- Use all channels
The big search tools like www.immoscout24.de or www.immonet.de are great but many apartments and houses are offered privately now. Ask around at work or ask friends. Also keep an eye on expat groups like Frankfurt Expats on Facebook (not affiliated to this blog 🙂 ). Make a post and see if anyone is offering.
- Be personal and leave a good impression
It is tempting to make use of standardised messages especially if you are trying to do this in German, or if someone wrote the text for you, but being personal and specific to the apartment can made a big difference. Winning the sympathy of the person making the decision is key so treat it like a job interview. Be well dressed, polite, friendly and smile (but not in a crazy, stalker way). As a non-German speaker you should also take a German-speaking friend. But don’t just pick anyone, you need a known charmer who can win over the agent and reassure them that you are going to be an easy, reliable and quiet tenant.
- Try some German
And you should make sure to practice a few sentences in German as the landlord may be scared off by a complete foreigner who is going to be unable to communicate with him and the neighbours…