The first time I looked for a flat in Berlin, it was on crutches. Not something I would recommend to anyone, especially as every apartment I saw was on the third floor.
But I’m glad I did come in person, because I ended up in a really nice flat. With furniture, including a huge wooden wardrobe. I didn’t realise how lucky I was.
I hadn’t thought that a furnished flat was an anomaly, but then I was used to renting in London. Here, flats are rented unfurnished (this seems quite normal now, but at first it was a bit of a shock). One of the flats I saw had a blow up mattress and nothing else, and so I tried to ask the man in my then very broken German, whether there would be a bed. He just kept pointing to the mattress. I didn’t take this flat.
Flat hunting can be a huge ball ache in Berlin, often with 100 people showing up to view the same apartment if it’s in a popular area. There’s also an interview like procedure to get a room – best candidate wins.
For a one bedroom flat, I’m not quite sure what criteria they use to pick the occupant. When looking for an apartment with my boyfriend, we were once told that they had given the apartment to the Turkish couple, because they would find it harder to get an apartment.
After weeks of searching, we almost fell for a fake ad on Craigslist for a flat that looked too good to be true and was. Since then I’ve even heard of scam ads where hundreds of people turn up to look at non-existent flats on Paul-Linke-Üfer by the canal. Someone must be having a real laugh from the luxury of their own apartment watching this.
Obviously, if you have enough money to pay, you’ll be able to get an apartment anywhere. But if you don’t, it can be really tough. A friend of mine has been searching for a one-bedroom apartment for over a year, moving from apartment to apartment each month, getting only one-month contracts. It’s crazy.
The great thing is though when you do find a flat is that they are so cheap. But the rent has gone up a lot since I’ve been here, which is really bad for Berlin, and which many Berliners rightly rant about. But still, compared to any other European capital city, the flats are really cheap. Which is probably why they’re so popular and you have to beat 99 other people to get in!