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Columnists > Meredith


Finding an Apartment in Germany

  Posted Wednesday October 19, 2016 (01:02:13)   (798 Reads)


My husband and I recently moved to Würzburg, a beautiful city in the Franconian region of Bavaria. While we had been talking about the idea of moving for a few years, we only began to plan the move in earnest in the late summer.

What followed was an intense apartment search including (but not limited to) scanning newspapers for apartment listings, scrolling through apartment search websites, putting up our own apartment search listing in the newspaper and online, asking friends and family for leads, signing up to be on the wait list of various apartment co-ops, and lining up viewing appointments.

Since my husband had previously lived in Würzburg during his university days, he already had a good idea of the city’s neighbourhoods and layout. We narrowed down our search to a few particular neighbourhoods that were near the city centre but also not far from the Main, the river running through the city. Other location features we were looking for included being near stores (groceries, post office, bakeries, etc.), public transportation (especially the Straβenbahn (tram)), and my husband’s family (many members also live in Würzburg).

Of course there were other wishes high on our list – more space than our last apartment, a balcony, nearby free street parking, a cellar in the building for storage, a built-in kitchen (more on that later), a bathroom with a window, a bathtub, and hardwood floors. Not to mention that the apartment had to be affordable.

Oh, the naïve dreams of apartment searchers. Once we began scanning ads, we quickly found out that combining all of these features would be next to impossible (or possible for a very high price tag). The apartments we saw during our search ran the gamut of options: fantastic listings in neighbourhoods far outside of the city, expensive new apartments with all the bells and whistles, affordable flats in sad/moldy shape, well-located flats adjacent to noisy streets, dark and joyless flats in eerily quiet neighbourhoods, and even a spooky old attic apartment in the run down former servants’ quarters behind a grand brick house.

A lot of the apartments that we scheduled to visit we had seen online beforehand so we knew a bit of what to expect. For other listings that we made appointments to see, we could only guess what to expect based on the info we had deciphered from the 1- or 2-lines of abbreviations in the newspaper. A 2-Zi-DG in an AB with EBK and BLK. For NR. KM 700. What?! Reading and understanding German apartment listings can be a bit of a puzzle. I’ve put together a list of some of the most common abbreviations to help you during your own apartment search:

AB = Altbau
An Altbau is an old building, likely built before World War II. Many people prefer the charm and style of these older style buildings. That said, they often lack many new, modern amenities such as underground parking, elevators, and in-floor heating.

BLK = Balkon
For whatever reason, a Balkon (balcony) is the Holy Grail of apartment features here in Germany. It seems like one of the most coveted assets an apartment can have. Most landlords will tell you right out the gate whether or not an apartment has a balcony, either as a strong selling point or as a way to mitigate your expectations.

DG = Dachgeschoss
A Dachgeschoss apartment is directly under the roof of a building. The ceiling is often slanted and there may be few windows or skylight windows only. These apartments are often boiling hot in the summer.

EBK = Einbauküche
Oh, German kitchens. An Einbauküche is a built-in kitchen. Apartments generally don’t include a kitchen – you have to bring your own. I don’t mean that you bring your personal things like your blender and cutlery, I mean you’ve got to bring cabinets, an oven, stove, countertops, a sink – the whole shebang. If you don’t have a kitchen and don’t want to deal with buying and installing one yourself, then I suggest looking for an apartment with an Einbauküche.

EG = Erdgeschoss
The Erdgeschoss is the ground floor (considered as the 0 level in Germany as opposed to the 1st floor in North America). In Germany, the 1st floor is the floor above the ground floor.

FBH = Fußbodenheizung
Often found only in newer buildings, Fußbodenheizung is in-floor heating. The majority of heating in German apartments and homes is through radiators.

Gge = Garage
A Garage (garage) is a nice perk, usually a free-standing and covered spot where you can park your car (usually for a monthly fee). Generally, only newer buildings will have an underground parkade.

HK = Heizkosten
The heating costs (Heizkosten) are the additional costs you must pay on top of the rent to heat the apartment.

KM = Kaltmiete
The ‘cold’ rent (Kaltmiete) is the base cost of the rent of an apartment. In other words, this is the cost of rent before heating and other additional fees, such as a garage fee.

KR = Kellerraum
A Kellerraum is a cellar room, usually in the basement of the building, where you can store your things. Usually each tenant has his own cellar with a separate lock.

KT = Kaution
The Kaution is the security deposit required for renting an apartment. Often 2 or 3 times the amount of the monthly rent, the deposit can be used to cover expenses the landlord may incur if the tenant breaks the terms of the rental agreement.

NB = Neubau
A Neubau is a new building which has been built in recent years. A new building often has modern features such as elevators, parking garages, and key fobs to open doors to the building.

NK = Nebenkosten
The Nebenkosten are the ‘side costs’ one must pay in addition to the Kaltmiete (‘cold’ rent) – heating, electricity, and other fees.

NR = Nichtraucher
A Nichtraucher is a non-smoker. Often listed in ads by landlords when seeking a non-smoking tenant.

WC = WCs (aka Wasserklosetts)
A WC is a toilet. An apartment listing will say how many WCs it has, or it might say that it has a WC and a Gäste-WC (guest toilet).

WG = Wohngemeinschaft
A Wohngemeinschaft (often referred to as a WG even in conversation) is shared housing. Popular with students, a WG might consist of anywhere between 2 to 6 individuals living together in one apartment. Usually chores are shared and rent is divided based on each person’s room size.

Whg. = Wohnung
A Wohnung refers to accommodation, usually an apartment. However, it can also mean home.

Zi = Zimmer
A German apartment is listed by the number of rooms (Zimmer) that it has. This is not to be confused with the number of bedrooms that an apartment has (as is the listing custom in North America). For example, a 2 room (2-Zimmer) apartment in Germany has 1 bedroom and 1 living room (and also likely a kitchen and a bathroom).

Once we got familiar with the most commonly used apartment listing abbreviations, we were able to speed up our search and quickly exclude listings that didn’t meet our criteria. In the end, we chose an apartment that checked most of the boxes on our list and is in a beautiful part of town. Now we’re working on making this 3-Zi. AB Whg. our new home.

Have you ever had to search for an apartment in Germany? Do you have any tips or advice? Let me know in the comments below!

Meredith is a coffee and cake-loving Canadian living in southern Germany. She writes about everyday life as an expat in Germany and shares her passion for travel on her blog Kaffee und Kuchen.
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