Living in Berlin: Surprisingly diverse

From Victorian to newbuilds: Berlin has a variety of housing options.

If you are looking for an apartment or house in Berlin, you can choose from twelve different boroughs and a variety of housing options. Whether an old building, new building, townhouse, houseboat, city villa or bungalow – the capital offers a true variety for renting and buying.

If you want a big-city feel, then move to Mitte, Pankow, Neukölln or Tempelhof-Schöneberg. If you prefer areas with more green spaces, then you would be better off in Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Spandau or Treptow-Köpenick. No matter what you decide, Berlin’s advantages include good transport links and infrastructure for each situation. Take a look at our “Boroughs & neighborhoods” rubric. There you will find a brief description of each Berlin neighborhood.

On average, around 1.12 million Berliners live inside the S-Bahn ring and 2.63 million Berliners live outside it. Accordingly, most of the new construction projects of the state-owned companies are concentrated on the outskirts of Berlin. In 2019, 20 percent of the planned residential units will be in Lichtenberg, 16 percent in Marzahn-Hellersdorf, 14 percent in Spandau and only 5 percent in Mitte and only 1 percent in Charlottenburg. Please bear this in mind when looking for accommodation. 

OUR TIP: The interactive map “Living in Berlin” indicates where new residential construction projects are being carried out in Berlin. 

Berlin, city of tenants

The majority of Berliners lives in a rental apartment.

About 85 percent of Berlin’s residents live in rented apartments. The city’s six largest housing associations are degewo, GESOBAU, GEWOBAG, HOWOGE, STADT UND LAND and WBM. 

In 2012, the Berlin Senate decided on an “Alliance for Social Housing Policy and Affordable Rent.” This development has the benefit of approximately 1.6 million Berlin tenant households on the rent index. Last year, over 18,000 new apartments were built.

OUR TIP: On the website of the state-owned housing associations, you can search for apartments specifically for districts, rental price, floor space and equipment.

OUR TIP: The housing associations WBM and degewo are currently building 1,024 new rental apartments in Berlin Spandau. The Pepitahöfe Spandau project will create 1- to 5-room apartments with a total living area of 76,000 square meters.

If you rent an apartment in Berlin, you must usually pay a deposit. The deposit is used to secure all claims of the lessor under the lease and is one to three month’s net rent (not including utilities). 

OUR TIP: If the landlord invests the deposit, make sure it is transferred to an insolvency-proof account. Once you move out of the rented apartment, request that the deposit be reimbursed immediately.

To help you find an apartment quickly and easily, please note the following.

  • Before looking for an apartment, decide exactly what it is you are looking for in terms of size, facilities and rental price – compromises will increase your chances.
  • Find out where you want to live beforehand – this will limit your search radius.
  • Take a look at ads without pictures – these are clicked less often, increasing your chances of obtaining the apartment.
  • Check the rent index of the area beforehand – this will provide you with a benchmark "Rent".
  • Ask the landlord what the ancillary expenses are – if this is based on the previous tenant, ask how many people lived in the apartment before. If there is any doubt, ask to see the energy performance certificate. If the apartment has a gas boiler, hot water and heating costs are not included in the ancillary expenses. 
  • Get in direct telephone contact with the provider and clarify what documents you must bring with you when you visit the apartment.

Use our "Apartment Application" checklist, which provides an overview of the documents you need to apply for an apartment in Berlin.

DOWNLOAD: Checklist Apartment Application (PDF, 152 kB)

Please see our guide “Berlin apartment portals”, which will give you the direct contact information to rental offers in Berlin from a variety of providers. Good luck with finding an apartment!

OUR TIP: The “household income / rent check” by the Berliner Morgenpost has closely examined current rental rates in Berlin. Enter your average monthly income and the desired number of rooms to find out how much an apartment in your dream neighborhood is. 

Homeownership: Buy and build

Residential property is a profitable capital investment in Berlin as well.

More and more Berlin residents are opting for home ownership as an investment and pension provision. Due to increasing interest, apartments and houses are increasingly offered for sale. Please see our guides for support with finding a condo as well as useful links for having a house built in Berlin.

Surveying and building
inspection offices

Credit checks for renting and buying

Whether you want to rent or buy an apartment or want to build a house – your landlord or seller will ask for a SCHUFA credit check. This is to provide information about your private economic situation, your ability to pay and to forecast your creditworthiness. In short: A SCHUFA credit check provides the landlord or seller with the assurance that you are not in debt and that you will be able to make the rent or mortgage payments for the house or apartment.

SCHUFA, which is short for Schutzgemeinschaft der allgemeinen Kreditsicherung (protection company for general creditworthiness), works with around 8,500 contractors who provide the company with information about their current and former loans. The contract partners primarily include banks, but also telecommunications service providers and mail-order companies.

The information costs €24.95 and is available in select easycredit stores or Postbank branches. Important: Bring your identity card or passport and the residents’ registration certificate with you. Or you can request your credit information online or by phone.

OUR TIP: Obtain your own SCHUFA credit information and attach a copy of it to your application for an apartment or house. This will increase your chances of signing the lease.

Accommodation for the first few weeks

If you do not find an apartment right away, we recommend a hotel or a temporary rental as transitory accommodation. This will give you the time to look for the right apartment or house. The best place to look for furnished or unfurnished rooms and apartments is on the Internet. Most temporary rentals in Berlin are free of commission.

Alternative living arrangements: Flat-shares

If you don’t want to live alone or if money is a bit short, we recommend a flat-share or WG in German (short for Wohngemeinschaft). A flat-share is where people live together independently, sharing a bathroom, kitchen and maybe a living room. Age does not matter. Flat-shares are popular amongst Berlin residents.

Life meets work: co-living in Berlin

Living and working under the same roof? Yes, that does indeed work. Co-living is the latest trend in Berlin! If you feel at home in a working environment and don’t want to miss out on living within a community, co-living or co-housing is the perfect choice for you.

This modern living trend is particularly suitable for new arrivals in Berlin who would like to meet new people and profit from the resulting synergies. If you value a flexible rental contract and support with matters such as registration certificates or bills, you should make yourself familiar with this style of living. Here you will never be alone and you can also enjoy special features such as high-speed Internet or the regular cleaning of your rented accommodation, and all of this in the company of other working tenants. So why not give it a try!

Innovative living: pod living spaces

The latest trend on Berlin’s housing market is living in pods. The first spaces are scheduled to open in the Mitte neighbourhood in 2019. But what is ‘pod living’, exactly? We’ll let you in on the secret. ‘Pods’ are small sleeping capsules that are installed in community facilities. They shield from outside noise and are built sustainably. The real home, however, is the community around the pods. The ‘space’ is equivalent to a high-class residential complex. There are gardens, kitchens, pools, gyms and more. One thing to note: the pods can only be rented for a short period using the app or on the web and are then cancelled in the same way.  Long-term rentals are not possible. If a pod is free, it is available online. The company ROBYNHOOD currently has a waiting list to which you can sign up and become a tenant of one of the first pods in Berlin.