The joy of flat hunting in German metropolis

I am back in Germany since yesterday with the sole task of finding us a home before our container reaches somewhere in the mid of January… the Full process is all but easy as there are way more applicants than flat available and I am reminded how much I hated this process when I did it the first time in 2011.

The sky is no limit

The prices have increased steadily for years meaning that to find a 2 bedroom in Cologne in an okay location we would have to spend 30 more than what each of us paid put together (450€+610€) in 2011 for our former one bedroom apartments and move to further away from the city center.

Tenants for life

In Germany 60% of people rent all their life. In big cities like Cologne there are just very few flats or houses up for sell. Potential buyer have to spend a steep brokerage fee just to get access to property before they are put on the market. Most of my homeowner friends here spent between 5-10 years searching before buying their home in the district of their liking.

Next to the market tension the difficulty to get a credit is another factor that contribute to the low homeownership percentage. Compared to US where bank loan money without much guarantee and where most are already indebted for 30 years before they even turn 22 European Banks and especially Germans are very careful whom they lend to. As a result most low and middle income earners will never access to credit and thus to homeownership unless they opt for longer commute and move to the countryside where the property prices are significantly lower. Most German don’t have credits, pay everything with debit or cash and this is essential in order to have a high credit score monitored by the schuefa.

Build your own kitchen and learn about electric fixture

Beside the skyrocketing cost there are also a few challenges related to the rental specific in North Rhine Westphalia. Apartment rented here come without kitchen and not even a light bulb.

This is how the kitchen in a rented apartment looks like

When they do have one, you need to take over the existing kitchen and spend between 1000€ and 5000€ upfront on top of the deposit and rent. In my former apartment (before the expatriation) I had the pleasure of assembling a kitchen all by myself from building the cabinet to attaching the sink etc. Before I could do this and before my dad came to my rescue with the electric I had to plug and unplug a table lamp in each room I wanted to use and to my dishes in the bathtub… some guys here actually never assemble a kitchen and just go out for dinner every night in the neighborhood restaurant (true story).

When I moved, I couldn’t resell the kitchen to the next tenant and gave it all away to a nice refugee family but some German go through the extra trouble of refitting the kitchen to their new home.

Foreigners have a tougher time on the real estate market

In Germany you need to register to the city as soon as you move somewhere and need to provide a letter from your landlord to do so. If you have no registered address in Germany even if like us you used to do so, a lot of service just do not work. Like the Secured API connection between the bank and the real estate broker or the schuefa verification. In my experience landlords assume that as a foreigner you will want to move back to your country and thus will always favor a German with similar income over you. There are also some prejudice playing and it’s essential to show your face under a comforting light to be selected. In his former rental agreement my husband had a special clause forbidding him to cook Indian in his apartment…(No comment).

Now it’s time for me to stop blogging and continue my flat hunting in my favorite city!

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