Berlin apartment hunting

September 16, 2013

Corner in Prenzlauer Berg Berlin
Coming from the land of crazy-inflated SF/Silicon Valley rent prices, I know I should be nothing but grateful for the opportunity to live in Berlin, where rent - while rising rapidly - is still incredibly affordable when compared with other great cities around the world. Whenever I start to get down on trying to find an apartment here, my friend (who has lived in London and Paris) reigns in my expectations and says "but you get to live in Berlin". She is so right, it's true. But I can't help but lament sometimes. Finding a good flat in Berlin is hard.

We began this apartment trip with a long list of prospects. By the time we got here, the lack of response from our inquiries became clear when we checked the listings again, only to find that they had already been pulled. The good places go fast. And in typical German customer service fashion, the people showing the apartments act as though they are doing you a favor. For example, if there are showings scheduled during the week and we say we just drove nearly 600km to spend the weekend looking at apartments, do you think they would be willing to show it to us during the days that we are here? Of course not. Finding a good flat in Berlin from all the way across the country is even harder.

I admit, I fall prey to the glass-half-empty mentality at times, which can make this process especially trying. Add to that a failed birthday on Saturday (not for any lack of trying - I just got viciously ill), and I've been feeling a bit down about the whole thing this trip. It seems like we are thwarted at every turn. An apartment directly above a giant kid's playground? OK, maybe it wouldn't be too loud... until we hear the neighbors scream down to their children playing from their balconies. Discovering a new Kiez that we really like, only to find out the listings there overlook a giant, dingy abandoned lot or is on the fifth floor, no elevator (I swear we're not that lazy, but we do have an aging dog to consider). Finding a new home in a massive city that you are just barely getting to know - really difficult.

When I've asked other Berliners how hard it is to find an apartment here, the consensus seems to come down to where you want to live and how picky you are. Well, we want to live in what many consider to be the most 'desirable' neighborhoods and as far as picky, yes, I want to love my home. We are no longer capricious young people who want to bounce around with no care as to where we land. We're a small family that wants to find a place to call home. An apartment that makes us smile whenever we walk in the door. A neighborhood that we can relax in and enjoy, maybe even a regular coffee shop where they come to know our order before we even say it. We already did the depressing little apartments we could barely stand - that was called being in our 20s. I think we've passed that stage in our lives and whatever place we decide to call home next needs to reflect that.

Not to be all doom and gloom, we have found one place that we absolutely love. It's got everything going for it: the perfect neighborhood, close enough to major public transport yet on a smaller, quieter street, my husband would get a home office and extra exciting for the interior designer in me, it is being renovated (not the German 'renovated', like painted and refinished floors kind of thing, but like knocking out walls and gutting rooms) and they are willing to work with the next tenants to make the place what they want it to be. While there are really minor things to gripe about - like wishing the bathroom was bigger or that there would be a kitchen included when they're finished - the only real downside is that it is at the very top of our budget. I suppose when you get everything you are asking for, that's the price you pay.

After spending the weekend (and months online, and a previous scouting trip) looking at countless places, we're ready to jump on any apartment that we can get that excited about. It will be the first application we will have put in for a Berlin apartment, so actually getting it would be a miracle. But who knows? Maybe the glass will be looking more half-full for us very soon.


  1. Oh bugger :( I'm really sorry to hear about your birthday and I shall send extra-strong vibes for the place you've expressed an interest in... and keep everything crossed!! xx

  2. trust me, I totally understand your frustration. We had one weekend to find an apartment and the flat we ended up getting (and now live in) looked fabulous on a sunday, but little did we know it is LOUD during the weeekdays starting at 6:30am. We felt like we sort of HAD to take it, even though it wasn't maybe 100% our dream apartment. I would say, that if you want to stay here... being picky is okay. We are looking now and being picky means we don't even look at half the apartments that fit our "criteria". Stay strong! If you guys have time before you leave to grab a beer, let me know :)

    1. Sorry we didn't get the chance to see each other this trip, but we'll be back again soon! Thanks for the supportive words. It's a tough balance, for sure. We want to find the right place, but if we're traveling up there every weekend to continue the search, we're going to blow through our apartment savings before even finding a place. I suppose all we can do is go with our gut and worst case scenario, we have to move again in a few years. At least we'll be in Berlin!


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