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HOUSING

It’s not impossible: How to find housing in Munich

With the highest rental prices - and arguably demand - in Germany, snagging a flat in the Bavarian capital is no easy feat. Here's how to pull it off.

It's not impossible: How to find housing in Munich
The popular Schwabaring district in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

Step 1: Decide what you want 

How would you like to live? There’s no right or wrong answer: what works for some might not work for others. 

Your options will probably consist of: a room in a flat share (das WG-Zimmer), a studio (das Ein-Zimmer-Apartment) and a flat (die Wohnung). 

Particularly if you’re coming to Munich by yourself or don’t have a lot of contacts here yet, moving into a flatshare might be a good way to kickstart your social life.

Carefully lay out your personal pros and cons – it will be the place where you spend most of your free time (at least during the pandemic).

READ ALSO: Rent prices for new Munich flats rise to over €20 per square metre

Step 2: The right place to search 

Depending on your decision in step one, there are different options on how to find your new home in Munich. 

If you want to move into a shared flat, WG Gesucht will be your best friend. Quick vocab: WG means die Wohngemeinschaft, which means flatshare. Gesucht stems from suchen (to search). On WG-Gesucht you can filter for studios, apartments and flat shares, and it’s also used for finding flatmates.

Other alternatives might be Facebook groups (e.g. WOHNEN TROTZ MÜNCHEN or Salz und Brot)

If you’re looking for your own place: the two most common sites in Germany are: Immowelt and Immobilienscout24.

A tip – sometimes it can be worth signing up for the premium service of these sites to get a first look at apartments when they come on the rental market. We’d advise that you do your homework and see if it could be worth it for your situation. If you do sign up, remember to cancel it (subscriptions in Germany can continue if you don’t take action).

But there are plenty of other options such as: ohne-makler.net (where you can rent exclusively from private landlords) or meinestadt.de. You can find many more by typing “Immobilien München” (real estate Munich) into your favorite search engine. 

Apartments in the centre of Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

For either option, you may also want to check out: 

  • The “Immobilien” (real estate) section in newspapers like Süddeutsche Zeitung and Münchner Merkur. Both also post their offers online, which you can find here and here
  • The websites of well known real estate agencies. Here are some examples: Von Poll Immobilien, Aigner Immobillien, Von Poll Immobilien, Weichselgartner Immo
  • Banks also usually have quite a good amount of flats and houses to sell or rent available. You can find them for example at Sparkasse or VR Bank
  • State-supported projects: Munich has a central portal to apply for apartments rented out by Gewofag. They are usually cheap but modern, and sound too good to be true on Munich’s overheated market. But there’s a downside: To be able to rent most of their apartments, you need to be eligible for government support. You can find more information on their website (currently available only in German)
  • Mietradar24: This startup helps you find interesting offers and even sends your application there all by itself. They also claim to find more and better offers faster than if you just browsed through housing websites yourself 
  • Mitwohnen: Mitwohnen means co-habiting in German and is also a word play on mieten (to rent). The principle: Rent for a reduced fare (or for free even) and help your landlord in return, usually in the household or by taking care of older relatives. It’s a bit like being an Au Pair but usually with less working hours required. This might also be helpful to improve your German

READ ALSO: How to be an au pair in Germany during the pandemic

Step 3: Stand out from the crowd 

Successfully applying for a room or an apartment can look quite differently. Here’s a short guide: 

  • If you apply for a room in a flatshare: Show your personality. Nothing is more boring – and therefore unsuccessful – than writing the same things everyone else does. You’re communicating with people who will live with you, so show them why you’re a great fit. Whip up a standard text about yourself, then adapt it according to what your future flatmates have written in their ad. They love good food – tell them your favourite dish. They’re sporty – tell them about how you gravitate towards hiking outside of the city at the weekend. Try to find common points to connect over
  • If you apply for a flat: The secret to success here is quite the contrary to applying for a flatshare. Show you’re a serious, punctually paying renter that can be trusted to treat the rented property with care. Tell them about yourself and why you’re a great fit for the flat, mention some details about it that you like and why you want to live in this specific area. But: Stay formal
  • For both options, you should have some documents on hand (although they might be much more important when applying for a flat): A copy of your passport or residential title, a SCHUFA document showing you are not known for bailing on your payments, your work contract and perhaps a confirmation of security.

READ ALSO: How to stand out from the flat-finding crowd in Germany

Step 4: Seal the deal 

One important bit of information: If someone asks you to transfer money before you’ve seen the apartment, have met the landlord or future flatmate personally (or at least through a video call), and sign the contract, DON’T!

This is a very common scam to lure people out of money. You will transfer the money, but most likely never actually get to live in the advertised space. In short: Don’t send money ahead. Ever. Not for a deposit, not for the first rent, not for receiving the keys. Just don’t.

READ ALSO: New rent map shows cost of life in Munich

If you’re moving ahead to sign a contract, here are some things to look out for: 

  • How high is the rent excluding all other charges like heating or other costs (die Kaltmiete)?
  • How high is the rent including all charges (die Warmmiete)? 
  • How much is the deposit? 
  • Is the contract limited in time? 
  • Does the contract say if the rent will go up after a certain period of time?
  • Are there any additional charges (e.g. for winter services)?
  • How many square metres are given in the contract? 
  • Is the apartment furnished?
  • Do you have to pay for furniture that will be left in the apartment by your predecessor? 
  • Are you liable for any damages?
  • Will the landlord take care of small repairs (e.g. a leaking sink) or is it your job?
  • What are the rules of the building (e.g. when is ‘Ruhezeit’?)

READ ALSO: Ruhezeit: What you need to know about ‘quiet time’ in Germany

Step 5: How to get comfortable in your new home 

“Nachbarschaft” (the art of being neighbours) is quite important for Germans. So it’s advisable to start on good terms. This will also heighten your chances of someone watering your plants if you’re on holiday, among other things. 

If you’re moving to a small house with only a few apartments it’s a good idea to go from door to door to introduce yourself, perhaps bringing some cookies with you. 

And: Always greet your neighbors, even if just with a simple hallo. Germans love that!

By Lisa Schneider

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OPINION & ANALYSIS

OPINION: Sweden’s ‘historic investment’ has failed to solve the housing crisis

Five years after Sweden's government promised to solve the country's housing crisis with a "historic investment", things are as bad as ever, David Crouch argues. Radical action is needed.

OPINION: Sweden's 'historic investment' has failed to solve the housing crisis

Forced to move house 20 times in the past eight years, Maria’s situation was desperate. She and her daughter had arrived in Stockholm from Latin America in search of a better life. She found work, no problem – but housing was impossible.

“Sometimes I was paying 12,000kr in rent and it was very hard because I only had 15,000kr in monthly salary,” says Maria (not her real name). So she took a high-interest loan of 240,000kr and tried to bribe someone in the Housing Agency to get to the front of the queue for affordable housing.

But she was caught. Her fate is unknown. And she didn’t even get an apartment.

This recent story, in the excellent newspaper of the Tenants’ Association, sums up the problems facing people who move here to work. The market for rental accommodation is tight as a drum. Finding a home means competing with Swedes, but with all the disadvantages of being an outsider. So people find themselves pushed into short-term, insecure rental contracts at inflated prices.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Five years ago this month, the government announced a “historic investment in housing”, including subsidies for construction companies, easing restrictions on building permits, and making more land available.

The housing situation at the time was grim. Spotify had threatened to leave Sweden if things didn’t improve – how could the company attract skilled young people to a city where there was nowhere for them to live? More than half Stockholm’s population – 600,000 people – were in the queue for a coveted rental apartment, because strict regulation meant these rents were low. But it took as long as 20 years to get to the front of that queue.

The result was a thriving rental property black market, with large bribes changing hands. Many tenants exploited the situation by sub-letting their homes, or parts of them. “It is almost impossible for immigrants and new arrivals to penetrate this market – it is all about who you know and how much money you have,” said Billy McCormac, head of the Fastighetsägarna property association, in 2015.

READ ALSO: 

So what has been the outcome of the grand promises the government made five years ago? House-building at the time was already rising steadily, and it has continued to do so. Look around you in the big cities and you will see that new apartment blocks have sprung up here and there.

But we shouldn’t go only on appearances. To understand the reality, we need to look at some numbers.

The gap between demand for housing and the existing housing stock has indeed started to shrink. “As housing construction has gradually increased and population growth has begun to slow down, the gap has decreased since 2017,” Stockholm’s Housing Agency noted in December.

The Agency has broken records four years in a row for the number of rental homes it has provided. The proportion of young adults living independently has also increased somewhat, the Tenants’ Association found, probably due to the pace of construction.

But this smidgen of good news is outweighed by an avalanche of bad.

The average queuing time in 2021 for a Stockholm apartment was more than 9 years; for somewhere in the city centre you have to wait 18 years. Only 936 homes came with a waiting time of less than one year. More than three-quarters of a million people are now registered in the queue for housing – a big increase on five years ago.

The rate at which the housing shortage is shrinking is nowhere near fast enough to alleviate the huge accumulated demand.

Assuming that the current pace of construction can be maintained, it will be the end of this decade before any significant dent is made in the deficit of homes, according to Boverket – the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning. The current rate of construction is “only marginally more than the long-term need”, it says.

The challenge is even greater when it comes to producing affordable housing, Boverket says, especially for the young and those entering the housing market for the first time. Almost one in four young Swedes up to the age of 27 are forced to live at home – the second-highest figure since the measurements began.

There are already signs that housing construction is actually slowing down, owing to higher building material prices, rising interest rates and an incipient labour shortage. Construction prices rose by more than 8 percent last year, and there is concern in the industry that war in Ukraine will further affect costs, in turn slowing the pace of building.

There is another fly in the ointment, a consequence of the collapse of Sweden’s governing coalition in November. The new, minority administration was forced to adopt the opposition’s budget, which halted investment subsidies for house building, throwing the construction industry into confusion.

In short, the “Swedish model” for providing people with a roof over their heads is failing. The folkhemmet, or “people’s home”, has not enough homes for its people.

Swedes themselves understand this: in a survey last month, nine out of ten voters said they thought that politicians did not take the housing shortage seriously.

We have waited too long. It is time for fresh thinking and radical action to solve the housing crisis.

David Crouch is the author of Almost Perfekt: How Sweden Works and What Can We Learn From It. He is a freelance journalist and a lecturer in journalism at Gothenburg University

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