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South Africans in Germany

Finding a place to rent is almost like doing a job interview. You have to “advertise” yourself and you will have to go for interviews.
The best is to go prepared!  You will need at least the following documents:

  • A Schufa report (credit report),
  • proof of employment,
  • bank statements and
  • a motivation letter if you like.
    In this you introduce yourself .. how big is the family, do you have pets, do you have parties every Wednesday, do you smoke, where you work, etc. A tip from others, also add proof of insurance , for example pet insurance if you have pets, or personal liability insurance. You also add a reference letter from your employer. 

When you are not yet sure what type of place you want to get or exactly where, consider making use of Airbnb for a couple of months.

It also helps while you are waiting for your furniture to arrive in Germany.
You can read more about moving to Germany on this page,  there you can find a list of the cost of living comparison sites that might help you in your decision process.


A “Schufa” is a credit report. It is a bit of a chicken-egg situation. You cannot get a Schufa unless you already life in Germany.  
To get around this you can stay in an Airbnb for a couple of months and then get a Schufa, or say upfront that you don’t have one yet, or look for properties that do not require one. If you have a employment contract, you can also ask if they will accept that.
Simple Germany has a good guide on getting a Schufa

Cost of Living

In general, properties are more expensive in Germany than in South Africa, also when renting. Food and clothing prices depend a lot on where you are buying. Medical insurance is also more expensive in Germany,
The most, expensive cities in Germany with regard to rent are Stuttgart, Hamburg and Munich
Here are some cost-of-living comparative sites to give you an idea:

More information on the internet – a really good source of current information from types of housing, to disputes with neighbours. Available in German

Where to look for Accommodation

Rental agencies



  • Immowelt
  • ImmoScout24
  • Your local paper
  • eBay
  • Facebook sometimes has listings in an area
  • Relocation agents such as Swift Relocation

Furnished short term rentals

Shared accomodation

Buy or Rent

To buy or rent is a personal choice. Just be aware of the possible hidden costs of ownership.
There was a case recently where owners were charged for fixing the road in front of their properties.
Interest rates are pretty low. Deposits are high.
Simple Germany has a good article on this

Typical property description

3-Zimmer Wohnung

Die Wohnung bietet eine Wohnfläche von ca. 116,56 m². Diese Fläche verteilt
sich auf den Flur, zwei Schlafzimmer, das Wohnzimmer, das hell geflieste Vollbad, das WC und die Wohnküche.
Die Küche wir nur mit einem Herd und einer Spüle ausgestattet.”


  • When you are looking at a property with “3 Zimmer” it does not refer to bedrooms but the total rooms excluding the Kitchen and Bathroom.
  • Many properties will have no lights installed, only the fittings. You have to get them fitted or fit them yourself. A good place to look for artisans is My-Hammer
  • Make sure you know what your responsibilities will be for example are you responsible for keeping the pathway clear from snow or for cleaning the staircase (Treppenhaus). In BW you might be responsible for cleaning during your Kehrworche
  • Living space – Living space can be calculated according to 3 methods.  Only in the case of subsidized housing is a method prescribed by the Housing Subsidy Act
    • The DIN-277 standard. The floor space (Grundfläche) and living space (Wohnfläche) are the same. The height of the room is irrelevant. Roof areas, balconies, basements and garages are included. 
    • The Second Calculation Ordinance (II. BV), only up till 31.12.2003
    • Living space ordinance (WoFlV – as of 01.01.2004) In disputes the court follows this method. It evaluates the part of the floor space that can be used for living. It is not the same as the Grundfläche(floor space) method- 
      Rooms with sloping ceilings can only partially be taken into account. Cellars, laundry rooms, heating rooms and garages do not count towards the living space. Chimneys, pillars and columns do not count towards living space if they are higher than 1.50 meters and have a floor area of more than 0.1 square metres.
  • Be careful of photos, it could for example be taken with the kitchen fitted but if it doesn’t say a kitchen is included (Einbauküche or EBK), it is not.
  • It is possible to lease your furniture,  Lyght Living and In-lease offers such services

Vocabulary and Info

die Wohnung This could mean accommodation but mostly it means an apartment or flat
 das Mietvertrag  Rental contract
Immobilienmakler Estate agent, realtor
Vertrag kündigen Cancel your contract
das Vermieter Landlord
das Mieter Tenant
Wohnen auf Zeit Temporary living option. Usually only for a couple of months.
Most will be furnished
die Wohngemeinschft Shared accommodation.
Popular with young people
die Garage / das Stellplatz Garage or parking space
das Grundstück Land or plot
die Warmmiete Rent with utilities (die Nebenkosten) like heating included.
Always refer to your rental contract
die Kaltmiete Rent without utilities (die Nebenkosten) like heating included.
Always refer to your rental contract
die Kaution Deposit. By law it may not be more than 3 times the “Kalt Miete”. To get your deposit back can take up to a year.
die Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung a certificate from your previous landlord to show
that you have no outstanding rent
Einkommensnahcweis Proof of income
das Deutscher Mieterbund German tenants association
das Wohnberechtigunsschein (WBS) Certificate to prove that the tenant is entitled to move into subsidized housing. If an apartment is advertised as WBS, only those with such a certificate can apply.
die Nebenkosten

Additional charges for utilities and services like heating, hot water, trash collection etc. 
This is usually a fixed amount (for the year) and at the end of the year you will receive a Betriebskostenabrechnung, which is a statement of how much you paid and how much you actually used.
If you used less than what you paid you will get money back.
Electricity (der Strom) is usually not included in the Nebenkosten, it will depend on your rental contract so make sure about it.

Internet and Television can be included but most times it is not.

A very good site for more information (in German) is Ratgeber.immowelt

der Strom Electricity (der Strom) is usually not included in the Nebenkosten, unless specified in your rental contract. 
If it is not included, you will have to sign a contract with a electricity provider.
You can use websites like Verivox and Check24 to make a comparison. You are also allowed to switch between providers.

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