Renting in Germany

We will be in Germany in 7 days! As of today we’ve been on the road for a month and tomorrow we fly to Spain before hitting the ground in Hamburg! Stay tuned on Instagram! (link on the right)

But, I promised to tell you about finding a house in Hamburg! And now we have one! But that’s the punchline… Here’s a bit about the process…


So, when it comes to figuring out housing internationally, we have been working with a relocation company. However, I suspect that we will appreciate their help with setting up utilities and internet (all in German) more than in our house hunting adventures. No hard feelings, it’s just that my husband is THE best at research. He has found almost all of the houses we’ve wanted to view and we’ve had a fair amount of fun in the process. (It’s hard not to feast your eyes after 1960’s grad school housing! Never truer words were spoken when someone said, “I almost expect Jason Bourne to come climbing from the roof onto the balconies.” … The outside had the cold, hard-lined European complex feel. Charmed. Or not.)

So, Brian began researching the housing market almost immediately after we started seriously considering Germany. (This is his favorite game–housing research.) That means we’ve spent months deciphering “the German way” with housing. To name a few:

  • Rentals turn over quickly and often. A house listed today may be gone tomorrow. You shake a hand, write a check, and can be in your house in a week or less. Very efficient. (This also makes it hard to search for a house in advance.)
  • Rental properties are owned by people. There is no company. When you rent, it is a personal business relationship. Germans don’t like renting to people they can’t see in person. They want to be able to trust you. This is difficult when you live… across the ocean.
  • When listing a property, there is no such thing as “staging”. You need to imagine all of their stuff gone. Their paper towel holder, toaster, and bedding selection are there for all to see.
  • Every house has a listed number of “zimmers” (rooms). Each apartment’s number of zimmers may or may not be bedrooms only, or may include the kitchen, or may include the living room… So, it’s not an easy search filter.
  • There are doors on every room. The kitchen is often totally enclosed with a door. Kind of wild.
  • When you rent an apartment, it comes bare. No lights. And no light fixtures. Nothing. There aren’t usually closets, and almost everyone buys wardrobes from Ikea.

At this point it’s almost (but not quite) funny how many glitches our international move has had. The housing situation was certainly not excluded from “the fun”. We saw about 5 apartments/houses by Skype with our nice relocation helper. She was kind and did a good job.

The decision tree for housing in Hamburg is very similar to any other city: more money to be closer to the city, likely in an older apartment and with less space. Further out of the city, the options you can afford increase, you might get some yard space, and the restaurants are fewer. And yes, I need to go watch House Hunters International because everyone says that I should be on it when I tell them of our adventures.

We had many conversations on what we want… The parking spot? Laundry hookups? A newer apartment? A place for laundry? A cool part of the city? A laundry room. The Portuguese district–which we loved? Near our school? Ok ok. It’s all about the laundry. And we got it!

We settled on a newly built townhouse an 11 minute drive to school and a 30 minute drive to the center of Hamburg. It has 1600 sq ft and 5 (smaller) bedrooms. We got all the way through the contract process and the owner backed out. Thankfully, 5 days later, we were offered an almost identical unit a few doors down. The only bummer? The kitchen is grey–not white. Boo hoo. (sarcasm–it’s beautiful). We are so very grateful after our Jason Bourne apartment and are excited to arrive and get possession of it on July 15! (Fun fact: that is one day shy of one year ago when we got possession of our Cambridge apartment. Life is an adventure!)

Without further ado, here are some photos sent to us by the realtor. More later when we get settled–I promise!

We’re looking at the front entryway: You walk in the front door and that first door (on your right as you walk in, but on the left of the photo) is a guest bath and a coat closet. The last door (first on the left) is storage under the stairs. We will be buying the fridge. (We’ll also be buying our washer and dryer, like most Germans.)


Kitchen Sink

View of Kitchen from LR


Above the tub are towel heaters/dryers. They are very typical. So is the bidet… Yes, we’ll have one.

Bathroom 2

Bathroom Shower

Things I’m excited about are laundry on the third floor (where our bedroom will be), a balcony also on the third floor, a patio for eating outside and a common green space between rows of townhouses. The kids can play outside, the parking is free, and we get to rent a brand new apartment. We’re very blessed. Oh, and there’s room for you to stay! Come visit. We’ll even cook for you!

I’m tempted to be so excited for Germany that I want to rush through our  vacation in Spain… but that would be foolish! Bring on the cured meats, red wine and in-ground pool! Ciao!

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