We have been hunting for an apartment actively since we arrived in Frankfurt. Our German friend recommended Immobilien Scout 24. It was quite daunting when I first started using it since the website is entirely in German. However, a little help from Google Translate (which can be very amusing!) and some common sense will help you navigate the website. I found it useful to have the RMV website up in another tab, perhaps have an idea about which district(s) you might want to live in and how much you want to spend on rent.
Although I recommend using Immobilient Scout 24, do be cautious of scams out there. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can pay 450 Euro a month on a 90 square meter apartment smacked in town! Not knowing what the market rates were in Frankfurt, I’ve sent email queries on those sort of apartments. The ‘Landlords’ usually have similar stories to tell – they either work for a company in London now or their spouses just died. I think for May the story is that their daughter has returned to the UK to work and no longer needs the apartment. They’ll ask you to send them 1000 Euro just to view the apartment because they aren’t in Frankfurt and need a 3rd party to show you the apartment. NEVER EVER AGREE TO THIS! It’s pretty much the same worldwide – you’ll never have to hand over any money until your contract is signed.
In Germany ‘Kaltmiete‘ is Cold Rent (excludes heating) and ‘Gesamtmiete‘ is Warm Rent (includes heating and miscellaneous costs but EXCLUDES ELECTRICITY). For those of you from the UK, you’ll be surprised to know that tenants are responsible for paying the commission if you’re using an agent. This is known as Provision. By law, agents can only charge up to 2.38 times of the Kaltmiete plus 19% VAT. I imagine many of you going ‘OUCH! That’s hell a lot of money!’. As like everywhere else, you’ll also have to pay a deposit or a Kaution in German. My German friend recommended me to make sure that the landlord saves the deposit in some sort of tenancy deposit account and to ask for evidence of it. This makes perfect sense as you won’t want the landlord to spend all your deposit away and have nothing left to pay you back when you leave (assuming you didn’t damage his apartment!).
We used what we paid in Oxford (£650 excluding utilities which is equivalent to approximately 807 Euro) as a guide to how much we would like to pay for an apartment in Frankfurt and to also have an idea what that price tag could fetch. Rental prices are ridiculously high in Oxford (ridiculous is an understatement but I shall refrain from being too rude) so we were pleased to find out we can get a decent place in Frankfurt for the same amount.
The popular places to live in Frankfurt are Sachsenhausen, Nordend, Bornheim and Westend. These are all very near the city center packed with lovely restaurants and cafes. We currently live in Sachsenhausen and I must say it’s just lovely. It’s a highly sought after location so be prepared to pay for it. Having said that, each location I mentioned has a ghetto of its own. Not every single part of them is pretty so make sure you have a look around the apartment you’re viewing to have a general feel of the surroundings. According to Daniel, I’m strange. I’ll look at the exterior of the apartment block to check for graffiti and also see if the building has been well maintained. Maybe it’s because I come from a country where graffiti is a SERIOUS offence, I really don’t like living in an apartment block that has been vandalised, neither do I like to look out to see a block which has ‘F***’ sprayed on it.Trust me, dirty looking apartment blocks put me off BIG TIME. Doesn’t help even if the interior is a palace.
I suppose in most places in the UK or even in Singapore, you do go away to give yourself a day or two to think about the place you’ve viewed. Unfortunately that would be a luxury in Frankfurt and we learnt that sleeping on it means you’ve lost that perfect apartment. Trust me on this because we learnt it the hard way. Frankfurt’s a pretty city and a huge financial district. Most Germans rent (they’re not huge on buying properties) and hence there are lots of demand for rented properties in Frankfurt. This isn’t window shopping. My advice is if you like an apartment and it fits within your budget, GET IT ON THE SPOT!
If you don’t speak/read/write German, it might be worth asking the agent to help you with all the forms you need to fill out in order for them to create a contract. Bring along copies of your passport, 3 months payslips (if you haven’t got a payslip from your employer in Germany yet, use what you have previously), proof of current address in Frankfurt, bank statements (especially if you haven’t got your payslip yet) and work contract. With these documents the agent should be able to reserve the apartment for you. Fret not if you haven’t got them with you because you can always email them to the agent as soon as you can. Just make sure you inform the agent that you want the apartment first!
I would also recommend turning up at least 30 minutes before your appointment to walk around the neighbourhood to find out where the supermarkets are, which tram/bus/train stop is the nearest and how long it takes to walk from there to the apartment, where the chemists are etc. Of course, these can be done on Googlemap too but nothing beats having to do the actual walk itself! There was once when we only looked around the area after looking at the apartment and it was too late!
Most apartments in Frankfurt are unfurnished and that could sometimes mean not having a kitchen (Einbauküche). If you’re willing to build a kitchen yourself, by all means. For us, we didn’t want the hassle of it and so we looked only for places with kitchens. You might have to buy over a kitchen because the current tenant isn’t bringing it along with him/her. This might come as a surprise for some of us because even an unfurnished flat in the UK would have a kitchen! Another point to note is that white goods such as refrigerators, washing machine and dryers may not be included in the flat so do check before renting!
Now that we’ve been through it, I think apartment hunting in Frankfurt isn’t a piece of cake. I wished we had someone in Frankfurt to tell us how things are done here (we did get lots of valuable help from Julia, our German friend in Aachen though!).
I hope this is helpful for those who are beginning to apartment hunt in Frankfurt. I’ll provide more details on what the lease entails when I get it (or if I’ll ever get it!).
And here’s a peep on how our apartment looks like BEFORE we move in! Can’t wait to make it cosy and simply just us!