Since I had just successfully finished hunting for a room ( the one where I live is a temporary accommodation) I thought it should be interesting to write on this topic – though it’s a very very general and broad area that demands for itself a separate PhD study!
A roof above his head has been man’s natural desire from the early ages.. It applies a lot more to students who have moved away from their homes or homelands and come to distant places to study, so in a foreign land, a foreign language and different systems and practices, things are bound to be rough and you need not be surprised by them.
Ok, since this topic is something that cannot be written in the form of a set of instructions that are to be followed to guarantee that dream home, I am forced to keep this short and concise, as its very essential that one needs to pull up his socks and get into the field to actually understand the art of hunting for a room truly.
Ok, lets get the essential vocabulary first, note that this list is not exhaustive and you will probably learn more in the very first day you get into this.
Wohnung – house / room
1-Zimmer Wohnung (1-room flat).
EBK – Einbauküche – built in kitchen
Bad, WC / Bathroom , toilet
WG – Wohngemeinschaft – A shared house where individual persons have their own rooms, while kitchen, bath and cellar are shared. So technically there cant be a 1er WG and you understand what a 2er and 3er WG is.
Miete – rent
Kaltmiete – cold rent- the fixed part of the rent that you pay to the landlord
Nebenkosten – the variable part of the rent. These are the utility costs like electricity, heating, water, waste disposal, waste water disposal, cleaning of the areas surrounding the house etc. this is paid to the Stadtwerke.
Warmmiete – Kalt plus nebenkosten .. this may also be called the Gesamtmiete (total).
Kaution – Deposit (usually 2 -3 times the kaltmiete)
Mietvertrag – the agreement between you and the landlord
Vermieter – the landlord
Mieter – that’s you, the poor guy!
Wohnfläche – area of the room
The cheapest and the most hassle free option is the Student hostel run by the Student services of each uni. Here, you have to share your kitchen and bath with the other inmates of your floor, but you save a lot of money and don’t have to worry too much about cleaning and maintenance. You do have to empty your waste bins yourself!
But unfortunately its not available for PhD students for long time stays. There are however private hostels that are available but have heavy competition and long waiting lists. So make sure, you contact them well in advance. These informations could be ontained from the Student Services of your university.
Next, WGs offer a mix of advantages. They are cheap and are usually a great opportunity to know and live with people from very diverse cultural backgrounds ( so, you have to be ready for this!). The downside compared to a own-flat is that you have lesser privacy and you have to be able to go well together with your flat mates.
The costliest but obviously most comfortable option is a flat for yourself.
Step 1: Sometimes, old and time tested methods work really well than anything else.
All you have to do is to get your german friend to write for you on a paper, that you are looking for a room of so and so specifications, range of rent, room area etc. and include your mobile number and email and put it and copy it and put it up at the Mensa, the university notice boards and wherever you think its effective( and it should be allowed to stick an ad there!). Now charge up your phone and wait for the calls! Yes, time-tested, simple and effective, this is the most popular method especially among students. This also goes for used furniture, books etc. From used writing tables to gold fishes anything can be bought/ sold on the notice boards.
Step 2: Use WG-gesucht and forget your worries!
This is an amazing website and though there are many others like Immobilien Scout, I would recommend this one for all. It has all the useful parameters to set like range of rent, moving in date desired, location, etc. and very good interface overall. When you find something interesting like a cheap room near the university, get the person’s number , and just call up immediately, one second that you think about it could mean someone else calling up before you. But don’t take hasty decisions in finalizing anything. You can first make an appointment to visit the place and then think and consider in peace later.
Step 3: Networking
Word of mouth works really well that you would think. Talk to you colleagues, class mates anyone.. That dream house you seek in the centre of the city, or in a peaceful location or close by to the uni, could all be just a single phone call away from someone known to your friend or colleague. You just have to make sure everyone knows, you are seriously searching for a room. Right information at the right time, is everything.
Step 4: You can’t think too much too.
You may have 10 options in your hands, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Typically its like, the room near to the uni is comfortable to reach uni, but very costly; the cheap one is attractive, you could use the money saved to buy some nice furniture, but its in the other part of the city and public transport takes around 40 minutes to an hour..
If you weigh your options for too long a time, you could actually be losing one by one to other room-seekers! So don’t be hasty, think and decide, at the same time understand you can’t have all of the cake, you need to make some adjustments and be flexible , what that exactly could be, only you can decide. Ask parents and friends and other Germans for guidance if you are not sure. But don’t sign anything with the Vermieter unless you are finally sure about it.
Step 5: Stay away from those agents as much as possible
My opinion is that, though its tough you can do the room search yourself and you don’t have to pay around a 1000 euros to the estate agent for this job and then find yourself bankrupt for the next few weeks.
To round up here are some of the most important parameters.
- Proximity to Uni. (use the website of the local transport to find travel times etc.)
- Living space area
- Rent per area (use Kaltmiete)
- In case of WG, how many other people.
- Proximity to the city ( you could be paying a dirt cheap rent but you don’t want to live in the middle of the forest, do you?)
- Whether any furniture is also included (mostly no 😥 ) and if so, how much would they cost. Note that kitchen is also a furniture. Compare the prices with the original prices from IKEA. But again don’t think too much too.
- Hope.. you will soon get a room!
Finally for an average Germany city – you could be paying around 10 euros per sq.m area for a location in between city and uni. Obviously this could be even double for cities like Munich and far lesser for smaller cities.
Happy room – hunting!