The title says it all. Where is the apartment? Most of the emails, texts and messages we get include the question- have you found an apartment yet? While it was our desire to have found a place to call home in the first 4 weeks of being in Berlin we still have not found our home. I know some people reading this will assume we have grand standards that we are searching for, but we don’t. What follows is a taste of what searching for an apartment in Berlin actually looks like. There are some similarities to looking for a home in America, but not many.
Each morning I sit in front of the computer on a very comprehensive website scouring the listings of apartments available in the neighborhoods we are looking to live in. If I find anything new or anything we have decided could work that we had previously missed or ignored we send a message requesting to see it. We have switched our email to say, “We speak only a tiny bit of German.” so they know if they call us we’ll all end up having an interesting conversation. Either they will end up scheduling through our dedicated translator (read: Isaac age 10), through Denny’s limited German, or they will email us where we can each use the translate button online to figure out what is being said. Yes, we have found a few agents that speak English but not many probably due to the areas we are searching in. Once we schedule an appointment we take trams, buses, or trains to get to our destination requiring much planning because we cannot be late and navigating public transportation is proving to be a task in itself. This can take 20 minutes to over an hour each way. Sometimes we show up at the apartment and we are the only ones looking, other times there are 10-25 other people walking around the place at the same time. We went to one last week and everyone was taking an application from the agent, I bet he sold it that day. If we like it and it will fit our “large” family we ask for an application. This piece of paper will be entirely in German and will take us a while to fill in because (1) we need to translate it piece by piece and (2) will require multiple other documents we may or may not have. Once we get it back to the agent they will scour through all available applications and submit them to the owner who will choose the best option on paper. We will in most cases not be the ideal candidate because we don’t speak the language and we have a large family. Oh, and even after we send in our papers it could be a couple weeks until they decide and begin the process of us becoming tenants. So, what are we looking for? A home above 95m², with three bedrooms, in a neighborhood that has an elementary school near it (which is hopefully where our kids will attend), isn’t too far from public transit because we don’t have a car, within our budget, and in a couple of areas where there is a partner to help us learn language and culture during these first years. Perks would be a kitchen included, a balcony or terrace and a place for a dryer (not common here).
That’s it, our grand desires for a home in Berlin. It isn’t that these places are not available, they just don’t seem to be available where we are looking. We were warned that finding an apartment would be a full time job here. Now we know it is a full time job. We are eagerly anticipating the day we find ours and sign the papers for our home.