On any forum, or Facebook group or online community of any shape that concerns Frankfurt, the thing that comes up ALL the time is “how can I find a place to live”?
I’m going through the process of moving right now – my current apartment isn’t in an ideal location, and things aren’t going so well with my flatmate so I have found a nice room in an apartment with 5 really lovely German people and 2 cats!
It all happened so quickly – I happened to be casually browsing an apartment website when I saw a nice advert, written in English, mentioning cats and I thought, what the hell, I’ll probably not get it so I might as well try. That was on a Friday. Sunday night I was asked to choose an appointment time to go and visit the apartment and meet the people, Monday after work I went to visit, and by Monday night they had chosen me.
The first time round it didn’t happen anywhere near as smoothly as this. I was in Japan, it was just after the Tsunami and I knew nothing about Germany. I had the right websites, but the first hurdle was that I didn’t speak any German at all, the second was that I was unable to go visit the apartment and the third was that people didn’t like the fact that I was in potentially-radioactive Japan.
What’s more, I made a big mistake – I was doing all this about 5 months in advance of me moving to Germany, which is way too early to get something good. My rental agreement, and German etiquette will tell you that one must give notice of their leaving 3 months in advance, but in actuality this doesn’t happen. Where German people will plan their whole year’s worth of holidays in January, they seem to plan to move flats in less than a month.
Eventually someone gave me a break and I moved in with a German girl, who was replaced with my current Japanese flatmate when the German girl left for London. So, what advice can I give you when moving to Frankfurt?
Learn the lingo -
You can easily get by in finding an apartment without knowing German. But you should know key terms that will crop up in your search. Here’s some for starters -
WG – Wohnung Gemeinschaft – shared apartment. I’d say about half of the people I know share apartments and the other half have their own place. Normally people will come here and share for a while until they find a good place to live by themselves for good.
Miete – rent. If you’re sharing then in Frankfurt this could cost anything from 300 euros for quite a crappy apartment to 600 for a nice room in a great apartment. If you’re looking to live alone, expect to pay around 600 a month for a standard, small, probably studio apartment.
Zimmer – room. When an advert says it’s 2 Zimmer it means a bedroom and a living room, not two bedrooms (if you say in English it’s a 2 roomed apartment most people will think it’s got two bedrooms).
Einbaukuche – kitchen is included. Important info warning! Especially if you are renting your own place (ie not a shared apartment) your kitchen will probably not be included. You will need to go buy yourself a kitchen. I have no idea how to do this, as I’ve not done this before. On the same note, things like lighting and curtains may not be included even in a shared apartment. To this day, my “curtains” are a sheet that sandwiched in between the frame and the door of my window.
4 OG – it’s on the 4th floor (same as the UK – 5th floor US style). The apartment you like is in the attic on the 7th floor? You’re thinking “ach, I’ll just send my belongings up in the elevator”? WRONG. 90% of the time there will be no elevator in your building. On the plus side, after a year living in that 7th floor apartment, you’ll have a lovely bum.
kalt/warm – cold/warm. Your cold rent will be the base cost of your apartment and the warm rent will be rent + how much is costs to heat and electrify it.
Makler – evil companies/individuals who will take your hard earned cash just to show you a few apartments and give you a key. The fee will often be around 3 month’s rent. You won’t have to use one of these if you are looking to move into a shared apartment.
Kaution – deposit. Usually 2 month’s rent. Important info warning! In researching for this post I found that according to German law, your landlord must put your Kaution into a separate bank account in your name and not touch the money until you move out. Any interest gained on this money will be yours.
Provisionsfrei – No agency fees needed.
So what have we learnt so far? Moving to a new place in Germany costs a lot of money. Now let’s look at some of websites you can use to find an apartment!
wg-gesucht.de is a good site for finding shared apartments. In the top right hand corner you can click on a little Union Jack and make everything English. I found both of my apartments through this, and it’s easy to understand everything because of the little icons. You can see whether the people living there can speak English or not and you can easily see how many people are living in the apartment.
Don’t want a shared apartment? Try Immobilienscout24.de! I’ve not used this site but it’s pretty easy to use, even without any English.
Back to shared apartments – wgfinden.de is a site I’d not seen last time I was looking for a flat here. But it looks like a cool site, and there are links to the flatemates’ facebook pages so you can see if they are weirdos or not.
Speaking of Facebook, Wohnen in Frankfurt is a good page with regular posts from people with free rooms/apartments. You can find both shared and own apartments here.
If I were looking for an apartment, I would stay clear of forums like ToyTown or other expat communities because a) the people on there are usually grumpy (“You posted in the wrong section! Go look in the correct place for your apartment!!!”) and b) every other chump looking for an apartment will be there as well. Be wise, use the above websites like a German person.
There are many, many more websites out there – if you know any other good ones, be sure to share the knowledge in the comments section!
Which area of Frankfurt should I live in?
This varies greatly from person to person (some people I know won’t even go over the river for a good dinner, let alone live there) but here is a very brief break-down of the areas in Frankfurt.
Innenstadt – the inner city. Can be a little pricey depending on location, but will probably be noisy. Good for shared apartments.
Bahnhofsviertel – The area around the main station. This is the area I live in, and the area I will stay in after I move. It is not as dangerous as people think. My previous apartment was in a quieter area and I always worried that if I was attacked no one would be around to help me, but aside from a few cat-calls and a few cars pulling up beside me, I’ve had no problems. There are people openly using hard drugs at the mouth of Kaiserstraße but if you ignore them they will ignore you. This area is usually very cheap since no one wants to live there and you’re likely to get a nice apartment for a great price.
Nordend – A nice area suitable for a family. Leafy, safe, and full of people who wish they lived in Bornheim. A very popular area, which pushes up the rent price.
Ostend – Good connection on the S Bahn but the area ranges from super lovely (near the zoo) to just as bad as near the main station (near the S Bahn station). There is a legal drug den next to the train station to keep drug users off the streets, but you still get the occasional dodgy looking person in that area.
Bornheim – The place everyone wants to live. It has its own little shopping street, plenty of cafes and so many lovely restaurants. It’s pretty safe, but can be an awkward place to live if you are stuck up the wrong end of Bergerstraße, far from the U Bahn stop. An expensive place to live, but you can get lucky and find a solo-apartment for around 500-600.
Gallus – Like the area around the main station, this has a bad rep. People will pity you if you say you live here, but I know people who do live in Gallus and it’s not that bad. It’s 1 block away from where I live and my improv classes are there too and I’ve never heard or experienced anything bad there. The only thing I would say is that it’s a little dirtier than other places. You can probably find a pretty good apartment for a decent price here, and it’s got a good S Bahn link as well as trams running through it.
Bockenheim – Student central. Nice wide roads and nice buildings in a fairly safe area. Expect to find a lot of cheap shared apartments with more than 4 people living in them. A lot of people from work live there in apartments like that and it’s a great way to start your Frankfurt life as it’s a great way to meet new people and make friends.
Sachsenhausen – Over the river. If you’re a family, I’d say this is your best bet, though it may be pricey. This is the more traditional side of Frankfurt and if you go further south in Sachsenhausen you’ll get nice leafy areas with large houses to live in. The area around the Sudbahnhof station can be very pricey but it’s a nice area to live in nonetheless.
Flughafen – The area around the airport. I don’t know anyone who lives here but apartments here seem to be pretty cheap. It’s probably very noisy.
Niederrad – Over the river, between Sachsenhausen and the airport. This is where I work and the people who live here are usually people who have to work late in the office. On one hand this area can be pretty cheap to live in, and it may or may not be close to where you work since it’s a jungle of tall office buildings, but on the other hand it can be a pain in the bum to travel home to after a night on the town, and it’s often lacking the culture and shops etc of other areas.
Griesheim, Rodelheim, Praunheim – Places that are far away that people only live in if they want super cheap apartments and/or don’t know Frankfurt very well.
Höchst – A suburb of Frankfurt. You get to it by train or by S Bahn. Technically it’s part of Frankfurt but it’s it’s own place and I imagine pretty annoying to live in if you don’t have a car to get about easily.
Offenbach – The town next to Frankfurt. You can easily get from there to Frankfurt on the S Bahn but people say it’s not a nice place to live. Probably has some of the cheapest apartments you can get.
Anything else to mention?
It can take anything from a week to three months to find an apartment here, depending on how picky you are and how you do in apartment interviews. Be aware that when you move out of an apartment you may be required to repaint it. In some contracts there are strict rules about when you are able to use the washing machine/play music/make noise, as well as how often you are required to open your windows to prevent mould. If your contract is in German then get a German person to outline it for you.
Helpful links -