A *short* tale of Apartment Hunting

Some facts and numbers:

Number of times I check Immobilien Scout, THE website where everyone looks for apartments in Germany, per day : 25 to 50

Number of emails and phonecalls related to apartment hunting per day: 10

Number of rejection emails or phonecalls per day: 1 to 2

Number of apartments visited up until 13th of August: 43 and counting

Fact: I use an online service which tracks if there were changes on websites which do not offer notifications if new apartments are added.

SO YES… I AM PARANOID about it🙂 I would rather call it maybe persistence. 

Now, let us start with this story.. a rather *short* tale about me and Amr’s apartment hunting in Munich, Germany. The big amazing vibrant city, or at least that is the face tourists see.

I have a couple of comments to make before writing the story:

  • I would have preferred to write this post in Arabic (my mother tongue) since there are certain jokes and sayings that would have fitted some situations fairly nicely and the whole story will read lightly as a sort of black-comedy kind of thing. However, I opted to write it in English in the end because I have many non-Arabic reader friends besides maybe the whole story would be useful for anyone from anywhere in a similar situation.
  • We have not found an apartment yet. So do not search for the happy ending.. YET,,just YET.
  • By writing this I do not intend to whine, complain, ridicule  anyone else’s rather much more complex situations in life, be conceited, annoying, selfish, etc,, etc,,
  • By writing this I do not intend at all to make fun of, point fingers at, or ridicule any particular culture. I am mainly shedding light on a personal situation.
  • A lot of details have been omitted from this account of the experience to make it as concise as possible.

Having said all that, my rather *short* account of the story shall start.

It all started shortly after the new year, 2014. Amr and I have been married (in the mosque/I mean we signed the papers and all, not the actual wedding) at the end of December 2013. I was going to start my German courses followed by the my PhD studies in Stuttgart. Amr was working ias an Engineer n Munich for some months. Looking to life ahead of us and starting the journey together. We had started a bit before December to look for apartments, however the real strong start was after new year’s.

I would like to give you a short background about searching for apartments in Germany, and especially Munich. Munich is a big, reputable and seeked-for city. It is in the south east of Germany, in Bayern, a rather rich state. It has BMW, it has tourism, it has Intel, Infinion, and a multitude of other reputable national and multinational Engineering companies. It has TUM (Technical Universitaet Muenchen) and LMU (Ludwig Maxmillian University) which are both very very reputable by the local and European standards. It is a holiday destination. So bottom line, it is a city sought for by millions of people from so many disciplines and areas from tourists to students to engineers and from the whole world. Which also makes it the city with one of (if not the highest) renting prices. One of the most crowded cities. A city where you can hardly find a nursery, a home, a parking place, or even a place in a restaurant on Friday night. 

Hence, you are of course on of the million people looking for an apartment in Munich where everyone is going in, and no one is getting out. 

That is for Munich. As for apartment rentals in general in Germany, there are 2 main ways. “With Provision” or “Without Provision”. Provision is basically a totally useless amount of money (namely 2.38*month’s cold rent) that you have to pay as a commission to a person/company who should be “helping” you find an apartment but instead does nothing except put the ad for the apartment online. In many other states in Germany or many other countries in general, the concept of having a middle-man whom you go to, give him your preferences and he finds you a place in return for an amount of money, surely as a concept exists. However, as Munich is unique in everything else, it is unique in this one too. Since everyone is looking and hardly no one is leaving, that middleman makes use of that and just advertises any new apartments he has (by dealing with the current owners) and waits for people to come by. No preferences, no nothing. So basically he advertises one apartment today, gets 50 or 60 replies tomorrow, schedules a visit (that is the time he finally gets out of his chair and office), lets the people in, makes them fill a form, send the stuff to the current owner and the owner chooses one. I have not yet met someone who actually asks what are your preferences and looks for you. MAYBE we will🙂

The other way is “Without Provision”. In this case there is no this extra amount of uselessly paid money. Either a person who owns an apartment privately rents it (by also directly putting an ad somewhere in one of the famous websites) or a company owns some buildings and directly privately rents the apartments to people without any commission. Sometimes those companies give a portion of those apartments to middle-men again who rent it for them again with the annoying commission. 

That being said, here are some questions and situations you might wonder about.

If you have been looking since january, why have you found nothing until august?

Well we have been doing our best. It is just that there are usually between 10 and 50 (depending on with or without provision) other people who are interested in the same apartment. Also, it is not like cumulative, no one cares if you have been looking for ages or for years. Every apartment you apply to is like your first. No one considers you have done any prior effort, it is all LUCK plus some other things (especially if your criteria from valid permit to work contract to enough money to pay the rent fit) …..

What about DISCRIMINATION?

Well again, I would not like to call it neither racism nor discrimination but rather priorities and a ratio between the demand and the supply. Of course that is the pragmatic me🙂 The human in me is hating every second of it and would like to shout loud and high “DISCRIMINATION”. However, it has been said to us many many times from other Egyptian friends to German friends to American friends to people who work in the real estate business. If the owner is an old German lady, from Bayern, we are VERY VERY likely to be at the very bottom of her list. 

If there are 50 people, 30 of which are Germans, 10 of which are Europeans, 9 of which are Asians and only one Arab and also (oh brace yourself, a MUSLIM! With a VEIL!) then why would I choose them?🙂 We do not care how long they have been looking, every apartment is a new challenge with a brand new white page to scribble down your rejections :) 

I do not need to go deeper in this rather *sensitive* topic but I have reached a point where I do not care to openly ask people if they have a problem with where I come from or how I look.

What are some of the situations you faced?

Well by FAR, the most hilarious one was “Tombstone Home”. So it was one day in May, right after we got married (the actual wedding) and I got back to Germany filled with new hope that we will finally find our “new nest” of love in Munich. 

Amr called me up and said the girl currently living in the place told him if he promises to take the sofa and a cupboard for 1000 Euros she will put a word for us to the owner and hence persuade the owner to rent us the place (extortion or bribery?) . Having no other option we said yes sure. The place was far from both Amr’s job and the city center where also my job would be, reachable with S-Bahn (fast trains to the outskirts of the city) and also “Dachgeschoss” (roof apartment with slanted ceiling that is SO extremely low.., PS: not all roof apartments are bad, this one was extraordinarily low).  With that done, the lady owner of the house indeed called us and said that the girl put word for us and one other “competitor” and she wants to interview us both. So, packed my stuff and took the train to Munich (2.5 hours) then took the S-Bahn to the lady, 

Putting aside all aforementioned facts and the fact that the lady spoke in completely incomprehensible Bayerish German (she was rather old) which is by the way, a completeeeeely different language, not just an accent, putting ALL that aside, turned out the lady has an office in the ground floor which sells beautiful tombstones to people. Till here there is no problem still.. The only problem is that the garden of the house was nothing but a huge display of tombstones.. like 50 of them, all prices, all sorts, all kinds, shapes and sizes🙂 Please take a look :

I guess it would have been hard to host people in our place indeed.. it is like we lived in the cemetery :) 

2014-05-18 11.22.02 2014-05-18 11.22.36

Oh I didn’t tell you, the funny thing is, the lady chose the other competitor😀 Probably he was German.

So as not to make this any longer, here are some final words:

  • I am hopeful. Amr is hopeful. We are not giving up. This is just a tiny challenge on the journey of life🙂
  • To Germany, we as Egyptians can make very nice neighbors. Culture diversity, new languages, amazing food, etc etc.. so as a community try to be more open to accepting others before rejecting them without a good reason or bad experience.
  • To Munich, please be a little easy on us. Is it not enough that a 55 square meter apartment would cost more than 900 Euros monthly? This is just crazy.
  • To the people who are in a similar situation, if you need links to websites, more about this all, just drop me a line😀 I can give you an even fuller account of it all.

PS: This was written during my train journey from Stuttgart to Munich, Wednesday afternoon, to see 3 more apartments, with provision. Keep your fingers crossed  for us, maybe today will be the glorious day :) 


On another note, with reference to my previous post, and in Bridget Jones style:

– Number of times Facebook checked off phone: 50+

– Number of times obsessing about not having facebook on phone and complaining to self how slow it is and annoying to open via browser: close to 100

Note to self: Utter Failure.

Anyway, I shall keep trying :) 

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