Munich is the third largest city in Germany, but with the highest standard of living available in the country, according to the Mercer Quality of Living survey. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot to bring expats to the city. BMW, for example, employs a massive 34,500 people in Munich. For students it’s good news too. Ludwig Maximilian University isn’t only ranked as the best in Germany, it also has a huge number of international students - some 13% of the total student population. The Technical University in Munich also ranks at third best in the country - leaving prospective students somewhat spoiled for choice here.
Whatever you’re coming to Munich for, you’re going to need a place to stay. Luckily, renting in Munich will cost you on average 40% less than finding a rental property in London. However, it’s not cheap. In fact, rental accommodation in Munich is much more expensive (41% more, in fact) than finding a place in Berlin. A one bedroom apartment in Munich city centre will set you back around €1030 on average a month, excluding utilities. For a larger, three bed house, you’re looking at €1935, although out of the city this cost falls on average to around €1454.
If you’re just making plans, it’s important to take into account all the costs associated with your move to Germany. Compare the cost of living in Munich with that of your home town using a comparison site such as Numbeo, and check out this quick guide to renting in Munich to find the perfect place for you.
Although there are several different options when it comes to housing in Munich, what suits you will depend largely on your circumstances, and your budget.
Many flats are let unfurnished in Munich. And, as odd as this might seem, this can mean there’s no kitchen installed. No appliances, no sink, no cupboards. Nothing. What you might find in an unfurnished property is that the previous tenants installed a kitchen, which they're willing to sell to you. However, this is a separate transaction to the rent, and negotiated with the outgoing tenants rather than the landlord. One way to get round this is to only see properties with an in built kitchen (*Einbaukuechen* - often abbreviated to EBK). Before you visit a property it’s a good idea to ask the agent or landlord precisely what will be in the apartment should you take it on.
If this sounds like too much hassle, you can rent a furnished place on a long term basis, but this will, naturally, cost you more, and generally these properties don’t stay on the market for long.
Finally, if you’re only in Munich for a relatively short time, there are fully furnished short term rents available, although these tend to cost more again.
Although it’s possible to find specific student accommodation (Halls of Residence) in Munich, you might find that there’s a waiting list for the Halls you choose. Most students actually find accommodation on the open market for this reason. That said, you’ll find support and advice at your university - and short term exchange students from abroad usually get accommodation provided by the university.
If you’re looking for a student place on the private market, it’s worth remembering that many people will be doing the same in the end of the summer, ready for the start of term. If you want to be sure of finding a place you love, it’s worth considering looking earlier when the market is at its quietest. For example, after the exam period at the end of spring and early summer.
If you choose to look for your place independently, then consider a flatshare. Private rentals in good locations tend to be fairly expensive, so for students or those looking to find a cheaper deal, this is often a better option. If more people put their money together it goes further. Try a site like Studenten-WG, which is specifically aimed at students looking for a home.
Naturally, where you choose to rent in Munich will be largely dictated by the location of your job or university. Not to mention your budget. As you might expect, the further away from the heart of town you go, the more affordable the rents. So you can get more for your money if you’re prepared to have a bit of a journey into the city.
Munich has a strong public transportation system. Understanding where it runs before choosing a neighbourhood can give you a good chance of finding somewhere both affordable and well connected.
The very heart of the city is the Altstadt (Old Town), which is full of shops and restaurants (and tourists). There’s accommodation here, but it’s extremely expensive and can get overrun by visitors at peak times. Still very central but somewhat quieter, you can find Neuhausen, which is a residential area close to fantastic green space for walking or cycling. It’s the city centre, so places still tend to be small, but the location can’t be beaten.
Haidhausen on the Isar river is another district popular with young professionals and artistic types. There’s a lively nightlife and pub scene here making it - in places at least - more suited to the party crowd than families. Close by, but slightly further out of the centre, however, you’ll find Berg am Laim, which is popular with families due to the international schools based here. From here, you’re looking at about a 20 minute drive into the city outside of peak traffic.
The suburb of Giesing is popular with expats looking to get a bit more house for their money (or have a quiet life). Despite being on the outskirts of the city, the strong public transport connections mean you can get into the city centre in just 20 minutes.
On the western edge of the city, Pasing is a relatively quiet area, which is home to a mix of families and students because of the university campus nearby. Getting into the centre of the city can take as little as 15 minutes by train, although congestion means that drive times are at least double that.
Neuperlach south west of Munich, is another community popular with families, and well served for shops and amenities. It’s around a half hour train journey into the city centre.
There are several top class universities in Munich, spread over different parts of the city. Finding accommodation can be tricky, because of the sheer numbers of students looking at the same time.
If you’re looking for student accommodation, then your best bet might be to look for a company specialising in this form of housing, rather than on the open market. Specialised companies focus on locations near university campuses, but might give more or a budget-friendly choices. Ask your university for their advice on reputable agencies, or try one of the private halls of residence listed by LMU.
You can choose from a wide range of websites which might work across the entire country, or have a more local slant. As a starting point, try one of the following:
- Try the online rental section of the Suddeutsche Zeitung paper, the local newspaper in Munich.
- WG Gesucht allows you to search for flats, homes or flatmates - and has an English language site.
- Wohnungsboerse puts you into direct contact with landlords, so there’s no agent’s fee. However, this will mean that you have to do your own research to make sure the place is suitable for you.
- Aimed primarily (but not only) at students, Studenten WG allows you to search by city for flat share and similar arrangements. Otherwise try WG-Suche
- Facebook - groups tend to be closed, so you’ll need to ask to join. A quick search within Facebook will pull up several options.
- Craigslist - Rooms, apartments and houses are all listed, but as with similar services anywhere, be wary and apply common sense and caution.
It can feel daunting if you’re just setting about finding the right place in another country and culture. Here are some of the things that can help you be more prepared.
You might find the rental arrangement you see in an ad is described as either cold or warm. This phrasing is actually to do with what utilities or services are included in the price you pay for rent. A ‘cold’ rental agreement means that the price quoted is for rent only, no utilities at all. A ‘warm’ agreement means the price you’re looking at includes the basic rent, fees associated with the building such as service costs and waste disposal, water and the heating costs if there’s a central heating system. However, even with a ‘warm’ arrangement, the tenant is liable to pay their own electricity, gas, TV and internet costs.
Even if you don’t speak any German, it can help to have a few words to hand when you’re trying to find your perfect rental in Munich. Many sites have English translations, and levels of spoken English are excellent in Germany, but here are a few terms you'll see:
- Mieten - Rent
- Untermieten - Sub-let
- WG (Wohngemeinschaft)- Shared accommodation such as a flatshare
- Mobiliert - furnished
- Kaution - Deposit
- Provision - Agents fee
- Kaltmiete/Nettomiete - The ‘cold’ rent, which means only the basic rent is included, no utilities
- Warmmiete - ‘Warm’ rent, usually including service charges, water and waste disposal
- Heizung Kosten - Heating costs
- Nebenkosten - Service charges for things such as maintaining communal areas of an apartment
- 2 Zimmer - Although this sounds like there are 2 bedrooms, this actually just means that there are 2 main living rooms, so usually one bedroom and one living room
Rental ads can read like code - full of abbreviations which are difficult to interpret even for a German speaker. However, there’s a handy guide here to the language used in German rental adverts, to help you figure out phrases such as this ‘*EBK (Abl VHB 600)’.* If you’re wondering - it means there is a kitchen in the property, but it’ll cost you an extra €600 to get it!
To protect your interests, you should sign a contract before handing over any money or moving in. Make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to before you sign including details like clauses about terminating your agreement and notice periods.
Good landlords are the majority, but in Munich, as in any other city, you’ll also find your share of unethical individuals or agents. Making a strong first impression, and then keeping on good terms with your landlord is a good start. For the best flats, there will be strong competition - so the landlord will want to know you’re a responsible and communicative tenant, or he might choose someone else.
There’s no guarantee the landlord will speak any English, of course. If you don’t speak good German, or it’s your first time renting a place in Germany then having an English speaking agent or relocation company can help you to grab your perfect Munich apartment.
Don’t forget that many Munich apartments are rented out by word of mouth. If you're in Munich for work, then make sure your colleagues and local friends know you’re looking. You might find that they can hook you up with a place with a friendly landlord without incurring agent fees.
For a deposit, you can expect to be asked for up to three months of rent. This has to be held in an account separate to the landlord’s everyday cash. Either you’ll open an account on which you’re both signatories, or the money could be placed in a savings account in the tenant’s name, but with the landlord holding access to the account. Once the tenant leaves, the landlord will give back the deposit (less anything for repair costs) and any interest accrued on the money in the meantime.
Any realtor fees incurred are usually paid by the landlord.
If you're just arranging your move to Germany, you might find that you need to make a deposit payment before you open a local bank account, or even arrive in the country. If you do, it’s worth remembering that your home bank might not offer the best value when it comes to making an international money transfer. Often banks will add hidden fees by using a poor exchange rate, even with their own account holders.
Be wary of common scams, such as properties offered for rental without proper contracts, or landlords or agents who ask for fees for a service you don’t want or need. However, the good news is that the rights of a tenant renting in Germany are well protected by law.
Common issues include the landlord withholding deposit money for a long time or for unfair reasons. Under the law, a landlord actually has several months to pay the deposit money back after the tenant vacates. It’s worth keeping on good terms to reduce the likelihood of this happening.
A landlord might also try to withhold a portion of your deposit for reasons you think are unfair. You should catalogue any damage present when you move in, by taking photos of things like scratches on floors or areas where painting is in poor condition. It’s worth also keeping a record of minor repairs as you do them, to show that you’ve taken good care of the place and any issues are just normal wear and tear.
If you can’t resolve your issues directly with the landlord, then the Munich Tenants Association can help with any problems or queries you might have about your rights.
There are certainly some quirks in the rental market in Munich - and it’s more competitive than in some other countries, or even other cities in Germany. However, by casting your net wide, using your contacts well, and being quick to make a decision on a place, you can have your dream Munich rental in no time. Good luck!