For the first time in over four years, I finally have a place to myself again! It feels especially great given how much housing has been a roller coaster ride over the past year I’ve been living in Berlin. The first few months I was here, I was in and out of hostels and new friend’s couches. As I ride along the U-bahn and S-bahn tracks of Berlin, I can point out to people “Oh, I used to live here!”; the various stations that were my home station during various parts of my quasi-nomadic existence.
When I finally did get a more stable place in a shared apartment, it was with two guys I didn’t really know that well. What choice did I have? I was tired of being more-or-less homeless and desperate to get some kind of stability, so I moved in with them. One of them was/is a great guy, but my relationship with the other quickly soured and went from “new best friend” to “we avoid eye contact whenever possible.” The atmosphere in the apartment turned toxic. (So did the condition of the bathroom and the kitchen most days, but that’s another story)
Once I found a job and finally had a steady income, I was eager to get out of there as fast as I could. Nonetheless, I still had to wait 3 months in order to get the 3 paychecks that German landlords often require before renting a place to you. (For proof of income purposes). I also had to get a German credit score report and a note from my current landlord stating that I didn’t owe them any rent. The whole thing was pretty stressful. I was lucky to have Insa help me navigate the process and speak to people on my behalf.
We looked at a few places around Berlin. I liked the first apartment I saw the best, which is the one I ended up getting. I was actually going back and forth on it horribly the night before I saw the place. While I could afford it, it was on the higher end of my price range and I’d have less spending money each month. Even so, the location was amazing. Extremely central to Berlin, next to 2 different u-bahn stations, 1 train 20 minutes to my work, nice shopping around the corner, my bank branch 2 minute walk away, quiet on a side street, and, as it turns out, only a 6 minute walk away from Insa’s apartment. (Which wasn’t really a factor when deciding where to move, just a nice coincidence.)
It’s a 2 room apartment (1 bedroom, 1 living room/dinning room alcove), with a balcony and a furnished kitchen. The furnished kitchen was a big deal because when people move apartments in Germany, they often take EVERYTHING with them, including the kitchen counter tops and sink. This place had all that intact, which saved me a lot of headache. The one strange thing about the apartment is that the bedroom windows look out onto a cemetery. I know that might be off putting to a lot of people, but it’s basically like a large park, and the best part is that it’s quiet.
I looked at 3 other places after this place. Two of them I really liked as well. The location was decent, not as good as the first, and one even had my favorite sushi delivery restaurant on the ground floor of the building. I could just imagine ordering sushi, still in my house shoes, and just taking the elevator down to pick it up.
The beginning February I got a phone call saying that the first place I saw, the one I really liked, was mine if I wanted it. I was thrilled and said I’d take it. 2 hours later, another realtor called and offered me either of the two other places she had shown me. (Including the one with the sushi place downstairs) I got really lucky here. I kinda feel bad about it actually. I know how difficult it is to find an apartment here in Berlin. I’ve heard my fair share of horror stories from people.
I think what really played in my favor was that 1) I didn’t want to start a WG. A lot of students are out there looking to start shared student housing, and sometimes landlords are wary of renting their property out to a group of kids who might trash it. 2) I had a full time job with a decent salary. There are a lot of “starving artist” types in Berlin; the unofficial slogan for the city is “Arm, aber sexy” (Poor, but sexy). Nothing wrong with that, though I think the stability of a tenant with a 9-5 tech job was attractive to them. I did, however, have to explain that I was planning on staying here for a while, on account of being a foreigner with a visa. One landlord initially expressed concern that I might want to rent the place and leave within a year, which is not my plan.
Anyways, here’s a short video of me doing a walk-through of the place after getting the keys from the landlord.
Come move in day, I packed all my belongings into various boxes and got ready to go pick up a rental truck with a friend who was kind enough to drive. (They wouldn’t take my US license for insurance purposes) It’s amazing how much crap I accumulated in just a few months of being here, especially given that I arrived as an immigrant with 2 pieces of luggage and a backpack.
Oh, and what’s the first thing Insa did after we cleaned the place? She made herself a bubble bath. (She only has a shower at her place, and my last bathroom, while it had a tub, was a health hazard.)
I’ve got so many cool plans for this new place once I unpack everything and save up some cash. I want to build a home server/networking lab setup/work bench area/ game room/ reading/writing corner, but I guess that’s all for a later post.