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Berlin – Housing & Utilities

Housing
Most Germans in cities live in various forms of urban housing such as apartments and semi-detached houses. Due to the destruction caused during the two world wars, most of the housing was built after 1950. Old properties (Altbau) usually have been built before 1914, since there was little construction between the wars.

Prices (both for purchase and rent) are determined by the size of a home which is measured in square meters ( Quadratmeter – qm). In rooftop units, floor spaces where the ceiling is between 1 and 2 meters high are only counted at 50 per cent, so the actual size might appear a lot bigger than you thought.

The second factor to bear in mind is the number of rooms, which includes bedrooms, living and dining rooms. Kitchens, bathrooms and toilets are not included in the room count. A half room indicates an area that cannot be separated by a door or a room that is too small to be fully counted.

Housing in Germany can be rented unfurnished, partly furnished, or fully furnished. Unfurnished accommodation is the most common and it really is “unfurnished”, i.e. without lamps, curtains, or any kitchen equipment. Moving into your first German apartment can be quite a shock: not only are you supposed to supply your own light fittings, but you will literally have to buy and install everything from the washing machine to the kitchen sink. Since this isn’t exactly cheap, you should allow extra in your budget to get established. A furnished kitchen is usually mentioned separately in advertisements.

Utilities

Water
Water is normally billed based on usage and charged with the rent. Water in Germany is generally hard, but there are a number of filter systems available to reduce or eliminate the calcium (Kalk) that builds up on heating elements and in pots and pans.

Electricity and gas
Each tenant must register with the local gas and/or electric company. The landlord, house manager or caretaker can tell you who is responsible for supplying the gas and electricity and where you should register.

Heating
The costs of central heating are also included in the overall rent costs. Single storey heating, coal heating, gas and oil heating are charged separately. The tenant is responsible for payment and ensuring adequate supplies (as long is this is not included in the Warmmiete).

Waste
Generally high levels of environmental consciousness mean it is common in Germany to separate rubbish for recycling and disposal. There are normally several different bins in each apartment block. Paper, glass and packaging are often collected separately. Packaging often has a Grüner Punkt symbol to show it can be recycled. Food and organic waste is collected separately for compost. Finally, there is Restmüll (other rubbish) which is what doesn’t fall into other categories.