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Home Housing Housing Basics German housing terms for finding a flat
Last update on 11/07/2022
Written by Renate Graßtat

Looking to rent an apartment in Germany and baffled by all abbreviations? German teacher Renate Grasstat offers a glossary of German housing terms.

Finding an apartment to rent in Germany might sometimes be difficult. There are cities such as Munich that are relatively expensive for housing, and others where one can expect lower costs, mainly in smaller towns and also in some parts of Berlin.

The usual thing for Germans is to rent (mieten), not to buy. Buying or building a house is something to consider when one is not living in a big city and wanting to establish a home for one’s children and/or has quite a lot of money. If you are thinking of getting a house, the best thing would be to find a real estate agent (immobilienmakler) who speaks English. (Read our guide to buying a property in Germany)

You might want to find a flat or just a room in a ‘WG’ (Wohngemeinschaft = flat share, housesharing), but let’s first start with housing terms for finding an apartment.

Imagine you have found an ad in a newspaper or on the Internet. Understanding abbreviations is the first step here.

German abbreviations and housing terms

AB: -r Altbau – an older building, usually built more or less around 1900 or even earlier.

NB: -r Neubau – a relatively new building, which means built any time after the Second World War.

2-ZW or 2-RW: -e Zwei-Zimmerwohnung oder Zwei-Raumwohnung – the latter term is more common in the east part of Germany.

EG: -s Erdgeschoss – ground floor.

OG: -s Obergeschoss – floor/level.

DG: – s Dachgeschoss – top floor, attic floor.

NK: Nebenkosten (Pl) – extra costs for heating, water, insurances etc., also called BK = Betriebskosten.

Kt.: -e Kaution – can be a security deposit you will get back when moving out or a commission for the agent (the latter is also called ‘provision‘ or ‘courtage‘).

Abst.: -r Abstand – money to be paid for things the previous tenant built or bought tailor-made and wants to leave in the house, like e.g. fitted carpets, built-in cupboards etc.

EBK: -e Einbauküche – already fitted kitchen.

zzgl.: zuzüglich – plus.

Specific housing vocabulary

There is also specific vocabulary for some cities in Germany with rather big old buildings that consist of two or more parts around a small court:

VH or Vdhs.: -s Vorderhaus – front building.

HH or Hhs.: -s Hinterhaus – back building (sometimes also called ‘gartenhaus‘).

SF or Sfl.: -r Seitenflügel – wing.

Note: Flats in the hinterhaus or seitenflügel are usually less expensive, and smaller but quieter.

Typical dialogue with a real estate agent

So a typical dialogue with the agent or the hausverwaltung (property management) on the phone could go like this:

–Fischer Immobilien, Meyer, guten Tag.

–Guten Tag. Mein Name ist……………

Ich habe Ihre Anzeige in… ( e.g. name of the newspaper/website)….gelesen und ich interessiere mich für die Wohnung (e.g. Nummer……. or in der ……….Straße ). Ich habe da ein paar Fragen, zum Beispiel: Muss man für die Wohnung eine Kaution zahlen?

–Ja, es gibt eine Kaution.

–Und wie hoch ist die?

–In Höhe der dreifachen Monatskaltmiete (meaning ‘in the amount of’ a triplicate monthly cold rent).

–Aha. Sind die Nebenkosten eigentlich inklusive?

–Nein, das ist die Kaltmiete. Dazu kommen noch die Betriebskosten, ungefähr 80 Euro monatlich.

–Das geht. Und ist die Wohnung ruhig?

–Ja, sehr. Sie liegt im Hinterhaus und es gibt keine große Straße in der Nähe.

–Im wievielten Stock liegt die Wohnung?

–Im fünften Stock.

–Oh – gibt es einen Fahrstuhl? (– lift, you can also say, -r ‘lift’ in German)

–Ja, es ist ein Neubau mit Fahrstuhl.

–Gut. Kann ich mir die Wohnung mal ansehen?

–Ja, natürlich. Wann hätten Sie denn Zeit?

–Geht es noch diese Woche? Am Freitag zum Beispiel?

–Tut mir Leid. Freitag haben wir schon sehr viele Termine. Wie ist es denn Donnerstag?

–Ja, das geht auch. Am Nachmittag wäre gut für mich.

–Gut, dann um 15.00 Uhr vor der Wohnung?

–Gern. Also, bis dann!

–Bis Donnerstag. Aus Wiederhören!

Applying to rent a property

Let’s hope you will like the place and want to rent it – the main thing you need is a ‘verdienstbescheinigung’: a piece of paper stating your income, provided by your employer or, if you are self employed, some kind of statement by your tax office or anything similar.

Maybe you will need the help of a ‘bürge’ – somebody to guarantee that the rent will be paid – and you will hopefully thereafter receive the ‘mietvertrag‘ (lease).

Is it easier to find a place in a WG? Yes and no. Obviously, there will be less paperwork. But how do you feel about instructions from your prospective ‘mitbewohner’ (flatmates) like: “Wir kaufen nur im Bioladen,” or, if you are a man, “Wir pinkeln hier nur im Sitzen.”