Where and how you choose to live is important, as this will also dictate what you will have to pay.
Think about what matters most to you: what sort of place are you looking for? No doubt you would like your flat or room to be as close to university as possible and to be well connected to the bus or tram network. And you presumably don’t want your new home to be too expensive.
For many students, this is the key point, as rent and ancillary costs account for the lion’s share of a typical student’s budget – on average 330 euros per month.
How much your place costs will depend to a large extent on where it is located: rents in the eastern federal states are considerably lower. And a room in a hall of residence is cheaper than a room in a shared house or flat (known as a Wohngemeinschaft or WG in German) or than a small flat on the housing market. Let’s take a closer look at the differences.
Halls of residence are very popular with international students. More than 40 percent of them choose this option for their new home. Many study within the framework of mobility or cooperation programmes, or come from countries of the Global South. Students on exchange programmes generally have a good chance of getting a room in a hall of residence.
of international students live in halls of residence
However, not every higher education institution in Germany has halls of residence for its students, and even those that do cannot offer accommodation in halls to everyone. Only just under 240,000 publicly funded rooms in halls are available in Germany for the country’s 2.5 million students.
places in halls for 2.5 million students
Many halls of residence are publicly funded, making them the cheapest type of accommodation.
On average, a room in halls costs a good 250 euros per month. Student service organisations and the higher education communities of the Protestant and Catholic churches are among the leading non-profit operators of halls of residence. In addition, there are many private, commercial providers of student residence. They also offer small apartments, shared flats and rooms in their facilities.
Apply early for a student residence – ideally as soon as you receive your letter of acceptance.
Information, addresses and help with applications can be found on the DAAD website.
Students not wishing or able to live in halls tend to look for a small flat – to live in either on their own or with their partner. That’s not always easy, as lots of people tend to be hunting for affordable housing in big, popular university cities like Munich or Hamburg, especially at the start of the semester. And for a number of years now rents have also been rising in towns that were previously fairly inexpensive.
You should be aware that flats in Germany are often rented unfurnished and sometimes even without a kitchen. In general, you will be required to pay a deposit, normally equivalent to three months’ rent.
How much a flat costs will depend in part on where you are studying: in the west of Germany and in major cities rents are significantly higher than in the country’s eastern federal states. Our chart illustrates the differences in selected university towns.
Source: MLP Student Housing Report 2021; rent and ancillary costs of a typical student flat (average quality, 30 m2, close to higher education institution)
Sharing a flat or house, known in German as a Wohngemeinschaft – abbreviated to WG – is a very popular option among students both from Germany and abroad. Almost a third of students share a place with others. This saves money, as rooms in a WG tend to be significantly cheaper than renting a flat on your own. Another advantage is that you will not be alone and can quickly make new friends. You can find WG rooms or a flat to share with others on special platforms. See below how much a typical WG room of 20 m2 costs in different cities.
Source: MLP Student Housing Report 2021; rent and ancillary costs of a typical WG room (20 m2)
Especially at the start of the semester, it can sometimes be pretty hard to find a suitable place to live in time. If all you need is somewhere to stay in the meantime, you can also get in touch with a Mitwohnzentrale – an agency that specialises in short-term lets – the International Office at your higher education institution, or your student service organisation, which can help you find temporary accommodation.
These are often furnished rooms in private homes or WGs. A good option initially may also be to sublet a room from a student who is spending a semester or two abroad. Normally such rooms are furnished, giving you the time to find the perfect place to live.
Cheap places to spend just a few nights can also be found in (youth) hostels, or possibly in a private guesthouse.
If push really comes to shove, many student service organisations can help, as they offer lists of vacant rooms and last-minute or emergency accommodation.
You can find your student service organisation at www.studentenwerke.de.
Homeshare schemes have become established in many cities. This alternative model involves a householder offering a room in exchange for help around the home, support with gardening or childcare, or pet sitting duties.
As a rule of thumb, you can expect to provide one hour of help per month for each square metre of living space. Your only costs will then be ancillary costs such as electricity, water and heating. You will enter into a cooperation agreement with your homeshare partner. Most important of all, however, is that you should get on well together. Your student service organisation or other project partners in your university town can put you in touch with such homeshare schemes.
You can find out which cities offer homeshare schemes (known in German as “Wohnen für Hilfe”) on the University of Cologne’s website: www.wohnenfuerhilfe.info (only in German).
When you are looking for somewhere to live on the housing market, you can obtain valuable support from the student service organisations and the international offices at your higher education institution. As well as helping you get a place in halls, most have listings of flats or rooms on the open market – in many cases online, too. If you have already arrived in the city, you will find the “Schwarze Bretter” (meaning blackboards) at your university helpful – these display ads in cafeterias, halls or other meeting places, allowing landlords to offer flats or rooms for rent or tenants to advertise that they wish to sublet their space.
You can also hunt for a place to live online, using special platforms or social media groups. Of course, commercial agents (estate agents or letting agencies) also have lists of available flats to rent – in situ, online or in newspapers. However, agents normally charge for their services, while online portals may require payment for membership or to post an ad.
It’s a good idea to start looking for a place to live before leaving your home country: search for suitable accommodation online and arrange viewings.
excl. heating cost
Ancillary costs (heating, water and operating costs)
Wohnberechtigungsschein (entitlement to rent subsidised housing)
The DAAD has compiled a list of the most common abbreviations "Abbreviations in German rental ads".
Once you have found a place that will suit you, your next step will be to make contact with the landlord. If you are hoping to move into a WG, you will normally need to arrange a personal interview and meet your future flatmates for the first time.
You will need to convince the person offering the accommodation that you will be able to bear the financial costs of renting the flat, and you will need to persuade your future flatmates that you will be a good fit for them.
At the same time, you should thoroughly inspect your potential new home, check for any faults or shortcomings, and have these documented in the “Übergabeprotokoll” (a checklist for landlords and tenants certifying the current condition of the accommodation). Also take a close look at the rent: does it correspond to the rent usually charged in the city for this quality of accommodation? How high are the operating and ancillary costs? Will a brokerage fee be charged (the fee is paid by whichever party engaged the agent!) and how much deposit will you have to pay? Two or three times the net monthly rent is the norm.
“Living in a shared flat helps you not to feel lonely.”
Prince Yadav, 25, comes from India and is doing his MBA at the HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences.
Prince now lives in his own flat. But he didn’t find it easy: “It’s fun to live in a shared flat and meet different people. But it is also hard to find a flat, either to share or on your own.”
More infos: www.study-in-germany.de.