Housing and Accommodation
The most common assumption by students who come to study in Germany is that the university or school you are coming to study at will automatically offer them a place to stay in one of their many student hostels. Well, this is true for a lot of countries, but when it comes to Germany, it would serve you well to completely overrule that assumption.
As a result of this, many students do not realize until it’s too late that they are arriving for their studies without a place to stay and resort to staying at temporary accommodation such as hotels and hostels which can be quite expensive and impractical.
A few things to know beforehand
1. Finding your accommodation is entirely your responsibility
German universities usually do not offer students rooms nor do they have hostels for new students in waiting. Usually, it is your own responsibility to find a place to stay. The student housing for a whole city is controlled by a student body called the Studentenwerk. These houses are state owned and cater for all the students in the city. That however, does not imply that you have a guaranteed spot when it comes to allocation of rooms.
2. There's a shortage of housing in most German cities
In case your university is in a small town, or is quite far way from the city centre, you are more likely to find a place to stay because demand there is not so high and supply of housing is usually sufficient. In big cities like Berlin, Cologne and Munich, the situation is inverted.
Recently, there has been an alarming increase of housing demand in these major cities. However, the supply of housing remains quite scarce. As a result, prices have skyrocketed in these cities and the competition for tenancy is quite high, even for locals.
When it comes to student housing, the same case applies. There are usually more students than the student council can cater for. Thus getting a place is all about timing and luck.
So, where and how do students find accommodation?
1. Student Services Housing / Studentenwerk
This is the most ideal place for you to start your housing search. Go to your university and find out which is your student services body or Studentenwerk. From there, apply for student housing from your Studentenwerk.
The disadvantage of relying on them, especially for students coming to large cities, is that the places of residence are simply inadequate. This results in very long waiting times. In a big city such as Munich, the waiting times range from a few months to 2 years depending on how popular the residency is.
Sometimes the Studentenwerk, may offer a special housing offer or a lottery for new students where you can stand the chance to get a room immediately if you win. Find out when they have the lottery and sign up, you might just get lucky.
2. Housing provided by private societies/organizations
Usually churches or organizations have societies that provide housing to students of their denomination or who are affiliated with them. Most of these residences may come with lots of rules nonetheless so be sure you are comfortable with the requirements before moving in. The hostels are usually mostly shared-amenity houses. So you may have to share a kitchen, bathroom or perhaps a toilet with a few other students in the house.
3. Shared apartments
A great way many students find accommodation and save money is by living together in shared apartments. If you have friends already living in the city you will be going to study in, ask them if they can let you in and split the rent. In case you know/have some friends also coming to study with you in the same city, you can find a place and live together.
4. Listings on the web
The first option for most new students is finding listings on the web. Here are just some of the pages that might be useful for you: WG-Gesucht, Housing Anywhere,Roomster,Netspick.
Be very careful when you search for apartments online because the number of scammers is alarming and you might easily lose your money if you are not careful. Websites like Craigslist are notorious for scammers.As a general rule, if the deal looks to good to be true, it probably is.
Before you proceed with your house search, we advise that you read this guide on avoiding housing scams.
5. Offers from other students
Often, a student is going abroad for an exchange program or just for leisure. To capitalize on their vacancy, they often rent out their hostels for short periods of time. This can be a good option for you in the short-run while you get settled and try to find something more permanent. You can check out some students groups on social media.