Tips For Moving House In Berlin – Berliners are champions at the art of moving around the city, especially those of us who came from abroad. As it’s so hard to find a place to live, many of us lead a nomadic existence while we search for our “forever” apartment, making do in shared WG’s, temporary sublets, Airbnb apartments, artist’s colonies, and more in an attempt to keep the cost of living in the city bearable. I’ve been in Berlin for 10 years now and have lived in five different flats. However, some of my friends have even lived in even more apartments in different districts of the city.
In 2016, I moved from Prenzlauer Berg to Lichtenberg. In the past, I managed moves by calling a taxi and moving what little belongings I have in a short ride, all without the help of friends. That time, I had to move all the belongings I had shipped over from Canada, plus all the new things I purchased for my new apartment. While I was excited to have a new place of my own, moving house was more intensive – as I enlisted the help of a mover, completed a slew of paperwork, and more. In January 2022, I’ll be moving again and after five years of living in my current flat, I’ve accumulated many more things. As my new flat will be unfurnished, I’ve also starting collecting pieces of furniture like a desk, bar stools, and other items. This move is already proving way more complicated.
While planning my moves in Berlin, I came across plenty of articles telling you what you need to do when you move here, but I didn’t come across many articles telling me how to move house when you’re actually already in Berlin. As a person from outside of Germany, it’s important to know the differences between how things work in Germany versus how things work at home, such as signing rental contracts, putting down a deposit, etc. While I managed to fumble my way through my move, I really wished I’d had more guidance.
So in order to make your next Berlin move easy and stress free, I put together this comprehensive guide to moving house in Berlin.
Note – This list assumes that you’ve already accomplished the impossible and found a new place to live in Berlin.
Jump to the relevant section quickly:
Our Top Tips For Moving House In Berlin
Follow these tips to know how to go about moving house in Berlin.
1) Give notice to your current landlord
In Germany, it’s typical to give your landlord or property management company up to three months’ written notice when you’re ready to move out and end your contract. This gives them ample time to find new tenants and you plenty of time to prepare for your move. In some cases, your notice period can be as little as 30 days, provided that you’ve found new tenants for your landlord and that he/she agrees to let them live in the flat.
Before sending off your letter, double-check the conditions of your original rental agreement to make sure you’re providing enough notice and that there aren’t any other surprises. Then follow up with a call to your landlord to ensure they received your letter and find out how flexible they might be with your notice period.
By law, the maximum notice period in Germany is three months. If the notice period in your rental contract exceeds that, have a discussion with your landlord or property management company as soon as possible to work out your moving date. If necessary, contact the Berliner Mieterverien or consult a lawyer if something doesn’t feel right.
2) Book a day off of work
Many German companies will allow you to take a day off of work to move and won’t force you to use up a valuable vacation day. I was pretty stoked to find out that my last company allowed us to do this.
Sadly, my current company doesn’t offer this perk, so check with your employer to see if this is an option.
3) Get rid of anything you don’t need
As I moved across the planet on three separate occasions, I feel like I’m a professional at parting with my belongings. Why pay movers to spend time moving items you don’t use or intend to keep?
Moving is expensive and being able to earn extra cash at this time is always helpful. If you’re looking to sell any big-ticket items like furniture or appliances, start with family and friends and avoid dealing with creepy or unreliable strangers. Before advertising my belongings to the general public, I posted photos, along with descriptions and selling prices on Facebook. Many people reached out and arranged a date and time to pick up the items they wished to buy from me. A bunch of my old furniture now resides with family and friends across Toronto and beyond.
What I couldn’t sell to family and friends, I made available to the general public. Berliners can usually find success on sites like eBay and Craigslist. I also recommend Facebook groups like Sell Your Stuff Berlin, Girls Sell Stuff Berlin, Sell and Buy Your Stuff Berlin, and Sell Your Furniture Berlin.
Anything that you can’t sell, give away as Berliners are big into DIY and love second hand things. As I always like to help out my family and friends first, I’d held “Come take all my stuff” parties, where I’d invite everyone to help themselves to my belongings. Again, eBay and Craigslist also work for giving your stuff away. There’s also the massively popular Facebook group with more than 100,000 people, Free Your Stuff Berlin. You can further consider donating things to charity. For example, you can stuff your old clothes and shoes into any of the charity boxes you see around Berlin. Other options include leaving stuff in your building’s hallway or out on the street. It won’t take long for your items to be snapped up.
Failing that, you can take your items to BSR to be recycled properly. You can also have BSR come and pick up larger items that you need to get rid of, like a mattress or couch. Using their services is a bit expensive, but cheaper if you can plan up to a month in advance.
Note – Please DO NOT leave large items on the street. This isn’t cool, as it makes the city look like a trash dump and costs a lot of money to have someone come and pick it up.
4) Borrow, find, rent, or buy moving boxes
Ask your friends if they still have any boxes from their last move. Check with your employer to see if they have any they’re not using. I ended up being able to borrow some moving boxes from my work. You can also do a little scavenging and find boxes in your building’s recycling bins, your local grocery store, etc.
Another possibility is to rent boxes. Use Boxie24, to rent boxes, and buy other moving supplies for a low price. They can deliver at a day’s notice and later, will even pick them up for free. Not only is this environmentally friendly, but their service is also cheaper than buying boxes outright. Their boxes are also durable, protecting your items from weather damage or getting broken during the move. Note – there’s a minimum order of 20 boxes.
For you ballers out there, you can buy boxes from this Shurgard. They have all the supplies you need from bubble wrap, to packing tape, and a wide assortment and size of boxes, including wardrobe boxes. Ordering online is not an option, so just visit one of their locations throughout Berlin. You can also find tons of moving materials for order on Amazon.
5) Pack your life away
In preparation for moving house in Berlin, you’ll need to put everything you own into a bunch of bags and boxes.
My pro tips for moving house in Berlin?
- Don’t leave your packing until the last minute.
- Be liberal with newspaper and bubble wrap for fragile items.
- Buy more packing tape than you need.
- Start by packing one room at a time.
- Label your boxes with not only which room it needs to go into, but with a list of the items contained in them. If there are fragile items in a box, write this down on the box as well.
- If you’re using German movers, be sure to write down instructions in German and not only English.
- Don’t pack all of your books into one or two heavy boxes, but disperse them across multiple boxes.
- Use suitcases, clothes baskets, and hampers to pack your clothes instead of lightweight garbage bags that may rip and spill during the move.
If you are too busy or lazy to pack yourself, some movers will even pack for you!
6) Complete decorative repairs
Outside of normal wear and tear, it’s typically expected that your flat is in the same condition as when you moved in from an aesthetic perspective. Check your rental contracts for more of the specifics, but generally speaking, if you painted the walls a different color or hung up pictures, make sure you repaint the wall with its original color. Even if the walls are still the same color, you may need to refresh the walls with a new coat of paint. Be sure to cover up holes left by nails or screws. If you’re flat came without lighting and a kitchen, you’ll be expected to take them along with you when you leave – often, a surprise for those coming from abroad.
In preparation for my move in January 2022, I had someone in to fix my bathroom tap, take down my light fixture and replace it with another, as well as install some window coverings that I plan to leave for the next tenant.
Anything you do will help to have such repair costs deducted from your security deposit.
7) Clean your flat
In order to minimize the chance of having cleaning costs being deducted from your security deposit, give your flat a good “spring cleaning”. Preferably, you’d do this after you’ve moved all of your furniture, appliances, and other belongings. Clean inside the cupboards, dust off the baseboards, give the windows a thorough scrubbing, and do other things you might not do during a routine cleaning session.
8) Do a final inspection of your flat
Continuing with our list of moving house in Berlin – inspect the condition of your flat, note any damages made during the time you lived there by writing them down, and take plenty of photos as supporting proof. Did you scratch the floors or put a dent in the wall? Be as honest as possible.
Ideally, you’d have done the same inspection when you moved in, noting any issues, and coming to an agreement with the landlord or property management company about what would be done or not done in order to fix anything in the apartment. You can use this as a baseline for discussions when you’re moving out by comparing the state of the flat when you moved in versus the state of the flat when you’re moving out.
Damages resulting from normal wear and tear cannot be deducted from your deposit, but damages resulting from negligence, accidents, or abuse of the dwelling by you, guests, or pets can be taken from your deposit. Unfortunately, the definition of wear and tear is a subjective one and is often the cause of disputes between landlords and tenants. Speak with your landlord or property management company and come to an agreement about how much, if anything, will be deducted from your security deposit.
9) Hire a mover
If you don’t have much to move or don’t have very far to move, there’s always the option of calling upon your loved ones for help by walking, using public transit, or scheduling a taxi. If you or one of your buds have a driver’s licence, rent a van for as little as €3 per hour from Robben Wientjes.
As I don’t have a German driver’s license, I used Mark With a Van on recommendation from several friends. His prices are very reasonable and he’ll pick you and all your stuff up, driving you to your new place. Just know that he’s cheap for a reason – he works alone and expects you to haul items alongside him. Withhold your diva tendencies (like I reluctantly did) and get to work. Alternatively, you can try Girl With a Big Car or Sunshine Cleaning or Spic and Span who will help you lug your belongings around Berlin for a good price.
Big name, reputable moving companies in Berlin include Movinga, Zapf, and Run Umzuege. Such companies will offer different levels of service like packing and unpacking, disassembling and assembling furniture, and even taking care of things like arranging to have a parking space reserved in front of your building. Call around to get quotes and references from multiple companies before making a final decision. Also, make sure your move includes insurance in case they damage your flat or belongings during the move.
Be hesitant to hire random guys from Craigslist who are scam artists that demand full upfront payment and may later make off with all of your belongings. Believe it or not, this has happened to friends of mine who were naive enough to do such a foolish thing.
10) Register your new address at the Bürgeramt
After you’re done moving house in Berlin, registration of your new address is mandatory by German law. You may read on other blogs that it’s not a big deal if you’re late registering, but why set yourself up for problems you know you can avoid? Don’t be a jerk and don’t be lazy, as you have up to 14 days after your move-in date to register. You can visit any Bürgeramt in Berlin and aren’t limited to the office in your district.
If you can’t get a date close to your move-in date, you’re fine if you can supply proof of an appointment. As it can take some time to get an appointment, reserve a spot online well in advance of your move. For example, I scored an appointment about 3 days after my move-in date by booking my appointment in November 2021. I checked regularly for about a week when I finally saw a date that worked for me.
You can also call this hotline at (030) 90 24 99 0 if you’re in a rush to score an appointment. The hotline is open weekdays from 7:00 am – 8:00 pm.
Hopefully, you’re moving into an apartment where you can live legally and your landlord or property management company’s willing and able to provide you with the paperwork you need to register your new address at the Bürgeramt. Bring everything with you on your visit including valid identification like a passport or work permit, your previous Anmeldung, your new rental contract, this form filled out and signed by your landlord, and this form filled out by you. View this guide for extra help.
11) Forward your mail
As it may take some time to change your address everywhere, you can use a mail forward service to have your post sent to your new address for a set period of time. It’s fairly inexpensive, starting at around €25 for six months – check the Deutschepost website for more information.
Read our detailed guide about how mail forwarding in Germany works.
12) Change your Address
You’ll need to change your address everywhere by calling, emailing, or sending a written letter to the various parties. Places you’ll need to change your address with include your employer, bank, insurance provider, health insurance company, phone/cable/internet provider, doctor, dentist, gym, the ARD, and more.
It’s especially important to notify your internet, phone, cable, insurance, and utility providers far in advance of your move (I advise at least 30 – 90 days in advance), so you can avoid getting overcharged for services, find out what you need to do, and plan accordingly. They can further assist you in getting their services set up in your new flat.
13) Return your keys
One of the very last things you need to do before leaving your old flat and moving house in Berlin, is hand the keys back to your landlord or property management company. Before giving your keys back, make sure you haven’t forgotten any of your belongings, left any heaters running, on left any taps dripping. If you’re not taking your kitchen appliances with you, make sure the fridge is emptied and unplugged as well. Check your mailbox one last time too.
14) Get your security deposit back
Unfortunately, it can take up to 6 – 12 months before you get your security deposit returned to you, while your landlord waits to access any damage costs and gets the final heating and water bills. Unfortunately, this means you cannot count on using this money towards the security deposit on your new apartment.
15) Hold off on that shopping spree
When planning my last move, I was so excited that I started shopping right away by ordering things on Amazon, Zara Home, and splurging at TK Maxx. While it was fun, it just made for more things to pack and move.
If possible, wait to do the shopping. If you’re ordering things online, schedule your deliveries until after you moved into your new place.
Have we missed anything? Do you have any other tips about moving house in Berlin? Drop a note in the comments below.
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