HOW TO GO ABOUT MOVING HOUSE IN BERLIN
Berliners are champions at the art of moving around the city, especially those of us coming from abroad. As it’s so hard to find a place to live, many lead a nomadic existence while searching for their “forever” apartment, making do in shared WGs, temporary sublets, Airbnb apartments, and more – all 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 across the city.
In 2016, I moved from Prenzlauer Berg to Lichtenberg. Before that, I’d always moved house by calling a taxi and transporting what little belongings I had in a short ride, without the help of friends. That time, I had to move all the stuff I’d 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. I enlisted the help of a mover, completed a slew of paperwork, and more. In January 2022, I moved again and after five years of living in that flat, I accumulated even more things. As my new flat was unfurnished, I also started collecting pieces of furniture in advance like a desk, bar stools, and a washing machine. My planned move was definitely way more complicated than my prior ones.
While planning my Berlin moves, I came across plenty of articles telling you what you need to do when you move to Germany, but I didn’t come across any articles telling you how to move house when you’re actually already her. As a foreigner, it’s important to know the differences between how things work in Germany vs. how things work at home, such as signing rental contracts, putting down a deposit, etc. 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.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MOVING HOUSE IN BERLIN
Follow these tips to learn how to go about moving house in Berlin.
Recommended reading: Our other guides about moving to Germany, How Much Does It Cost To Move To Germany? Use Our Calculator!, Top Relocation Companies In Berlin Germany, and A Moving To Berlin Guide – Move Here & Settle In Like A Local.
1) Give Notice To Your 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, as well as 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 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 it’s an option.
3) Get Rid Of Thing 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 move 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 to 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. There are also 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 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. I just gave away my old TV away to a Ukrainian family who’d recently arrived in Berlin and needed things to set up their new flat.
Recommended Reading: Our guide on how to help Ukrainians in 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.
Whatever you do, don’t leave large items on the street. This isn’t cool, as it makes the city look like a trash dump and ends up costing someone else a lot of money to have it taken away.
4) Borrow, Find, Rent, Or Buy Moving Boxes
Ask your family, friends, or colleagues 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 for one of my moves. 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, 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. I used them when I last moved and the boxes were perfect – nothing broke during the move and as it was raining that day, nothing got wet either. 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. But if you can, be eco-friendly by renting boxes or reusing ones gifted from others.
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 packing tips include:
1) Don’t leave your packing until the last minute.
2) Be liberal with newspaper and bubble wrap for fragile items.
3) Buy more packing tape than you need.
4) Start by packing one room at a time.
5) Label your boxes with not only which room it needs to go into, but a list of the items contained in them. If there are fragile items in a box, write this down on the box as well.
6) If you’re using German movers, be sure to write down instructions in German and not only English.
7) Don’t pack all of your books into one or two heavy boxes, but disperse them across multiple boxes.
8) Use suitcases, clothes baskets, and hampers to pack your clothes instead of lightweight garbage bags that may rip and spill during the move.
9) If you are too busy or lazy to pack yourself, some movers will even do the packing for you – although the service is super expensive.
6) Complete Needed 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 big 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, as well as install some window coverings that I left 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 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 wouldn’t do during a routine cleaning session.
If you’re too busy preparing for your move in Berlin or are simply lousy at cleaning, consider hiring a pro from a company like Book A Tiger, Sunshine Cleaning, or Spic and Span. When I last moved, I hired Sunshine Cleaning and was very happy with their services – they even offer move-in/move-out cleanings as a service which generally last up to six hours.
8) Do The Final Flat Inspection
Continuing with our list of moving house in Berlin, be sure to inspect the condition of your flat, noting any damages made during the time you lived there. Write them down and take plenty of photos as supporting proof. Perhaps you scratched the floors or put a dent in the wall. Everything should be documented as thoroughly and accurately as possible.
Ideally, you’d have done the same inspection with your landlord when you moved in, noting any issues, and coming to an agreement about what would be done or not done to fix issues 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 a clear agreement (in writing!) 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 license, 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 reasonable and he’ll pick you and all your stuff up, and drive 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, try Girl With a Big Car or Schwester Esther who will help you lug your belongings around Berlin for an affordable 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 who demand full upfront payment. There’s been many Berliners who’ve had such thieves make off with all of their belongings (it happened to friends of mine).
10) Register Your New Address
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? You can visit any Bürgeramt in Berlin and aren’t limited to the office in your district.
You have up to 14 days after your move-in date to register but if you can’t get a date close to your move-in date, you’re fine as long as you 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 on 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 (if applicable), 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 Deutsche Post website for more information.
Recommended Reading: 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 various parties. Places you’ll need to change your address 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) to avoid getting overcharged for services, find out what you need to do, and plan accordingly. They can further assist 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. This is typically done when you do the final inspection with them.
Before handing 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
It can actually take up to 6–12 months before you get your security deposit returned to you, as your landlord waits to access any damage costs and gets the final year-end heating and water bills (Nebenkosten).
Unfortunately, this means you can’t 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.
That wraps up our top tips on moving house in Berlin. We hope all of this information makes your move a little bit easier and slightly less stress-free.
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Cheryl Howard, Founder @ The Berlin Life
Hi, I’m Cheryl. My mission is to help you move to Berlin and find work.
A Canadian in Berlin for 10+ years, I have the unique experience of moving to Berlin – not once, but twice. During my time in Berlin, I’ve had five different visas and worked as both a freelancer and a permanent employee for numerous Berlin companies. I even managed to find a new job during the pandemic and again in 2023, during Germany’s recession and massive layoffs in tech.
My day job has involved work as a hiring manager, overseeing the recruitment of countless people, as well as a team coach helping teams and individuals work better and find happiness in their careers. Through my side projects, I’ve also shared my personal experiences by publishing a series of helpful blog posts, creating a thriving community of job seekers, and hosting events to help people find work in Berlin. In 2021, I decided to put my coaching and recruiting talents to use by creating The Berlin Life, bringing my existing content and community together in one spot.
The combination of my personal and professional experience means I know exactly what it takes to move to Berlin and find work.