Monday February 27, 2012
Hunting high and low
Sambal On The Side
By Brenda Benedict
Just how easy is it to find a place to rent in Frankfurt? Our writer is up to her ears with listings, viewings and queries about her cats.
I’M now a bit of an authority on German rental prices and their reasonableness. I owe this to the fact that I have set the local property listings as my default page whenever I go online, replacing Google temporarily.
Having spent three tranquil years in Frankfurt’s outskirts (with the exception of air traffic), we are now contemplating the likelihood of becoming city mice.
There are several reasons for this, the most pressing being logistics. A recent expansion in my sphere of work has seen my husband and I wrangling over our car. However, we both agree that for now, given that we do not have children, it is economically and ecologically unnecessary to get a second car simply to transport ourselves to the train station and leave it parked there the whole day. Hence, the search for a new, more central, domicile.
It is irksome, as we have become comfortable with where we are; it also doesn’t help that we’ve had the good fortune of having good neighbours – including a very reliable cat-sitter. Having curt and seemingly disinterested Maklers (real estate agents) show you places, hasn’t sweetened the deal either. Curiously, most of them think that walking into a place and merely droning, “This is the living room, the kitchen and the guest toilet” is information enough.
One agent, in response to our query about heating sources (whether it is electricity, oil or gas) simply said: “I don’t know. I guess you’ll figure it out.”
Several behaved like they’d rather be doing something else, despite the fact that they often earn a tidy commission from house hunters. You would expect some effort, but alas.
This prompted my husband to wryly remark that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to invest €1,000 (RM4,000) in a Maklerschein (a real estate agent licence) as a back-up sideline, if we ever found ourselves out of work.
There’s also stiff competition from other interested parties. My mum-in-law, who is privy to our house-hunting woes, recently told me that the city of Munich apparently has no available apartments now.
Similarly, Frankfurt has its share of avidly sought hotspots. Rentals can cost an arm and a leg for a minuscule space in the city’s much-touted West and North ends. The rent itself is sometimes eye-popping. Listings often state the “cold rent” – rent excluding utilities and heating costs – but do provide approximate amounts for utilities or heating, thus giving you the final “warm rent”. For instance, one listing states the “cold rent” for a 120sqm, four-room apartment consisting a living area, two bedrooms and kitchen at €1,290 plus €300 (RM5,160 plus RM1,200) for utilities. Add eventual heating costs, and prospective tenants are looking at a rent of more than €1,590 (RM6,360).
Furthermore, many places within the city do not have garages, which means an additional cost of renting a parking lot. By this point you might want to refrain from converting your costs to ringgit, but you get an inkling as to the price of owning property here.
Skyrocketing rentals in Berlin have reportedly driven some people to live on water. A recent Spiegel report states that many young Berliners, who are unable to afford high rent, are applying their DIY skills to building barges that they berth along the banks of the Spree River or other waterways. Sometimes, however, it all boils down to the whims of pernickety landlords. You can provide solid proof of your creditworthiness, but that may not guarantee anything.
One girlfriend, a single mother with two sons, lamented at how long she sought an apartment because landlords were afraid that the boys might damage their property. Another friend told me how her girlfriend secured her apartment through sheer luck – both she and her landlady grew up in Dusseldorf! A trend that rankles us right now is the embargo against pets. Listings increasingly state either “no pets” or “pets only with permission”. It is rather surprising given my host countrymen’s reputation as animal lovers.
I can empathise if I had a pair of beavers which might gnaw at the parquet flooring. But I have two lazy cats that are champion sleepers! However, we’re keeping our fingers crossed. We will be viewing a place this weekend and the owner coincidentally also has two cats. Perhaps I should bring along a basket of kitty treats. Who knows, we might finally seal a deal.
Brenda Benedict is a Malaysian who might soon be living in the middle of Frankfurt. She will miss her beloved forest if she must eventually move.