Applying to rent an apartment – 10 tips to success

Many rental apartments are very sought after.  Applicants who are quick, come across as friendly and have convincing documents are the ones who are successful when applying for apartments. Our tips can help you.

The good old days when you just had to know «someone» when looking for an apartment are long gone. Nowadays, it’s all about the facts and figures, but also personality, when it comes to getting accepted for your hotly contested dream apartment.

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Applying for an apartment is almost like applying for a new job: the complete package counts!

1. Initial contact: Follow the rules

When applying for an apartment, always stick to the requested channel of communication. Do not phone up if contact via email has been explicitly requested. If, however, there is a telephone number available, then try to land an appointment as quickly as possible. Find out what is important to the landlord or letting agency (e.g. quiet tenants). You can then demonstrate why you would be the right choice at the viewing appointment.

2. Viewing appointment: Make a good impression

Arrive at viewing appointments on time, and make a respectable, well-groomed and serious impression. Be prepared by taking all documents needed for the application along with you. Show an interest in the property but avoid criticising too much, and do not be pushy.

3. Applying for an apartment: Be convincing with all the necessary documents

Hand in all requested application documents in full and as quickly as possible, or even provide them at the viewing appointment. Many letting agencies will use speed of delivery as a criterion when choosing between similarly suitable applicants. Usually the following is requested: application form from the landlord or letting agency as well as an original copy of a current extract from the debt collection register (Betreibungsregister). A personal cover letter with photo and references, as well as employment contract and current payslips are also recommended. For foreign nationals, your residence permit will also be helpful. If you find your dream apartment on Homegate, then you create your complete application including the debt collection record online with Homegate too.

4. Application form: Use the right one

Application forms are given at every viewing appointment or are available from the landlords. As every agency has their own form, it is essential that you use their version. If there is no form available, then it is possible to find example forms on the internet. Fill in the form neatly, clearly and completely. It is a good idea to make several copies of the form before filling it in, so that you can start again if you make any mistakes. In case there are questions that are not allowed, it is up to you to decide whether you want to answer them anyway. Do not be tempted to answer them using false information though.

5. Extract from the debt collection register: Always include this

Always include a current extract from the debt collection register (Betreibungsregisterauszug) in your application for an apartment, even if this has not been asked for explicitly. This is available at the debt collection office (Betreibungsamt) in your current place of residence. If you have been recorded in the register, this does not necessarily mean you will get rejected straightaway. Some records in the register can occur through no fault of one’s own (e.g. due to illness or an accident). Explain the details to the landlord.

6.References: A must

It is really important to provide references (e.g. current landlord or employer). Your references might also be prepared to write a short recommendation to show that you are reliable, uncomplicated and considerate. Do not go over the top though. Your future landlord will not have the time or energy to work through an entire «information overload». Speaking of references: do not forget to ask your reference contacts for their permission first.

7. Cover letter: «Selling» yourself

Your cover letter for your apartment application should be no longer than one page, should be friendly, short and succinct, and include a flattering photo. It is essentially just the same as applying for a new job: introduce yourself (personal details, career, employment, current address), explain why you are looking for an apartment and why the advertised apartment would be ideal for you. Avoid any spelling mistakes and remain formal.

8. Do follow up – but do not go too far

To remain top of mind following a viewing appointment, a discrete follow up to an apartment application is recommended. If the search for new tenants was led by the previous tenant or the landlord, write them a short email in the evening after the viewing appointment to explain what you really liked about the apartment, why you would be a suitable tenant and how you would be really pleased to get a positive response. With an agency, there is usually a given deadline by when a decision will be made. If this is the case, then only contact the agency once this deadline has passed. Alternatively you can always call by the agency on the day after the viewing appointment and explain your interest and how you hope they will choose you.

9. Avoid putting your foot in it: An overview of don‘ts

Only apply for apartments that you can afford. Do not niggle about everything, especially in cheaper apartments, and do not make any unreasonable demands. If you are unable to make any appointments arranged, cancel them in good time. Do not make any «threats», with regards to your contacts, within your application, such as: I know your manager. If you do happen to have such a contact, you can include the relevant person as a reference. Do not give any «gifts» to landlords or letting agencies. This could be interpreted as an attempt at bribery.

10. Always be available

Make sure that you are reachable at the indicated address, telephone number or email address. A landlord or a letting agency will not go to the effort of chasing you up as a possible tenant, when other potential tenants are available.