For the Americans, this may all sound like I’m making way too much of a deal out of this. Why not just rent something, see if we can make it work and then if it doesn’t, move on? When I was in San Francisco, it was that easy. I feel like I was moving every 6 – 8 months when I was a student at Berkeley and then young working professional in the City. When I first moved over, I approached the whole moving thing with the same casual Northern California attitude. Silly American, I found out soon how wrong I was to assume that moving in the Western world was the same everywhere.
In SF you accepted and expected to pay a week or two double rent, but tried as hard as you could to reduce that down to a few days. That plus a moving van, or company if you swung for it, was your major moving expense. Here you have the long notice period (3 mos) for moving out coupled with the relatively short notice period ( ave. 1-3 weeks) for apartments coming available which pretty much guarantees that you’ll not be able to avoid paying at least one or two months’ double rent. Add to that the renovations that you have to arrange and pay for in the apartment you’re leaving, including removing any additions that you cannot sell to the next tenant which can range from lighting and curtains (no biggie) to shower cabins, flooring and kitchens (biggie). Don’t forget renovations and additions to the new place which may include any and all of what you just sold or ripped out of the last one. Toss in the normal moving costs for your method of choice (boxes, paid help, beer for unpaid help, truck or moving company). And don’t forget that you will need to put down a security deposit on the new one before you get the old one back, so you need to be liquid enough to cover both.
This is quite a bit more than what you would expect to have to cover for a move in San Francisco, and that is an expensive town.
Last but not least, there’s my favorite expense: the Realtor. Try as you might your chances of getting around this one are low. And this is probably what bites the most, because I am convinced that these people are not worth the money they demand, mostly because they never understand who their customer really is.
This is not the Lyon’s representative you’d expect back in CA, who may or may not be wearing the uniform blazer when they drive you from viewing to viewing of “objects that match your requirements” and walk you through pointing out all the advantages of the place in question. This is what you’d expect from someone you were paying, right? Well in Germany it’s assbackwards.
Instead, the Makler (realtor) kisses the landlord’s ass and treat you like shit, even though you’re the idiot who’s paying them. Yes, the landlord pays them nothing. You fork over 2-3 month’s rent for the privilege of them begrudgingly showing up (astonishingly often unbathed) to unlock an apartment for you to see, judge you, maybe make a few snide comments about the fact that you selfishly want so much space without having kids, poke through your personal and financial history and then pocket your cash and walk away. Pity the fool who thinks they can call said realtor, once the money has changed hands, and get say… measurements of the living room or negotiate a move in a few days earlier. No way.
Ok they’re not all like this, true. Some of then are very nice and efficient in taking your money without really servicing you in any way. But at least half do the same thing rudely, while smelling a bit like old socks with crusty stuff in their beards you don’t want to look at too closely. I’m not exaggerating.
I’ve told the story of the last move and the realtor who, in my opinion, bent us over the table and gave the The Treatment. This same guy stepped up again to collect from the next tenant who, because of a friend in the building, had the same right to pay less and I am sure did not.
Since then who has been the one dealing with her questions about measurements, her need to see it again in “natural light”, to know whether there was an electric outlet on the balcony (“it is so important for me!”) and then see it again with her new subtenant. Right: us. I’m sure the realtor didn’t return her calls.
Not that I can even completely blame him in this case. He’s smart to avoid contact, with this one it’s almost a full time job.
Annoying next tenant aside, moving here feels more complicated and expensive. It probably is because people who live here rent their whole lives and have therefore higher expectations from apartments they really look at as their home and not as that place they lived in in their twenties before they bought their first of many houses. Do this once or twice here and you will want to get your move right the first time and ‘we can always move’ is not something you want to hear your partner say as an alternative or an argument for taking an apartment.
People always ask for amounts, which are hard to share because it can be so subjective. If you keep things as cheap as possible you will still easily find yourself looking at costs climbing towards the 10k mark. Less of course if you’re living in a shared apartment, which can make it much easier to avoid double rents and sell your share of the kitchen to the next guy. But if you an apartment and a few pieces of furniture, you’re quickly in this weight class. And that makes you think twice if not three times about the place you choose to live.