Viva la vida - Issue #2

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Revue
August 6 - Issue #2

Viva la vida

A theme-free newsletter where I shape all my thoughts every Sunday. You can expect it to be techie, but I might surprise you with non-techie topics such as life or how to recover from a workout drinking beer.

Finding an apartment in Berlin
After having tried multiple times, my mother still doesn’t get why it’s so hard to find an apartment in Berlin. If you live or lived in Berlin, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, then you’ll be surprised when you read the following lines. 
I knew from my friends that finding an apartment in Berlin is hard, but I never experience it by myself. When I lived in Berlin (before moving to Budapest) I lived in an apartment that I found on Nestpick, an Airbnb-like website for long term rentals. Flats are furnished, and most likely, you don’t have to go through the cumbersome German bureaucracy. This time we decided to do it the classic way. We searched for a small and bright flat, with two rooms, and well located between Maria’s office and mine. We searched across the following districts: Neukölln, Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg and Schöneberg. Those districts, besides being close to our offices, are nowadays the most alternative, hipster and cool neighborhoods in the city. Said with other words, a lot of people want to live there, and that makes searching an apartment a real challenge.
All the time we spent contacting and visiting apartments paid off, and we finally found one. I can’t describe how happy we are, and how excited we are about moving there and start furnishing it. It’s been over 150 messages sent, more than 30 apartments visited, and a lot of time running around the city (which is not small).
Bureaucracy
To be eligible for an apartment, you need a few documents that you can only have if you have lived in Germany before. These documents are:
  •  Schufa:  It’s a certificate that gives you a score based on how legal you are. You are signed up in the database the first time you register in Germany or open a bank account, and all private and public organisations have access to it. For example, if you want to get a bank loan, they’ll first check your score, and if it’s too low, you’ll find it hard to get it. To keep your Schufa high you have to be a good citizen.
  • Pay-checks: You need a copy of your last three pay-checks. They expect your net salary to be three times the price of the rental.
  • Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (yes… the name is that long): It’s a document that your previous landlord signs, proving that you are a good tenant.
Tip #1
Scan all the documents, zip them, upload them to the cloud and get a shareable link. When you contact agencies and owners, shared with them the link so that they can know more about you before inviting you to visit the apartment. That can save you a lot of time.
Keeping everything organized
As soon as you start contacting agencies and owners, it might be hard to keep track of all the open conversations (even using the tools that the websites offer you). What we ended up doing was creating a Google Spreadsheet where we added all the flats that we were interested in. You can check our sheet in the screenshot below (it’s in Spanish):
The apartments in the green section are the ones that we applied for because we liked them after visiting them.
After visiting the apartments and applying for them, we moved them to a section that contained all the apartments that were expecting to be selected for. It’s convenient because otherwise, you might find it hard to remember the apartment you are offered when an agency calls you back. 
Tip #2 
Move all the communication threads to a document where it’s easier to see the state of each apartment. When the last message was sent, how much we liked the apartment… Be very active in keeping the document updated; it’s worth your time. 
Be patient and optimistic
You’ll visit a lot of apartments before you get the first offer. Visiting apartments is a very impersonal process. The agency invites you and a lot more people to visit the apartment. Some of them don’t even send you a message when you contact them; they just update the description of the apartment to include the appointment in there (I think it’s a strategy to avoid having a lot of people coming). When you visit the apartment, you’ll find yourself with all the people, desperate to get the apartment, and they’ll use all their tools to get it. You’ll see all kind of persuasion skills, from the ones trying to use German because it might give them some extra points, to those that tell you that their family is wealthy. This process reminds me to “The Hunger Games” where the prize is not to survive but to get an apartment.
The selection process is most of the times very random. You might have all the documents right, but the owner decides for another person because there’s some connection with any his/her traits. For example, we were close to getting an apartment, but the owner decided for another couple because they were from the same hometown as him.
Tip #3
The process can be very long and tough. If you feel down, give you some time and start again when you recover your energy. Never give up, be patient and keep your optimism high. You never know when you’ll get a call telling you that you got the apartment.
Watch out with scams
We received emails from some people that were supposed to be in Italy and they had a deal with Airbnb to give us the keys of their apartment in exchange for money. How does that sound to you? Very fraudulent, isn’t it? Never transfer money in advance. Do it only when you sign the contract with the owner or the agency. If someone asks you for money in advance, they’ll most likely run away with your money, and you’ll be still without an apartment.
Finding an apartment in Berlin is a true challenge. If you ever have to do it, I hope you find the tips above useful. I hope you have a great week and see you in the next bulletin issue. If you have any feedback about the newsletter, or there’s any topic you’d like me to talk about, reach out to me via email, pepibumur@gmail.com.

🎵 The song of the week
Amadou & Mariam - Sabali (Wayne Lynch Edit) by Wayne Lynch | Free Listening on SoundCloud
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