I arrived as an expatriate in Munich in late 2011, having found a job and I thought I had already done the hardest part, finding a job. Oh boy was I wrong...
In the end I spent 4 months working a full time job and sleeping in hostel (at first in a 12 people bedroom because it was cheaper, then upgrading to a 3 people bedroom) because I couldn't find a place where to live. Finally, one of my contacts from my old boarding school knew someone who knew someone who was an agent and had something that they would be happy to give over to an expatriate. I still had to pay the commission for the agent but at this point, I stopped caring.
It is atrocious having to go to work in the morning, then coming back home and chilling out in the living room, which just happens to be a very lively and awesome bar. You will always find someone who will invite you for a drink, and you know the deal: "I will have only ONE drink and no more", "Ok, will not matter if I have two but thats it" "Oh come on a third will not hurt" "Oh boy, now I really have to stop after my 4th" "HELL YEAH, BRING THE DRINKS ON!"
So it took me 4 months to find something (and believe me I searched hard) and I AM GERMAN BY BIRTH.
Lets try to explain this by putting yourself in the shoes of the owner of the appartment that is renting it out.
An appartment is a very expensive piece, especially here in Munich. So the owner will try to do everything in order to protect it. He will avoid at all costs to get so-called "Mietnomaden" or "Messies" as they a) are difficult to get rent out and b) make the place a mess, meaning that in worst case you have to completely renovate the appartment (have a look here to see how bad "Messies" can be). Getting one of them into your appartment spells costs in the region of tens of thousands of Euros.
You will therefore understand why Landslords are so cautious.
Lets say, simply as an example, that the expat who is interested in the house is Albanian, 28 years old, has studied in Computer Sciences in Albania and now has a job at the company "Innsparcks" which produces apps for Android.
Now lets look at the expatriate from a landlords eyes (a GERMAN landlord). The landlord will meet a person who speaks German with a strong accent and not that well. That will already make him suspicious. Then he will continue thinking that this person is outside of the average person who rents a house. Renting to someone who is outside of the average means that you massively increase your risk of finding a messie compared to if you take someone who is average.
The Landlord will then turn around and simply look at the next person. If there is one (and you surely will have one in big cities like Munich), then the other person will get that appartment. This is based totally on pre-conceptions and stereotypes, but there is NOTHING you can do about it.
Please note that the further difficulties are (if you are a new expatriate) that you do not have a SCHUFA entry (credit score) and that you are in "Probezeit"(trial period, meaning that your employment contract can be terminated within 2 weeks).
Do not despair, there are some ways how you can increase the chances of finding somewhere.
The main problem, as demonstrated in the previous paragraph, is that not many landlords have experience with renting out to expatriates. Those that have taken the plunge (or are themselves expatriates/re-patriates) have made most of the time very positive experience. If they have already rented out to expats, they will also understand the difficulties that you are going through with finding a house and also the SCHUFA problems.
So the solution is to find landlords that are renting to expats. And the simplest way to do that is by finding it in the expatriate community. The problem is finding the expatriate community :)
I will give you the best tips that other expats have used for finding housing:
You can still try the classical websites that the locals also use. You have more choice there than either on International Friends, Toytown or Facebook but you will be competing against locals and your chances of actually finding something are rather small... but they are existent!
Simply give it a try but do not expect much (best if you can speak some German, if you cannot, then try in English...):
I have just listed the biggest ones but there are hundreds of different ones. Simply search it via Google or another search engine.
Yes, it is very difficult to find housing in a lot of different cities, especially in Munich and even more so if you are an expatriate. There are though ways to increase your chances and that is by searching it using the apps of International Friends and as well in various expatriate forums.
It pays off to try as well in the standard appartment searching websites but do not keep your hopes up.
Did I miss anything? Just add it in the comments below.
Here is a comment from Sebastian Gíl that he made on another platform that I found especially useful!
I had the best luck on wg-gesucht of all places. I would, however, add the following tips:
* watch out for scammers -- like the parasites they are, these horrible people are out there to prey on the insecurity of the market. the #1 one rule is to NEVER wire money until you've met the person you are renting from and have seen the apartment IN PERSON
* take what you can get -- even if it's short term or a bit longer of a commute, opportunities are rare to come by, but more will come in the future.
* tailor the search engine to your exact needs -- budget, distance, furnishing, roommate preferences, etc.
* polish your ad and clean-up your social media profiles -- some home-owners will ask for this information to get a first impression of who you are
* check for new ads EVERY DAY, MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY
* don't be discouraged if you've sent 30+ e-mails and still got no response. I've talked to people who've put an ad for an available place and got over 200 replies in less than three days
* don't take ANYTHING personally -- it's a numbers game pure and simple
* be genuine -- although things are extremely competitive, both you and your landlord are incurring a risk. therefore, it's important to behave with integrity and honesty in all your interactions
Hope this helps someone. Good luck!