When Erin and I originally planned our time in Germany, we decided our first apartment here would be a short-term sublease. The reasons for this were, 1) we wouldn’t have to purchase any furniture, and 2) we wouldn’t be stuck with a long-term contract. Both of these would be important in the event that we were denied visas and had to return home (luckily, we were approved).
Once it became clear that we were likely to stay, and as we approached the end of our two-month sublease, it was time to start looking for a more permanent residence. The primary tool in our apartment search toolbox was a website, WG-gesucht.de, that basically acts as a Craigslist for apartments in Germany (scammers included!).
Unfortunately, this website is not a secret. It turns out that every other person in Freiburg looking for an apartment knows about this site as well. Here are the most common responses I got to my inquiries, in order:
- (no response)
- “I’m very sorry, but I have received over 100 responses since I posted my ad over 8 hours ago. I could only take the first 25, but good luck in your search!”
- “This apartment is only for 1 person (because my landlord is a jerk). But good luck in your search!” (parentheses are mine)
- “Hi, please feel free to come see the apartment at anytime between 17:00 and 17:15 tomorrow (and there will be 12 other people there at the same time). And good luck in your search!” (parentheses implied)
According to my Gmail account’s Sent Folder, I sent 94 separate apartment inquiries in the span of a couple weeks. And you know how many led to an apartment we could live in (hint: the answer is zero)?
All of my WG Gesucht-ing was for naught.
However, we were able to leverage the power of “It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know.” Around October 2nd, we learned that a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend (that’s actually the correct number of links in this particular chain) was moving out of her room on October 1st (I know, and I also questioned the order in which things were occurring). And they hadn’t found a replacement yet!
So on October 4th, just two days before our current lease would end, we met with our friend’s friend’s friend’s friend’s friend’s landlord, saw the apartment, decided it didn’t suck more than being homeless two days later, and signed a lease. Just like that. I’m very glad it worked out, but I’m incredulous that weeks of searching through more standard channels led to nothing, yet it took only two days to find a place through our network.
The bottom line: thanks to our friends and a bit of luck, we succeeded in finding a place to live just in the nick of time (and our apartment is quite a bit better than being homeless).