In light of the strenuous search of apartments on an oversaturated market, the Berlin Senate is launching an official platform for citizens who want to trade their apartments. I talked to a friend who’s been through the ups and downs of trading a flat in Berlin and to the founders of Tauschwohnung.com to find out how the process works – you can read the German editorial here.
Advantages of an apartment trade
The advantages of trading your current apartment (provided your name is on the lease) are manifold, especially if you’re looking to downsize, as more and more young families are looking to trade up.
- You don’t have to compete with others in an open market
- You only have to show up with the essential paperwork
- Part-payments and individual deals can be made in a more informal way (you can leverage your kitchen against theirs, for example)
Is trading apartments worth the trouble?
It is if you’ve got a great apartment and are looking for an even better one. That being said, it highly depends on what exactly you’re looking for. As you can well imagine, 3-bedrooms (the holy grail of Berlin apartments) in Kreuzberg are not easily given up upon.
Please also beware that the landlords on either side of the deal have the right to raise the rent, as you’re usually only trading apartments and not contracts.
How to find apartments up for a swap
Platforms such as tauschwohnung.com are specialized in trading and have developed a working matching algorithm for ads. But apartment trades are also usually offered on wg-gesucht and other regular rental ad spaces.
Those living in one of the six state-owned building society can find a dedicated online platform for trades (including trading the terms of the contract!) at inberlinwohnen.de. The launch is planned for the end of the year.
How to trade apartments
Discuss with your landlord
Before you even put up your ad, you should ask your landlord about any conditions. Will the rent be raised when your trade buddy moves in? Do you have to suggest more than one potential candidate? And at what point do you have to file your termination?
In some cases, the contracts are only terminated when the new contracts are being signed. Sometimes, landlords don’t want you to trade at all, as they want to renovate the apartment or are simply waiting for you to move out.
Discuss with other party
If you’ve found a potential ‘love interest’ and have decided on a swap, you should absolutely write everything down that you’ve negotiated and let both parties sign off. Are the apartments to be painted? Are some things bought off each other? How about telephone and internet lines? How should the apartment be left behind? Who moves first and how are the logistics?
Submit your application
Although you’re not competing with other people, you still have to submit your application to the new landlord and hope they’ll accept your as their tenant. Your paperwork should include your Schufa-Auskunft (credit score), a copy of your ID, and bank statements proving that you’ve generated income in the last 3 months. As a freelancer, you can also show your last income tax certificate (Einkommenssteuerbescheid) or sufficient capital, although most landlords definitely prefer regular income.
Terminate your contracts
This is the tricky part of the barter, as your respective landlords might have different approaches to this. Generally, a rental lease can only be terminated with a 3 month notice, but some landlords might accept an informal or backdated termination.
Do not terminate your contract if you don’t have some sort of re-assurance that your trade pans out.