28 October 2004

Finding an Apartment in Germany

Burg Stettenfels
Here is a nice castle, Burg Stettenfels, looking over the town of Untergruppenbach, which is not far from Flein. It would be a nice place to live, but the heating is too expensive.

So, why all the references to Flein? As it turns out, we are in a temporary apartment in Flein until we find a permanent place.

Flein is a small town south of Heilbronn, surrounded by vineyards. It is a fairly quiet, tranquil town, yet not without a few fun things to do. But probably not close enough to "the city" for our tastes.

As it turns out, finding an apratment in the Heilbronn region is not easy. First of all, the concept that most Americans will not understand is the "Makler", the closest thing in English is "Real Estate agent". In most cases, you need one to rent an apartment too. And, unlike buying real estate in the US, the Makler is paid by the buyer, not the seller. What makes it most interesting is that we are the ones looking up ads in the paper, calling around and visiting crappy places along with the good. I could see paying 2.3 month's rent to someone if they actually did the legwork and separated the wheat from the chaff (did I spell that right?), but so far all they seem to do is tell us that they won't show us this or that, won't make appointments at our convienence or, in the case that we like something, they will pass the information on to the landlord.

So, once the landlord gets our information, and usually that of a few other people too, he meets with us, and decides whether or not he likes us enough to let us have the provlidge of paying to live in his place. No first come, first served, no bidding wars or anything, it is all up to the gut feel of the owner. So, the first place we fell in love with, we didn't make the cut. Since there is no law protacting us from discrimination as in the US, he can skip us for whatever reason - maybe he doesn't like redheads or that my wife's name isn't the same as mine. Or maybe I am too short or I stared at his crazy moustache too much. Who knows - all I know is the place I really liked isn't my home.

We're going through it again _ found a place we liked and told the guy we really want it. Once again, no on the spot signature of contracts or even an appointment to do so. Hopefully this time we'll getthe apartment. Which brings us back to the picture. If we don't get it this time, I'm camping out at Burg Stettenfels. It looks like they have enough room.

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