Many of you have been asking how we’re doing now that we’ve arrived in Würzburg, so here’s the story up to this point….
We arrived a little more than two weeks ago to a city that was just as lovely as I had remembered it, but also discovered the rental market here is even more limited and frustrating than we had imagined. This is not Edinburgh where the “property ladder” means people are constantly shifting their flat or home and there’s a steady supply in the rental market.
In addition to the lack of choice, there are differences from the US or UK rental market that mean you as a renter pay big bucks. Most flats are found through property agents, and property agents in Germany make all their money up front for renting you the flat. This means that when you find something, you have to shell out not only the deposit but also usually 2.38 times your rent. So the agency doesn’t care whether you rent the flat five months or five years; they just made maybe 2,300 euros or so off of you, depending on the rent. Another difference is that in Edinburgh, for example, most flats to rent are fully furnished keeping your “start-up” costs low. You can sometimes find unfurnished and partially furnished flats (we had a partially furnished one), but it’s by far easier to find a fully furnished flat as that’s more the norm. In the US, most apartments aren’t fully furnished but at least come equipped with a kitchen and bathroom fixtures. In Germany, most flats or houses to rent come completely barebones, just like you would find it if you were buying. No kitchen, no lamps, no bathroom vanity. Just the water and electric connections where you hook things up. The thinking is that this way you as the renter can always choose what you like. The absurdity, of course, is that as a renter you’d really prefer to not have to go out and spend 5,000 euros on a brand new kitchen which may or may not fit into the house you might wish to buy five years from now.
But before you can even calculate how much that new kitchen or vanity is going to cost you, apparently in Würzburg you first have to navigate the waters of finding something decent to begin with. And the first challenge in this and what has already cost us (well, me) floods of tears is finding a property agent or owner who won’t screw you over. Most of my family and friends already know what happened two weeks before we moved to Würzburg. But long story short, we had found a perfect flat that was lovely and large (the Mr.’s parents went to go see it and approved ), signed the contract for it and two weeks before our moving date we got an email from the agent that he had never signed the contract and the owner had found a buyer and was selling it. To be honest, this flat was partially what had sealed our decision to go to Würzburg to begin with. To lose it (and knowing that finding something else in this small city might be difficult) was devastating.
Then on Friday we hit a new property-hunting low. We viewed a flat a 20-minute walk from the city center that had many, many positive things going for it. It could have been the one. A gorgeous yard complete with a cherry tree and herb garden, quiet, a lovely large lounge, a garage for a car…I could go on and on. In a nutshell, this is what happened: the woman who owns it is in the process of renovating it after her mother was recently moved to a nursing home. We met her yesterday and toured the home while she explained to the Mr. in German what she would change and renovate (sort of…and this was part of the problem). Then she basically wanted a decision from us immediately whether or not we wanted it. It had a couple of issues we weren’t 100 percent happy with; carpet would be installed in the lounge and bedrooms but neither of us is crazy about carpet, especially having the cat; the guestroom and guest bathroom were actually in a different part of the building and disconnected to the flat itself (not to mention hideous orange carpet in that room); and perhaps most importantly, the owner was uncertain of the exact move-in date because of all the renovations, but it would be at least May (and maybe later) before we could move in. Despite these drawbacks, the Mr. and I both liked it but told her we would discuss it and let her know later that evening. (We were most likely going to tell her yes, by the way….) But part of the reason we delayed saying yes immediately is because I don’t really speak German yet and it’s impossible for the Mr. to translate everything that’s said during the course of a conversation. And of course the subtleties of a conversation are also lost in a quick translation, and there are things he has to wait to tell me in private on our own. (Like her pushiness and vagueness about exactly when the renovations would be finished were making him a little uneasy).
Anway, the Mr. told the owner we’d like to discuss it a bit more before making a decision. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? A matter of just a few hours. However, when we told her this she responded that she would now like to consider other renters as, basically, she thought we were being too picky about what we wanted. (I would like to say, just to be fair, that we are somewhat picky but she’s also charging a small fortune in rent and we don’t even know how most of the renovations will turn out!) So we had just spent the last 2 1/2 hours talking to this woman and seeing the house, all the time getting excited that it might be the flat for us, and in the last two minutes of our meeting she blindsides us with this. I couldn’t believe it. Two minutes out the door I was bawling my eyes out in frustration and anger. And nothing new has been listed online in the last two days. We check religiously. Sigh.
Life as an expat has always had its ups and downs, and I always knew that moving to Germany would present new challenges (and new opportunities, of course) allowing me to learn more about the world and myself.
Obviously finding a place to live is the first of those challenges.
We’re now considering buying something just to give ourselves additional options. For those of you who know the Mr. and his feelings towards buying property, the above statement might just mean hell has frozen over.