T minus 2 days

It wasn’t easy finding a short-term rental apartment for the four of us in Munich.  We had no German credit or rental history, no German bank account, no German phone number, and no German (or for that matter any) furniture. Thankfully through a quick online search, we found someone who said he could help us.  His name was Mr. Lodge.  

Despite our initial suspicions about his name, Mr. Lodge turned out to be a legitimate apartment search firm that caters to international clients and expats who are seeking a turn-key home in Germany’s most desirable city.  And while Mr. Lodge was actually a full team of multilingual real estate professionals supporting their online search tool, to us, we considered our agent to be Mr. Lodge himself.  We contacted him for the first time in June and spoke to him so frequently that we got to know Mr. Lodge on a first-name basis, which in our case was Nigel*.  He was super friendly and very knowledgeable, and he assured us not to worry, that he would find us the perfect spot.  

As expected, we found several apartments online with Mr. Lodge in June, but they were all “available immediately,” with the good ones gone in a matter of days.  We’d have to move quickly, we told ourselves, once the timing was right and we found the right apartment.  We narrowed in on several criteria for our search.  First, the rent would need to be within our budget and require no longer than a six-month lease. Second, we wanted to be inside the city with good access to public transportation and the kids’ schools.  Third, we were hoping to find a three bedroom flat to allow both our boys (and us) some personal space.  And fourth, we wanted a washing machine … and ideally also a dryer (which most Germans consider either a luxury or an unnecessary extravagance). 

One of the early challenges we faced was that we couldn’t filter our searches based on number of bedrooms.  Instead, the listings all reported the number of total “rooms”, and there is a wide variety in how the number of rooms can be counted.  In a chopped-up flat with lots of walls and doors, a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen, dining room, and living room is considered a “four-room” apartment. By contrast, a three-bedroom apartment with an open-floor plan kitchen, dining room and living room would also be considered just a “four-room” apartment.  Another challenge was that many listings we found wouldn’t allow kids, or would only allow one child but, good heavens, not two. We found a great three-bedroom (err “four-room”) apartment, for instance, with three queen beds, that could only “accommodate” three adults. Yet another apartment “permitted” two children, as long as the second child slept in a crib … for the entire rental period! 

During the third week of June, a new listing appeared that checked all our boxes, including an August 1 start date, a six-month lease, and no ridiculous kid restrictions.  Javine called Nigel, but because he was on holiday that week, spoke to his colleague (his sister, Ms. Lodge, we assumed) and submitted our lease request.  This included a pic of the four of us that we had previously given to Nigel (“You can move in with me!” he had exclaimed), our professional backgrounds, and our financial credentials.  After two nail-biting days, the landlord denied our request as he was looking for a 13-month lease agreement.  We felt crushed, as we couldn’t commit to that length of time, and his listing had been posted as a six-month lease option.  There was nothing we could do, however, other than lick our wounds and start the search all over again.  

During the week of July 4, we found an even better apartment online.  Maybe this was fate?  We called Mr. Lodge, and was told Nigel was on holiday that week (again?!? lol).  So Ms. Lodge once again assisted us, telling us our chances were good as the other family interested in it needed only a four-month rental.  The fools! Two more days of anxious waiting followed … and we learned that the landlord had chosen the other family, who had trumped us with a revised offer for an eight-month lease.  Confusion, anger and frustration overwhelmed us.  

Don’t worry, Ms. Lodge assured us, this is a busy time, but we’ll find the right apartment for you.  While we had a hard time believing her, as the number of listings with an August start date seemed to be shrinking drastically, there was a glimmer of hope with a listing we had previously overlooked.  It was a little further west, but still in the city and close to public transit.  The building seemed to be under construction based on the photos, but there was clearly a washing machine (yay!) but no dryer (well when in Rome …).  

We submitted an offer, wary this time the landlord would reject us, yet desperate to find housing. “The landlord’s on holiday,” said Ms. Lodge, “so it might be a few days before we hear back.”  Seriously?!?  The suspense was killing us, while everyone in Germany seemed to be on vacation.  In the meantime, the August listings were emptying faster than a Bierstein during Oktoberfest.  Could the four of us live in a hotel for a month or two until something became available?  The cost and discomfort of that seemed miserable.

With only two days left before we boarded our ship to Europe, Ms. Lodge responded back to us with a signed lease.  The third time was indeed the charm! We wired the funds to the landlord, including the first month’s rent and two months’ security deposit, and hoped Javine’s translation of the German-language version of the lease (which was binding) was identical with the English-language version (which was not).   The lease agreement was only three pages long, yet it finalized the first time in our lives that we have ever made such a major decision sight unseen.     

Wish us luck that in two weeks, the apartment we’ve rented (a) actually exists, (b) has working utilities, and (c) looks at least reasonably close to the pictures, excluding the construction scaffolding …

Otherwise, we’re moving in with the Lodges!

*not his real first name (or his last!)

Author

myfigsandlemons@gmail.com

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