Become acquainted with the fundamental terms of the German (& Berlin) real estate market. The following glossary will help you expand your vocabulary so you feel more confident when searching for a new home in Berlin.

  • Costs
  • Types of apartments
  • Inside of apartments
  • Required documents
  • Other useful terms
  • Welcome to Berlin


Net rent
Basic rent without heating, electricity and other ancillary costs.

Warm rent/Final rent/Total rent
Basic rent including incidental costs.

Service charges/operating costs
Costs incurred by the owners of buildings on an ongoing basis. Some of these costs can be passed on to tenants. A distinction is made between cold and warm operating costs, i.e. operating costs without or with the costs for heating and hot water.

For tenants, operating costs are costs that are incurred in addition to the basic rent, e.g. for water, heating, garbage collection, janitorial services.

Amount of up to 3 months’ rent, which landlords use to secure themselves against tenants not properly fulfilling their obligations under the lease, e.g. not paying their rent.

Types of Apartments

Equipped with furniture

Renovated / Refurbished
Remodeled and adapted to new needs through renovation, modernization, conversion or partial demolition and new construction

Residential buildings that were essentially built using the construction methods that were common until World War II. The end of the Altbau era in Germany is usually dated to the late 1940s.

Newly built building

Front part of a building, house facing the front of the building

Part of a building adjoining a house to the rear, or a house located behind a house or the adjoining yard/garden

Regionally, especially in Berlin: a rear house located at a (planted) courtyard. Often the rear house is meant here.

Building on the side of a building complex

Hinterhof/Innenhof (Backyard/inner courtyard)
Especially in Berlin: (often sunless) courtyard closely enclosed by rear houses and side wings.

Access to all connected levels of a multi-storey building

Ground floor/Parterre
Floor of a building located at ground level

Floor located inside a roof

Souterrain (Semi-Basement/Walk-Down)
A floor half a story below the normal level of the first floor in a residential building.

Loft/Loft apartment
An open-plan apartment converted from the floor of a factory or the like.

Maisonette or gallery apartment
Two-story apartment, especially in a high-rise building, with its own staircase located within the apartment.

Free-standing residential building on the roof of a multi-story building

Apartment in a multi-family house, which is the property of a private person

Rental Apartment
Apartment in which someone lives in return for rent

Temporary/Mid-term renting
Type of rent where a room or apartment is rented for a medium-term period (3 months or more). Particularly suitable for people who are newly moving to a city or are looking for an apartment only for a certain period of time.

Inside of Apartments

Living space/area
The sum of the chargeable floor areas of the living spaces belonging exclusively to one dwelling unit

Single, enclosed room in an apartment or house. This includes living room, bedroom, study. Rooms that have a minimum area of 4 square meters and a height between the floor and the majority of the ceiling area of at least 2 meters count as such. So-called “half rooms” are naturally lit and ventilated areas of at least 5m2 such as niches, galleries and eat-in kitchens. Bathrooms, storage rooms and kitchens do not count as rooms.

Fitted kitchen (Einbauküche/EBK)
Built-in kitchen equipment that is precisely fitted into the kitchen space.

Elevators are mainly used for barrier-free transportation of persons between floors.

Shared apartment/WG
The living together of several independent, usually unrelated people in one apartment. Bathroom, kitchen and possibly also a living room are shared.

House rules
Rules about behavior in an apartment building that tenants must follow. These include, for example, the agreement of quiet times or maintenance regulations (e.g. cleaning of the staircase, ventilation behavior).

Central heating
A central heating system supplies heat to an entire building from one location.

Self-contained central heating
A heating system for heating individual floors or apartments.

Underfloor heating
A surface heating system that heats rooms by means of pipes laid in the floor.

Platform in front of a building facade, accessible from the apartment. A balcony is enclosed by a parapet or railing.

Similar to a balcony, but the loggia is found within the floor plan of the building, i.e. it does not protrude from the building. Typically, the loggia is enclosed on all three sides and may have a large window on the fourth side.

An uncovered platform, which is located below or on the first floor level.

Delineated piece of land where plants are grown. Unlike parks, gardens are usually used privately.

Required Documents

Identity card/passport
Official issued document with a facial photograph of the ID card holder, which serves as proof of identity.

Proof of income
Provides information about a person’s financial situation, especially monthly income. It is usually provided via bank statement or pay stub.Proof of income is usually provided via bank statement or pay stub.

A signed document from the last landlord(s) stating that the tenant has paid rent on time and in full during the lease term.

Lease conract
Contract between the landlord and tenant on the terms of the lease.

Sondereigentumsverwaltung/SEV (Special property management)
The SEV dinstinguishes owners of condos from the “common property”. The latter includes, for example, the corridors, the entrance area, the roof and the communal cellars of an apartment complex – in other words, all areas that can be used by all members of a community of owners. In the case of special property, the respective owners assume responsibility and the costs for maintenance measures, for example.

A clear distinguishment between special property and common property does not always exist. Therefore, this demarcation is usually recorded within a declaration of division.

Apartment handover certificate
Written record of the condition of a rented apartment. It is filled out and signed in addition to the rental agreement.

Other Useful Terms

Property Owner
The owner is the person who legally owns an apartment or house.

Person that rents out his/her property to tenants.

The tenant is the person who is given an apartment/house by the owner with the conclusion of a rental agreement.

Particularly for Berlin: Neighborhood/small urban district with its own infrastructure and identity. Not to be confused with Hamburg’s “Kiez,” which means the red-light district of St. Pauli around the Reeperbahn.

Welcome to Berlin

Berlin districts
Mitte with Wedding and Moabit, Pankow with Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Lichtenberg, Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Treptow-Köpenick, Neukölln, Tempelhof-Schöneberg, Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Spandau, Reinickendorf

Berlin’s stretches of waters
Spree, Havel, Tegelersee, Halensee, Königssee, Hundekehlensee, Grunewaldsee, Weißensee, Kaulsdorfer Seen, Müggelsee, Schlachtensee, Krumme Lanke, Wannsee

Berlin’s places of interest
Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, TV Tower at Alexanderplatz, Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom), Humboldt Forum, Museum Island (with the Old and New Museums, Bode Museum, Pergamon Museum, Old National Gallery), Gendarmenmarkt with the German and French cathedrals, Kurfürstendamm, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe), Berlin Zoo, Charlottenburg Palace, East Side Gallery, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse

Berlin’s Kieze
In Berlin there are the following well-known neighborhoods:

  • Brüsseler Kiez on Brüsseler Straße in the district of Wedding
  • Bergmannkiez on Bergmannstrasse in Kreuzberg
  • Graefekiez around Graefestraße in Kreuzberg
  • Helmholtzkiez around Helmholtzplatz in Prenzlauer Berg
  • Nollendorfkiez around Motzstraße in Schöneberg
  • Reuterkiez (also called “Kreuzkölln”) in the north of Neukölln
  • Sprengelkiez between Westhafen and Leopoldplatz in Wedding
  • Stephankiez in Moabit (district Mitte)
  • Weitlingkiez in Rummelsburg and Friedrichsfelde
  • Wrangelkiez around Wrangelstraße in Kreuzberg