Location, Location…KITCHEN?

| September 11, 2012

Paul and I began searching online for a home to rent long before we left the US, even though we were not going to be able to rent a place until we arrived in Germany. It was exciting to look at what was on the market. Sometimes we noticed homes with no kitchens—there were walls with the outline of a kitchen having been removed, maybe a workbench in the middle of the room…we just assumed people were renovating.

When we were picked up at the airport and in the process of claiming our canine cargo, however, our sponsor advised us to make sure that the houses we looked at had kitchens in them, because Germans tend to buy their own kitchens and take them with them when they leave. Aha! That explains all the homes with police tape and chalk outlines where the sink, stove, fridge, dishwasher and cabinets once stood. And while purchasing your own kitchen is an option, apparently they start at about $15K and rise quickly; not to mention, what on earth do you do with a random kitchen when you move back to the States? In addition to missing kitchens, closets are almost non-existent. Wallpaper reveals where armoires were once secured.

We learned of another practice different from what I’m accustomed to in the States. You yourself don’t work with one realtor. You contact whichever realtor is associated with each property, no matter how many realtors you end up contacting. And only the realtor for a house is the one to show the house. I feel like I’m committing adultery even considering contacting another realtor once I’ve communicated with one. In the case of a rental property, the realtor receives from you a payment to the tune of a few months’ rent, the landlord takes their deposit, and you’re left with empty pockets.

When we began our physical search for a home to rent after arriving in Germany, I emailed realtors associated with the houses that interested us. Meanwhile, Paul’s housing support office offered to set us up with appointments to see some houses that are rented out by landlords who continually work with the German-American lease. That very day, we could see a house, so our sponsor drove us directly there. The town was quaint enough. There wasn’t much parking by the house (uh-oh), so our sponsor dropped us off at the door while she drove around looking for a spot.

We walked up to the house, which occupied the street corner. The door opened directly onto the street of a blind corner, inviting death and dismemberment to anyone stepping outside.

Since the home was the corner property, most rooms were triangular in shape. Not all the bedrooms had actual doors on them, and it seemed that bedrooms with curtains dividing the middle of the room might be considered by the owner to be two bedrooms. Our tour lasted approximately 3 minutes; this was not going to be our home.

Using one of those landlords has its advantages: they do not go through realtors, so there is no several-months’ rent commission coming out of pocket right after you land in Germany; the government insists the landlord keep things like, you know, kitchens in the house; the German-American lease is tailored to our general needs. However, the disadvantages include performing complex mathematical equations to fit square furniture into triangular rooms.

Fortunately, the realtors for two properties that interested us had gotten back to me about showing us the homes. One, we decided, was too far north, so we canceled the appointment. The other appeared to be in a location within a reasonable distance. We were not familiar with the town itself, but the house had a kitchen and all the rooms appeared to be squares and rectangles, so it was a start.

We drove through the city of Darmstadt and on to the town of Dieburg, passing through cornfields that reminded me of my childhood in Pennsylvania. We entered the town and immediately passed by an old stone mill with a water wheel. sigh Home, sweet home. Except this town comes with a little castle.

The house was 100X better in person than online. By the second room, I had placed our furniture. The town was even more impressive: charming, historic, within walking distance, and filled with restaurants and daily necessities. We couldn’t wait for our second viewing.

A rental application in Germany consists of one sheet of paper. It asked about a dozen non-intrusive questions. With the help of Google translate, I was able to fill it out on my own. When we returned to see the house a second time, submit our filled-in application to the realtor, and meet the owner, they read our responses and gave a nod of approval. We all agreed upon how much rent plus utilities and services would cost. They approved us living there. Sequoia ran around the yard. The realtor said she’d write up the contract. It was as easy as buying a lawnmower on craigslist.

The missing kitchen angle is an interesting one, considering the hidden kitchens we’ve come across. On our first day at the hotel, I opened an armoire to find a kitchenette inside! Paul opened a closet in a bedroom of the house we’re signing on, to find a similar kitchenette. There’s also a sink in another bedroom of the house. So I suppose if you’re missing a kitchen, you can go armoire shopping.

armoire kitchen

One thing I’m looking forward to when we move, is our bed coming. Our hotel room is quite nice, and our beds are not uncomfortable per se, but our bed consists of two twins pushed together. It provides a border, if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s all-too-easy to wake up in the crack. But that’s not all. On the first night, just after I had come to accept the chasm, I grabbed the comforter and rolled over. The comforter flew through the air. It was a twin-sized comforter which had been placed deceptively adjacent Paul’s twin-side comforter so as to give off the air of a queen-sized comforter. TWIN-SIZED. I didn’t know they made twin-sized down comforters. I almost collapsed into a fit of denial and grief, and barely had enough blanket to cover my fetal position. Suffice it to say, I cannot wait for my own bed and blankets.

Sequoia, on the other hand, cannot wait for her Barbie dolls. Hopefully she has Unpacking Barbie and Furniture Moving Ken.

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Category: In Germany A Broad blog, Shits & Giggles

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

Comments (3)

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  1. Joyce says:

    Did you rent a house thru base housing or seek out your own realtor an have to pay hefty fee? we will be moving in Jan. and just preparing.

    • We ended up going out on our own bc we didn’t like what the base had to offer. Realtor fees are hefty, indeed. I want to say we paid like 30K€! A lot of it is in what you want. It seems to be that you can find more house/amenities (and at lower rent) outside of the base housing office. It also appears that the landlords who work with base housing charge right up around housing allowance because they know what it is. The closer you get to your max, the less wiggle room with exchange rate fluctuation. That said, we know people who have gotten decent housing. My perception is that single people/people wanting smaller places have more success with the housing office. We are nowhere near our allowance and have a beautiful 4-bed, 2full/2half bath, giant kitchen, with 1 garage, wintergarten, yard and small landscaped pond. It’s not in the city, which is exactly what we wanted, but many people want to live near base.

  2. Jacki says:

    what an experience you are having! I knew about people taking kitchens with them (from being in Italy), but I would think that a RENTAL would include a kitchen! Very odd. Can’t wait to see photos of your new home and the town you’re living in. I’m going to look at a couple of houses in Ashburn this afternoon. It’ll be nice getting into my own place. And I’m never moving again!