Monthly Archives: May 2021

Buying Property in Germany

Buying Property in Germany

The most common mistakes while buying property in Germany

Checklist for Home Inspection

1. One should commit to a specific location

When you plan on buying property in Germany, looking at different locations lets you lose your focus. Increasing your chances of finding a low-cost residence, researching specific areas will allow you to familiarize yourself with the location you are looking to call home.

2. One pays attention to the wrong things in property inspection

When examining properties in Germany, it may not be a major issue if walls are dirty; however, attention should be devoted to outdated windows or heating systems as they can be pricey to repair or replace. Some communities of owners are saving money on a monthly basis to pay for major repairs. So, before buying property in Germany, make sure the owner community has enough money for such things.

3. You don’t have a checklist for the viewing appointment

Be sure to create a checklist before visiting and inspecting a potential property – this way, you won’t forget any important details. Many potential buyers do not ask for the blueprint of a building or apartment. Due to the inability to verify the size of a property through advertising, it is difficult for people to exercise control over a situation. Therefore, it is essential for one to strategically evaluate what is important on a personal level in order to make an informed decision. This should be done before you shortlist a few homes for sale in Germany and get a viewing appointment.

4. Don’t fool yourself

The property is cheap for a reason. It may need major repairs soon. You should always assess and calculate carefully to ascertain the final cost of the property. Only buy it if you can afford it. Otherwise, get your hands off it!

5. Don’t forget the incidental costs

Buying property in Germany is a bit different than in other countries. After you have found the right apartment and the price is suitable, the process doesn’t involve signing a contract. In Germany, only an attesting notary can sign the contract. This means additional costs for you and the owner. In addition to paying the real estate agent, one also has to pay taxes when buying property. These incidental costs are normally 15% of the purchasing price and are often forgotten about.

Extra tips

Whether you are an EU citizen or not, there are some things you should consider before trying to find a place to rent in Germany. The majority of landlords in Germany are friendly and fair, but there are some who aren’t. Because of this, it is important to follow some rules which will protect you as a tenant. Many Germans are able to speak at least some English, but being able to speak the language fluently will give you a better chance of being chosen as a tenant. If you do not speak German or have difficulty understanding the German language, you should bring an interpreter or friend with you when you first talk to the landlord or broker.

Learning German Goes A Long Way 

It is important to be able to speak German when renting an apartment in Germany, as the contract will be in German and any legal declarations made during the tenancy will only be legally binding if they are made in German.

An exception to the language rule can occur if the landlord speaks your language or uses a bilingual rental agreement in which the second language is expressly agreed to be the contractual language. As a foreign applicant for a rental apartment in Germany, you do not have to present more documents than a German applicant. The more positive details a landlord knows about you, the more likely he or she is to decide in favour of renting to you.

But you should bring these documents with you to the landlord for the first viewing appointment:

  • ID, passport, or other documents about your identity
  • (Temporary) residence permit or visa

The following documents are not mandatory, but give a plus-point to the applicant profile:

  • Including a translated version is beneficial if the original letter of reference from a previous landlord is in a foreign language.This is how the landlord sees your efforts and also has the original in mind.
  • If you are a foreigner and are looked after by an organization in Germany or are part of a corresponding association, you can also bring a letter of reference from there about your reliability.

As proof of your ability to pay, landlords in Germany will often ask to see your income information or a SCHUFA report. SCHUFA is a database that records almost all people living in Germany, including whether they have any outstanding debts. This is useful for landlords because it provides another way to confirm that the tenant is likely to be able to make their rental payments.

Fill in the self-assessment form

The landlord usually wants the potential tenant to fill out a “self-assessment” form, which is basically a questionnaire that asks for the following information:

  • Personal details about the applicant, such as name, marital status, whether they have any children, etc.
  • Contact information, such as email address, current address, phone number, etc.
  • Employment information, such as whether the applicant is a student or employed full-time by company X (or other explanation of how income is earned).
  • Other information: Such as regarding previous tenancies, etc.

The last important fact to know about finding apartments or houses for rent in Germany is that tenants are legally required to pay for getting the property on rent. This is usually three times the rent without heating and additional costs. It is paid into a savings book and stays there until the end of the tenancy.

German School System

The German School System

The German school system used to be very strict. The type of school you chose often determined the jobs you would get years down the line. But thankfully, that has changed completely.
However, it’s still extremely important to find the right school for your children when you’re moving to Germany.

The Grading System in Germany

But first things first: In order to understand what qualifications are required in the respective schools, it helps to know how students are evaluated in German schools. The grading system goes from 1-6, with 1 being the best grade and 6 the lowest. They are often also associated with the following terms:

  • 1 – sehr gut (very good)
  • 2 – gut (good)
  • 3 – befriedigend (satisfying)
  • 4 – ausreichend (sufficient)
  • 5 – mangelhaft (poor)
  • 6 – ungenügend (insufficient)

In the advanced levels of grade 10-12, there is another way of grading, with points between 0-15 as the evaluation method:

  • 15
    14   =   1
    13
  • 12
    11   =   2
    10
  • 9
    8     =   3
    7
  • 6
    5     =   4
    4
  • 3
    2     =   5
    1
  • 0     =   6

The German School System – Elementary School through University

Grundschule

Every child living in Germany has to visit the Grundschule, which is the equivalent to elementary or primary school. Usually, kids start school at the age of six, and it lasts four years (grade 1 through 4). Many elementary schools offer working parents childcare in the afternoons. To a limited extent, the after-school care center takes up the role of a family or executes functions usually carried out in the family, e.g. lunch, care and help with homework, establishing social contacts, guidance on meaningful leisure-time activities, etc.

After this time, the German school system offers your child three options. He or she can now visit, depending on the grades, the Gymnasium, the Realschule or the Mittelschule (sometimes also called Hauptschule, but this term is being phased out).

Mittelschule

The Mittelschule is the default secondary school your child will visit unless they have the grade average to visit the higher school levels. It takes a student from grade 5 to 9, which is the minimum amount of years a child has to stay in school for compulsory education in Germany.

At the end, they finish with a Mittelschulabschluss which will allow them to apply for apprenticeships (practical job training) in various fields, or they can add on another year of school, provided they have the respective grades. During 10th grade, they will work towards a qualifizierender Mittelschulabschluss, which holds a bit of a higher standing and gives them better chances in the job market, or allows them to proceed to the Fachoberschule (FOS – more on that below) as it is about the same level as a Mittlere Reife (see Realschule).

Realschule

If your child intends to attend the Realschule, they need a grade average of 2.66 in subjects of maths, German and home and science studies, but can also try to pass an admission test or trial lesson at the Realschule if they don’t quite reach that average.

Realschule takes students from grade 5 to 10, finishing their secondary school education with a Mittlere Reife diploma. With this, they can apply to apprenticeships and start their career path in the workforce, or decide to further their education at the Fachoberschule to graduate with A levels.

Gymnasium

To fulfill the requirements for the Gymnasium, you need a grade average of at least 2.3 in maths, German, and home and science studies. If the grade average is not quite reached, there is also the option of an admission test or trial lesson to get in.

Gymnasium is grade 5 through 12 or 13 (depending on the state), when the student will graduate with the Abitur or allgemeine Hochschulreife, which is the highest degree of secondary school education in Germany and serves as a general university qualification.

Fachoberschule (short: FOS)

Fachoberschule, or FOS, offers students graduating from Mittelschule and Realschule to add onto their education and work towards a (Fach-)Hochschulreife. Continuing with grade 11 through 12 or even 13, there are multiple options:

  • Grade 11-12, graduating with  Fachhochschulreife (also called Fachabitur)
    this allows them to study at a Fachhochschule, which can be compared to a college, offering a path towards a bachelor’s degree with a more practical teaching approach
  • Grade 11-13, graduating with fachgebundene Hochschulreife (also called fachgebundenes Abitur)
    this allows them to study at a Universität (university), which is the highest school form in Germany, offering a path towards bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees or even doctorates and PhDs. However, with a fachgebundene Hochschulreife, they can only attend classes within a limited subject selection that has to correspond with the subject orientation they attended and graduated in at FOS.
  • Grade 11-13 including a 2nd foreign language, graduating with allgemeine Hochschulreife (also called allgemeines Abitur)
    equivalent to the Abitur students graduate with at Gymnasium, this is the highest graduation level in secondary education, allowing them to attend universities to work towards a bachelor’s/master’s degree or doctorates/PhDs in whatever subject or field they prefer (provided they have the required grade point average).

The German School System

If parents prefer an alternative way of education, they should try to get information about the Montessori and Waldorf school systems, which differ a lot from the government school system in their teaching approach.

To sum up, the choice of school after primary school does not mean your child’s school career is final. Rather, the German school system opens up an individual educational path for every pupil. The performance of children and young people can change in the course of their school life. Every student is, therefore, regularly given the opportunity to adapt their educational path to new circumstances and goals. This avoids under- or over-strain and makes achieving success at school highly probable.

All schools in Germany offer several options for obtaining school qualifications. Basically, the following applies: With every degree achieved, the path to the next higher school goal is open.

Moving to Germany-An Expat Guide

Immigrating to Germany

First steps for immigrating

Immigrating to a foreign country is probably one of the biggest challenges of life. If you plan on moving to Germany and settling there, this guide will help. You can use this guide to understand the basic information related to the biggest problems you might have to deal with when executing your decision to immigrate.

It will include fundamental information about the basic steps necessary to immigrate to Germany. First of all, everyone is welcome in this country. But unfortunately, this is Germany, which means one has to deal with some strict rules. In other words, you’ll have to overcome some roadblocks. But don’t be afraid because it can be done. Your first goal will be to get permission to immigrate and live in Germany.

In order to achieve this goal, you have different options, which are discussed below.

First, we need to talk about the conditions one must fulfil to get access to Germany in the first place. The duration of your sojourn depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you are looking for student permission, it will be completely different from what you will have to fulfil if you plan to stay and work here for a longer time.

The German Visa System

Wanting to come to Germany is basically easy. It just depends on what you desire to achieve. There are several different application forms, which you have to fill in and prove you are willing to accept the rules. The only important point is whether you want to immigrate from a third country (almost all countries that are not EU members) or you come from a member state.

Germany has five different application forms for immigration.

  • Immigration for employment
  • Immigration for education
  • Immigration for entrepreneurs
  • Immigration for family reunification
  • German residence permit/settlement permit

One thing each applicant moving to Germany has to prove is the fact that he/she can finance the cost of living here. Even if you already got a job, you must be able to cover your expenses until you get your first salary. In addition, the German state wants to make sure each immigrant has proper health insurance. After a positive decision, it is recommended to apply for German health insurance, because some authorities do not accept foreign insurances, which is a typical German characteristic.

One interesting aspect for people who intend to stay longer in Germany is opting for the European Union Blue Card, which is really interesting. It is issued for third-country employees who have high professional qualifications and want to work in Germany. High qualifications mean that the person has a bachelor’s or diploma degree in a specific field. To qualify for the Blue Card, you must have already found a job in Germany and meet the minimum gross salary limit of 56,400 Euros (2023) and a gross annual salary of at least €45,552 (2023) is required for employees in the fields of a mathematics, IT, natural sciences, engineering and human medicine.

But in general, almost everyone is welcome in Germany, regardless of their reasons for moving to Germany. The only important fact that needs to be remembered is if one comes from a so-called third-country. These people have to apply for a visa other than people from the EU. Below you will find different types of Visa one can apply for.

  • Business visa
  • Study visa
  • Job search visa
  • Work visa
  • Academic stay visa
  • Apprenticeship / internship visa
  • Family reunification visa

The good news is that Germany suffers from a lack of highly qualified workers like engineers, IT specialists, doctors, and all sorts of qualified specialists, which the government wants to lure to Germany. Therefore, the authorities have relaxed the formerly strict rules for immigration. So, one of the most popular options for immigrating is to find work in Germany.

Immigration for employment

To immigrate to Germany for employment, you must follow the steps below:

  • Find a job in Germany (in a company or organisation that’s looking for foreign skilled workers)
  • Apply for the work visa for Germany
  • Travel to Germany and then apply for the work permit

Residence permit for work

To get a residence permit for work in Germany, employers and employees must also provide evidence of the following:

  • There was a shortage of employees from Germany or the EU for the position.
  • The employee has the same conditions as any other German employee in terms of salary and work environment.
  • The employee meets all the requirements for training and professional experience for the vacant position.
  • The company employing the foreign employee meets all the requirements of the German authorities (registration documents and certification).

As soon as you fulfil all these requirements, it won’t be a problem to come here. And as said before, there is a lack of qualified workers in Germany.  Keep up to date with the Skilled Immigration Act here. Thus, it should not be too hard to find a company, which is willing to get through this with an enthusiastic person. But as you can see, the requirements listed above are necessary for moving to Germany and are somehow quite typical of Germany!

Now, check out how to rent a flat in Germany as an Expat.