Munich: Our apartment hunting pain in numbers and graphs

Its day 46 since we have started hunting for a new flat in Munich. And while we have failed to find a flat, I have managed to make infographic on the rental situation in the city and discovered some interesting facts, like the one below.

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Munich is known as a relatively pet-friendly city and you will be welcome bringing a dog in many restaurants and offices. However, most probably you will need to live with your dog in another city close to Munich, because even chances of getting COVID-19 are higher than getting an apartment in Munich if you have a dog, and just imagine if you have a child and dog. I have a friend who has both a dog and a child, and I would not like to be in his shoes. Let’s be honest, it is clearly seen that only 2.8% of landlords allow having pets, and I am pretty sure that “Not specified” also means harsh German Nein. So if in your dreams you imagine yourself moving to Munich and playing with a dog in Englischer Garten on Sunday morning, it is not gonna happen.

It is well known that Munich is one of the most expensive cities in the World, due to the fact that the automobile industry is located here: BMW, Daimler, also a lot of big tech companies like Google and Microsoft opened their offices here. Therefore, many people can be assumed to make good money. In addition, most of the houses in Munich have around 6 floors (no buildings within the Munich city limits may be built taller than the Frauenkirche towers), that is why the city is only growing in width. All the above factors make the rental market here so difficult, as there is more demand than supply. For example, it is absolutely normal to see 50 people coming for an apartment viewing (some landlords told me that they got more than 500 applications the first hour they listed their apartment), which really shocked me the first time I was in this situation myself. This article is based on my own struggle to find a flat and some data analysis did on top.

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I created a fake apartment listing and guess what, there are 8211 people who have a search filter set for such a flat. And only 13 similar apartments on the market…

Short background:

It all started a bit more than a month ago and I didn’t plan to make a research on the rental housing situation in Munich. I just wanted to find a new sweet la casa somewhere in the city center, for a reasonable price and with a balcony facing east (now i know that it would be easier to build my own la casa with blackjack and high ceilings). I am asking for too much?

Anyway, after a week of applications we realized that with such a chilled attitude we are not gonna score even a cellar in Garching(Garching is as far away from Munich as Neptune from the Earth). The point is that we tried to make every application cover letter personal and sweet (but lets be honest — its a monkey business and most of the real estate agents care only about salary slips here). Also Germans just love documents, preferably in paper, because here it is still cool to use a Fax machine, somehow it beats any cloud solution. It took us a bit of an effort to gather all reference letters, copies of IDs and so on, honestly, applying for a job here is easier and requires less documents. But one can not just get it all easily, we were missing one document called SCHUFA, which is basically a credit record. One can get it for free or pay around 30 euro. To get a free SCHUFA it took us only 14 days, because obviously it is a rip off to pay someone 30 euro for your own data, right? Only after 2 weeks I got a letter with my SCHUFA score printed on 8 pages, 8 pages of paper just got wasted CARL. However, after all the struggle, we were finally expecting landlords to stay in line and offer us all the dream flats. Didn’t happen. Although we increased a number of invitations for flat viewings.

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My favorite notifications — which mean that rental price of a flat increased by 735 Euro (wish my stocks were high rocketing like that)

Just to make it clear, from the very beginning we were playing in Munich Rental Apartments Champions League, which means we were trying to score something in nice city areas like Maxvorstadt, Glockenbach, Bogenhausen etc. Areas like Trudering, Hadern and Moosach were not considered because it is more like a Finnish soccer third league. Let me explain one important thing about Munich. The city is very central oriented, all the cool kids bars, clubs, good restaurants and just the whole social life is located in the city center. As soon as you live somewhere in the suburbs your entertainment would be limited to one Italian restaurant, one Biergarten and one Döner Kebap, so it is like living in Mordor, there is nothing.

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Munich Districts Coolness Heat Map (for sure made by AI)

I am not delusional and I totally understand that there are some other cool people playing in the Munich Rental Champions Leagues and they also earn more than 5k per month, and their name might be Hans, so the competition is extremely tough. Therefore we had to stand out of other applicants. And to impress a landlord, you have to think like a landlord; and landlords like two things: money and people who have money, do not smoke, have no pets (check out the first chart again), do sports after work, then read a book and head to bed, to wake up early and go to work again. So we went to the nearest park to take a beautiful pic where we look exactly like the people described above.

Overall it improved our flat visit rate, but it was not enough. On top of everything I had some time pressure because there was only one month left before I had to move out of my current flat.

That was the moment in which we streamlined every process: downloaded all the apps, set up notifications from every possible web site based on filters, created a shared calendar, got a premium account on Immoscout24 and posted on every social media.

Was it enough to get a flat?

- No

I would compare Munich`s rental apartment situation with high-frequency trading on a stock market(“time in the market does not beat timing the market”) — the best offers get deactivated in minutes.

Average life time of an apartment listing is 1.5 hours

That is why I did what any self respected software developer would do in this situation. I wrote a python web scraper for immobilienscout24( German biggest rental search engine), I limited it to only that web site because on other web sites there are way less listings and it would be just a waste of time. I hosted the scraper on AWS Lambda and set it up to check for new flats every minute. It stored the parsed data in a DynamoDB and pictures in AWS S3. It helped a lot to keep the track of the apartments we applied to and also when the listings got deactivated we still could see all the details and pictures. And to make sure that we are always the first ones to apply for a flat, I wrote a Telegram bot to send us messages with flat details and automatically apply.

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In 2 weeks I had some nice data in the database but still no flat. But while checking all the listings and visiting apartments I got a feeling that it is not cheaper to rent a flat in a sad suburban area than in the city center. Also I checked that there were no reports on the rental apartment market in Munich in recent years and that is why I imported numpy and matplotlib and did some data analysis.

*IMPORTANT: this report is based on data scraped from ImmobilienScout24 and valid for the following search criteria:

- 2 or more room apartments

- In whole Munich

- Up to 1400 euro rent price

- Data had been collected in September 2020.

It does reflect the housing situation to a certain degree. Obviously, it does not take into account apartments listed in newspapers and on other platforms (I have to say that right now the amount of listings on other platforms is so small that it just didn’t make sense to analyse it).

Additionally, the number of offers and prices could have been affected to COVID-19.

Technical details:

*Skip this part if you are interested only in results

The code was written in Python (that is pretty much the code)

Infrastructure: AWS: Lambda, S3, CodeBuild, DynamoDB

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Data Analysis:

Jesus is watching, business is running

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Some information for those who don’t know how it works in Bavaria. All the grocery stores, malls, pharmacies, basically everything is closed on Sunday, its a law which is kind of painful. Funny enough, but the rental market doesn’t have any days off. It’s a 24/7 hustle. So if you are hunting for a flat you also need to work 24/7 or have a bot applying for you. Personally, we can not enjoy Sundays as much as usually because we have to answer calls and visit flats, it is that bad.

Real estates agents are vampires

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And don’t forget that in Germany a lot of bank branches are closed by 16:00 and you cant buy groceries after 20:00. So might be that Munich real-estate agents are the real essential workers who don’t spare themselves and work 24/7 just to help us find a new place to live? Maybe I am too hard on them when they don’t call back, or when they come too late and forget the keys?

Is it really cheaper to live in the suburbs?

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To prove my theory regarding the price distribution between the districts I used Google Maps API to geocode districts from the addresses. It was probably the most exciting part of this research, and when I finally saw this result I was just happy. I mean I wasn’t happy that landlords are raising prices for the flats in the middle of nowhere for no reason, But I was kinda happy that it wont help to start looking for an apartment in the outskirts because it will not even be cheaper.

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Lets do some quick math here, if you live in the suburbs you would pay 1600 euro per month instead of 1800 on average. But lets not forget that you would waste 1.5 hours per day in public transport instead of just using a bicycle and be anywhere in 10 min, and time is money. Also do not forget that you would need a monthly ticket which would cost around 60 euro and if you come back at night a cab would cost 20 euro every time. Now it does not sound like a win.

At some point I found an article with rental price distribution per district in 2015 in Munich. I know that this comparison is not exact, but I still used it for a comparison in a table above, and one can not deny that rental prices got higher. For example, if you know that Trudering-Riem has developed a lot in the last 5 years due to construction of an exhibition center, a mall and other new offices; it is possible to explain why rental prices increased by 38%. But let me tell you something, it is an extremely rural and boring area.

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Average price growth from 2015–2020 is 22.5%

It can be clearly seen that the price has most dramatically grown in the suburban areas, which I can not find an explanation except for greed probably. And on the graph below one can understand why the prices in Bogenhausen haven’t grown that much.

Unterbogenhausen ???

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When I saw this graph I was extremely surprised because Bogenhausen is one of the poshest Munich areas for perfect families with perfect kids. It is well known that finding an apartment there is a hard task, because there are quite some well off families with kids in Munich. So I had to spend some time checking how something controversial could be true. Well, the answer was really shocking. Basically, properties listed as Bogenhausen were actually located in a suburban district Unterföhring, although Bogenhausen` postal code was used. Good try Unterföring.

Additionally, on this graph one can see how Munich is developing. New housing is built mostly in the suburbs like Perlach and Pasing, which have a bigger amount of offers in those areas. Altstadt has the least amount of offers due to the fact that there is no space for new buildings. Anyway, the conclusion is: chances of getting an apartment in Altstad-Lehel are lower than *enter your joke here*.

Helle schöne gepflegte…. mit Balkon

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The second top finding popped up when I made a datacloud graph from all the apartment descriptions. My favorite word is probably exclusive, because it looks like everything is exclusive here: like all those flats in ugly buildings with granny furniture. Here we can see a typical real-estate agent game :

“A flat in the middle of nowhere” — ‘Ruhige Wohnung in Top Lage”.

“IKEA showroom apartment” — “Moderne Modelle Wohnung”.

Look from above

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Average area of a rental 2 room apartment in Munich is 62 m²

Average rental price of a 2 room apartment in Munich is 1050 Euro

Average price per m² of a rental 2 room apartment in Munich is 16.8 Euro/m²

Scam — Maxvorstadt 2-Zimmer, 70 qm — 500 Euro

Munich is the city where you would get a call from a real-estate agent saying that there is a wonderful apartment available with a balcony and a good connection to Autobahn. The thing is that it is just 200 km away in the village on the Czech border. Its not a joke, Its a real story I experienced yesterday. The rental market is so crazy that people are getting desperate and would do anything to get a flat. And if there are desperate people, there are scammers.

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When I checked the price distribution curve I was laughing. As you can see, there is a peak at the 500 euro price, does it not look suspicious? And even after one day of checking the rental market one can understand that you can rent a 2-room apartment for 500 Euro in Munich, even in the outskirts. I checked out the data and found out that those 500 euro flats are 99% scam, although there were still 3 real offers in Mordor (Pasing). Typically it is a dream flat in Maxvorstadt/ Bogenhausen for 500 euro fully furnished and with balcony. I would be more than happy to get one of those, but only if it is real. However this scam is mostly aimed on people who are moving to Munich from abroad and do not know anything about the rental situation in Munich. I personally know two people who got scammed and paid several thousand Euro upfront.

I just want to warn people who are reading this article and planning to move to Munich. There are several kinds of scams:

  1. Standard: Really cheap and beautiful flat in a good location. Scammers usually will try to make you pay a deposit upfront. The story goes like that: currently they are abroad, I had a retired general from the UK, an old rich German lady living in Mallorca wants a couple to take care of her apartment. For one or another reason they can not travel even though it’s possible to.. I played a bit with scammers promising to send them money and asking stupid questions: be careful, they can get really aggressive and even promise to call the police is you promise to transfer the money but dont do it. To be honest, scammers are really getting better and better, especially their stories about retirement after the death of their spouse and not being able to live in the same flat afterwards, really great story lines — if someone films a movie based on their stories starring Leonardo DiCaprio — there is a big chance to get Oscar. DON’T SEND YOUR DOCUMENTS BEFORE VISITING THE FLAT! That is the way the scammers make fake personalities, based on your ID, documents and pictures. Just imagine how much information you give away to some random person: IDs, bank account statements, work contracts — what if they use it against you or leak it? For that reason I coded a little tool which puts a watermark with the recount name on its, so documents can not be used by scammers or if landlords leak those, it would be possible to track them down and put legal charges.
  2. Sophisticated: That was something new for us. 3 times we were in a kinda shady situation. It was not exactly a scam, but was an illegal way to earn money on poor desperate people. Basically some smart people just rent a flat and they would offer to sub rent it to you. It is a fully furnished flat above the average market price, the thing is that they rented it 8 years ago for 900 euro and would subrent it to you for 1500, well, not a bad way to earn 600 euro/month. Also you will be asked not to officially register in the city hall and as a subrenter you might be kicked out of the apartment at any time.
  3. There are also some shady rental companies which would rent you a fully furnished flat for a higher price. The thing is that in the contract there will be hidden costs and for example from the second year you will pay 200 euro more rent. So you are scammed but in a gentle way. We got an offer from one of those companies, good that we checked google reviews, well, the score was 1.2 and mostly people were complaining.

Summary:

Yes, Munich rental market is *tell me your opinion*. Still it is a great city to live in for a list of reasons: it is clean and chilled, everything is in 10 min reach by bicycle, easy to travel anywhere in Europe from here, it has good job opportunities, it is perfect for snowboarding and cycling,

In the nearest future I am planning to collect more data and do some machine learning on it, lets see what comes out of it.

Funny thing, I installed the Telegram bot for some of my friends and they were luckier than us and already moved in their new apartments, c’est la vie.

For editing thanks to https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayla-kuefler-0b8221113

P.S: We are still looking for an apartment and if you know someone who knows someone…

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Software Dev

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