House Hunters International: Heidelberg

Sometimes events in my life make me feel like I’m on a tv show. This week, I’m on my very own version of House Hunters International without the cameras.

We looked at 3 apartments. Which one will we choose?

Wish list: 

  • At least 3 rooms (In Germany, apartments are not listed by how many bedrooms. They are listed by the amount of rooms minus the kitchen and bathroom. So, a 3 room could be 2 bedrooms and 1 living room.)
  • Central location: easily connected to transportation, close to grocery stores and bakeries
  • Kitchen included (This may seem like a silly thing to have on the list, but a substantial number of apartments in Germany are rented without built-in kitchens. Renters are required to go to the store (e.g. IKEA) and purchase an entire kitchen (appliances, cupboards, countertops, sinks, and sometimes even floor) and have them installed. When they move out, they need to try to sell the kitchen to the next tenant or another person who can fit everything into their kitchen.) 
  • In-building laundry
  • Outdoor space (at least a balcony)
  • Bathtub
  • Low-level floor (or elevator in building)
  • Some storage (Most apartments do not have closets. You need to buy wardrobes or closet units from IKEA.)
  • Space for our U.S. furniture that is currently on a boat

House #1: Central location, uncertain floor plan

(Well, they are really apartments, but I think this is how they do it in the show.)

Located in the heart of town down a side street. Multiple grocery stores, bakeries, and our bank within a 5 minute walk. Direct trams/buses to the train station. Across the street from the main pedestrian shopping street. Historic building, but renovated with an elevator. Located on the 3rd floor. Kitchen included, but a bit outdated, small, and with purple cabinets (positive or negative?). Freshly painted, clean, newer floors. Small balcony that looks out to garden and also a Wollsworth window. Couch may not fit through the door I’d make the living room or in my second choice room, which may leave me with a strange living arrangement. Washer hook up in the kitchen, but not included. No dishwasher.

House #2: Nice neighborhood, low-end kitchen

Located a 7-minute walk to the center in a nice, residential neighborhood on a quiet side street, this 3-room apartment is located on the 2nd floor. I’m not even going to sugar coat this one- it doesn’t have an oven! It has a 2-burner cooktop and a microwave. When I said to the landlord, “Oh, no oven?” she didn’t seem to think this was an issue. Private washer in basement, large balcony, choppy floor plan.

House #3: Large floor plan, stairs

Located a bit further than House #2 but on a nice, commercial/residential street above a good grocery store, this 4-room apartment has a nice, open layout. It has a room with a shower, tub, and sink, then another room with a toilet and sink. No kitchen included. All hook ups, including washer, are there. Clean, updated, very bright with nice views of the street below. The street is below because the apartment is all the way up on the 5th floor. And, this is not an elevator building. Priciest of the 3.

Decision time:

Usually House Hunters International has a more even playing field. We loved the layout of House #3, and it might have even been too much room for us. But, we could not live on the 5th floor as much as we liked the street it was on. Plus, it would add time to Chris’s commute and make a big dent in our bank account by having to buy a kitchen.

Do I even have to talk about House #2? No oven= no chocolate cake. Keine Chance! (I think that means “No way!”)

Sooooo… we ended up choosing House #1. We were hesitant because it was the first one we saw, but we felt the location and quality of the unit and building were really great. I drew out multiple floor plan layouts that we can do depending on how our furniture ends up fitting, so I feel comfortable knowing we have many options. (Tim Gunn is telling me, “Make it work!”) While the kitchen is small, there is plenty of room for a free standing cabinet unit, which I can use to prep on, and we’ll be able to buy a combo washer and dryer to fit next to the sink. The unit has a large, walk-in closet, which is quite unique, and a nice storage unit in the basement. Chris will be able to walk to the bus stop in 1 minute, which will make his commute to work 31 minutes, and I will be able to run around the corner for bread (or maybe 5 pretzels) if required.

We are in the process of arranging to sign the lease, so I shouldn’t count my chickens before they hatch. Landlords here can be very picky (I’ve seen some listings here saying that they prefer at least 1 woman to live in the apartment), and they want you to verbally commit to staying for a few years (even though you don’t sign a lease for a year, you go month by month). We got a copy of the lease from the agent on Friday, and Chris asked a colleague to translate it for us today before we sign a legal German document. If everything goes smoothly, we’ll be able to move in early January. So, stay tuned!

Most likely the dining room of House #1

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