From house hunting to finding a home in Germany

From house hunting to finding a home in Germany

by Stripes Europe Staff
Stripes Europe

German homes may not be free-standing and may lack some amenities, such as garages or backyards. Rooms, hallways and stairwells are smaller, and some homes may not have closets or cabinets in the bathrooms and kitchens.

GETTING STARTED

  • Establish your Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) to cover expenses while you look for a home.
  • Visit www.homes.mil to see approved available properties. Required forms and additional information are provided on www.housing.af.mil.
  • Look for homes that fall in a range equal to or below your Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA).
  • Contact your utility companies and request to be charged more each month to avoid receiving surprise bills at the end of the year.
  • Prioritize your needs and desires to help you evaluate houses quickly.
  • Choosing a home that is priced near your OHA limit can also lead to unplanned out-of-pocket expenses when you receive bill adjustments for utilities.

SEARCH TOOLS & RESOURCES

  • Check listings on www.homes.mil, online yard-sale sites (www.bookoo.com) and housing websites, including www.ahrn.com.
  • Other available resources are German realtors and real estate services, known as “Makler” and “Immobilien” services.
  • Realty liaison consultancy agencies also assist with finding homes, financing and contract negotiation.
  • Many agencies charge finder’s fees totaling hundreds to thousands of euros.
  • The Housing Office must inspect the house and contract before OHA is approved.
  • Never sign rental contracts in German.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • OHA can be used toward a mortgage but contact the Housing Office to learn more.
  • Purchase household insurance “Hausratve sicherung” and personal liability insurance “Haftpflichtversicherung.”
  • There are different types of heating, for example: gas, oil and electric.
  • When touring houses, ask about internet service available for your area.

UTILITIES & UTAP - Enroll in Utilities Tax Avoidance Program (UTAP)

Be sure to bring:

  • DoD ID card
  • Orders
  • Ownership paperwork
  • Utility meter numbers and readings
  • Names of current utility companies
  • Bank account details

Savings

  • Electricity: 19% VAT and energy tax
  • Natural gas: 19% VAT and energy tax
  • Water: 7% VAT
  • Deposits waived

Utility billing

  • Billed monthly.
  • Adjusted annually based on actual meter readings.
  • Representative may come to your home to read meters.
  • You may be required to submit readings online or by mail.

VAT RELIEF

Be sure to register with your local VAT office before making tax free purchases. You can receive 10 VAT forms at a time.

Acceptable uses

  • Available for many products, services, hotels, vehicles, furniture, clothing, food and electronics.
  • Some establishments may not participate.

Unacceptable uses

  • You’re unable to use a form once a product or service is ordered.
  • Home renovations, major house repairs, cellphone contracts and internet services are not part of program.

HOUSEHOLD GOODS ARRIVAL

First steps

  • Lock in a delivery date for your household goods and remember that dates book fast during the peak summer PCS season.
  • Schedule temporary furniture pick up by calling the warehouse at least three days before the day of desired pick up.
  • Once your household goods arrive, make sure every box that was shipped has arrived.
  • Mark each item off your inventory list as everything is being unloaded.

Inspect your home

So you’re not liable for damages caused by movers, it’s best to take note of the damages on your household goods paperwork. Note everything that isn’t right such as missing boxes or damaged goods. Be sure to make copies of all paperwork and take pictures of any damage.

Filing a claim

  • You have 75 days to submit a notice of loss.
  • From there, you will have nine months to submit your claim to be eligible for a full replacement value.
  • Be sure to have photos and receipt purchases of your damaged goods.
  • Keep any paperwork until all claims are processed.

QUICK APPLIANCE TIPS

  • You will need a power converter/transformer to use your American electronics (110-v plug-in) in your German home.
  • Your installation’s Furnishing Management Office should provide transformers for free along with a washer, dryer, refrigerator
  • and wardrobes.
  • Check with your landlord for specifications on appliance size.

INTERNET SERVICE

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)

Many providers offer plans with flat-rate monthly fees based on transmission speeds.

Cable internet

Offers high-speed access and continuous connectivity but is not as widely available as DSL.

TELEVISION SERVICE

AFN (American Forces Network)

  • Provides programming from current networks and prime channels.
  • You will need a decoder and satellite for AFN when living on the German economy.

Satellite

  • Visit www.sky.com
  • You will need a satellite and a decoder.

Streaming services

  • Examples - Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, etc.
  • Show variety and availability may be limited because you are outside the U.S.
  • Some offer a .de option

TIPS

  • Ask for your landlord’s cellphone number in case problems arise.
  • Test your home’s locks and smoke detectors as soon as you move in.
  • Locate the circuit breaker box and learn how to troubleshoot your heating system.
  • Remember that 110-volt items require plug adaptors and possibly transformers.
  • It’s also best to find out about snow-removal service ("Schneeräumdienst").
  • For more helpful information about living on the economy, visit www.housing.af.mil.

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