House Hunting in Germany, Part 3: The One
You can find the other chapters of this series here…
It was dark and raining when we arrived at the address where the next prospective house was supposed to be.
Unlike our first impression of The Dream House, it was not love at first sight this time around. If anything, we were a little confused, as this rental seemed to be crammed in like an oddly-shaped Tetris tile among other townhouses, apartments, and office spaces right on the street, and it was difficult to tell where it began and where it ended.
While we were still trying to figure out where the front door was, the landlord’s wife just happened to drive by. As we were snooping around, she stopped and asked if we’d like to see inside the house. In broken English, she kindly told us her husband was in the middle of showing it to a couple of other families, but we were welcome to go in for a peek if we wanted to.
Even though we weren’t exactly thrilled by the looks of things on the outside, our curiosity, along with the pressure to find a place before we had to be out of temporary lodging, got the better of us. The boys had fallen asleep on the drive there, and our sponsor offered to hang out with them in the car while we hesitantly went in for a quick tour.
With some help from the landlady, we found the doorbell and rang it. After a few moments, a heavy wooden door opened, and a young family welcomed us into a quirky, yet completely charming, half-timbered entry way with exposed wooden beams, white plaster panels, and floor to ceiling windows that looked out onto a cute little patio and garden. I think my husband and I were both thinking the same thing at that moment – this is what we’d had in mind when we’d imagined living in Germany!
Things were a little chaotic inside, as there were several groups wandering through the house. In the midst of it all, we noticed a quiet, gentle-looking man who’d been standing in a corner out of the way, watching things unfold. The couple introduced him to us as the landlord, and they explained that, although the historic home had been built in the 1800s, he’d worked to restore it with his own hands. It was clear he’d taken great pride in his work, and he’d done a beautiful job.
Still marveling at his craftsmanship, our tour guides led us up a short flight of sturdy, wooden stairs (no Stairs of Doom here – score!) to what looked like a second entry way. There, we were told part of the home had originally been outdoors, which is why the floor plan may seem a little oddly laid-out (and, it definitely did).
We quickly wound our way through a series of rooms separated by white plaster walls and arched doorways: a small, country kitchen with a tiny refrigerator that blends into the cabinetry and a window over the sink, a long dining room with lacy curtains, a small laundry room/pantry, a little bathroom, and the first of four decent-sized bedrooms. On this level, we were also shown a door which opens up to a flight of uneven stone steps that lead down into a pretty creepy-looking cellar.
Although the floor-plan was a little closed off, the house felt so much bigger than we’d expected it to be from looking at it on the outside, and it definitely had that unique je ne sais quoi we’d been hoping for.
Another, longer flight of perfectly ordinary stairs (and these just happened to be baby-proofed, already!), led us up to a family room with tile floors, a small wood-burning stove, large windows that swing open on their hinges, and a balcony with a pretty view of the surrounding hillsides.
One last flight of stairs took us up to the remaining three bedrooms and two bathrooms (including the Master, which has a balcony and bathroom all to itself). As we looked around, we asked the couple about their experience with the house and neighborhood, and mentally checked off the items on our list. We also found out they just happened to be moving to where we’d come from (San Antonio), so we had a little bit of information and advice to share with them, as well.
In the end, every item on our list had been checked off.
No tricky stairs.Even though there are multiple flights of stairs, they are all sturdy and wooden, and the upper floors are semi-baby-proofed. Close to work.My husband could ride his bike, if he wanted to. In a village with a market.There is a market, as well as several bakeries, cafes, and take-out restaurants – all within walking distance. Something affordable in a safe neighborhood.The neighborhood has a good reputation both with the previous renters and with the housing office on base.
At least 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.
Preferably an extra room for guests.Check!
A storage area.In addition to the cellar, there are several walk-in closets (these are not commonly found in German houses) and an outdoor storage room.
A backyard or nearby playground for the boys.Even though the patio and garden area is small, there are several playgrounds, a lake, and lots of hiking trails in the area.
No sellers fee (apparently, some landlords charge a hefty fee on top of a security deposit and first month’s rent).Check!
High-speed internet availability (we’d learned, depending on where you live, it could take months to have internet set up).We could have our internet set up the day we moved in.
Gas rather than oil for heating (we were also advised that oil is paid for in bulk and can be pretty expensive).Check!
Pet-friendly.Check! With some element of the charm we fell in love with at The Dream House.Check, check, check!
Aside from the fact that this was only the second house we’d looked at, we couldn’t think of a good reason not to say we wanted it. However, we were in a hurry that evening, since we were supposed to be on our way to have dinner with our sponsor’s family, not to mention we’d left him to watch our boys in the car while we disappeared into the house for the quick tour. Besides, we needed some time to talk it over together and pray about it, and that’s just what we did.
That night, instead of tossing and turning about something physically wrong with the house, I stayed up worrying about whether or not one of the other families had already claimed it, and that’s how I knew this was The One.
First thing the next morning, my husband called the landlord to let him know we wanted it. We’d heard it is an old-fashioned, but still widely respected practice for landlord’s to accept a deal on word or handshake alone in Germany, and, for us, that was all it took. By that evening, the house had been taken off the real estate web site, even though we hadn’t signed a single sheet of paper.
A few days later, the housing office approved our contract, and – just like that – it was ours! We had a place to live in Germany!
I was relieved, excited, and terrified, all at the same time…