One of the first questions many people ask when we tell them we are moving to Germany is, “Have you thought about going on House Hunters International?” The answer is yes. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a pretty big fan of HGTV, even if it makes me sound old. The problem is (warning: spoiler alert) the casting call for the show asks for people who have already found a residence abroad, which kind of defeats the whole premise, and, from what I could tell, they didn’t offer any type of compensation, only HGTV stardom.
Well, this week we searched for apartments, and we didn’t even need HGTV to do it. Luckily for us, Craig’s company connected us with a brilliant relocation specialist, Birgit, and she was our tour guide/translator/real-estate expert for the search. We may not have had a camera crew, but I did bring my digital camera to document the process. Unfortunately for you, this Rebecca Markovitz is not as talented as the esteemed photographer Rebecca Markovitz, but just a girl with a digital camera who will not make a living off of it any time soon (the latter is my new cousin). So, my pictures may not be fantastic, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of the search process in a pseudo house hunters international style. Enjoy!
#1 Cramped Keller (Cellar)
- 127 sq. meters (1367 sq. ft)
- 3 bedroom
- 2 bathrooms
- Dedicated outdoor parking spot
- Floor heating
This was our view as we approached the apartment. Off the main street, we turned into an alley that led to a residential parking lot, and to the left was the main door to the apartment. We went up the somewhat treacherous stairs, which were slightly warped from several generations coming and going. Although I felt a little uneasy on the stairs, I was pleased to hear from Birgit about how the owner works to maintain the building’s historical features, including its beautiful stained glass windows.
We arrived to a very spacious, well organized floorplan with a large master bedroom, a sizable guest bedroom, and a quaint Kinderzimmer (child’s room). Don’t get ahead of yourselves; we only see it as a potential office. There were 2 bathrooms, each with a shower, but the master also included a tub. The kitchen area was spacious, but not the open concept that has become so popular in the US. As a matter of compromise, though, the room was outfitted with glass doors to give it a more open feel into the neighboring living room. The kitchen itself was, well, completely absent. I mean gutted. Not a room with cabinetry that was missing the main appliances, as I had expected, but a room with nothing but a back-splash and wall fixtures for building your kitchen. Luckily for us, our consultant was only showing us places that offered “fitted kitchens,” in which the owners would build a kitchen for us before we moved in.
The 3 bedrooms each faced a busy mainstreet, but thanks to the technology of noise-cancelling windows, we could barely hear a thing. That is, until I opened the window and was bombarded by the cacophony of the street below. In contrast, the balcony was tranquil. Located on the opposite side of the building, you could hear surprisingly little of the roaring city street. The only downside was the balcony view, which was cheapened by the car park that resided below.
Then came the fun part. As part of the apartment, and actually every apartment we looked at, there was a storage area in the building cellar. It makes sense, considering none of the places had closets. (We will have to invest in a number of armoires, but I digress.) We went down to the basement area and the building realtor warned us to mind our heads as we go down. She really wasn’t kidding. The main opening was about 5 feet tall, off of which branched the gated storage areas for each of the apartments. If you could handle a little hunching, it wasn’t all that bad.
Then the ultimate surprise came when the realtor told us where OUR storage would be. She pointed to a small hole in the wall that surely was only fit for the passage of small housepets and said, “through there.” We laughed as we realized she was actually serious. She crouched down and scooted herself through this tiny hole and emerged on the other side to another gated storage area and unlocked it for us. Fortunately, once we were through the passage, we could stand up fully again.
Overall what we liked about the first place was the layout, the many windows, the convenient location for shopping and living, and the 2 full bathrooms. The main drawbacks were the stairs that nearly cost me my life (but they are currently installing a lift), the potential noise of the busy street, and, of course, the cellar design that calls for both flexibility and strategy.
- 133 sq. meters (1431 sq. ft)
- 2 bedrooms
- 2 living rooms
- 2 bathrooms
- No parking
- Radiator heating
The next apartment was located in the “posh” music district of Leipzig on Mozart Street. We arrived to find an ornate door, a fully functioning stairway, and private lift.
As we entered the apartment, we found ourselves in a grand living area that adjoined the kitchen. Again, it wasn’t an open concept, but the kitchen and living room were joined by a wide door that could be left open to give the illusion of an open concept. This time the kitchen was completely outfitted. It had an oven, stove, dishwasher, and, by American standards, a tiny dorm-sized fridge.
Everything about the space was gorgeous – the herringbone hardwood floors, the decorative doors, and even the crown molding of the ceiling. On the opposite side of the apartment were the bedrooms and their respective bathrooms. First was the guest bedroom. It was small, similar to the kinderzimmer in the previous apartment, but enough for a small bed and dresser. Across the hall from the guest bedroom was the guest bath. We peered in the doorway to see a tiny, but fully outfitted bathroom. By my closest estimate, the shower radius was about 1.5 feet and the sink was about 6 x 9 inches. Birgit and the realtor assured us that this was just the guest bath, and we’d have better luck in the master. We went around the corner to a grand master bedroom and had a look at the en suite. Much to our disappointment, the next bathroom, while large and beautiful, contained only a soaker tub with no shower.
The last part of the apartment was the second living area. Off the main hallway, this room offers the only entrance to the master bedroom, so would make for an awkward second guest room. However, on the side opposite of the master bedroom, which was my personal favorite attribute of the apartment, lay what Birgit called the “winter garden.” Traditionally used as a winter shelter for protecting outdoor plants, the winter garden to me looked like an excellent place to curl up on my favorite chair and read a book.
Finally, just as we had done with the previous apartment, we had a look at the cellar to see a more typical storage area.
Our favorites parts of this apartment were the location, the ornate building, and the beautiful winter garden. The drawbacks were that there was no on-site parking (the closest parking garage was about 5 blocks away), the awkward second living room that we wouldn’t know what to do with, and the fact that it only had one, very tiny shower.
#3 Penthouse in the city center
- 134 sq. meters (1442 sq. ft)
- 2 bedrooms
- 2 bathrooms
- Private patio/garden
- Parking in the mall
- Floor heating
The next place we saw was like nothing I had ever seen before. Birgit drove us to the mall at the center of the city and parked. We knew that one of the places we would be seeing was close to the mall, but we didn’t know exactly where it was (we went looking for it a couple days before but couldn’t find it). It turns out it was IN the mall. Well, more accurately, on top on the mall. The realtor took us to the elevator and we rode to the “Wohnungen” level. When we got to the top, we opened a door and suddenly we were outside again.
We walked the path to find a small community of mall residents, each with their own private, secluded escape in the middle of the city. We opened the door of the property which revealed a large garden area and the entrance to the apartment itself. Now, the layout of this place was strange, at least to me, so let me try my best to orient you. The whole property is a square, but on the outer edge, in the shape of an L, was the apartment itself. On the inner remaining square was a sort of zen garden and patio. Now hopefully the pictures have some context.
We entered the apartment and were pleased that the windows to the inner garden let in so much light. Inside we found a complete fitted kitchen with an American open concept living area.
Down one hallway of the L was the master bedroom, master bathroom, and a full guest bath. On the other side of the L, connected to the great room, was a guest bedroom. Not much can be said about the rooms themselves except that they both were large and looked out to the main patio. While the windows offered a lot of light, we noticed that they didn’t offer much privacy, as a person in the master bedroom could see through to the guest bedroom. We asked the realtor about this, and she told us about Craig’s favorite feature – automatic blinds! (I apologize for the contrast – I warned you I’m not the best photographer!)
Overall, we found this place very modern and chic. On the plus side, this place had the best location, right in the heart of Leipzig. It also had a full guest bathroom and an open concept kitchen. And let’s not forget Craig’s light-eliminating blinds. However, the main issue with this place, as you could imagine, was the price. It came at a good 300€ more per month than the other locations we looked at.
So now it’s decision time. Which one do you think we chose? Which one would you choose? Since our contract hasn’t been finalized, I don’t want to jinx it by telling you early. But I promise, I’ll tell you when the papers are signed. For now, thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my take on House Hunters International. Please leave a comment below!
Update: Continue on to Part 2!