The rental market in Berlin changed a lot since I published this article. For an up to date list of resources, check out this article on All About Berlin.
Of all the hoops one must jump through to spend 8 months in Berlin, finding
an apartment a flat is by far the toughest one. I spent more time looking for a place to live than I did planning the rest of my trip. Other expats I have chatted with reassured me that this is fairly normal.
At first, I followed everyone's suggestion to look on WG-Gesucht and Immobilienscout for a room in a shared apartment. However, it's very hard to find people who will accept temporary occupants, especially if they can't see you first. Only a fraction of the people I have contacted bothered replying.
I then turned to the frustratingly overpriced rental agencies, but few of them were positively rated. If I have to pay two extra rents for their services, I'd rather go with one that has more than three stars on Google. More importantly, these expensive middlemen's websites were daunting to use.
At the same time, I used various Facebook groups where people listed their apartments and rooms, but I faced the same challenges as on WG-Gesucht.
By a turn of luck, I found Nestpick right as I was about to give up. I had never heard of the site before and it never showed up in the search results. They first got my attention because they put their listings on a map à-la Padmapper. The reason so many apartment listing websites fail to implement that is beyond my comprehension. Nestpick felt like it was built by people who know what it's like to look for an apartment, a welcome change for a seasoned flat hunter.
After using the site for a while, I fell in love with their ridiculously fast customer service. The little chat box at the bottom of the site simply works. I've had agents offer to call landlords to answer my questions and received immediate follow up from them when an application was declined. They did more for me than all other agencies combined, and only for a fraction of the price. Here's to you, Nestpick!
And I found one!
Months of searching eventually paid off. This morning, I received the green light from Nestpick. I will live in Wilmersdorf, about 30 minutes from work. I was able to dig up a few pictures of my building as it stood a century ago, but no history of it.
Now that I have found a place to live, I feel far less stressed about the approaching departure date. The only thing left is my visa, which should be in the mail fairly soon.