One of the best things about working for the government overseas is that they pay for your housing and utilities. I came into the system at a pretty high level so I receive a pretty high housing rate which means there are very few places that I can't afford here. With that in mind we were excited about the opportunity to be able to pick and choose where we want to live. Our first choice is to find a nice 3 or 4 bedroom apartment right in the Altstadt (Old Town). The Altstadt of Heidelberg is magical. It's not that big and is the center of the tourist district as well as home to the university. That means it is packed full of a plethora of bars, restaurants, shops, historical sights, etc. And the best part is that there is a huge medieval Castle on a mountain overlooking the Altstadt (Click here to see some pictures of the Altstadt). Living right ion the middle of it all wouild be a dream come true. Plus, the wife doesn't drive, which is another reason to live there. And I can more than afford it with my housing allowance.
Enter Murphy's Law.
We have a housing office on base that acts as a rental agency for people stationed here. They have several listings in the area, they negotiate leases, etc. However, they seldom have any listings for downtown or the Altstadt. Apparently most of those places are represented by the German rental agencies, called "Immobilien". And the immobilien charge two months rent as a finder's fee, in addition to the rental requirement of two month's rent security deposit. That means that if you use an immobilien, you'll have to come up with 4 months rent before you even move in. And rents in the Altstadt are usually between $2000-2500 a month. That means anywhere from $8,000-10,000 up front. How the hell do Germans afford to move?!
Luckily, there is a consolation in the listings that the housing office does have. They're a little further out (commute...yuck), but with my housing allowance, I can afford a 4 bedroom palace in the suburbs with a yard, terrace, 2 car garage, etc.