It has been said that looking for a house over here is like the Hunger Games. The good houses get rented out quickly and people will snatch up a house right under your nose. It can get ugly. We started looking at houses online right when we found out we were moving to Germany, but realized quickly that there was no point in looking yet because they’d all be gone by the time we arrived.
Military Housing 101
The Air Force gives you a housing stipend, based on your rank and whether or not you have dependents. If you live in the US and you find a house below your stipend, you get the keep the rest of the money. If you live abroad, however, it’s a use-it-or-lose-it situation, which only adds fuel to the fire because people want to get something close to their housing cap.
We are currently in a temporary apartment in the heart of Kaiserslautern (or K-Town as the cool kids call it) and as I mentioned in this post, it made us realize we definitely want to find a house within a bigger town or village with restaurants to walk to and things to do on the weekend. Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) is the community of Americans living in this area and supporting the US Armed Forces. This consists of the Ramstein Air Force Base and the Landstuhl Army Base and the other smaller bases in between. Kaiserslautern is by no means a big city, but it’s really the city in the area, with a small shopping mall, a farmer’s market on certain days, and a university.
Ramstein and Landstuhl both have villages outside the bases with shops, grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants. Then, there are tons of smaller villages (neighborhoods essentially) that may have a few restaurants, or just one restaurant. They all vary, really, so it’s important to drive around the area to see what type of town you want to live in (country and quaint, more Germans vs. a lot of Americans, busier vs. less busy with a view of the mountains, etc.).
International House Hunting
Alright enough background, let’s move on to the fun stuff. Our home search. With two dogs, we really wanted to find a house with a fenced in backyard. Brooklynn loves to sunbathe and Finnegan needs somewhere to run around. Unfortunately since K-town is a city, it’s pretty impossible to find a house with a yard here, so we had to look elsewhere. We’d love three bedrooms — ours, a guest room, and an office for me — and two bathrooms. It also must be dog friendly, of course, and housing approved, which means the military housing office has approved it, and it makes getting the stipend and everything easier.
We would also prefer a bigger kitchen, and a newer one if possible. This temporary apartment has spoiled us! We’d like hardwoods, a garage, and storage space. Also, fun fact – a lot of the older German homes have saunas – and if you didn’t already know, I love saunas. I just really hate being cold, and in the winter I crave being warm, so saunas are my jam. I used to go to Perspire in Atlanta, which is a sauna studio (lol). They’re on ClassPass.
There are plenty of ways to start international house hunting in KMC. There are websites: homes.mil, Bookoo, and ahrn.com. There are real estate companies, like the one we are renting our temp apartment through, who also help you find a permanent house. And then there are Facebook groups. We looked at two houses, and both of them we found off of Bookoo, but we almost looked at a few other ones that we found on Facebook. The biggest thing to double check before you fall in love with a house is whether or not it is housing approved. We found so many that we really liked, only to find out that it wasn’t housing approved or didn’t allow pets (rude).
The first house we looked at was in a small, countryside town called Obernheim. To get there, we drove past corn fields and windmills, down narrow windy roads, and had beautiful views of other towns. Obernheim itself was quaint and cute, but definitely smaller than what I was hoping for. We would definitely have to drive to a grocery store and basically hike to the nearest restaurant, but we would have definitely gotten the full German experience.
The house itself has 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. The kitchen is a bit small, but newer, the living room is huge and has a fireplace, and it has a backyard with a fire pit. The yard isn’t fenced in, but it is surrounded by bushes, and directly next door is a soccer field/neighborhood park. Bonus points — it has a sauna!
Two days later, we went to look at our second house. It was in Ramstein-Miesenbach, which is the village right outside of the Ramstein Air Base. We were pleasantly surprised by how close the house was to grocery stores, shops, and restaurants. We accidentally ended up meeting the current tenants of the house, an American family of four, who had just gotten back from backpacking in the Swiss Alps (#casual). They seemed fun, and said they loved living there! Within walking distance to the train station = sounds perfect to me.
The house itself was great. There isn’t a sauna, but there is a big fenced in backyard, with an herb garden and plenty of space for Finnegan to run around. There is a big balcony, with entrances to the master bedroom and the living room. The living room is huge and had tons of natural light, and there is also a bonus room which is also huge and has a fire place. The current tenants have a ping pong table in there. The kitchen is new, and opens up to the backyard. The upstairs is renovated and all of the bedrooms have big beautiful windows, and tons of natural light. There is a storage room in the basement and a garage. Also, the house has a cute painting on the outside of it, giving it extra German charm. And the landlords are really nice.
I think you can probably guess from my descriptions which house we ultimately picked. The Ramstein house has everything on our “must” and “want” lists, and since these houses get scooped up quickly, we picked up the contract from the landlord the very next day. The other houses we were planning on looking at were also in smaller villages, and Ramstein just seemed like the perfect fit for us. We can’t move into the house until September 1st, which works out because the Air Force will pay for our TLA until September 3rd, and our furniture and everything they shipped from Atlanta won’t arrive until mid-late September. I can’t wait to share more pictures and videos of our house once we move in! TschÃ¼ss!