Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
For the past 12 months or so no topic has been closer to our collective XBerger heart that property. You hear it being discussed on playgrounds, at the Tube stations, while walking Fifi the Poodle or Schröder the German Shepherd (no joke) and simply overseeing the still damp turds they placed strategically in the middle of the pavement while I am aiming my crossbow at the whole group… sorry, got distracted here… Anyway, real estate is probably the subject for most conversations held on side of the touristically challenged capital. No wonder considering that the prices of flats and the rents have been growing around here faster than bamboo in China. Property speculation has been part of the bourough´s rich history: Herr Rhiemer, the one of the Riehmers Hofgarten in Großbeerenstraße and the stunning house in Mehringdamm 50 (his own by the way), was not an innocent onlooker either. Herr Riehmer knew his business and his business was “buy, build and sell” or “buy, buy more and sell for an even higher price and to hell with the tenants”. Such were the days.
And they still seem to be. Albeit this time the tenants – at least theoretically – stand a chance of defending themselves against the sharks. I should like to emphasise the word “theoretically” as personally I do not know of anyone who would have succeeded so far. Once they have set their eyes on a building and once the potential buyers have been found, there is no stopping them. The houses often get renovated from the bottom of their dank cellars up to the extended roofs and get a facelift inside as well: new walls or no walls at all, Grohe plumbing fixtures, toilet bowls from Philip Starck (has he noticed they are missing?) and little meditation chambers for those with tranquillity issues. Two problems emerge though: one, more often than not somebody has to vacate those flats first and two, their value after the glamorization (or schickimickizierung, as already quoted on those pages) becomes indecent. 690,000 Euros for 141.86 m2 anyone? Compared to that the 250-metre-penthouse around Paul-Linke-Ufer seem to be a bargain: it would cost you only 590,000. Plus a pair of very healthy lungs and well developed leg muscles for there is no lift to take you to that heaven.
I know I should shut my mouth and wash it with soap myself because I, dear reader, am guilty, too. I also am Not From Here but live in a nice big flat. I, too, did hardly anything to deserve it although on particularly guilt-ridden days I like to think of this place as a reward for 30 years spent in socialist high-rises and blocks of flats of every shape and hue. And I, like oh! so many of us newcomers, would have never been able to afford it if it weren´t for the caring and generous family. Still, the news of a befriended family being forced out of their place to make space for… actually, I haven´t a faintest idea for whom – they are both employed, both with regular income, have two lovely kids and lots of so called Potential but they are still worth less than those who will replace them (I hope dearly they will turn out to be Pete Doherty´s twin brothers and sisters). One would think that they should be the target audience? Alas, no. Until then have reached the next tax peg, they will be renting a cosy place in Steglitz. For Steglitz is by now cheaper than the cradle of Berlin rebels. I rest my case.