A fairly cheap option for housing is to rent a place in a student residence. The quality varies but you can find quite nice places. You need to be matriculated as a student otherwise you cannot apply for a student residence. To search for student residences please visit the website of the student union.
Letting accommodation on the housing market
In Germany flats are advertised including bathroom and kitchen which is usually fitted with an electric cooker and a sink. The living room is not included so if you want to have a bedroom and a living room you have to look for a two room flat. The size of the flat is always specified as total floor area in square meters. Flats are usually unfurnished, but if you prefer a furnished flat there are specialized agents where you can look for them.
On top of the rent you have to pay the costs for heating and the "Betriebskosten" which are the running costs for the entire building. You have to pay for electricity separate and you must therefore register with an electric power supplier (compare electricity costs, German only). If your flat is also supplied with gas you have to register with a gas supplier. In most cases when you rent a flat you have to pay a deposit in advance which can amount up to three monthly rents. When you move out you will get your money back if you do not have any liabilities towards the landlord.
Here are some important words to understand the description of the costs of an advertised flat.
the rent on its own
|Heizkosten||cost for the heating|
|Betriebskosten||tenaments contribution to the running cost of the building|
|Miete inklusive Nebenkosten||rent including the cost for heating and running cost for the building|
Hint: Since 1st May 2015 the so-called 'customer principle' has been in force in Germany. This means, who commissioned the broker or agency (usually the landlord), pays the commission. Unless the prospective buyer explicitly signs a fee-based search order a broker or agency cannot request a commission. The unawareness about it (especially with persons from abroad) is often used as a trick by fraudsters to get an (additional) commission fee from the tentant.