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Buying Property

Austria - Buying Property

Before it became a member of the EEC, Austria had a number of council regulations in place restricting the purchase of property by foreigners in particular areas. Whilst its membership of the EEC has changed this situation significantly, there are some small areas of the country where restrictions apply even to EEC citizens; estate agents and your notary will be able to confirm whether this applies to the area you are wishing to purchase property in. For those resident outside the EEC, you may only buy property in Austria with the express approval of the local council “Grundverkehrsbehörde”.

Most people in Austria will buy and sell properties through real estate agents. It is possible, but not usual, to conduct sales privately. Estate agents will have premises in many town centres across the country, and will have websites displaying their services and currently listed properties.

Real estate agents in Austria must have obtained the national certificate in real estate brokerage; the training for this certification became more rigorous following changes in 2012. Estate agent should be available to produce their certificate on request, and many will display it in their business premises. The Austrian estate agents association Österreichischen Verband der Immobilienwirtschaft - OVI - is a voluntary network, offering ongoing training and development to its members.

Local and national newspapers also contain listings of properties for sale, mostly by estate agents but sometimes independent sales may be included. Die Presse, Kurier and Der Standard have an ‘Immobilien’ section in their weekend editions. Websites dedicated to house sales include Bazar and Immobilien.

Nearly all property in Austria is freehold, though leasehold does exist in some cases. This is a detail you should check (preferably via the estate agent) before making an offer to purchase.

Winters in Austria are harsh so expect high heating bills, though council charges are lower than in the UK. These costs should be discussed with the vendor.

Your estate agent will be happy to discuss the price of the property with you and the extent to which a seller will move from the advertised price, but be aware that the agent will be paid a percentage of the amount achieved, and the decision about whether an offered price belongs entirely to the seller.

You need to ensure all your financing is in place at this stage; it cannot be done later because you will be legally obliged to buy the property even if financing problems occur. If you are selling a home to obtain funds you either need to receive the money in your account first or have a bridging loan arranged. Offers on Austrian homes are not made ‘subject to contract’ but are legally binding.

Property sales do not usually include a valuation or survey on the property in question, even though many parts of the building are commonly made of wood. The estate agent is usually able to give an opinion about any obvious maintenance issues or renovations that may be due.

Once the amounts have been verbally agreed, you will make an offer in writing, which the agent then uses to draw up an offer document. All the costs related to the purchase will be detailed in the “Kostenaufstellung” accompanying this document, including the legal fees, land registry charges (1.1%), stamp duty (3.5%) and the real estate agent’s own fees (3% plus VAT of 20%).

Once the vendor has received the signed and written offer, they will have a few days to consider whether to accept it. If they do not respond by the deadline, then the offer has lapsed. If they decide to accept it, they will countersign the document.

Once you have made an offer to purchase, and it has been accepted, both parties are bound by the agreement. It means you cannot change your mind or discover that you cannot secure funding for the purchase without breaking the legal contract and losing your deposit. It also means a higher bid for the property will be not accepted after this offer contract is in place.

You will be asked to place 10% of the purchase price into a client, or escrow, account. This affords the money legal protection so no one can remove it. A completion date will be set for the property to exchange legal ownership.

A notary will be essential to the purchase of a property. They undertake checks about the title of the property, and examine any legal issues which are pertinent to the property. They will give you advice about local regulations and ensure all elements of the legal process is followed correctly so that your legal ownership of your new home is secure. Notary fees are usually 2% of the purchase price, plus VAT of 20%, though the notary fees are determined by their regulatory body.

In Austria the notary will act on behalf of the buyer and the seller, so they will draw up the contracts for both parties. For most expats this will be an alien concept, but it makes the process more efficient - the process can take as little as six weeks.

Notaries will often split the price of any furniture, fixtures and fittings from the price of the property, so that stamp duty is charged on the latter part only and therefore reduces your tax bill.

Before the agreed completion date, you will be asked to transfer sufficient funds to cover the purchase of the property, plus all fees and costs, to the notary’s client or escrow account. Both parties will then sign the sale contract, which includes a clause ensuring all outstanding bills for suppliers have been settled by the vendor and that no debts will be due for payment by the purchaser. Subject to the notary having completed all checks without problem, and recording the property sale in the land registry, the money will move across to the vendor’s account.

Estate agents can help complete the documents necessary to connect the property to the utility services under the new owner’s name.

Read more about this country

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