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Buying Property

Germany - Buying Property


The property market in Germany is very different to many other countries. Renting is very popular in Germany and, along with Switzerland, Germany has the lowest percentage of homeowners in the European Union. When German people do buy a property it is normally for life, and in general they are not interested in frequently changing their home or developing properties. In line with current worldwide trends, mortgage rates are low in Germany and are likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Houses in Germany are often fairly small but are built with high quality materials and under strict regulations.

As a general rule, property prices are higher in German cities and lower in rural regions. The West of Germany is also usually more expensive than the East, although Berlin is an exception. Average house prices currently range from around 125,000 Euros to 500,000 Euros, depending on the size of the property. You will normally be required to pay 20% of the purchase price as a down payment and mortgages in Germany are normally agreed for a period of 10 or 20 years. It is unlikely that you will be able to find a specialist English language mortgage service in Germany, but most financial professionals will speak at least a basic level of English.

When considering purchasing a property in Germany your first step should be to seek the guidance of a lawyer (Rechtsanwalte) and a tax consultant (Steuerberäter) who can take you through the process that you’ll need to follow. To find a reputable lawyer you should ask the following questions:

  • What is their billing structure?
  • Are they fully licenced and for how long have they been a member of the German Bar Association?
  • What are their qualifications?
  • Do they speak both fluent English and German and can documents be provided in English?
  • What is their specialist area of law?
  • How and when are they contactable?

In Germany estate agents don’t use For Sale signs so to search for properties you’ll normally need to consult an agent directly, or check advertisements in newspapers and on dedicated websites. The Local de is an English language news service for people living in Germany, and includes advertisements for properties for sale:

The Local de
Independent, daily reporting from around Europe.
Tel: +49 (0)171 225 9508
Email: liz.dennys@thelocal.com
http://www.thelocal.de/property/

The following websites may also be helpful for searching for properties in Germany:

http://www.wohnungsboerse.net/immobilienpreise
http://www.immowelt.de/
www.property-abroad.com

No matter where you source a potential property, it is likely that you will still need to use the services of an estate agent or buyer’s agent. All agents in Germany are required to have a municipal licence, and it is also worth checking whether your agent is a member of the European Association of Real Estate Professions or the IVD Bundesverband (the German real estate professional association).

The agent may ask you to sign an exclusivity contract but this should be avoided if possible. Commission payable to estate agents in Germany is not regulated and rates can vary widely. Commission can also be charged to the buyer, the seller, or to both parties. It is advisable to check the full details before you ask the agent to carry out any work on your behalf.

In addition to agent commission, the overall costs for purchasing a property will add up to approximately 10% of the purchase price. This includes the property transfer tax, which will be around 3.5% to 6%, the notary fee, which will be around 1.5% to 2%, and any other additional administrative costs.

Once the buyer and seller have come to an agreement on the purchase price the contract must be signed in the presence of a notary. You, and any other co-owners, should take your passport with you as proof of ID. The notary is responsible for checking the land register to ensure there are no restrictions on selling the property and for registering the change of ownership. The buyer is allowed to choose their own notary to use, so it is advisable to find a notary who can explain everything in English. Having said that, it is law that the reading of the contract must be carried out in German, so you may also want to hire an interpreter to help complete the purchasing process.


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