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Housing in Germany

There are Tenants' Associations in most German cities and towns which can provide information and advice, and may represent the tenant's interest in the event of any legal proceedings.

Buying a Property

Houses and apartments are very expensive in Germany, and buyers are expected to make a downpayment of up to 50% of the purchase price. As a consequence only around 40% of Germans own their own home, and relatively few expatriates buy property while they are living in Germany. However, there are no restrictions on foreign nationals buying property in Germany, whether or not they are living in the country.

Prices vary between different parts of the country. A detached family house of around 125 metres reportedly costs between EUR 185,000 in the north of the country and around EUR 300,000 in the south and the larger cities, but more than EUR 635,000 in the most expensive city, Munich. Prices are calculated by the size of the property measured in square metres.

The majority of properties for sale are advertised in the local and regional newspapers, and are sometimes sold directly by the owners but most commonly through a real estate agent. The agent typically charges a commission of 5-7% of the purchase price, which depending on the agreement negotiated will be paid by the seller or the buyer, or split between the two.

As well as this commission there are additional house-buying costs including property transfer tax and a notary fee, in total adding around 10% to the purchase price. Property tax is set at 3.5% of the price, and is payable by the buyer. Notary fees are usually around 1% of the price, and cover legal checks, negotiations between the buyer and seller, preparation and signing of the contract and entry of the property details in the land register. The contract is signed in a ceremony in which the notary reads its contents and the buyer and seller are required to confirm that they understand these. An interpreter may be used.

The contract will usually include:

Confirmation that the names and addresses of the buyer and seller and the property details are correct;
The agreed purchase price and the payment arrangements;
Details of penalties if either party defaults on the contract

The buyer can only take possession of the property once the relevant entry is made in the land register at the local courthouse, when it is confirmed that any existing mortgage arrangements have been settled, and when it is confirmed that the buyer has no property taxes outstanding. When this is complete, the purchase price is transferred to the seller via the notary.

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