Buying property in Germany as a foreigner, can be an incredibly exciting time but there can also be a lot of stress involved. Purchasing a property at home is difficult enough, when you understand all of the processes involved and speak the language, so as you can imagine the transaction is infinitely more difficult when you are not sure what to expect. We have written this guide to help you. After all, if you know what is coming and what is expected of you, you should be able to complete the transaction with a minimal amount of fuss. Read on and find out all about the property buying process in Germany.
The first thing you should do is sort out your finances. Doing so means that you know how much you have available to spend and confirms that you have everything in place to be in a position to purchase a property. Sorting out your finances first could save you the heartache of finding the perfect property only to find it’s priced over your budget or that you are unable to secure a mortgage. The German property buying process is actually very similar to ours in that it follows the same steps. That means that you should work through it in the following order:
- Assess which mortgage product will be right for you
- Agree a mortgage in principle with the right bank
- Find the perfect home and make an offer
- Draw up a sale contract with your notary
- Finalise the mortgage with the bank
- Finalise the contract with the notary – at this stage, the house is all yours
- Pay your property sale tax within a month of purchasing the home
In order to arrange finance to purchase your own home in Germany, it is more than likely that you will need to apply to a German bank for your mortgage. There isn’t a legal barrier in place that prevents you from applying for a mortgage in another country to buy your German property but it doesn’t usually work out because organising surveys on a property can be extremely difficult. These checks typically have to be performed locally and so cross-border mortgages are fairly unusual.
That being said, German banks are extremely efficient and the sector is well developed, meaning that there is healthy competition between banks and plenty of choice for you as a consumer. Be aware though, that banks will generally charge international home buyers a slightly higher interest rate due to the associated risk with being a foreigner. An ideal way to start, is by looking at a mortgage broker that specializes in international clients, as they have already got excellent experience and no the pitfalls and have a network of banks that favor international clients.
It is important that you understand how much of a deposit you will need to pay to secure a mortgage on your new property because this will need to be factored into your budget and could affect which houses you can afford. Deposits do vary depending on which bank you go with and which mortgage package that you choose. Typically, however, you should expect to pay around 20% of the value of your new property upfront as a deposit. You should also be aware that often, banks ask for a higher deposit if you are not a German national. In this case, you would be looking at handing over 40% before your mortgage is finally approved. This is because they are considered to be more of a risk than local buyers because they often have the means of leaving the country and not meeting their financial obligations.
You might also wish to apply for residency status prior to making enquiries about mortgage products. German lenders tend to offer larger mortgages to those who have residency status because this shows that they intend on staying in the country. This instantly makes you appear to be less of a risk and so opens up so much more in terms of borrowing options. Residency could certainly make buying property in Germany as a foreigner easier.
What type of home do you fancy
Where to Live
Once you have a mortgage in principle and have sorted out your budget you are in a position to look for your new home. You already know how much you can afford to spend so the next thing to consider is where you actually want to live. When it comes to buying properties in Germany as a foreigner, you really are spoilt for choice. There are large metropolitan cities, quiet rural areas and plenty of picturesque historic towns all offering the chance to enjoy the kind of life that you desire. The great thing about Germany is that the transport links are second to none. This means that you can live in a quiet, rural area if city life isn’t your thing yet still have an easy commute into the city for work or pleasure. It’s a country where you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Types of properties available
There is a range of properties on offer in Germany. The property sector is currently thriving and so you will find new houses being build everywhere. You will find house types of any kind from modern, spacious apartments to luxurious villas. There is even plenty of land available if you would rather build your own home. There is also a really good selection of older properties if you would like something with a bit more character. Whatever you fancy when it comes to your living space, you are sure to find it in Germany.
As is the case when purchasing a property anywhere else in the world, the prices in Germany usually depend on where the property is located. Munich, for instance, is extremely expensive. Indeed, on average, you can expect to pay around 400,000 euros more for a property than in other cities such as Frankfurt. Compared to the rest of Europe house prices in Germany are fairly high. The country came out of the housing crash which affected much of the continent in the early 2000’s. For that reason, house prices remained stable which actually attracted a lot of overseas investment. This has driven house prices up, in 2015 they were up 5.8% and they rose a further 8% in 2016. Of course, these price increases have also caused rents to rise, which has made it difficult for many people to consider purchasing their own home.
Competition for properties
Germany is a country that has relatively little home ownership. It seems that the Germans prefer to rent until interest rates are so low that it makes investing in property the better option when compared to watching savings growing extremely slowly. Just over half of Germans own their own home but it does seem like the tide is turning and that many more are looking to the property market. This might mean that you are up against steep competition when it comes to securing a house that you are interested in. Be sure to act fast to ensure you don’t miss out.
How to find your new home
There are a variety of tools that you can use that can help you when it comes to buying property in Germany as a foreigner. You could look for properties online, there are plenty of portals that advertise properties and give you the option to make contact directly with a vendor if you are interested.
You could also ask around in places where you work or socialise, word of mouth is a really good way to find out about properties that are on the market.
Estate agents are really useful tools when it comes to finding properties and you won’t even have to pay to use the service. They work on behalf of the buyer, so you will not have to pay anything towards their fees but they will be more than happy to discuss your requirements with you because it could lead to a sale which earns them between 1.5 and 3% of the final sale price.
If you are apprehensive about purchasing a property in Germany as a foreigner, however, it might be prudent to employ a specialist agent. They will offer you insight into the local area, the property types available and pricing, you just need to be sure that you understand what level of service you are paying for before you part with your money because this does vary wildly.
You should also ensure that choose an agent that is regulated by a professional body to avoid falling foul of scams. Look for regulation by the IVD, this is a group of over 6000 realtors in Germany that all have demonstrable experience within the industry.
The purchasing process
Once you have found the perfect property, you will need to make an offer to the vendor. This indicates the amount that you are willing to pay for the house. If the vendor agrees to this then you can both move forward with the actual transaction of purchasing the home. The first thing that you should do is to organise for an inspection of the home to be completed. This isn’t a legal requirement in Germany but it makes sense to be sure that everything is sound with the property before you purchase it. You don’t want to be saddled with a home that has problems that are costly to fix. Look online for a registered surveyor or ask around to find someone to give you the peace of mind you need when going through with a property purchase.
You will then need to employ a notary. This is an extremely important role in property purchase, so you need to be sure that you are choosing a reputable person. They will check the land registry to be sure that the vendor has the right to sell the home and that there are no problems with the purchase of the property. They also have an obligation to hold a signing meeting with both parties. This is where contracts are exchanged. At the meeting, the notary does have to read out all the information detailed in the contract. It is worth noting that this reading will be in German, so you might wish to arrange for a translator if you are not fluent in the language.
Finalising your mortgage
You will also need to finalise your mortgage at this point in the process. This will mean handing over information relating to the property to your chosen bank. This will include a property assessment and proof of ownership as dictated by the land registry. You should also take details of your income in the form of payslips to prove your ability to meet your repayments. At this stage, you will also need to pay your deposit. If you are not in the country you might struggle to do this unless you have already opened a German bank account. You could use a transfer tool such as TransferWise to help make sure your bank gets your deposit so they can release the funds to complete your property purchase.
Pay your taxes
Once the property purchase has gone through you will need to make sure that your taxes are paid. Property sale tax is usually around 3.5-6.5% of the value of the house. You will also have other fees to pay alongside purchasing your home. You will need to pay your notary usually around 1.2-1.5% and registration fees of around 0.8-1.2%. Sometimes buyers agree to share estate agent fees with sellers. If this is the case with your purchase you should expect the cost to be around 1.5-3%.
Buying property in Germany as a foreigner is an incredibly exciting time. The country is one of the best places to live in the world and there are some incredible homes up for grabs. Navigating the system can be a challenge but it really is all worth it once you are settled and happy within the country and in the home of your dreams. Follow our steps and find any further help that you need locally and you will find the process is entirely doable and that it doesn’t have to be quite as stressful as many make out. We hope that you find the perfect home for you and that you find purchasing it an easy and straightforward process. Happy home buying.