So you have decided to buy a property – congratulations! Whether searching for a new family home, or as a rental investment - your first property or your 100th - there is no feeling quite like it. You are making a smart decision in the short, medium and long term. The inevitability of long term property ownership ist the finest way to secure your future and ensure financial security in retirement. As a long-term investment, real estate’s stability makes it crisis-resistant, and with interest rates still considered low, plus the ability to fix for up to 20 years, now is the time to buy in Germany. While it can seem daunting, do not fear! The process need not be complicated with the right guidance! I hope you find the following useful in your search for an apartment, and throughout your ownership.
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When buying real estate, one or the other additional costs should be considered and planned for. These differ from country to country – but in Germany they also differ state to state. As an international buyer, you can click below to get more information on what things play a role in addition to the purchase price.
The transfer of property in Germany is subject to a transfer tax (Grunderwerbsteuer). The percentage varies between the German states – ranging between 3.5% (Bavaria, Saxony) and 6.5% (Schleswig-Holstein). In Berlin, it is currently 6% of the purchase price as it is in Frankfurt (Hessen). There are exemptions, mostly for the transfer of property within the family.
Purchase contracts in Germany must be signed in the presence of a notary, who also records the property sale in the land registry. The overall cost of this service is usually around 1.5-2% of the purchasing price. This will involve an approximately 1% invoice paid directly to the notary office afer signing contracts; and approximately 0.5-1% spread over three separate invoices during the land registry process – removing the old name and entering you as the registered owner.
This is only applicable when living in Germany and attending the notary appointment in person. It does not apply to those using a lawyer to represent them. The costs of this service is around €290 + VAT.
As an international buyer, it is a legal requirement that a German lawyer acts on your behalf. The total cost of this service is usually 1% VAT of the purchase price; though for higher value acquisitions a flat fee agreement is common.
Depending on who you are buying through, there is often a commission involved. Since 2021, commissions must be split equally by the buyer and the seller. This means you will pay commission when you buy, and when you sell (if using an agent). Luckily, at Accentro, we do not charge commission on our self-owned apartments so your acquisition commission is 0%. When buying or selling through an agency, you will usually pay between 1.5-3% plus VAT of the purchase price.
As an International buyer, not domiciled in Germany, you need a local lawyer to oversee the purchase. The lawyer will provide an extensive service for you, not just reviewing legal documents.
It is a pre-requisite that all buyers are required to have an address in Germany to receive all legal documentation. Your appointed lawyer willact as your legal recipient of all documents during the buying process and beyond.
Your lawyer will receive and review all the legal documents including the sales contracts, and declaration of division to check all is in order, and provide you with a summation. They will be able to answer any questions you have about the contract and the procedure in general.
As previously mentioned, once the POA is signed and returned, the lawyer can act on your behalf to sign the sales contracts at the notary office. Not only does this save you the time and inconvenience, it also means you do not need to travel to Germany – again saving you time & money.
In Germany, the sales contracts are presided over by an independent notary. At the signing of the purchase agreement, the notary will read aloud the entire sales contract, in German – a process that can take a number of hours. To negate the need for your presence (and avoid all travel costs!) the lawyer can sign these contracts on your behalf. They will provide you with a personalised POA agreement, which you need to have signed and witnessed at your local German Embassy, or by a local German Notary office if you can.
Your lawyer will also set you up a personal Eskrow account in which to transfer your mortgage deposit and additional purchasing costs, and will then disperse the money as and when invoices are received – on your approval.
As a buyer living in Germany, you do not legally require the services of a lawyer. Often, the notary will produce the sales contract in both English & German, and the notary themselves can answer most contract related questions. You will however, need the services of a sworn translator at the contract signing, unless you speak fluent German.
Once you have purchased your property, the fun doesn’t stop there. There are a number of ongoing costs relating to taxes and property / building management that you need to consider.
This is the monthly cost associated with your specific apartment in relation to the building in which it is located. While these costs vary building to building, you can expect between €2-6 per sqm depending on the level of facilities, age of the building and number of units in the building. It will also increase if the building runs on a communal centralised heating system – because your heating and hot water will be included within the calculation. Generally, buildings with lifts will cost more than those without.
If you are renting the apartment out, you can normally request that the tenant pays up to 80% of these costs, in addition to their net cold rent. You can not make the tenant pay for the sinking fund payments, building insurance or the cost of the building management service itself (Hausverwaltung).
Rental income is counted as personal income and is taxed progressively as per German law. When calculating your taxable income, there are a number of deductions you can make, including: mortgage interest, repairs and maintenance and depreciation…
This is a nominal annual taxation based on a multitude of factors: building age, location, size, condition, floor etc. Depending on the size of the apartment, this can range from €100 per year to €500 per year. These costs can also be passed on to the tenant if specifically mentioned in the rental contract.
Buildings in Germany must have a general insurance covering the building itself. This is called Wohngebäudeversicherung. This is arranged by the Hausverwaltung, and included in your monthly Hausgeld payments. It is advisable to also take out contents insurance if renting out furnished. This covers you in the event of damage to your furniture and belongings in the event of accidental damage such as leaks. A typical policy starts around €80 per year. As a landlord, it is also advisable to take out Rechtsschutz - legal assistance insurance - to help you in the event of legal disputes with tenants. This is typically around €20-30 per month.
It is advisable as an international buyer to employ a manager for your apartment. The prices for these can range from €25-70 per month, depending on the level of service required.
Current German law states, as an individual owner, you can sell your rental investment apartment after 10 years of ownership, and pay 0% tax on any profit that you have made. It is currently the only asset class offering this. This law is reduced to just 2 years if you have lived in the apartment yourself and not rented it out.
Due to recent legal changes, the buyer and the seller must now split the sales commission 50/50. As a seller, your percentage can range from 1.5- 3.5%, depending on the commission level that the selling agent charges their clients.
While of course it would help, it is certainly not required to speak German to any degree. Throughout the process you will be consulted in English, and important documents such as the sales contract will be provided in an English translation.
No, there are no restrictions on purchasing, but there are some limitations on financing based on where you live & earn your income.
No, it is possible to purchase a property without ever visiting Germany. The only time you would need to visit is if your financing bank required you to identify yourself in person – though this is rare.
It is definitely beneficial, though not always a prerequisite. You will require a european bank account when taking financing from a german bank. When buying cash, your lawyer will set up an eskrow account for you to transfer the money to, so that they can dispurse as required.
There are additional costs when purchasing a property in Germany. There is 6% Tax, 1.5-2% Notary & Land Registry Fees, plus the cost of a lawyer, approx 1.19%. You will also need to pay commission to your real estate agent – unless you buy through Accentro!
As an international buyer, you will need a lawyer to oversee the purchase. They will act as your registered address for all paperwork, review the contracts and sign them on your behalf at the notary office using a POA.
Your lawyer is working for you directly, whereas a notary is an independent body who creates a fair and balanced sales contract, and mediates the sale. They do not work for either buyer or seller, and it is their duty to ensure a fair sale for all.
As an international client, or tax foreigner, you can apply for finance up to a maximum of 70% of the purchase price; though typically it is easier to acheive up to 60%, and the interest rate will decrease too.
No, this is not possible in Germany.
You will pay income tax on your NET rental income progressively from 15-45%; the same as a local. You can deduct mortgage interest, depcreciation, taxes, repairs etc from your taxable income – so often you will find you pay almost no income tax at the end of each year.
We would be delighted to assist you in your property search, and to answer any questions you might have. For a quick chat or a full consulation, please get in contact using the links & information below. We look forward to speaking with you!
Michael Totman Director International Sales Advisory office ACCENTRO Berlin Phone: +49 (0)30 / 887 181-41 E-Mail: email@example.com
Our hotline is available Mo to Fr, 9am to 6pm (CET)