If you are an expat moving to or living in Germany, you may be wondering, “Can I buy property as a foreigner?” The answer is yes! There are many benefits to buying a house in Germany, both personal and financial. Read on for more information about the process of purchasing property as a foreigner in Germany.
Can a Foreigner Buy a House in Germany?
Yes, buying a house in Germany is possible for anyone, regardless of nationality. However, your residency status may affect your chances of getting a mortgage. The ‘safer’ your status the more likely it is. So having a permanent residency is better than having a temporary residency or Blue Card. Don’t let this discourage you. If you are able to bring a higher amount of equity capital into the negotiation you may still get a mortgage with ‘just’ a Blue Card. We will dive into the mortgage topic further down.
Buying a house translates to ‘Haus kaufen’ in German, and if you are interested in buying an apartment, you are looking for an ‘Eigentumswohnung’, which means ownership flat. The general German word for real estate is ‘Immobilie’.
Is It Worth Buying a House in Germany?
To answer this question, we need to take a closer look at the German housing market, as it might be different from what you are used to at home. Germany is, generally speaking, a rental nation. Only 43% of all households are owned property, which is way lower than the European average of around 70%.
Related Guide: Renting In Germany [A Detailed Guide In English]
While buying a house is seen as a lifetime achievement in some countries, this is not necessarily the case in Germany. Rental laws are very consumer-friendly, and it is not uncommon for Germans to live in one rented flat for most of their lives. Furthermore, most Germans who own a house purchase it to make it their own family home rather than to use it as an investment and rent it out.
So whether buying a house in Germany is worth it depends on your views on property ownership, your finances, and your intentions with the house. You can take a look at the buying or renting calculator from Hypofriend to get more details on your individual situation. Hypofriend is an expat-friendly all-digital mortgage service.
Is It Hard to Buy a House in Germany?
That highly depends on what you define as hard. Let’s set your expectations right so that you can answer the question for yourself.
The housing market in Germany is very competitive; however, it is not impossible to find and buy a house in Germany as a foreigner. When you set your mind to it, you will be able to find and buy the house you want, even in Germany. Most likely you won’t be a new house owner within a month though. Buying a house in Germany takes patience and research. Realistically speaking, you should plan 1 – 2 years to find a house that matches your likes. After all, you probably don’t just want to buy A house, but THE house you imagine, right?
We know other expats who have bought their house in Germany, which means, if others have done it, you can do it too!
How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a House in Germany?
The cost of buying a house in Germany highly depends on the location, the condition, and the size of the property. Therefore, you should consider the following cost before buying property in Germany.
Necessary equity capital when buying a house in Germany
Experts recommend having 20-30% of the property price available as equity capital. The more equity you have, the better conditions for a mortgage you will get. So how much money you need upfront to buy a house in Germany depends on the purchase price of the house.
Equity is not just money in your bank account, but it also includes fixed-income securities, shares and mutual funds, other property value, life insurance, etc. If you are unsure of your equity, you can use this calculator to find out.
Fees & taxes to expect when buying a house in Germany
Next to equity capital and a mortgage, prepare yourself for the following extra expenses. They are based on the purchase price of the house or apartment, which you need to have available on top of your equity capital. These can easily add up to additional 5 figure costs, as you can see with the examples provided.
Registration and notary fees
Every property purchase needs to go through the services of a notary (more on that below). The average notary and registration fee is around 1,5-3% of the property purchase price.
|Example Registration & Notary Fee||Cost Based on Example Purchase Price of €400.000|
Real estate agent fee (Maklerprovision)
If you buy your house with the help of a real estate agent (Makler), you may have to contribute to the real estate agent’s commission. A new law took effect in December 2020, stating that the buyer can contribute a maximum of 50% of the negotiated fee. In the past, buyers often paid 100% of the fee, which is no longer possible.
The real estate agent fee is not set or regulated in Germany; however, there is a common agreement in the industry that the maximum amount should be 7,14%, which equates to a maximum of 3,57% for you as a buyer.
|Example Real Estate Agent Fee||Cost Based on Example Purchase Price of €400.000|
Property acquisition tax (Grunderwerbssteuer)
As the country of taxes, it is no surprise that you have to pay a specific tax when buying property. Depending on the state the property is located in, you need to pay 3,5 – 6,5% of the purchase price around six to eight weeks after completing the purchase. Here is an overview of the different percentages per state and a cost example:
|State||% in 2021||Cost Based on Example Purchase Price of €400.000|
To get a better understanding of how much ‘extra cost’ you should plan, you can use Hypofriend’s interactive mortgage calculator. It breaks down the composition of the total cost and monthly payment, shows the differences between various fixed interest rates, and simulates how future interest rate changes may affect your repayment plan.
German Mortgage Calculator & Services
Next to understanding the total cost involved in buying a house, the best way to approach buying a house or apartment in Germany is to figure out your finances first. Start by calculating how much mortgage you can afford and hence how much your desired house can cost. You can do so with the calculator of Loanlink24.
Loanlink24 and Hypofriend make getting a good mortgage in Germany a breeze for foreigners. They offer fully digital services in English, where they compare over 400 banks and mortgage lenders to find the best offer for you. And since they get paid by the banks, their services are completely free for you.
What Is The Average House Price in Germany?
In 2020, the average cost per square meter for buying your own house was 2.750 euros. Similar to rental prices, the costs for buying a house have drastically increased in the past decade, especially in the bigger cities. The prices are mainly driven by increased demand and too little living space on the market. Here is an example of the average square meter price for buying a house in the largest German cities:
|Biggest Cities||Average Square Meter Price for a House|
You can take a look at this heat map to better understand house and apartment prices in the different areas of Germany.
How to Find a German Property to Buy?
The best ways to find property for sale in Germany are through real estate websites and real estate agents. ‘For Sale’ signs, which you might be used to from other countries, are not a thing in Germany. Instead, you may still find ads in newspapers, especially from older people who want to sell their house.
German Real Estate Websites
Most real estate websites are only available in German. The most popular ones are:
You will find private listings (von privat), which usually have no commission, and listings handled by real estate agents on these websites.
Hypofriend even helps you in finding a possible property by aggregating properties for sale from the websites above. They also offer a free property valuation tool that helps you understand whether the asking price equals the worth of the real estate.
If you are only interested in properties that are get sold privately, you can take a look at:
Real Estate Agencies in Germany
Next to actively looking for your dream house online, you can also hire a real estate agent to scout for the property you have in mind. This way, you may also see properties that are not announced yet on the different online portals.
However, unlike in most other professions in Germany, a real estate agent does not have to undergo a mandatory apprenticeship or training, which means anyone with a clean tax record and without a criminal record can register as a real estate agent. This fact makes it difficult for you as a buyer to assess a real estate agent’s actual market knowledge and experience.
Where can you find the right real estate agent?
To look for qualified real estate agents in your area, you can consult the expert database of the official real estate association (Immobilienverband Deutschland – IVB) in Germany. Members of this association must prove specialist knowledge, comply with the trade regulations and participate in regular advanced training. While browsing online, you can spot members, as they will usually have the IVD logo incorporated on their website.
Before you hire a real estate agent, have an in-depth conversation about your wishes, desires, budgets, etc., to get a feeling for the knowledge and experience of the agent. As long as you don’t sign an exclusivity agreement with an agent, you can also go ahead and use the services of various real estate agents to broaden your chances of finding and getting your dream home.
7 Steps for Buying a House in Germany
1. Preparation is key
- Define the area you want to buy your house in.
- Take a deep dive into your financial possibilities (as described above)
2. Start searching for properties
- Plan enough time for your search. The housing market in Germany is very scarce and competitive.
- Observe the market for a longer period of time to get a better understanding of it.
- Sign up to the different online portals and activate the alarm function when new properties get added. Let friends and colleagues know about your plans, look at newspapers and magazines. Hire a real estate agent.
3. Get a pre-approval for a mortgage
- Loanlink24 and Hypofriend offer to get pre-approved for a mortgage after you have set your budget. This is super helpful to have an advantage in the competitive house market as you won’t lose time once you find the property of your dreams. Sellers might prefer you over other interested parties who can’t prove yet that they have the finances secured.
4. Start viewing properties
- Prepare yourself for the viewings by scouting the area beforehand
- Study the exposé carefully and take notes with questions
- Never go alone as four eyes see more than two
- Bring paper and pen, a tape measure, and your phone for pictures
- Always visit the house during daylight
- Don’t rush the viewing
- Take a close look at the basic structure of the house, the technical appliances, the energetic footprint, etc.
- If you are really interested, make an appointment for a second viewing and bring an expert
5. Make an offer on the house
6. Finalize your finances and mortgage
- Finalize your mortgage with Loanlink24 or Hypofriend
- Make sure you are able to pay for the extra additional costs, such as registration and notary fees and the property acquisition tax.
7. Buy the house
- If needed, make a pre-contract or reservation with the seller
- Check the outline of the purchase contract before making the final notary appointment
- If you want to play it extra safe, you can also have a legal expert proofread your purchase contract before you sign it. The online consulting platform yourXpert offers such services. Their website is in German, however, you can translate the page by using Chrome as a browser, then do a right-click and select ‘translate to English’. You can fill the form and ask your question in English. yourXpert will forward your inquiry to English-speaking lawyers only and you will get a response within 24 hours.
- Attend the notary appointment to:
- Sign the property purchase contract
- Get the notarization of the purchase contract
- Get entered as the new property owner in the land registry (Grundbuch)
- Get your mortgage entered in the land registry
- Pay the property acquisition tax
🔥 Tip: If you want to really make sure that your dream house is in good condition and worth the value of its price, you can hire an expert consultant (Gutachter or Sachverständiger) to inspect the house to its core. The cost for these services isn’t cheap as it might be a couple of thousand euros, but knowing that the house you will make an offer on is as good as it looks, is in our opinion quite important.
What Is The Role of The Notary In Buying a House in Germany?
You cannot become the owner of a house, apartment, or any land without using the services of a notary in Germany. The notary mostly acts as a middleman between the seller and buyer and protects the accuracy of the land registry. You can also use the notary as an escrow service, meaning that you pay the downpayment to the notary, and only after signing the contract and everything working out will the notary forward the payment to the seller.
The tasks of the notary when buying a house in Germany include:
- Legal consultation for the buyer and seller
- Checking the land registry entry and creating the new entry
- Checking and deleting possible past mortgages in the land register connected to the property
- Preparation of a preliminary contract to regulate the terms of the sell
- Creation and presentation of the final purchase agreement
- Notarizing the signed contract
- Acting as an escrow agent giving security to both the seller and buyer
- Notarization of a mortgage taken to buy the property
Buying a property in Germany can seem intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be. In this guide, we have discussed all the steps you need to take and what you should expect when buying a house as an expat living in Germany. We hope that by reading through our guide, your mind will be put at ease about any questions or concerns you may have had before reading.
It’s time to start with step 1, define your budget, and determine how big of a mortgage you can afford while still living a comfortable day-to-day life.
We wish you all the best in your house purchase! 🏠