Frequently Asked Questions

 

properties24 offers introductory answers to frequently asked questions about properties24, purchasing a property in Germany, and other property related services we offer. Please click on a subject heading below to view questions and answers relating to your selection. Should you have any further questions, please consult our Contact page.

 

General questions

1. Do I have to be a German resident to purchase property in Germany?

2. What costs involved will accompany me buying a property in Germany?

3. How long will it take until I own the property?

4. What are the property running costs in Germany?

5. How much tax do I have to pay and where can I get advice?

6. What rental yields can I expect from a German property?

7. How much time will I need to invest in my property?

8. How can I increase rents?

9. How easy is it to find new tenants in Germany?

 

Property Management 

1. Who takes care of the property when I am not in Germany?

2. How do I find a reliable German property management company and what is included in the service?

 

Role and responsibilities of the Notary Public

1. Is a notary public necessary?

2. What is the role of the notary public?

3. Contract

 

Finance

1. Will I be able to source local finance for my German property?

2. How much capital will I need to get local finance?

 

 

1. Do I have to be German resident to purchase property in Germany? top

Non-residents have the same rights as natural citizens when it comes to buying property in Germany. Therefore anybody can buy real estate in Germany who has a valid passport and the purchase funds that will be needed.

Owning a property in Germany does not give one a right to live or to immigrate to the country. You still may need to apply for a visitor’s visa or permanent residency. Regulations and entry requirements should be checked with your embassy.

 

2. What costs involved will accompany me buying a property in Germany? top

The round trip transaction costs include all costs of buying and then re-selling a property – lawyers’ fees, notaries’ fees, registration fees, taxes, agents’ fees, etc.

Property Transfer Tax (stamp duty) - The property transfer tax (Grunderwerbsteuer) is due about four weeks after the notary deed has been signed by buyer and seller. This tax of 3,5%-4,5% (depending on the location of the property) has to be carried by the buyer.

Notary - Notary fees are fixed by law and depend on the kind of agreement and the value of the property. Notary fees usually range from 0.5% to 1.5% of the purchase price. German law requires that sale and purchase agreements are notarized.

Registration - The buyer og properties in Germany must pay a registration fee to have his name entered in the local land registry (Grundbuch) as the legal owner of the property purchased. The registration fee is fixed by law depends on the value of the property. These fees add up to about 0,5%-1,2%.

 

3. How long will it take until I own the property? top

From the moment of signing the notary deed until receiving the land title register confirmation several weeks can pass. This however has no bearing on when you are entitled for receiving the rental payments. This is usually the moment when the buying price is paid in full to the seller. That date is agreed upon in the purchase contract.

 

4. What are the property running costs in Germany?  top

The landlord has four types of running costs: maintenance, property management, interest payments (if you have a mortgage) and consultation fees (legal, accounting, tax). Everything else is paid by the tenants as part of the service charge.

Property tax - Municipalities impose an annual tax on land and property, known as Grundsteuer. The tax is levied on the assessed value of the property, using the basic federal rate of 0,35% as a starting point. ‘Multipliers’ are then applied to this figure to calculate the final tax due. This multiplier varies by municipality, but the average multiplier for residential properties is 1,5%.

Lettings and management charges - Specialist companies offer property management services, including cleaning and maintenance. They may also offer a tenant-finding service for you, at an extra charge. The management charges range from 15-22 Euros per unit per month (excl. VAT).

Utilities (service charges), Building insurance, Communal charges - carbage disposal, water, common house electricity, housekeeping, maintenance of the heating system etc. are additional costs which sum up to about 0.5-2 Euro per m² and month. All of these have to be paid by the tenant if the apartment or the house is rented out. Even the property owning tax normally needs to be refunded by the tenant to the owner or should be made part of the normal utilities prepayments.

The service charges include building insurance, ground tax, cleaning of the common parts, gardening, housekeeping, electricity for the common parts, regular inspection of the heating system, water, chimney sweeping, cable TV, snow and waste removal. 

Building reserve fund (sinking fund) - This payment is mandatory when owning an apartment as part of a community (apartment block); it is usually about 0,75 to 1,5 Euro per m² living area per month. These payments are not applicable when owning the property as a whole.

 

5. How much tax do I have to pay and where can I get advice? top

Income generated in Germany is taxed in Germany. Although income tax rates can be marginally higher than in other countries, there are substantial (virtual) expenses that can be deducted from your income (e.g. building depreciation, interest payments and other expenses related to the property) which will reduce your tax bill to below what you would pay for an equivalent property somewhere else.

In any case we are neither tax advisors nor experts. We strongly advise that tax related questions should be taken care of by tax professionals. properties24 can help you finding an English speaking accountant for dealing with your tax affairs.

 

6. What rental yields can I expect from a German property? top

The rental yields are dependent on property type/condition and area. Blocks of flats in less prosperous areas yield as high as 6-10%. More affluent areas can yield from 5-7%. On individual apartments the yields can fall to around 4-8% dependent on the location and condition of the property. At properties24 we focus on refurbished properties in Germany’s newer states, as we believe this is the most attractive property market in Europe, given its high yields, low financing costs and high affordability.

 

7. How much time will I need to invest in my property? top

It’s up to you. Most investors like to get involved in the decision making process, but if you choose to limit your participation, we can manage much of the process for you and put you in touch with relevant contacts in Germany. It is advisable to plan for at least two trips to Germany in order to find the right property and to sign the purchase documents. 

 

8. How can I increase rents? top

The term of a residential lease contract in Germany is usually indefinite. It is up to the disgression of the landlord to set the rent for apartments to be rented out at market level. For an occupied flat(s) landlords can increase the rent by a maximum of 20% every 3 year period until the market rent level has been reached (many rents in Germany are significantly below market level). If the landlord modernises a flat, he can increase the rent by 11% of the modernisation costs. As an alternative to the annual rent review the landlord can agree a step-up rent with the tenant.

 

9. How easy is it to find new tenants in Germany? top

As in many other countries, properties are usually advertised via the internet and through the local media. A good property at the right price can attract tenants within 6 – 10 weeks, bearing in mind that in Germany tenants have to give 3 months’ notice before vacating a property.

It is important to note that the vast majority of Germans rent their homes (70%+). Many people live in the same property long-term (the average tenancy period exceeds 8 years). An advantage of the longevity of tenancies is that people tend to take good care of the property because they see it as their home. 

 

Property Management

1. Who takes care of the property when I am not in Germany? top

The property can be given into the care of a property management company. On apartments this is mandatory when these belong to a partitioned apartment house. The cost for property management ranges from €15-€22 per month for an apartment. Rental management is separate from general house management and can be transferred to an agency for a fee that is agreed upon by both parties.

 

2. How do I find a reliable German property management company and what is included in the service? top

We work closely with a number of carefully selected English speaking property management companies. Their services comprise re-lettings, running tenant accounts, overseeing maintenance work, rent reviews, representation of the landlord in legal cases, document administration, and consulting the landlord in all aspects of the strategic property management.

 

Role and responsibilities of the notary public

1. Is a notary public necessary? top

In accordance with the German Civil Code, all real estate transactions have to be signed at the office of the notary public. The notary public is a solicitor, who acts on behalf of the government and is authorised to certify deeds.

 

2. What is the role of the notary public? top

He/she prepares the deed between the selling and the buying party and an appointment is arranged at the office of the notary public to complete the transaction. All legal documents are checked. The check includes a check of passports and authorisation documentation (if a person is acting on behalf of someone else or a company). At the actual signing ceremony the notary reads the contract of sale verbatim and is required to be certain that both parties fully understand its content. The buyer may ask questions and interrupt the proceedings if a clause isn't completely understood. The contract is signed by the vendor, investor/buyer and the notary public. The deed is irrevocable.

 

3. Contract top

The contract spells out the obligations of each party and the measures to be taken in the event of default. Once it is signed, the notary registers the change of ownership with the municipal government and enters the property in the land register.

Always ask for a copy of the purchase contract before going to the notary, reviewing it carefully and having it translated if necessary. Prepare any questions you have in advance, don't hesitate to ask them and allow sufficient time for getting full answers.

The parties have complete freedom to decide on payment terms. In most cases the buyer has to obtain financing. Therefore the seller agrees to a priority notice in the land register which protects the buyer from other, unexpected sales activities on the part of the seller, such as trying to sell the property to somebody else for a better price.

The land register is located at the district courthouse and is the central document for a piece of property, with all necessary information on its ownership. An actual change in ownership can occur only when an entry has been made in this land register, and only when previous mortgages have been taken care of and the tax office has certified that the seller has no property taxes outstanding.

Very often the purchase price is first paid into an escrow account maintained by the notary (Notaranderkonto) and transferred to the seller only when the land register entry is complete.

The notary is not responsible the correctness of the owner's property description. That is the buyer's job. The seller isn't obliged to point out any major defects that should have been obvious to the buyer, though he should be required to describe any hidden defects.

A copy of the most current land register entries can be obtained on application to the district court. However, only persons with a legitimate need to know, such as the owner or the notary, are eligible to make this application.

The register also spells out the rights of any third parties; those, for example, of tenants. Such tenants can't bar the sale of the property, but the new owner is bound by any lease arrangements to which the previous owner agreed. Hence, the new owner can't evict a tenant before the lease expires.

 

Finance

1. Will I be able to source local finance for my German property? top

We have built up strong relationships with local German banks. Before approaching these for a mortgage you must have already found the property you wish to purchase. When determining the loan-to-value (LTV) figure, they will take into account factors such as amount of capital, property income, location, condition of the building, mortgage volume, whether you are seeking recourse or non-recourse financing, and your relationship with the bank.

 

2. How much capital will I need to get local finance? top

The loan-to-value figure varies typically between 40% and 80% of the purchase price. Transaction costs have to be paid with equity capital and cannot be financed. It is important that equity is available for the balance.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer

The above information is given as a guide only and is not intended to form part of any contract or German purchase deed. It is intended as a simple guide to the German conveyancing process. No legal warranties are given or representations made as to its accuracy.

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