When buying an apartment in Berlin, you will come across two types of buildings: Altbau and Neubau. Basically, an Altbau (literally “old building”) is a building that was constructed from the mid-19th century up to the 1940s. A Neubau (“new building”) is simply any other building built post-1945, including completely new properties being constructed now.
Thinking logically, it may make the most sense to invest in a more modern Neubau. However, be prepared to fall in love with an Altbau the moment you lay your eyes on one. There seems to be a particular air of fin-de-siècle romance with old buildings, that simply isn’t there with Neubaus. These buildings have a charm and beauty, not to mention a historical significance that cannot be found anywhere else.
When you compare properties, you will likely be surprised to find that old buildings offer a specific appeal and particular benefits to prospective homebuyers. They are praised for their distinctive characteristics and beautifully appointed architecture that gives them the magnetic power to attract huge numbers of residents.
However, before you choose to own a historic piece of the German capital, you will first need to gather a lot of information about them.
The briefest of brief histories
As mentioned earlier, 'Altbau' is a German term that refers to period properties dating from the mid-19th century up to the 1940s. They were commonly constructed in an Art Nouveau Style, known in Germany as Jugendstil, with various echelons of sophistication. To give the homes a distinct look, architects often used antique coloured glass and ornaments, along with stucco for décor.
In neighbourhoods with a high concentration of old buildings, such as Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, and Charlottenburg, some of the more prestigious buildings even feature antique frescoes and ornate marble entranceways, as well as bench seats and period elevators.
What makes Altbaus unique to live in?
Before buying, you might be interested in knowing what makes them different from more modern buildings. These antique pieces of art are characterised by high ceilings, often of about 3.5m, giving the rooms a lovely spacious feel. If you are lucky, you will find an apartment fitted with well-taken-care-of parquet flooring. This flooring is usually made of high quality pine boards that look great and are easy to maintain.
In addition, they tend to have large rooms, making them ideal for those looking for family-friendly properties in Berlin with plenty of space.
In many neighbourhoods around the city, the attics of the old buildings are being transformed into attractive penthouses. This is often accompanied by removing part of the roof and replacing it with a sun-terrace, taking advantage of Berlin’s flat geography to allow for some spectacular views across the city. Such reconstruction has significantly increased the apartments' popularity among homebuyers.
The cost of an Altbau apartment as an investment
When looking for properties in which to invest, value for money is what you should pay attention to. Apart from their exterior appeal, they also provide several financial benefits too. They often begin at a lower, entry-level price, considering that they are comparatively cheaper than new buildings, though the amount of money you will spend on one will obviously depend on the location, the current market price, size, number of rooms etc.
Three key factors to consider before buying
Buying any building is a major decision. One thing you should remember is that not everyone has a lifestyle that can sustain an older property. Even if you find it in good shape when hunting for a home, you should anticipate having to carry out regular and specialised maintenance.
That said, there are key purchasing points that you should consider before buying any property, especially if you choose to go the Altbau way. They include;
Cost: although the price of an Altbau property is lower than that of a new property, you need to factor in the cost of maintenance. Ensure that your income is enough, and you can spend about 5-10% of your yearly mortgage payments for annual maintenance.
The neighbourhood: you may love the property from the first impression, but do you like its location? Well, if you don't love the neighbourhood, then there is no need to view the inside. Always focus on the house you need, but never overlook its context. It matters!
To IKEA or not to IKEA: As mentioned above, old buildings have certain charms and in general are better value for money per square metre when compared to Neubaus. So you need to factor in the cost of furnishing, not just the volume of furniture needed but the quality of furniture too. Do old apartments deserve the best or is IKEA just perfect for all apartment types? We’ll leave this up to you.
Summarising why you will love owning one
If you choose an Altbau when buying apartments in Berlin, you will enjoy a wide range of benefits including:
- They have an old-world character and charm that cannot be found in modern constructions. A lot of attention is paid to the decoration of various architectural elements, including architraves and façades.
- They often feature artistic hardwood flooring, which not only makes them cosy but also increases their overall resale value.
- They have stood the test of time. They have survived and seen some of history’s biggest moments. Therefore, with these apartments, you can rest assured that no matter what happens, they will stand firm and continue providing a home for future generations.
- Furnishing options. Such charm and space are great motivation, so let your inner interior designer come out to create your dream home.
Whenever you are looking for properties, you will notice that Altbau apartments are the defining feature in the most popular neighbourhoods around the city. Even with the ever-increasing population and occupancy rates, the demand for these iconic pieces of history keeps pace.
For that reason, if you are looking for an attractive purchase that will come with an array of long-term financial benefits, consider buying Altbau apartments in Berlin now. Ensure you work with a dependable real estate company so that you can get the best deals you can find.