Altbau or New-Build: Which is Right for You?

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Which type of apartment is right for you?

While on the search for a new apartment in Germany, perhaps the first question to ask yourself is: old building or new-build (called Neubau in German)? Studying the most important criteria, we have compared typical old buildings, those dating from c.1880-1940, with recently completed or planned new buildings, to try to make your decision a little easier. Pick which characteristics matter most to you, and then your decision will be made!

Old appearance

Altbau buildings benefit from their historic charm, which is impossible to imitate or replicate. In addition to the elegantly decorated façades, it is the details inside that will spark your interest. High ceilings with beautiful stucco-moulded details, stripped wooden floors, and regal double doors offer you a home with more than a hint of glamorous sophistication. The charm and character of Altbau buildings will suit those who value charisma and history.

Neubau looks

Newly built apartments are in no way inferior to their relatives from earlier generations in terms of appearance, but they cannot match their historical aura (at least not for another 100 years or so). The great advantage of apartments that are not yet finished is that you can choose just how you want things laid out - in terms of fittings and sometimes even the floor plan. Parquet flooring from oak or beech, rounded or square sinks, an additional hobby room or an extra spacious living room with open kitchen - the details are yours to decide. That means that you decide exactly how you want your home to look, so you can make it as traditional or contemporary as you see fit. Neubau apartments will suit those who have a vision of exactly what they want, and want more control over the final appearance.

Old apartments offer stunning features like high, stuccoed ceilings and double doors.

Comfort

It is precisely because of these design freedoms that owners of a newly built apartment can look forward to a comfortable home. But even without the planning participation of the future residents, many recently constructed buildings offer amenities such as underfloor heating, intelligent lighting systems or a direct connection to the elevator. Such advantages are rarely found in apartments in older buildings, as they are associated with costly renovation. Depending on the location, modernisation work may even be prohibited in large German cities due to environmental protection measures. Even historic buildings under monument protection may not permit major renovations. Nevertheless, you don't have to settle for a life from the 19th century. The use of radio-based smart home systems, for example, can already considerably increase living comfort. Moreover, when renovations are allowed, there are many incentives to update an Altbau apartment. However, for those who want to move into an apartment already furnished with the most comfortable fittings, neubau may be the best way to go. Neubau apartments are popular for their state-of-the-art, modern and comfortable features.

New-build apartments are often furnished with state-of-the-art equipment and a contemporary style.

Location

The centres and most popular neighbourhoods of many major German cities are adorned by well-preserved Wilhelminian-style buildings. Their aesthetics attract onlookers and tourists, while their robust character gives residents a feeling of security. For this reason, it is not uncommon to associate apartments in older buildings with a particularly desirable location. This does not mean, however, that there is no more room for Neubau buildings in German city centres, and you are going to have to move to the suburbs. Gaps left by destruction during the Second World War or the demolition of dilapidated buildings are increasingly filled by new residential buildings. In the meantime, more attention is again being paid to an appealing exterior, which means that more recent new-builds blend seamlessly into the image of their surroundings and even enrich it. It might be smart, therefore, to first decide in which area you want to live before you decide on whether to buy an Altbau or a Neubau apartment.

Historic facades characterise the streets of many Germany city centres.

Price

As a rule, old buildings are the cheaper option when it comes to buying a property. Factors influencing the final purchase price include the condition of the apartment, the location within the house and, last but not least, the surroundings in which the property is located. Even if the price per square meter is higher, Neubau buildings are certainly not to be considered a worse investment. The resale value of apartments in newer buildings is generally higher and, in addition, banks consider them to offer better security. Plus, thanks to the usually high energy efficiency of newer homes, running costs tend to be lower. So while price is obviously an important factor, you might give more weight to other characteristics such as location and features which you can't alter after purchase.

Neubau buildings are designed to fit smoothly into their surroundings.

Conclusions

Old buildings score points with their long history and associated charisma. They also shape the image of many German city centres. New-builds, on the other hand, often offer more comfortable living - albeit at a higher purchase price. All in all, the decision to buy an apartment in an old or new building is purely a matter of taste and should be made by the buyer according to the situation and taking into account his or her own preferences.

Written by:

Philipp Müller

Philipp is at home in Berlin and loves to explore the city in all its facets. Here he shares his experiences, new discoveries, and helpful tips with the readers.

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