Guide: Buying an Apartment

How to buy an apartment

There are a huge number of things to consider when buying a home, particularly if it’s in a foreign country, or it’s a first-time purchase. In this article, we try to break down some of the things to consider.

Financials

When it comes to the financial aspects of buying an apartment, there are two main areas to consider: budget and ongoing costs. Before you even begin looking at apartments, you will need to work out what your budget is, how much money you can afford to spend on a property. Sounds relatively straightforward? Well, it is not as simple as looking at the purchase price; there are a number of other expenses which go toward the final acquisition costs. Things such as the sales commission, legal fees, and various taxes can all make your final acquisition costs substantially more than the initial purchase price. Take a look at our purchase process guide for more detail.

Market insights

Once you have settled on a budget, make sure to research the market, to see what kind of value you can get for your money. Check recent comparable sales in the area, and look at how prices have changed in recent years. The other financial consideration to keep in mind, is that there will still be ongoing costs once you have bought the apartment. The upkeep and operation of the building is generally handled by the homeowners’ association, and you will have to pay them a regular fee known in Germany as Hausgeld. This will cover things like general maintenance, garbage disposal, and management fees. Make sure you are aware of how much these costs are likely to be.

Mortgage options

In Germany, there are no restrictions on foreigners (non-Germans or non-EU citizens) from owning property or obtaining a mortgage from a German bank. It is really no more difficult to obtain a mortgage in Germany than in any other European country, and it functions in essentially the exact same way as in other countries: you borrow money from a lender and agree monthly repayments at a certain rate. In general there are four main categories of loan types in Germany:

  • Fixed Interest Loans
  • Variable Rate Loans
  • Interest Only Loans
  • Building Society Loan
Find out more about mortgages without equity

Location

It’s a familiar refrain, when discussing property; location, location, location. Residential area can have a huge impact on the value of your property. It can also be broken down into two parts: a macro-level and a micro-level.

On the macro-level, this is really deciding in which neighbourhood you would like to live. If you are already familiar with Berlin, then you probably already have an idea of where you would like to live (and if not, take a look at our pages detailing everything you need to know about Berlin’s top neighbourhoods).

Choose your scene

Each area has its own distinct characteristics, and its important you feel completely at home in your own neighbourhood. Do some research into the demographics of the different areas, find out what kind of people live there, and what the local culture and lifestyles are like. Berlin is blessed with a lot of green spaces, and lots of water, so look for your closest parks. It is also useful to know how far you are likely to have to commute, so make sure your journey to work isn’t too difficult.

Then once you have decided on an area, and are looking at possible options within that, you can examine the location on a micro-level. What are the immediate surroundings like? Are you close to shops, cafés, transport links? Do you have a host of bars and restaurants just outside your front door, or does your building back on to a large park? Do you value living in the countryside, or do you prefer innercity? It is also good to note if there are any other planned developments nearby, as these may affect both your day-to-day life and the local property prices.

Discover Berlin's neighbourhoods

Type of Apartment

Now you’ve settled on your budget, and decided on a location, it is time to think about what kind of apartment you want to look for. Buildings in Germany are loosely grouped into Altbau (pre-1945) and Neubau (post-1945). The Altbau is a historic, stylish apartment building famous for its classical architecture and design – is a defining feature of Berlin’s neighbourhoods. With unique characteristics that constantly draw people to their charm - high ceilings, bay windows, stucco features and hardwood floors. Due to their significance and quality, Altbau buildings enjoy a government protected status in Germany, and are hugely popular.

New-build apartments

Built to the very highest of modern standards,new-build apartments (called neubau in German) have exceptional specifications and energy efficiency, not to mention exciting, contemporary design. Constructed with state-of-the-art materials and highly effective systems, you can enjoy perfect peace of mindwith a new-build apartment. Most new homes come with a 5-year warranty (or longer) providing buyers protection. With a brand-new apartment, you know exactly what you’re getting, particularly if you’re buying off-plan. Most new-build developments have a variety of options for homebuyers, designed to meet the needs of modern living. You may even have a say in the floor plan or the layout and design of the rooms. No unpleasant surprises, no disappointments. Just your new dream home.

Other considerations

There are a number of other, perhaps less obvious things to consider as well, before making that final decision on which apartment to buy. You might want to check the noise levels; if the building is close to bars and clubs, or a hospital, this can make things rather noisy.

If you would like to make any alterations to the property, you first need to check whether it is heritage-protected. If it is (known in Germany as Denkmalschutz) then you will need to get the local council’s permission before making any structural changes to the property.

Vacancy rates are often listed as a potential consideration, as an indicator of an area’s or building’s desirability. However, with Berlin’s 98% city-wide occupancy rate, the chances of finding significant vacancy in any building or neighbourhood are very slim.

If, after all of that, you are ready to look at some potential apartments, then follow the link below.

Read more about the purchase process
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