During the latest quarter, house prices in Vienna rose by 2.3% (1.6% in real terms) in Q4 2013, an improvement from the 0.9% (1% in real terms) q-o-q growth recorded in the previous quarter.
In contrast to Vienna’s skyrocketing house price increases, property prices in the rest of Austria rose by only 1.7% (0.1% in real terms) in 2013, and fell by 1.9% (-2.6% in real terms) during the latest quarter.
The divergence between the capital and the rest of Austria is puzzling. It may be partly because it is difficult to build in the centre of Vienna. It may be because the majority (about 70%) of residential real estate in Vienna is owned by institutional investors, i.e., banks and companies. It may also be because in an era of low interest rates, people are putting money into rental properties, and Vienna offers relatively easy renting (though returns are quite moderate).
There has been strong growth in demand to buy larger units (100 square metres (sq. m.) and up) in the city centre. With the limited supply of large units, prices of such apartments have risen faster than smaller-sized units.
Vienna has one of the highest percentages of renter households in the world, with about 75% of homes rented in 2012. In Austria as a whole, households own 56.4% of primary residences, while 41.2% are rented, according to the 2012 Austrian microcensus. Austria’s home ownership rate is way below the EU-27’s average rate of 70.7% (2011).
The high percentage of rented residential properties is due to the large proportion of subsidized low-rent apartments in the general rental market, according to Martin Schneider of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB). Limited tax incentives for home ownership also contribute to the high proportion of renters.
House prices in Vienna have been rising consistently since Q3 2004. During the housing boom (2003-2013), house prices in the capital soared by 99.6% (61.7% in real terms). On the other hand, property price changes in the rest of Austria have been erratic ever since the index was assembled in 2000. House prices rose by just 37.1% (11.1% in real terms) from 2003 to 2013.
Although the Austrian market remains robust, it is expected that property prices will most likely to stabilize this year, according to Austrian Real Estate Association’s general manager Anton Holzapfel.
Luxury prices in Vienna range from EUR 15,000 to EUR 18,000 per sq. m. The rate can go up to EUR 20,000 per sq. m. for prestigious properties in Vienna’s Innere Stadt (Old Town), according to the latest Knight Frank report.
Analysis of Austria Residential Property Market »
Innere Stadt is Vienna’s least populated district, with roughly 17,000 inhabitants. But with a workforce of around 100,000, it is Vienna’s largest employment locale.
Apartments in Innere Stadt change hands at around EUR 8,000 to EUR 13,600 per sq. m., whereas in the other areas, apartments cost around only EUR 4,000 to EUR 5,500 per sq. m.
Innere Stadt apartments fetch for higher rents, ranging from EUR 18 to EUR 20 per sq. m. per month. In the other upscale districts of Vienna, rents range from EUR 14 to EUR 15 per sq. m. per month. Vienna’s Innere Stadt therefore has the poorest rental yield, at around only 2.20%. In Vienna’s other luxurious areas, rental yields range from 3.09% to 4.54%, with smaller apartments earning the highest rental returns, and bigger apartments earning the lowest rental returns.
Salzburg apartments cost around EUR 3,600 to EUR 5,000 per sq. m. Rents on Salzburg apartments are close to Viennese levels, at around from EUR 15 per sq. m. per month. Smaller apartments return higher yields than smaller apartments in Salzburg, where a 40 sq. m. apartment returns 5.14% rental yield, while a 225 sq. m. apartment returns only 3.59% rental yield.
Apartments are most affordable in Graz, where apartments cost, on average, EUR 2,400 to EUR 3,200 per sq. m. In Graz, rents range from EUR 10 to EUR 12.50 per sq. m. per month.
Gross rental yields are the highest in Graz, ranging from 5.16% to 5.52%. Mid-sized apartments of 75 sq. m. now return higher rental yields than bigger apartments.
Nonresidents suffer special penalties, the tax base of each nonresident individual being notionally increased by €8,000 – see Baker & Tilly’s worked example, footnote 7.
Capital Gains: There is no liability to capital gains tax if the property is sold after 10 years. Otherwise, capital gains are taxed at progressive income tax rates.
Inheritance: Inheritance tax is abolished effective 01 August 2008 and will be replaced by an ‘information duty’ to authority or ‘gift reporting tax’.
Residents: For Austrian residents, worldwide income is subject to Austrian taxation.
Rent Appeals: Tenants can appeal to a rent tribunal even after they have left the apartment, and reclaim rent ‘overpaid’. However with new rentals, the difference between what the rent tribunal would assess and free market prices is very small.
Tenancy Laws: The two sources of tenancy laws are the “ABGB” (General Civil Code) and the “MRG” (MietrechtsG, TenStatute), of 1982, as frequently amended. It is sometimes difficult to know whether both laws simultaneously apply (flats are covered by the much more restrictive MRG).
“The frequent amendments and its complex regulations…make the MRG and the regulations connected to it rather a “dark” discipline which is normally only overseen by lawyers specialized in the field of tenancy law,” notes the EIU Tenancy Law Project Austria survey.
The economy is predicted to expand by 1.6% in 2014 and by 1.9% in 2015, due to the recovery of the global economy and the expansion of domestic demand, according to the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB). OeNB predicts exports will grow significantly in the next two years, providing important support to Austria’s economy.
The Austrian economy is mainly driven by exports, mostly to its biggest trading partner, Germany. More than 75% of Austria’s exports go to Europe, 30% to Germany. Austria experienced relatively strong economic growth from 2004 to 2007 with an average annual GDP growth of 3.1%. After contracting by 3.8% in 2009, the economy emerged from recession with growth rates of 2.31% in 2010 and 2.7% in 2011.
Austria’s budget deficit was projected to be at around 2.3% in 2013, but final results are expected to be better due to a one-off income from a mobile frequency auction and higher tax revenues. New finance minister Michael Spindelegger has said that the government is targeting a structural budget deficit of 1.5% of GDP in 2014. Sovereign debt was around EUR 239.9 billion or about 77.1% of GDP in Q3 2013, according to Statistics Austria, well above the 60% target.
Austria had the EU's lowest unemployment rate in January 2014, at 4.9% (Eurostat definition), a decline from 5% recorded in December 2013.
Inflation was 1.5% in January 2014, after 2% average inflation in 2013, and 2.4% in 2012. OeNB’s Governor, Ewald Nowotny, predicts inflation to decline to 1.4% in 2014, before rising slightly to 1.6% in 2015.
Austria was annexed by Germany during the Second World War amongst popular enthusiasm. After World War 11, the Allies occupied Austria until 1955. The country then became a fully independent republic, under the condition that it would remain neutral. Austria joined the European Union (EU) in 1955 and the Euro Monetary System in 1999, and is a founder-member of the OECD. It signed the Schengen Agreement in 1995 and adopted the Euro in 1999.
Austria’s capital, Vienna, is home to key international organizations. These include the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).