How to Buy Property in Germany as a Foreigner

Who can buy property in Germany?

There are no restrictions on foreign nationals buying property in Germany. Financing is possible for foreigners, especially for EU nationals who can expect similar treatment to German citizens. For Non-EU nationals, expect a higher downpayment and/or interest rate due to the higher risk involved. 

There is no citizenship by investment program in Germany, thus residence is something you have to take care of by other means (e.g employment).

Property research

Research the German real estate market to understand property prices and trends in the area you´re interested in. This will help you find the best possible property according to your lifestyle, budget and investment goals. Keep in mind that English is not widely spoken in some regions of the country so be ready to source the help of an English speaking lawyer or real estate agent. 

Some of the more popular regions include:

  • Berlin - The capital of Germany, is a dynamic and culturally vibrant metropolis known for its rich history and creative energy that brings together people with all types of backgrounds. Berlin´s neighborhoods each possess a unique character, offering something for everyone. Museumsinsel houses an impressive collection of art, while the trendy neighborhoods of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain are hubs of creativity and nightlife. 
  • Munich - Located in southern Germany, it is renowned for its impressive architecture and rich Bavarian heritage. The world-famous Oktoberfest happens here every year where thousands of locals and tourists get together to celebrate beer, music and food. 
  • Frankfurt - As one of the major financial hubs of Europe, Frankfurt is characterized by its sleek skyscrapers and modern skyline. The city is home to the European Central Bank and has a thriving business district. Frankfurt also has excellent worldwide connections through it´s airport which is the largest in Germany by passenger volume.
  • Cologne - The city boasts a mix of historic and modern elements, with picturesque old town streets, charming squares and vibrant markets. Cologne is a very open-hearted city and hosts one of the largest pride festivals in Europe.

To find properties, you can search online:

Financing

If you plan to use financing of any sorts, it´s best to approach multiple banks in Germany to understand what are the conditions they are willing to finance your purchase. The banking system in Germany is well developed and non-residents can secure funding, but EU nationals are usually offered better rates than non-EU nationals due to risk. Atleast a 20% downpayment is needed in most cases (with non-EU nationals having to pay even more) - keep that in mind when budgeting for your property. 

Make an offer

Ofcourse, it´s always best to visit the properties you are considering to purchase to get the best overview about their condition, location and neighbourhood. Once you have chosen the property you wish to purchase, the next step is to make an offer to the seller (either through a real estate agent or directly). If the initial offer is accepted, we strongly suggest to hire a surveyor to carry out a thorough inspection of the property to avoid any expensive repairs later. The seller is required to disclose any hidden defects, but is not obliged to point out any defects that should have been obvious to the buyer.

Contract

When the seller accepts your offer, find a notary to draw up the contract. It would be a good idea to hire the services of an English-speaking notary. A contract must show:

  • Correct names and addresses of the parties and details of the property. An error, especially in the property details, could at least partially invalidate the contract.
  • The agreed upon purchase price and terms and conditions of payment.
  • Stipulations as to what happens in the event either party fails to live up to the terms of the contract.

The parties can freely decide on payment terms.  The notary is responsible for the legal work and contract obligations and checks that no liabilities exist.

At the actual signing, the notary reads the contract aloud for both parties. You can at anytime interrupt the proceedings if a clause is not completely understood. It is customary to pay the purchase price into an account maintained by the notary. The money is transferred to the seller only when the land registry entry is complete. The real estate agent´s or broker´s commission is also paid at this stage, and so are the notary and registration fees. The purchase tax or stamp duty needs to be paid within four weeks after the contract was signed.

The entire purchase process usually takes 3 months or more from start to finish, depending on your personal situation.

Transaction Costs and Fees in Germany when Buying Real Estate

Cost Component Percentage of Property Value Who Pays?
Property Transfer Tax 3.50-6.50% Buyer
Agent Fee (Buyer) 1.5-3% (+19% VAT) Buyer
Agent Fee (Seller) 1.5-3% (+19% VAT) Seller
Legal Fees 1.00% Buyer
Notary Fees 1.50-2.00% Buyer
Roundtrip Transaction Cost 9.00% - 15.50% Buyer & Seller
Source: Global Property Guide, PWC

Footnotes to Transaction Costs Table

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.

Real Estate Transfer Tax (Grunderwerbsteuer)

Real estate transfer tax is levied at a basic rate of 3.5%, and the rate can be higher depending on the federal state where the property is located.

Real estate transfer tax is levied at 3.5% in the federal states of Bavaria and Saxony; at 4.5% in Hamburg; at 5% in Baden-Wurttemberg, Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Pfalz, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia;5.5% in Saarland; at 6% in Berlin; and at 6.5% in Schleswig-Holstein.

Real estate transfer tax is due about four weeks after the notary deed has been signed by buyer and seller.Notary Fees:
Notary fees are fixed by law and depend on the kind of agreement and the value of the property. Notary fees usually range from 1.50% to 2.00% of the purchase price. German law requires that sale and purchase agreements be notarized.

Registration Fees:
The buyer must pay registration fee to have his name entered in the local land registry (Grundbuch) as the legal owner. Registration fee is fixed by law, depending on the value of the property.

Broker´s Fee:
Agent´s fee in Germany varies in each federal country and ranges from 3% to 6% plus 19% VAT. The actual value is negotiable and depending on the agreement negotiated between parties, borker´s fee will be paid either by the buyer or the seller, or split between the two.

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