If you are considering buying real estate in Germany, you should be aware of their system being very efficient and careful with all measures. Most house offers are found in newspapers. You’ll rarely find a “for sale” sign in front of a house. Also keep in mind that when Germans buy a house, it is usually for life, which is different than customs in many other countries. If a paper claims the house is “von privat” that means they do not have a real estate agent involved. It takes a while to hunt down a house, since the newspaper ads often won’t list an address. Germany is fairly developed in most of its land, and living spaces are smaller and more expensive than in many other countries.
Attorneys and Real Estate Agents
Be careful with real estate agents. Try to avoid signing an “exclusivity contract,” which binds you to any one real estate agent in Germany. You may want to research offers through a few agents. There are no laws that regulate commissions to real estate agents, with the exception of rental contracts. This can be negotiated, and is generally 5-7% of the purchase price. You should ask the seller of the home whether they have a contract with the agent. Usually, you will only have to meet with an agent once or twice, and can ask most questions to the seller.
Many Germans speak English very fluently. If the people you are dealing with don’t speak English well (or if you don’t speak German), you should hire a German interpreter. You should hire a surveyor to inspect the property and tell you of any hidden problems, and probably an estimator to tell you a proper price for the property.
You do not need an attorney in this process; that is your choice. However, the notary is a very important person in the process of buying real estate in Germany. You can choose your own notary, so you have the option of finding one who is fluent in English. The notary is the one who checks the land register to find out any complications with the property. The notary is also the one who transfers the title of the property and enters this information into the German land registry (see below).
Rules, Regulations and Restrictions
You do not need to be a German citizen to buy real estate in Germany. Anyone with a valid passport and sufficient funding is qualified. Just know that having property in Germany doesn’t entitle you to immigrate there. Immigration laws are pretty strict in this country.
Be aware that when you settle on a property, there will probably be additional fees you’ll have to pay in the process. These include a property transfer tax, a notary fee and some administrative fees.
You and the seller are free to decide how you will pay for your new property. Usually, you’ll have to obtain financing. You can contact some German bank specialists and tax consultants for advice on this. You’ll have to secure your financing before you sign the contract or move into your new property.
When you and the seller of the property have agreed on a price, you must both go to the office of the notary and sign the contract. Before you sign this contract, you should have reviewed it very carefully. At the office, the notary will read out the entire contract in German, so this is a good time to have an interpreter in case there’s something you don’t understand.
This contract will include information on the names and addresses of all parties involved, the agreed price of purchase and method of financing it, and conditions if either party backs out of the contract.
After the contract has been signed, the notary will then take the contract to the office of land registry and have everything made official. Usually, the purchase price of the property is then paid into a Notaranderkonto, an account maintained by the notary.