Buying a property is one of the most important decisions in our life, however, when buying real estate abroad or as a foreign citizen, it might become very complicated. How can you buy a house or apartment in Germany and how to finance it as a foreigner – these are two main questions we are answering in this post.
Foreigners are allowed to buy real estate in Germany. Both a private person of foreign origin and a legal entity can purchase a property in Germany. Moreover, there are no legal restrictions regarding this process. You can buy a house/apartment the same way as a German national would do.
Although, some countries (also in Europe) have certain regulations, when and under which circumstances foreigners are allowed to buy a property. Germany on another hand one of the easiest places to invest in real estate. You will learn about all regulations and the entire buying process in this post.
How To Buy a Property as a Foreigner in Germany?
Did you know then even Germans aren’t allowed to buy property in some foreign countries? What about other nationalities and does it depend on where you come from at all?
Everything is highly regulated in Germany as so the sale of property and especially to foreign citizens. The homeownership ratio in Germany is only around 50%, if you want to be a part of those lucky ones, there aren’t many obstacles on your way.
Germany allows foreigners to purchase a property without any restrictions, neither citizenship nor origin plays a role, they just need to follow the same steps German citizens go through. Moreover, as a foreigner, you can buy a self-occupied house, or a house for investment purposes.
In fact, the rules regarding the sale of real estate are much simpler and easier than in many other countries. Therefore, if you want to purchase a property as a foreigner, you can do so without any restriction.
Furthermore, the residence status of the person who buys a property in Germany is unimportant too. With that said you don’t even have to reside in the country and are able just to travel there to buy your dream house.
The problem can only arise when it comes to financing, which depends on how are you planning to do it.
Keep in mind, that acquisition of real estate does not lead to a residence permit or visa, like in some countries like Cyprus, Portugal, or even Serbia.
The Process of Purchasing a House or Apartment in Germany
Generally speaking, Germany is a great place to invest in real estate, with increasing prices (and so appreciation) and very low-interest rates thanks to a good economical situation. Moreover, the country has a very stable property market.
Long-term mortgage rates are at an all-time low, between 0.6 and 2.5% and house prices are far more moderate than other places in Europe. It’s possible to get a mortgage from the bank for as low as a 1 – 2% interest rate.
Now you are certain about investing in real estate, let’s see, which process is awaiting for you when buying a property in Germany. We surely start with the search.
1. Search for the Right Property
How and where to look for a property in Germany? Which region, city, village is the best? All these questions probably comes into your mind at some point.
When it comes to houses for sale in Germany location is the most important factor which influences the price but also the liquidity and perspective of your investment in real estate. Only a small amount of people want to buy a house middle of nowhere.
Since real estate in Germany is a long-term investment, the good infrastructure around is very important. It is recommended to hire an estate agent to help with the search.
If you don’t want to pay fees and have already an approximate location in mind you can start with a search on free platforms such as:
Amoung them the most popular site is Immobilienscout24.de. Once you have found good options start with talking to owners and making appointments to see the place.
People in Germany don’t put the “For Sale” sign in front of their house, so the only option is to look online or to refer to one of many real estate companies.
Additionally, you could look at local newspapers, but this is the rather outdated way and works only locally. When searching for your property, be careful with cheap prices. These may be older properties that require more investment in the renovation.
Properties in Germany either sold privately (by the landlord) or through an estate agent. If you see “von privat” in the advertisement, it means that no estate agent is involved. Expect to pay a commission to the agent when choosing a non-private listing.
2. Meeting Landlord and Visiting the Property
Once you have selected objects you like schedule a meeting to see the house. In the case of the private listing, the owner personally will show you the property. It’s not the case when working with the real estate agent and the agent will do it instead. Therefore, you won’t get a chance to meet a landlord, only after you have made a decision.
3. The Purchase Process
Agree for the price and terms
Firstly you need to agree on the price and terms which will satisfy both, you and the owner. Afterward, the notary can draw up a sale contract accordingly.
Get your finances in order
The main question which comes up when buying a property is how you will finance it. Do you have enough money to make the first payment for a loan or maybe you even have a whole amount to purchase the property?
The most common way is to take a mortgage. As a foreigner it might be not that easy, read below for more information on that and the entire process of lending the money in Germany.
Send money from abroad
One of the ways to finance your future purchase is to send money from abroad to Germany. But think carefully about how will you send money, in cash, in banking transfer, or by using remittance services?
I would definitely recommend using CurrencyFair to send your money from the foreign banking account to a German one. At the moment, they offer the first 3 transfers for free, so use this opportunity to get money in/out of the country at zero cost.
By using CurrencyFair, you will save a tremendous amount of money on banking fees and a bad exchange rate. CurrencyFair will send money from your foreign banking account in minutes or maximum in a couple of days depending on the country, they do it without the involvement of the bank, therefore, you pay only a small fee.
The fee charged by the CurrencyFair is only 3 EUR! Forget about PayPal or Western Union, CurrencyFair is a way to go.
Sign the contract
Once you are sure about your finances you can sign the contract and make the payment. The contract needs to be signed with the notary. Once the contract is signed, the notary will register the sale in the land register.
Pay taxes and fees
Now the property is officially transferred to your ownership. You will need to pay the property sales tax four weeks later.
Compare providers and rates for various sim cards, insurances, credits & loans, tariffs for internet, electricity, much more to find a perfect deal for your situation. You can do it all on the platform Verivox.de which will also allow you to buy from a selected provider.
Buying a Property in Germany as a Non-EU Citizen
If you aren’t from an EU country and you currently aren’t residing in Germany, you still can buy real estate in the country. However, you can’t live there, since you don’t have a residence permit.
Buying a Property in Germany as EU Citizen
As a European citizen, the process of buying a real state in Germany looks the same as for non-EU candidates, the only difference is the possibility to reside in the country and his/her newly purchased place as well as ease of getting a mortgage.
Buying Property in Germany To Rent It Out
Airbnb became a popular way of making good money out of your property or even just renting it out for the long term can be very profitable! Can you do it as a foreigner living or even not residing in Germany?
Luckily there is no restriction on renting a house as a foreign national what’s whatever, also it doesn’t play a role if they live in Germany or elsewhere.
Consequently, one can buy a property as a foreigner and with the goal to rent it out and make money. However, pay attention to the taxation, since now you will receive more personal income and, therefore, some of this percentage might be taxable. To submit taxes you can use this convenient online tool for the tax declaration.
To make sure everything is correct and legal, consult a tax adviser by using this free platform. It offers different specialists in terms of the law in Germany which will provide you all the needed information.
Be aware that rental agreements in Germany are pro-tenant, meaning that landlords have strict obligations towards their renters and law overall more on the renter (tenant) side.
Knowledge of German When Buying a Haus in Germany
Buying a property is an important decision that involves several people (buyer, owner, notary, and eventually interpreter). For this reason either you should speak German or people you are dealing with must know English on a good level.
Despite that, the contract for the property is conducted in German by a German lawyer in any case. A notary must be satisfied with your knowledge of German, so you can understand the essential contents of the purchase contract before the signing.
If the notary sees that you don’t know the language on this level, he will demand an official interpreter at your side during the meeting.
How To Define Your Budget and Financing
This question is surely depends on you, how much money do you have available, what is maximum mortgage you can afford and able to get, and so on.
Also, your budget will determine where you will able to purchase a property, for example, in Munich prices are very high so not many people can buy a place there.
Mortgages in Germany
The banking system is great in Germany and even foreigners are able to get a mortgage if they fulfill all criteria. Overall, getting a loan in Germany isn’t harder than in other countries.
Although, banks in Germany carefully screen potential lenders, for instance by conducting background checks. Yes, they tend to be quite conservative. Banks will assess the value of the property, but they will also assess you as a borrower. Nonetheless, as long as you fulfill the basic requirements and provide all documents present, you will be fine.
In Germany, it is recommended to pay at least 20% of your house price as a down payment. Under certain circumstances, it is also possible to pay less than that or even get a 100% loan.
Monthly payments shouldn’t exceed 35% of your income. You may have to pay more if the bank considers that you have a higher risk, e.g. if you are a foreigner or expat.
Main requirements for getting a mortgage in Germany include:
- You have a valid residence permit with permission to work
- You are currently working in Germany or have a business in Germany
- You earn in EUR
- You have ability to pay a deposit between 20-30% of the property’s value
- You are able to pay related to the purcase costs (up to 15% of the purchase price)
For EU citizens:
If you are an EU national, you can generally expect the same borrowing limits as German citizens (for example up to 100% of the property value). However, some banks might require a larger upfront deposit.
For non-EU citizens:
All general requirements apply for non-EU nationals with some ads to them. Generally speaking, you are also eligible for all types of mortgages in Germany, if meeting the following criteria:
- You have been employed by a German company for at least 3 months
- You have finished your probation period
- You earn at least 1,500 – 2,500 EUR per month
Despite having it all, you will be always at a higher risk for the bank compared to German and EU nationals. Consequently, not many banks will be willing to lend to you money or a large sum.
Those who will consider you as a debtor will require a larger upfront deposit. Luckily, you can improve your chances of getting approved for a mortgage in Germany by getting a permanent residence permit.
Read more about benefits of PR in Germany here.
For self-employed individuals:
If you are self-employed, for example, a freelancer, you may find it more difficult to get approval for a mortgage, as banks generally consider entrepreneurs and self-employed people to be a high-risk investment.
You must prove that you can consistently make repayments. The longer you have been self-employed/entrepreneur, the easier you will get approval from the financial institution in Germany.
The main documents you need to have in order to get a mortgage in Germany:
- A personal ID, such as a passport, card
- Copy of residence permit (for non-EU)
- Adress registration certificate
- Proof of German pension scheme, such as a social security ID
- Proof of available equity (confirmation from the bank)
- Documents about the property (land registry extract, property assessment (if applicable), floor plan and declaration of division – get these from the owner or real estate agent)
Additional documents for employees:
- Payslip (Lohnabrechnung) from the last 3 months
- Salary statement (Lohnsteuerbescheinigung) from last year (get this from the employer)
Additional documents for freelancers & self-employed
- Two most recent tax returns
- Two most recent tax assessments (Steuerbescheid) from the German tax office
- Profit and loss account for the previous year, verified by your accountant
After you have provided all the paper, the bank will make a decision whatever give you a loan or not. If several banks refuse you it might make sense to try loan money in your home country.
Interest rate in Germany
The interest rate of your mortgage will depend on the amount of your down payment and also the duration of your mortgage. In general, the interest rate at the moment is very low (between 1-2%).
The duration of your mortgage depends on the amount of your loan and your annual repayment. A mortgage period in Germany usually lasts for 25 or 30 years.
In many cases, the interest rate is fixed for the first 10 years. Afterward, you have to make a new loan contract based on the conditions and situation at the moment.
Costs of Purchasing a Property in Germany
How much will it cost you to buy a home in Germany? This cost includes not only the purchase price but also other related expenses you need to consider.
The cost of buying a house in Germany varies greatly depending on the region and city. House prices have increased rapidly in the past 10 years, especially in big cities.
At the moment Munich remains to be the most expensive place and probably will be in the future. In addition to the house prices, rents also keep increasing year by year.
Costs of buying a property in Germany include:
- 20% deposit
- estate agents’ fees 3-7% plus 19% VAT
- notary 2%
- property transfer tax 3,5 and 6,5%
- translation costs
If you decide to sell your house before you’ve owned it for 10 years, you are susceptible to capital gains tax of 25%. All mentioned above costs don’t depend on your nationality either, German will pay the same price.
I would highly recommend you to get professional advice when it comes to renting a property and also selling it. Also, it will help you to understand everything you need regarding the loan or the mortgage. You can use a platform like Yourxpert.de to get a free online assessment from a tax adviser and book one eventually.
Notary and Registration fees
Once you find your dream property and agree with the seller, you will need to sign a contract. There is no way to purchase a house or apartment without the involvement of the layer (notary), therefore his/her fee will be your other expense.
The notary is responsible for preparing the contract, checking the land register to make sure the property you have chosen can be sold, and if there is any restriction on its use. For example, there should not be any property taxes owed by the seller.
It will cost around 2-3% of the property purchase price to pay for the notary and registration fee. Firstly, you can pay the notary fee and later the price of the house, so you don’t purchase something that can’t be even sold.
Once everything is checked, the notary will enter the property in the land register. The change of ownership can only happen after this entry has been made. Also, make sure that you have a mortgage fixed prior to signing the contract at the notary.
The notary also has to make sure that you understand the German purchase contract before signing it. Therefore, if your German is not sufficient, you need to bring an interpreter to a meeting. In that case, you will need to take into account the interpreter’s fee as well.
Use Yourxpert to get a free assessment from a tax adviser. It is important to understand all the tax aspects when investing in property in Germany.
Real Estate Agent’s Fee
We all can agree that it’s difficult to find the right property for purchase, the process takes time and energy. If you don’t have both, you might want to request help from a professional real estate agent, which is quite common in Germany.
The agent fee for arranging a house for you are usually 6% of the property price plus taxes (a total of 7.14%). Although, this cost can range from 1,5% to 7%, depending on how the commission is split between the buyer and the seller. Aditionally you will pay 19% VAT.
Once you agree on the property to buy, your agent will arrange a notary contract between you and the seller. You will have to pay the agent’s fee after the contract has been completed.
If your German language skills lack to complete the procedure, you will be required to hire a translator for the contract and the entries in the register, only in this way the contract can be recognized.
In Germany nothing happens without the tax, the government-regulated property tax ranges between 3.5% up to 6,5% of the purchase price and must be paid by the buyer after the signing of the contract. The amount varies depending on the state.
If a property costs less than 2,500 EUR (which is never happens in Germany) you will be exempt from this expense.
If in addition to the real estate you are buying land, the costs for the land registry will be added to this tax. They vary depending on the value of the property.
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