Investing in German Property
The Essentials you need to know
Simply put: Property can be one of the best investments you can make and at a time of ultra-low mortgage rates and stock market uncertainty this has never been more so. If you are considering investing in German property this guide can help with essential first steps.
Know why you want to buy
To make money! Right? Well maybe - but for most people buying property is for a long-term hold. Chances are that you will rent out the property before selling for profit. So knowing what kind of landlord you want to be is a good first step. If, for instance, you want to rent out short-term furnished property to corporate clients then buying in Schwerin or Dessau may not be your best choice. Frankfurt, Munich or Düsseldorf would be better for this type of market.
Knowing what you want as a landlord will help you target tenants and choose the right areas to maximize your potential gains.
Research your Market
Before you even start looking for property, research your desired areas first. It stands to reason that an expanding population and infrastructure build-up will be good for most property investors.
Consider if the local transport links, shops, schools and cultural amenities are what your type of renter is looking for and can the area continue to attract more people to live there.
It is always worth checking with local estate/rental agents as well as online web portals such as Immobilienscout24.de or immowelt.de etc., to help gauge if an area is right for you. Local banks and builders can also be a good source of information.
Location, Location, Location
Success in property investing is very dependent on where you buy. Not only is it about the right country, city, resort area or the right community, it even comes down to buying in the right street. For example if you wanted to buy a short-term furnished rental in Munich you would want to make sure you are no further than a two block walk from an underground station. If you want to buy in one of the best areas Munich it gets reduced to just a handful of streets.
Success in property investing is not a matter of luck but about careful research. Buying the best location for your investing needs will pay dividends.
Check your Finances
Closing costs can be high on German property:
- Notary fees (Notar) = 2%
- Property Purchase Tax (Grunderwerbsteuer) = 3.5-6.5% dependent on area
- Estate Agent fees (Makler) = 3 to 6% plus VAT dependent on area and are, in general, paid by the purchaser
Most German lenders like to see that you can cover these costs yourself. However 100%plus mortgages are available for domestic purchasers but having these upfront costs tucked away can significantly reduce interest on your mortgage.
If you are buying for a rent yield, check out the local property prices against typical rents to help calculate your profit. Always make sure you can carry all the cost should you find the property is empty at any time.
If you are buying an older property consider maintenance and renovation costs such as windows, electric wiring, plumbing etc. that may come up soon. Should you buy a property that is dependent on communal reserves to finance maintenance costs it is very important to check out what savings (Ruecklagen) are shown in the balance sheet (Jahresabrechnung) against upcoming or projected costs.
Get the best Mortgage Deal
It is wise to check out financing options as broadly as possible. Never just settle for what your own bank may offer.
Think about how long you need your financing to run and discuss this with an independent mortgage advisor.
100%plus mortgages are available to German based investors and up to 80% to non-domestic. In most cases there should be no set up or handling fees.
Remember it costs nothing to check out the market and with rates so low it is well worth doing the research.
When Opportunity knocks - open the Door
With interest rates very close to negative for depositors in Germany you will not be the only investor looking for the perfect property.
In cities like Munich, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf etc. demand for good central property is so strong that sellers often ask for sealed bids.
Do your research first - including speaking with an independent mortgage advisor and local estate/rental agents. If it makes sense, then try to secure the property with a reservation agreement and deposit.
Any property investor, no matter where in the world, should always seek appropriate qualified tax advice before buying.
Germany offers interesting tax incentives for investors buying residential property to let.
Most input costs can be written down in either the year created or over a number of years against rental income. This can include the interest on a loan attached to the property as well as notary, estate agent or management-fees.
There is also a large incentive in the form of a depreciation write down of 2% pa over 50 years on the purchase price of the physical property (not land) for properties built after 31st December 1924. Buildings built before this date are depreciated at 2.5% pa over 40 years.
Any profit from the sale of a residential investment unit is tax-free provided the property has been held for at least ten years.*
*Please Note: FIRST Financial Direct Group OHG are not tax advisors and the above passage should not be taken as construing any form of tax advice. All Investors should seek qualified and appropriate tax advice before investing.
Consider the Negatives
Buying property may not be for everyone. Consider if you can tie up your money long term and what can happen if prices fall or renters are hard to find. You could find yourself having to sue for eviction.
Is your German language up to dealing with German bureaucracy?
Many, but not all, problems can be handled in advance by careful planning. Always do your homework first. Speak with professionals in the market and remember that using a reputable and recommended property agent can really help.
How “hands on” will you be?
Some property investors handle the day to day running of their units themselves but many defer this to an agent.
Should you handle matters yourself remember to increase the rent every time you legally can. You can seriously limit the upside resale price of your property by not doing so, especially if you have a renter who does not wish to move at the time of sale.
If, like many people, you use a property agent make sure that you shop around. What services will you get for what fee? Make sure you get real referrals and that you can get out of a contract easily. Remember that having a good property agent can be a big plus.
German Property Market Perspective
After decades of dormancy, property prices of key locations in Germany are now on the rise. This is in large part due to very low mortgage rates and an overall disappointment with deposit rates. Germany is attracting a large amount of foreign and domestic investors looking for good quality, high yielding property.
How long Germany will remain in this mode is hard to predict. Many cities are experiencing a sharp increase in population but lack the space for expansion of residential property. This is leading to a rise of rental and property prices. Always good for those willing to buy and hold in key locations!
© FIRST Financial Direct Group OHG, Neu-Isenburg, 2014
Article contributed by FIRST Financial Direct Group OHG
FIRST Financial Direct Group OHG is an independent mortgage broker & property manager. We specialize in helping English speaking clients set up their mortgage in Germany with access to over 300 German and international lenders.
WELCOME TO THE NEW JERUSALEM
Opinion from Martin Brown on the BREXIT
"And did his feet in ancient times, walk upon England mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God on England pleasant pastures seen!
And did the countenance Divine, shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here among these dark satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold; Bring me my arrows of desire: Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
I will not cease from mental fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem, in England green and pleasant land."
When I first arrived to the streets of Frankfurt in 1990 I was immediately impressed by the hair jelled, Armani-suited, well-heeled throng that seemed to permanently occupy the town centre. Shining new towers of banking power where going up everywhere and money flowed. And for a time the talk in the trendy bars and restaurants was about Frankfurt superseding London as the European financial capital. And for a heartbeat it seemed that the New Jerusalem would be "builded here".
The reasons are numerous, very numerous, as to why Frankfurt could or would not take the shining crown. London won out and over the years grew into the financial whale it is today. But doesn’t history show us that the tides of fate have a strange way to rob and belittle the highest and the mightiest.
The British people have spoken and what they have said will resound throughout history. A 43 year old rocky marriage is over and for better or worse the British people will get on with building their future as they always have.
As with most divorces there are winners and losers and I am sure that as negotiations unfold in the coming months and years we will see that the Germans and French will be rubbing their hands with some glee as they pilfer the treasure chest of the London financial markets.
London can now no longer be considered the European financial capital. This may need to sink in but once it does assets and jobs will be on the move. Europe will need to be clear on where the New Jerusalem will be. The fact is, it may be in several locations. One thing is for sure: Frankfurt is very well placed to once again reach for the shining crown.
Should this even to a smaller degree come to pass - and if our email-inbox is any indication we believe it will - what will this do for property prices and rent rates in what is already a very tight housing market? Will the Nordend and Westend become the Chelsea and Knightsbridge of Frankfurt? It remains to be seen, but with ultra-low interest rates on offer for the foreseeable future and so few options to make capital gain and income elsewhere it seems crystal clear that owning property in Frankfurt and selected areas has, is and will pay handsomely.
Alas I don’t fit in an Armani suit anymore and I have little hair to jell but I do look forward to welcoming the throng back to the New Jerusalem.
Martin Brown | Senior Partner
Licensed Insurance & Mortgage Advisor (IHK)
FIRST Financial Direct Group OHG
An der Aue 19
63263 Neu-Isenburg – Germany
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