Investing in overseas property - either to live in, as a holiday home, or to generate rental income - is a smart choice for many. But buying a place abroad can come with its own issues. How do you know what’s a fair price for the properties you love? How will you navigate an unfamiliar legal system? And how do you find an estate agent to help you?
The answer for many people is to find a good estate agent who can help with everything on the journey - from your initial search, to getting the keys to your new house. This helpful guide will cover how to choose an estate agent in Germany, including:
- Where to find the best estate agents for your property search
- How to deal with estate agents when buying a home in Germany
- Common property purchase costs you’ll need to consider
Getting the right agent on side will save you money with your overseas purchase. Another smart way to make sure you don’t pay more than you have to, is to cut down the costs of international payments by using a specialist provider like TransferWise. Use TransferWise to pay your agent costs, notary fees and deposit, for low cost international transfers which use the mid-market exchange rate, with no hidden charges to worry about.
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Now, back to what you came here to read.
You’ll find plenty of estate agents, covering all areas of Germany, online. You can search for an agent using Google, the search function of a real estate umbrella website, or through the IVD - the professional body for estate agents, brokers and consultants in Germany.¹
These search options let you find agents in the area you’re looking to move to - so you’ll be sure to find a real estate agent who knows the local area, and has a broad network of professionals on hand to help.
Estate agents used to dealing with foreigners might offer a service in English, and host an english language website. However, most German real estate websites are offered in German only. If your language isn’t up to scratch yet, you may find that having a friend to translate allows you to check out a wider range of properties, and connect with more agents.
An umbrella website is a great place to start when looking for German real estate. You’ll be able to browse the sort of properties available in your chosen location, and look at the price ranges and active estate agents. If you can speak German, you might try Immobilienscout24² or Immowelt³ for a helpful range of search options and a good selection of properties. You can then search for the property of your dreams, or pick out one or two estate agents to work with during your househunt.
Here are a few other options you might consider:
- Century 21 Global⁴ - the name might be familiar, as it’s a brand operating in many locations around the world. In Germany, you’ll find over 100 agents in the network, and can also search the database for English speaking agencies with experience in dealing with expat buyers
- Engel & Völkers⁵ - one of the largest real estate agents in Germany, with 270 offices and a long company history. Use the search tools on the website - which are available in English - to find a place that suits you
- Ivd24Immobilieren⁶ - The IVD is the association of real estate brokers and consultants in Germany. As well as helping connect buyers with their members, there’s a website including property listings which you can browse. The site is mainly in German, so you may need a friend to help translate the details
The perfect estate agent for one person might not be the right choice for another. It all depends on what you need from an agent, and your personal preferences.
It’s worth dedicating some time to thinking about what’s important to you, to help choose the best estate agent for you. Consider whether you need an English speaking agent, for example, or if you can have a friend or professional translator come along during your search.
You’ll also often have a choice between local estate agents, who might not have a great online presence, but will have a deep knowledge of the area - and agents with national reach. If you’re conducting your search from the UK then you’ll probably need an agent with a great website to make sure you can review properties online - but if you’re already in Germany, a local agent might work well for you instead.
Once you have built a short list of agents which might be a good fit for your needs, it’s time to find some estate agent reviews to make sure you believe the service provided will suit you. If you have friends in the area you’re planning on moving to already, ask around to find people with recent experience of the estate agents you’re considering. You can also ask in expat groups which are commonly hosted on Facebook, to see if anyone has feedback to share. By taking a few simple precautions like this, you’ll be able to find a real estate agent who can give you exactly what you need.
When you’re buying a home - either at home or abroad - there are a range of extra costs you’ll need to consider. Here are a few of the common fees involved in buying a place in Germany, so you can get a picture of the full cost of the purchase.
|Fee type||Typical amount paid|
|Estate agent’s fee||1% - 3% of the purchase price + VAT VAT in Germany is currently around 19% Both the buyer and seller may need to pay a fee, depending on the circumstances.|
|Notary fees||1.2% - 1.5% of the purchase price Notary fees are set by law based on the value of the property|
|Real estate transfer tax||3.5% - 6.5% of the purchase price The tax depends on the federal state you’re buying in - it’s 3.5% in Bavaria, but 6% in Berlin for example|
|Registration fee||0.8% - 1.2% of the purchase price This is the fee to have your ownership of the property entered into the land register⁷|
Some of the costs involved in buying a property in Germany are set by law, and therefore not negotiable. This includes the notary fees for example, as well as registration fee and property tax. However, the estate agent fee can be negotiated, and will sometimes be split between the buyer and seller. For this reason, it’s worth discussing the fees and services you’ll get from a specific agent, to make sure you’re getting a good deal - and to avoid paying for services you don’t really need.
It’s also helpful to know that as part of the property purchase process, the notary will need to read the contract aloud to both the buyer and seller to confirm it is correct. This will be done in German, so it is well worth checking the paperwork in advance and having a German speaking friend or a translator present if you don’t speak the language yet.⁸
To allow you to compare estate agents you’ll want to ask agents on your short list a few questions. This process can help you get to know your agent, and make sure you can work well together.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- How long has your agency operated, and how big is your service area?
- Do you cover properties of all types, or are there limits on the sort or price of the property you represent?
- What’s your experience in selling properties to overseas buyers?
- Do you open and allow viewings at evenings and weekends?
- How many properties are you currently marketing, and how long on average does it take to find a buyer?
- Is the agency registered with the IVD? This professional real estate body offers quality assurance and a dispute resolution process if you run into problems
- How do you value properties for sale?
Avoiding scams when buying a property in Germany is largely a question of common sense. However, in the excitement of finding a new investment, holiday pad, or family home, common sense can be quickly forgotten. Here are a few tips to keep you safe:
- Only use agents which you have checked out - they should be registered with the IVD and ideally you’ll also have positive feedback from recent customers
- Estate agent fees may be paid by the buyer, the seller, or split between both. Make sure you know what the plan is for any property you’re considering
- Don’t feel pressured into acting fast - turnover of property in many places in Germany isn’t all that swift, so an agent pushing for immediate action may be a red flag
- Never hand over money for a viewing or deposit without being very sure what you’re paying for
- If it looks too good to be true, it probably is
Buying a new home is a big decision - and it’s never cheap, whether you’re planning on moving within the UK, or taking the leap and setting up life as an expat. Finding the right estate agent is a good way to make sure you find a property that is right for you.
You’ll also be able to make sure you don’t spend more than you need to by using TransferWise to make international payments, that you’ll inevitably have to arrange to cover your fees and deposit. Cut out high bank costs, and avoid poor exchange rates, to make sure you have more left to spend on enjoying your new home.
2.https://www.immobilienscout24.de/ Immobilienscout 24
4.https://www.century21global.com/real-estate-agents/Germany Century 21 Global
5.https://www.engelvoelkers.com/en-de/germany/ Engel & Volkers
6.https://www.ivd24immobilien.de/wohnen/ IVD24 immobilien
7.https://www.globalpropertyguide.com/Europe/Germany/Buying-Guide Global Property
Sources checked on 11 June 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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