When you think of Vienna, it might stir up images of good coffee, crime-free streets and beautiful historic buildings - but did you know global consulting firm Mercer recently ranked it the number one best city in the world to live in?
It’s no surprise, considering the excellent food, fresh produce, exposure to culture, gorgeous infrastructure, access to the countryside and other parts of Europe, and other surface-level factors, combined with globally lauded work-life balance and a seriously low cost of living as compared to other European cities. In fact, renting a one bedroom apartment in the center of the city costs just €772, on average, a reflection of the city’s commitment to keep housing affordable.
Whether you’re heading to Vienna for a job, to start a business or just to enjoy all the city has to offer, the first and most important step is finding an apartment. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know as you begin your search.
Typically you’ll only be able to find apartments or condominiums in central Vienna, however, if you’re willing to venture out to one of the city’s suburbs you can find quintessentially Austrian detached houses with plenty of rooms and spacious lawns.
For the most part, long term rentals will come unfurnished, however, there are some specialty rental companies that can find you a furnished place. Short term rentals, on the other hand, almost always come with furniture intact.
Because the cost of living in the city is fairly low, roommates are less common than they are elsewhere in Europe, however, many students opt to live with friends and cut down on those costs even further. If you’re on a budget, you may be able to find a good living situation with a roommate or two that will allow you to live in the city’s most desirable neighborhoods without breaking the bank.
Where to live in Vienna depends heavily on the lifestyle and budget you’re looking for. Each neighborhood has a name, but they’re more commonly referred to by their numbers. The following districts are popular among expats:
- District 1/Innere Stadt: Living in Innere Stadt comes with a pretty hefty price tag, but it’s a popular area thanks to its historic architecture, boutique shops, luxury apartments and high end restaurants. Even for those who can afford it, renting here can be difficult. The market is pretty small, and when apartments become available they go fast.
- District 2/Leopoldstadt: Known to be a little more bohemian (and a lot cheaper) than district 1, Leopoldstadt has a mix of apartment and building styles, coffee shops, bars and one of the city’s most beloved parks.
- District 4/Wieden: A little further out, rent prices drop significantly in Wieden. This neighborhood is great for foodies thanks to its famed, bustling outdoor market.
- Districts 8 & 9, Josefstadt and Alsergrund: Both popular among students and academics thanks to their close proximity to the University of Vienna, Josefstadt and Alsergrund are known for a more laid back vibe despite the fact that their next door neighbor is district 1. Don’t be fooled by all the young people; prices here are a bit higher.
The best place to start looking for a rental is undoubtedly online. Some of the best sites to check out include:
- Vienna Rent
- Vienna Apartments
- Vienna City Flats
- Apartments Apart
- Der Standard
Searching for an apartment in any language is hard enough, let alone one you don’t speak well. Here are some key terms to keep in mind as you’re house hunting:
- Immobilienmakler: Real estate agent
- Maklergebühr: Broker’s fee
- Wohnung zu vermieten: Apartment for rent
- Atelierwohnung: Studio apartment
- Mitbewohner: Roommate
- Möbliert: Furnished
- Vertragslaufzeit: Lease term
Once you’ve actually found an apartment that you like, the next step will be signing a rental contract. If you’re going to try to negotiate your rent, which never hurts, make sure to do so before you sign your lease, otherwise you’ll be locked in to the previously stated terms.
Make sure you and your landlord do a thorough walk through of the apartment before you agree to sign the lease, and take lots of pictures in case there is a dispute when you’re moving out. A standard deposit in Vienna is about three months rent, so it’s important to protect that investment up front.
You may also need to pay an Ablöse to the previous tenant, which is a fee that covers any non-removable upgrades (like new floors) as they move out. This should be covered by the landlord, but is sometimes reflected in a higher deposit or higher rent, or is simply included as a fee.
Most landlords in Vienna will ask you to make direct bank transfers, though some use online payment gateways. If the former is true in your case, it’s worth using a service like TransferWise to get the real exchange rate and save on expensive international transfer fees.
While it’s possible to find an apartment in Vienna without an agent, using one can help you seriously cut down on the time it takes to find a place to live. If you’re willing to pay a little more for the service in exchange for a less-stressful move, using a broker may be the best route for you. The following are all good places to start:
Renting in Austria is an exciting opportunity to take advantage of one of the world’s most popular cities. As is the case anywhere, however, there are people who will try to rip you off. Make sure you protect yourself while you’re looking. Don’t ever pay before a contract has been signed, avoid dealing in cash so you have an electronic trail, and don’t fork over any money without a working key to the apartment in hand. Most importantly, trust your gut. If something seems fishy, like a landlord asking for six months rent in deposit, that should raise a red flag.
With that, you’re all set to get started on your search. Good luck!