How to buy a house or apartment in Germany

How to buy a house or apartment in Germany

by Rebecca Dean

Updated November 7, 2022

Do you dream of buying a Bavarian farmhouse straight out of a fairy tale, a stylish Munich penthouse or an arty loft in Berlin?

The good news is you can! Unlike some countries, Germany places no restrictions on foreigners buying property or homes. You can buy a home to live in throughout the year, to rent to others permanently or just when you happen to be out of town. It’s entirely up to you.

Here are the ins and outs on what foreigners need to know abouthow to buy a house or apartment in Germany.

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Is it worth buying a house in Germany?

If you are planning on staying for a longer period of time in Germany, it may be worth it to invest in a home or property in the country. Owning your own home can give you a personal sense of security as well as offer a smart financial investment for your future.

That said, Germany is a notoriously rental friendly society. In fact, less than half of the population own their homes, including those who could afford to do so. Renter friendly laws and typical German risk aversion may be the reasons this number falls significantly below the average homeowner number in Europe as a whole, which is around 70 percent. This trend is slowly changing, however, especially since the interest rate has tended to be stable and low for the past several years.

How do I find a house or apartment to buy?

Popular commercial websites for buying a house or apartment in Germany include the following:

In most cases, the properties listed on these sites will involve a real estate agent fee. 

If you would like to buy a home or apartment from a private person (and therefore avoid that pesky Maklerprovision), you can also check out websites like:

Since most of these websites are exclusively in German, it’s important to know a few basic words and phrases. Here are some of the most important ones to know.

  • Haus kaufen (buy a house)
  • Einfamilienhaus (single-family house)
  • Doppelhaushälfte (duplex house)
  • Eigentumswohnung kaufen (buy an apartment)
  • Immobilie (real estate)
  • Kaufpreis (purchase price)
  • Zimmer (room/s)
  • Wohnfläche (floor space)

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Is it difficult to buy a house or apartment in Germany as a foreigner?

As far as buying a home, this depends a lot on what you are looking for. For example, if you would like to find an apartment in a trendy neighborhood in a big city or a house in a popular smaller town, you may have more difficulty finding the perfect place.

Although the housing market is competitive in Germany, it’s definitely not impossible to buy a house or apartment if you put time and energy into your search.

The good news? This is true whether you’re a German citizen or a foreigner. However, please note that buying and/or owning a home in Germany does not exempt you from going through the steps to establish legal residency, so you definitely need to take care of all those crucial bureaucratic steps before moving in. Mortgage requirements may also be different than in your country of origin, so look into this first before you settle on buying that dream home in Deutschland (Germany)!

How much equity do I need and what fees are involved?

Home prices vary depending on where in Germany you are looking to buy. However, according to financial experts, you should have around 20 to 30 percent of the property price to put down as equity capital

However, equity is more than just the cash you have in the bank. It can also include things like shares and mutual funds, other properties you own and more. This handy Eigenkapital (equity capital) calculator can help you figure out what you can already bring to the table.

Other costs to keep in mind are fees for notary (Notar) services, which average at around 2% of the property price. If you find your home with the help of a Makler (real estate agent) you’ll also be charged a Maklerprovision (real estate agent fee). Since this fee is not regulated in Germany, the amount can vary, but the average rate for you as the buyer is around 3.5% of the purchase price.

Last but certainly not least, you’ll need to pay the Grunderwerbssteuer (property acquisition tax). This rate generally varies between 3 to 7 percent of the price depending on the state and must be paid within six to eight weeks after purchasing the home or property.

Welcome to your new home!

When it comes to buying a house or apartment in Germany, where there’s a will–and enough Eigenkapital (equity capital) and Einkommen (income) to pay the bills–there is definitely a way. And this is true no matter where you come from in the world. Whether you’re here for a job, to raise a family, have an adventure or live out your golden years, welcome to your new home!

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Rebecca Dean is a freelance writer originally from California who specializes in writing about travel, education, culture and language learning. A long-time Wahlberlinerin (Berliner-by-choice), Rebecca became a dual US/German citizen in 2019. In her free time, she writes fiction, makes jewelry, sings and hangs out with family and friends. You can find Rebecca professionally on LinkedIn and personally on Instagram.

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