Here is everything you need to know about buying an apartment in Vienna.
- Regulations For Expat Buyers For an Apartment
- EU Citizens, EEA Nationals and Swiss Nationals
- Special Cases
- To apply for the negative certification, You need to submit the following documents
- Third Country Nationals
- You've found an Apartment in Vienna you like
- Due Diligence
- Land Registry (Grundbuch)
- Report on the useful value (Gutachten Uber Den Nutzwert)
- Energy Certificate (Energieausweis)
- Owners' Association (Eigentumergemeinschaft)
- Completion Report (Fertigstellungsanzeige)
- Planning and Building Regulations (Flachenwidmungsplan)
- Talk to a Notary or a Lawyer
- Due Diligence
- Cost For Buying an Apartment in Vienna.
- Financing Your Property in Vienna
- Making or Rescinding a Purchase Offer
- Final Viewing of the Property
- Signing The Contract
- Paying the Purchase Price
- Entry in the Land Registry (Eintrag Das Grundbuch)
- Transfer Of Keys (Schlusselubergabe)
- Welcome to your New Property in Vienna
- Selling, Bequeathing, or Bestowing Your Property in Vienna
Regulations For Expat Buyers For an Apartment
Wien combines a high quality of life with a relatively low cost of living compared to European cities of a similar standard. In addition to the city’s culture, security and relaxed lifestyle, Viennese real estate provides a relatively stable investment, and the interest of foreign buyers has been on the rise.
It is possible for non-Austrians to acquire property, but expect some hurdles. Below are the basic regulations, which can vary for different nationalities, plus services that may help you avoid bureaucratic traps.
Somewhat surprisingly, the capital is not the most expensive city in Austria. With an average price of about €3,886 per square meter for new apartments, Vienna is more affordable than Salzburg (€4,160). However, this is not a place that will offer high yields. Price inflation is low and the real estate market very stable, so you can expect moderate, but steady, gains on your investment. Overall, the system favors permanence over quick turnover.
EU Citizens, EEA Nationals and Swiss Nationals
Since Austria became an EU member in 1995, the rules for foreign ownership have been eased. Citizens of EU states, of the EEA (includes non-EU members Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Swiss nationals can acquire property without restrictions and are legally on equal terms with Austrians.
There are groups of people who do not need a special permit to acquire property. They should apply for a so-called negative certification – confirmation that they are exempt from the permit requirement under the Land Acquisition by Foreigners Act – from the Municipal Office MA35. According to the City of Vienna, this applies to:
- Iranian citizens who are not gainfully employed;
- Swiss citizens;
- People favored due to state treaty regulations;
Employees of the following institutions;
- United Nations, or UNO;
- Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, or CTBTO (and their spouses);
- International Center for Migration Policy Development or ICMPD;
- United nations Industrial Development Organization, or UNIDO;
- Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE;
- Joint Vienna Institute;
- Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC;
- Wassenaar Arrangement, or WA;
- European Patent Organization, or EPO;
- International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA
To apply for the negative certification, You need to submit the following documents
- Application for issuance of a negative certification;
- Proof of citizenship (e.g. passport);
- Contract or draft of contract (Kaufvertrag oder Vertragsentwurf);
- Current excerpt from the land registry of the property (Grundbuchauszug);
- Purpose of use of the acquired object;
- Employees of international organizations also need a current confirmation (in the original) from the competent personnel office (legitimation card);
- Additional documents may be required for legal persons or associations (e.g. company documents).
Depending on the country of issue, the original documents may need an apostille and/or a certified German translation [see Directory, p 207, for certified notary translators
Third Country Nationals
People who do not fall into the above categories need an official permit to purchase property or acquire building rights in Vienna. Note: The permission process can take up to six months. In general, the request is approved if the purchase is of social, macroeconomic or cultural interest and does not have a negative effect on national interests. Most people easily meet this requirement: The social interest criterion is fulfilled if the transaction satisfies the individual housing needs of the buyer; the economic requirement is met if the transaction leads to the establishment, expansion or maintenance of a business and the cultural criterion is fulfilled by foreign scientists.
To obtain the permit, which requires payment of fees that can add up to about €130 per applicant (as of June 2018), you need to contact the office responsible for the acquisition of real estate, which in Vienna is Division 1.1 of the Municipal Authority MA 35 for Land Acquisition by Foreigners [MA 35, Referat 1.1, Niederlassungsbewilligungen & Ausländer grunderwerb], [see Directory, p 210]. They provide relevant information and forms here:
wien.gv.at.These are the documents you need to submit:
- Proof of citizenship [e.g. passport or, in some cases, a specific proof of citizenship document (Staatsbürgerschaftsnachweis), which can be obtained from your Embassy];
- Valid residence permit;
- Contract or draft of contract (Kaufvertrag oder Vertragsentwurf);
- Current excerpt from the land registry of the property (Grundbuchauszug);
- Purpose of use of the acquired object; * For legal persons or associations additional documents are required (e.g. company papers).
You do not need the special permit if you acquire the apartment together with your Austrian spouse or if you inherit the property [see Owning, Inheritance and Bestowal, p 190]. Note that certain corporate structures, such as a limited company [Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung or GmbH], do not need this approval either, so this could be a viable option, especially if you intend to buy several properties [Met 2015, kf].
The Austrian law, more specifically the Equal Treatment Act (Gleichbehandlungsgesetz), forbids discrimination based on ethnicity regarding access to goods and services that are open to the public, and this includes living space. If you feel you are being treated differently because you are a foreigner, don’t hesitate to make the seller aware of this law or, if necessary, consult a lawyer.
You’ve found an Apartment in Vienna you like
Congrats, you’re considering buying an apartment in Vienna. But this is just the beginning of the journey! In the following sections, you will learn about the next crucial steps.
In addition to at least two viewings of the apartment, there are several things you want to verify before actually buying the property.
Land Registry (Grundbuch)
Information about any real estate property is documented in the government land registry, an official electronic database containing an index of Austrian real estate lots, which is open to the public. It is your duty to check the respective entry in the land registry before acquiring property. You can rely on the correctness of the information in it, and you cannot later claim you were unaware of something in the registry that turns out to be to your disadvantage. There are three ways of accessing the land registry, which costs €14.40: You can personally visit any district court (Bezirksgericht) or mapping office (Vermessungsamt), request electronic access via the Federal Ministry of Justice (Bundesministerium für Justiz), or hire a notary or lawyer, as they have electronic access.
The Land registry contains crucial information such as:
- Postal address of the property;
- Allowed use according to public law;
- Any legal requirements, rights and restrictions related to the property such as the seller’s ownership title, mortgages and other encumbrances, pre-emption rights and rights of way;
- Documents associated with the property or its ownership.
Report on the useful value (Gutachten Uber Den Nutzwert)
Another important document is the report on the useful value of the property, which is typically commissioned by the seller and produced by a civil engineer or sworn court expert through a professional appraisal (Parifizierung). The Nutzwert is an official measure of the value of the property in comparison to other units in the same estate. It is calculated based on the certified building plan and depends on the size of the apartment (Nutzfläche) as well as on possible surcharges and markdowns due to value-enhancing or value-diminishing features. Among other things, the useful value is used to determine operating costs (Betriebskosten).
Energy Certificate (Energieausweis)
The energy certificate contains information on the expected heating energy consumption of a property and other related data. The certificate is issued by civil engineers, builders or heating and electrical engineers. The seller is to show an up-to-date Energieausweis to the purchaser before the contract is signed and provide a copy to the buyer, at most, 14 days after the transaction. In addition, the prospective buyer should be given access to information on working expenses and other additional costs.
Owners’ Association (Eigentumergemeinschaft)
When you buy an apartment, you become a member of the building’s owners’ association. [see Owning, Owner Association and Property Management, p 185]. As a prospective owner, you are permitted access to the minutes of the last three owners’ meetings. In addition, you should ask the property management about the current reserve fund (Rücklage) and whether substantial repair work on the building is planned in the near future [Sparkasse].
Completion Report (Fertigstellungsanzeige)
Another important document is the completion report. This is an official certification by the building authority (Baubehörde) that states that any construction on the property was legal and the property is fit for use. If the property you want to purchase is still under construction, make sure to ask whether you can have a say in the building or refurbishing process, if additional costs will arise and when the work will be finished.
Planning and Building Regulations (Flachenwidmungsplan)
You should also look at the zoning and development plans, which show what type of building activities are allowed on a property. For this, you can consult the Municipal Office MA 21.
Talk to a Notary or a Lawyer
Once you have finalized buying an apartment in Vienna that you are interested, it is advisable to commission a notary or lawyer [see Directory, p 208]. Be prepared to discuss the following:
- Fees. Sometimes you can negotiate a flat fee that covers all legal services;
- Details of the purchase, such as payment modalities, taxes and the expected overall costs;
- Ask the notary or lawyer to inspect the land registry [Owning, Entry in the Land Registry, p 182] to verify that the seller is, in fact, the (exclusive) owner of the property, that the property is fully paid off (Grundschuldenlö schung), and that there are no encumbrances, prepurchase rights or rights of abode held by someone else. This is the time to check that all the information provided by the seller is accurate and matches the data in the land registry.
- If relevant, ask about the option of buying the property together with a partner in the form of an owner-partnership (Wohnungseigentümerpartnerschaft).
Cost For Buying an Apartment in Vienna.
In Austria, the acquisition of real estate involves substantial closing costs; you can estimate that you will pay about 10 percent to 15 percent of the purchase price
Typically, The Costs include:
- Purchase price (Kaufpreis);
- Land registry fee (Grundbuchsgebühr);
- Taxes on the purchase of real estate (Grunderwerbssteuer);
- Commission for real estate agent (Maklerprovision);
- Fee for lawyer or notary, including notarization of contract; (Beurkundung or Beglaubigung).
Purchase Price (Kaufpreis)
The asking price should be compared not only to other similar listings, but also to the current real estate index, which is published yearly by the Organization for Real Estate and Wealth Managers.
These are the relevant data for Vienna as of 2018
|Type of Appartment
|Average price in €
Per square meter
|Increase in Value
relative to previous
|New freehold apartments
|+ 1.8 percent
|Used freehold apartments
|+ 2 percent
The real estate index also shows average prices for all 23 Viennese districts, indicating not only the price differences between districts, but also which have exhibited the highest increases during the past year [see Neighborhoods, p 37, for separate entries for each district]. In Vienna, used freehold apartments are most expensive in the 1st district (€4,262/ m2 on average), while the 15th is the cheapest (€2,097/m2 on average). The greatest increases in value have been observed for the 11th (+3.7 percent), 17th (+3.6 percent), 19th (+2.8 percent), 2nd (+2.7 percent), 14th (+2.7 percent), and 16th districts (+2.7 percent).
Fee for Land Registry (Grundbuchsgebuhr)
You also need to pay a fee to be entered into the land registry. Usually, it is 1.1 percent of the purchase price. If you have a mortgage, and a lien (Pfandrecht) is documented in the registry, you need to pay another 1.2 percent of the value of the mortgage. Depending on payment modalities, the application costs €44 or €62.
Taxes on the Purchase of Real Estate (Grunderwerbssteuer)
The acquisition of real estate is also subject to taxes, which are paid by the buyer and usually set at 3.5 percent of the purchase price. Different rates may apply if the seller is a relative of yours.
Commission for Realtor (Maklerprovision)
The real estate agent fee is typically split by seller and buyer. While it is negotiable, there are upper limits (which do not necessarily apply to investment property). Remember that the fee is only due upon signing of the contract, so do not make any advance payments to the real estate agent.
The maximum commissions (Plus value added tax or Vat) depend on the purchase price
|Maximum Realtor Commission
|4 percent (plus 20 percent VAT)
|€36,336.42 to €48,448.51
|€1,453.46 (plus 20 percent VAT
|3 percent (plus 20 percent VAT)
It is common in Austria that a realtor works for both seller and buyer simultaneously (Doppelmakler). Realtors are obliged to inform their clients in advance about such an arrangement. In some cases, buyers may benefit from this deal by not having to pay a commission (if so indicated in the listing), but usually the realtor is paid by both parties.
Compensation for Notary and/or Lawyer
For drawing up the contract, preparing the application for entry in the land registry (Verbücherung) and acting as a fiduciary, the notary or lawyer receives 1 to 3 percent of the purchase price plus 20 percent VAT. The notarization (Beglaubigung) of the signatures on the contract, and potentially on the lien certificate (Pfandbestellungsurkunde) of the mortgage, requires the services of a notary or court official and also costs a fee. If you can choose the notary, do compare prices in advance, or negotiate a flat fee [Nebenkosten].
Financing Your Property in Vienna
If you need help financing when buying an apartment in Vienna, you will find that banks are generally willing to make real estate acquisition loans because the Austrian market has exhibited high levels of stability. Still, local financial institutions may be more risk averse than those in your home country. As always, make sure to compare the terms offered by different banks.
Before giving you a loan, the bank will want to know the property inside out, including photos and purchase price, or even ask to see a draft contract. Most banks request that you make a substantial out-of-pocket payment on the property of around 40 percent. However, if you have a high salary and a permanent work contract, you may be able to negotiate it down to 20 percent. The interest rates are typically between 1 and 2 percent of the mortgage value. The loans on real estate are registered in the land registry, which carries additional fees [see Owning, Costs, p 174].
Making or Rescinding a Purchase Offer
Typically, the buyer makes a purchase offer (Kaufanbot) to the seller. Do not sign such an offer unless you are absolutely sure you want to take the step buying an apartment in Vienna, and have done your due diligence. Purchase offers, once signed, are legally binding, and you can only rescind them under very specific conditions, such as when you’ve signed the offer on the day of the first viewing of the apartment. If it’s even possible, rescind the offer in writing as quickly as possible. The right to cancel ends, at the latest, one month after the first viewing. You may want to seek a lawyer’s advice.
Drafting the Contract For Buying an Apartment in Vienna.
A notary or lawyer draws up the purchase contract. This document should contain:
- Names, addresses and nationalities of the involved parties;
- Address of property;
- Exact denotation and detailed description of the property, its location and equipment;
- Purchase price (Kaufpreis);
- Declaration of owner that owner agrees with the transfer of the property rights (Aufsandungserklärung);
- Agreement on the modalities and the date of the payment;
- Information on existing insurances;
- Date of handover of keys and potential reasons for postponement;
- Agreement on liability for damages and potential waiver of warranty claims*;
- Possible liabilities on the property and agreement on modalities in the case of a nonliability-free transfer;
- Agreement on who pays for the drafting of the contract (typically the buyer);
- Criteria and modality of termination.
*Note that transactions between private individuals differ in a crucial way from business transactions between companies and consumers: In the case of private individuals, the contract can include a waiver of warranty claims (Ausschluss von Gewährleistungsansprüchen). Such a waiver is typically expressed by stating that the buyer has viewed the apartment and the seller does not bear liability for a certain quality of the property. Such a provision makes it practically impossible for buyers to make sellers liable for damages. Therefore, buyers should insist that the functioning of sanitary installations, heating and other utilities is explicitly assured in the contract
Final Viewing of the Property
At the final viewing, you should again check the condition of the property, in particular for possible changes since the previous viewing. If there are damages, make sure the contract clearly explains what they are, when they will be taken care of and by whom, or, alternatively, negotiate a price reduction with the seller. Record the meter readings (Zählerstand) for water, gas and electricity. Document the current state of the apartment by taking photos, and make notes of the furniture being left behind as part of the sale. You should also verify that the size of the rooms is identical with the values in the purchase contract
Signing The Contract
At the appointment to notarize, i.e. finalize, the contract (Beurkundungstermin), all involved parties sign it, after carefully reading through it, including the fine print. It is of utmost importance that, in the presence of the notary, the so-called priority notice (Vormerkung) is applied for. The priority notice is entered in the land registry, ensuring the validity of the purchase until the new owner is officially entered.
Paying the Purchase Price
The actual financial transaction is usually handled via an attorney or notary who acts as a fiduciary (Treuhänder). This arrangement ensures that both buyer and seller fulfill their duties and are simultaneously protected. The fiduciary sets up an escrow account (Treuhandkonto) and submits the payment request (Zahlungsaufforderung) to the buyer two to eight weeks after the purchase contract was signed. In addition, the purchase contract must be sent to the tax authority and the real estate acquisition tax paid as soon as possible, as this is a precondition for registering the new owner in the land registry. Once the tax is paid, the buyer receives a clearance certificate (Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung) from the tax authority, which is later submitted to the court.
Entry in the Land Registry (Eintrag Das Grundbuch)
Finally, the day has come: the entry in the land registry (Eintrag ins Grundbuch), which is perhaps the most crucial step in any real estate transaction. This – not your signature on the contract – makes you the official owner of the property in Vienna. You apply for entry in the land registry in writing to the local district court (Bezirksgericht). The wording requirements on the application are extremely precise, so it is advisable to use the services of a notary or lawyer. Together with this application, you turn over the following documents:
- Purchase agreement with the signatures of all contracting parties certified by court or notary;
- Clearance certificate (Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung) from the tax authority (Finanzamt);
- Proof of citizenship (Staatsbürgerschaftsnachweis), proof of EU citizenship (Nachweis der EU Staatsangehörigkeit) or, for nonequated expats, the approval
from the Municipal Office MA 35 [see Owning, Third Country Nationals, p 168].
Potential Additional Requirements Condominiums
- Statement by building authority or expert report on the existence of independent freehold apartment units;
- Report on useful value (an official measure of the value of the property in comparison to other properties in the same estate, [see Owning, Due Diligence, p 171] by civil engineer or sworn court expert;
- Possible statement of cancelation or agreement of financing banks, pre-emptors or others;
- Possible order for the intended disposal or pawn;
- Possible approval from the competent office for the acquisition of real estate (Grundverkehrsbehörde).
- Other documents as required in specific case
Transfer Of Keys (Schlusselubergabe)
The date for the transfer of keys (Schlüsselübergabe) should be determined in the contract. This is the time for a final inspection of the property, including sanitary installations, oven or lights. If anything is wrong, inform the notary, the seller and the bank immediately. Make a complete list of all keys (also for mailbox, basement, laundry room, etc.). Unless the locks are changed, the seller needs to sign a declaration confirming there are no other keys. Make notations on the handover (Wohnungsübergabeprotokoll), document all meter values (Zählerstände) of water, heating and electricity and … this is it.
Welcome to your New Property in Vienna
Owner Association and Property Management
Every two years, the property manager calls a meeting of all owners (Eigentümerversammlung), and you should attend if at all possible. At least two weeks before the meeting, the owners are informed of the agenda in writing. It can include any decisions related to maintenance or finances, but also the appointment or termination of the property manager or owners’ representative or changes to the rules (Gemeinschafts- or Hausordnung).
Everything related to the ownership of an apartment property is regulated by the Condominium Act (Wohnungseigentumsgesetz or WEG). The owners of apartments in an estate form an owners’ association (Eigentümergemeinschaft). This association functions as a legal person and is responsible for managing the estate, which generally means that it appoints a building superintendent or property management company (Verwalter or Hausverwaltung) to do the job. The property manager is responsible for maintenance, arranging for repairs or structural alterations of common areas of the estate, establishing and managing the obligatory common reserve fund (Rücklage), calculating the operating costs and dealing with insurance matters. If there are problems with the property manager, the owners’ association can choose a representative (Eigentümervertreter) to defend the owners in disputes.
At the meeting, every owner has the right to voice an opinion and vote, whereby the weight of the vote depends on the proportion of co-ownership share. After the meeting, the property manager must make the results of the votes public and send them in writing to all owners.
Maintenance and Renovation
You are responsible for maintaining and servicing the apartment and facilities inside the property in Vienna(Erhaltungspflicht). The property management takes care of areas outside of your apartments, such as the outer façade or windows. If required for maintenance or repair purposes, you have to allow others to enter the apartment.
After buying an apartment in Vienna, you as the owner, have the right to make changes to the property, such as removing freestanding walls or installing an oven. For more substantial changes, you need the approval of the other owners in the building, especially if their interests or safety are at stake, the house might be damaged, or its external looks are affected. Examples of such modifications are the installation of a second entrance door or the construction of a terrace on a flat roof. For some work, the approval of the respective building authority may be necessary. You also need the agreement of the other owners if you want to reclassify your apartment (Umwidmung), for instance as a doctor’s practice.
If you want to rent out your apartment, it’s a good idea to hire a realtor (Makler) to find suitable tenants. It is worth noting that the Austrian Tenancy Act tends to protect tenants over landlords. It is thus especially important to pick tenants carefully, because you can terminate the contract only in the case of grave offenses. Note that you must pay income tax on the profits from the rental income.
After buying an apartment in Vienna, you are also allowed to sublet your property to tourists and other visitors via online portals, such as Airbnb, but this is subject to strict regulations. For instance, depending on the number and location of apartments and other factors, you may need the approval of the other owners in the estate or even a business license. So, before launching your Airbnb business, get informed!
Selling, Bequeathing, or Bestowing Your Property in Vienna
Both selling and buying a property in Vienna are complex processes, so you should certainly consult a legal professional. (Not surprising, given the complexity of the purchase process.) Unless the apartment has been your main residence since you bought it (at least two years before) or for five consecutive years out of the last 10 (Hauptwohnsitzbefreiung), you will have to pay a 30 percent real estate transfer tax (Immobilienertragssteuer or ImmoESt), but only on the capital gains of the transaction, i.e. the difference between the price you paid for the property and the price you receive in the sale (Veräußerungsgewinn).
Inheritance and Bestowal
If you want to bequeath your property to someone, either in the case of death or for another reason, you have several options. You can give (Schenkung) the property in Vienna as a gift to someone, which means the receiver does not have to do anything in return. Alternatively, the handing over (Übergabe) of a property often implies certain duties for the receiver, for instance providing you housing tenure or taking care of you when you’re old. Keep in mind that usually whoever inherits your property also inherits the mortgages or debts associated with it. While you do not have to pay inheritance tax or gift tax, the new owner pays for the entry in the land registry and taxes on the acquisition of property, between 0.5 percent and 3.5 percent, depending on the value of the property (Grunderwerbssteuer) [see Owning, Costs, p 174].
(Anzeige ? A)
Natalie, 35 Strategic Development Manager & Peter, 37 Special Project Lead
In our opinion, Vienna is a better investment than elsewhere. The purchase process was pretty easy, but we do have some tips: Know which questions to ask, such as disclosures of pending building works. Get a good financial advisor, the banking system can be a nightmare. Get an explicit list of all billable payments from every single party to the sale, so you don‘t end up scrambling to make bank transfers when you‘re abroad. Be prepared to explain your credit card use! We did not experience discrimination due to our citizenship (British and Swedish), but I experienced some sexism from the realtor who would seemingly only seal with my husband although I was organising the purchase.
Jan, 31 International Business Development & Alena, 36 University Teacher
In 2017, my girlfriend and I first looked for a Viennese fin de siècle Altbau. Our bank said we would only get a mortgage after having been registered and employed in Austria for 12 months, so we resumed our search in 2018. After three to four months with up to five viewings a day, we discovered an 80m2 Altbau in the 12th district. The seller chose the lawyer and notary, which we paid for, but we did have our own lawyer look at the contract and had some passages changed. I’d recommend resolving financing at an early stage, although this can be a dilemma: the bank requests an exposé, while the realtor and seller need your binding, signed purchase statement (Kaufanbot).
Gerhard, 66 CEO
About ten years ago, we bought two Altbau apartments in the 3rd district. As the notary was chosen by the seller, we had the purchase contract checked by our own lawyer. The 110m2 apartment is rent-controlled, and it came with a renter. She pays €300 per month, and we have to wait until this tenancy agreement ends naturally. Still, with a 20% rise in value, purchasing the apartments was certainly smart, but there are things to consider in advance. The renter-friendly Mietrechtsgesetz determines maximum rents, which we didn’t know. One renter complained after moving out, so we had to pay back about €10,000. You should definitely consult a realtor or lawyer before setting up a rental agreement.
Margaret, 32 CEO
My boyfriend and I bought our apartment in 2013. We found a modest 65m2 place with a small terrace in Vienna’s 7th district. I had planned to buy it on my own, but as a non-Austrian, this would have meant more hoops to jump through. The realtors recommended we find a way to do it without the foreigner-thing.“ By buying it together, my Austrian partner and I could avoid applying for approval and waiting another 6 months. As two people buying an equal share, with one being an Austrian, the law required the same procedures as for two Austrians. I could also have done it through my Austrian company (GmbH), which had, however, not yet been founded at the time.