FAs a member of the EU, buying a property in Austria is relatively straightforward – although rules can vary slightly from province to province.
Please see the following breakdown and regulations.
Once you have found a property you wish to make an offer on, a Kaufanbot or buying offer is drawn up giving details of the buyers and sellers, the purchase price, and any special conditions (such as ‘subject to finance’). Once this has been signed by both parties the offer is legally binding. There is no opportunity for the gazumping and gazundering that plagues the UK market.
Once you have signed a Kaufanbot agreement, your agent will instruct a local notary to draft the purchase contracts. A notary is a state-appointed official that acts for both the buyer and the seller in the purchase process.
When you are happy with the contracts, you will need either to come by the Notary’s office in Austria or arrange an appointment at a local embassy or consulate to sign the final paperwork. You become the legal owner of the property once the paperwork has been signed. If it is being purchased off-plan, there will be a payment plan that allows the developer to request funds from you in stages over the course of the build process.
Purchase costs are relatively high in Austria. There has historically been very little liquidity in the market – the typical Austrian would have bought a house and lived in it for the rest of their lives.
Generally purchase costs are as follows:
- Notary fees 2% + VAT
- Stamp duty 3.5%
- Land registry fee 1.1%
- Agency fees 3% + VAT
- (waived in some new developments)
“Applying for a mortgage in Austria is relatively straightforward and often finance can often be approved within a few days…”
There are no fixed criteria but banks will look at all aspects of an applicant’s earnings as well as the potential income from the property. Banking is done on a much more local level than it is in the UK and you will find that banks near the property you are purchasing are the best port of call. As a general rule of thumb you can expect:
- 50-60% loan-to-value
- Variable rates around 2.5% in 2014
- 5 year fixed rates at 3% in 2014
- All Austrian mortgages are full repayment
- Maximum term of 20 years
Exchange rates can vastly impact on the profitability of your investment, so it is important to get a grip on the currency risks involved when buying a property in Austria. For example, in the last 12 months, the pound has seen a 13% appreciation against the euro to reach its current level of of 1.25 (August 2014). This is great news for Austrian property hunters from the UK: property will be some 13% cheaper in sterling terms.
However, what is the sensible strategy if you are ready to purchase your property now but expect the pound to continue to appreciate against the euro?
In this instance it makes perfect sense to take out a mortgage in Austria to mitigate any exchange rate risk. If you borrow, say, 50% of the property’s value with a euro mortgage and the pound continues to strengthen, your overall mortgage value will fall in sterling terms – along with your monthly repayments. In fact, we are now seeing a lot of property buyers taking out an Austrian mortgage when they previously would have been ‘cash’ buyers.
Should you need to convert your currency into euros, use a specialist broker. They will give you a much better exchange rate.
Who Can Buy Austrian Property?
EU Citizens: EU citizens can buy a holiday home in any of Austria’s nine provinces: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Vienna. The process is generally quite straightforward, but to purchase a property for permanent residency you need to hold an EU-issued passport and provide the necessary documents to prove that you have adequate income and medical insurance. Note that buying a holiday home does not give you the right of permanent residence.
EU Companies: EU registered companies are able to purchase property in Austria.
Non-EU Citizens: Non-EU citizens cannot directly own a holiday property in the Tyrol, Salzburg or Vorarlberg provinces, although it is sometimes possible via the incorporation of an EU company. Direct ownership is allowed in the other provinces (Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Styria and Vienna) but you would need to apply for a foreigner purchase permit from the relevant local authority office, which can take several months. Before a non EU citizen can purchase a property in Austria, they must first visit the site and make an offer. The agent will then contact the local Land Use Committee to be approved by the appropriate Grundverkehrsbehörde for permission to buy.