A common question I get is: How high are ancillary cost while buying a house in Germany?
Buying a house is a big financial as well as emotional investment. Therefore, you as a buyer first check whether you can afford the asking price of the house or apartment. The (negotiated) asking price is (most of the times) covered by a home loan supported by a bank.
There are other costs involved while buying property in Germany. These ancillary costs (Kaufnebenkosten) like land transfer tax, realtor, notary, and court charges can easily add up to 15% of the negotiated price of the real estate for the buyer.
Let’s break it down:
Land transfer tax
The land transfer tax (Grunderwerbsteuer) is a percentage of the buying price of the property. The % depends upon in which state the property is located and can range between 3.5% (Berlin) to 6.5% (NRW): e.g. If the house cost 500.000EUR ; land transfer tax in Berlin would amount to 17.500EUR and the same house (3.5%), if purchased in Cologne (which is in NRW) you would owe 32.500EUR (6.5%) land transfer tax. After the notary has sent the signed purchase contract to the Finanzamt, they will (most of the times,) within 2-4 weeks send you a letter with an invoice and kindly ask you to pay the tax. Only if you pay, your name will be registered as the owner of the property.
Real estate agent fees / realtor charges
If a real estate agent / realtor (Makler) was involved in selling you the house, he is allowed to charge you for that service – even if it just was to send you the advert (!). Charges are a percentage based on the negotiated and agreed upon price. It can vary from region to region and can go upto 7.14%. The brokerage commission is – in most cases – equally split between the buyer and the seller – whereas you do not get to see the contract which the seller has aligned with the realtor. These fees are negotiable (but in the current market situation, most often accepted as is by the buyer.
Notary & court charges
The purchase of real estate needs to be documented and notarized in Germany by law. As long is the agreement has not been processed by a notary, it has no validity. Even if there’s a written agreement between the realtor, the seller and the buyer – it has no meaning at all, as long as it has not been processed by a notary (Notar).
Fees of the notary can be close to 1% of the documented purchase price – to be borne by the buyer. This can be negotiated by the parties, though. On top of this, court charges are also part of the ancillary cost. These are levied to adapt the land register. These amount to about 0.5% of the purchase price.
For a newly built property or a property which is being built for you, you might want to consider a surveyor (Baugutachter), which will be charged on effort basis. You can also negotiate a fixed price if you like. Charges vary from region to region.
For an older property you might want to consider a building appraiser who might come in handy to evaluate the building, its structure and ensure that you know the risks from a building perspective.
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Financing a home in Germany might be the most difficult financial decision the coming years. There's no room for open questions!