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PROPERTY

Ten tips for finding an apartment in Austria

From where to search to what to watch out for, here are ten tips to be aware of when looking for a flat in Austria.

Ten tips for finding an apartment in Austria
Photo: DIETER NAGL / AFP

From cultural quirks to simply knowing where to look, there are several hurdles internationals face finding housing in Switzerland.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Work out where you want to live: Vienna

Vienna continues to be a massive drawcard for people from all over the world, even in the midst of a pandemic. 

So if Vienna is where you’re headed, it’s best to get an idea of what you need before you start your search. 

Vienna has 23 districts (Bezirke) each with its own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. So whether you are looking for an elegant, central flat on a cobbled street, or a family home near vineyards and forests, there is something for you.

Check out our guide on the best places to live in Vienna. 

REVEALED: The best districts to live in Vienna

Be aware of Vienna’s social housing

Something quintessentially Viennese is the city’s extensive city-owned housing, which is widespread, top quality and very popular. 

There are around 220,000 city-owned flats in Vienna, which represents roughly 25 percent of the city’s housing stock. 

More information about Vienna’s municipal-owned housing is available at the following link. 

The Karl Marx Hof, a social housing project in Vienna. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
The Karl Marx Hof, a social housing project in Vienna. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Work out where you want to live: Countryside 

One thing to remember is that Austria is relatively small. Moving to the country might really mean something for people from the United States or Australia, but in Austria, a major town is unlikely to be too far away. 

With Austria’s public transport networks and road infrastructure, a move away from urban areas might be just what the doctor (and accountant) ordered. 

But from dialect to carrying cash, a move to the country is not without its challenges – as we wrote in our following guide. 

READ MORE: Six things to expect when you move to the Austrian mountains

Search

There are a number of online platforms which list available apartments for rent and for purchase. 

These include (but are not limited to) Immoscout24 – which incorporates the ImmoDirekt and Immobilien sites – along with Bazar, Willhaben, Immowelt, Wohnnet, Flohmarkt, Housing Anywhere and Just Landed. 

Note: The Local Austria has not received a commission or any kinds of juicy kickbacks from these sites. 

Preparation

When going to a viewing, it makes sense to be prepared. 

If you like something, there’s a good chance that others will too, so make sure you have all your documents in order. 

It is not an uncommon sight to see people at house viewings with all of their application forms already completed to be handed straight to the agent. 

Renting versus buying: What should I do?

This isn’t Austria specific of course, but it is an important consideration. 

As we wrote about in our explainer on this topic, property ownership is very rare in Austria. 

READ MORE: Why do so few Austrians own their home?

This is however largely grounded in cultural and historical factors, so don’t rule out owning a flat from the get go. 

The eventual decision will obviously depend on your personal circumstances, but if you’re unsure, have a ready of the following guide to get an idea if renting or buying is for you. 

READ MORE: Is it better to buy or to rent property in Austria?

Know the lingo 

Of course, when looking for an apartment anywhere, it is helpful to speak the language of the place where the apartment is – so speaking German is a real Vorteil when it comes to flat hunting. 

Platforms and agencies which are targeted at expats and internationals are likely to be more costly than those targeted at locals, so getting a working command of German is important. 

In Vienna and Graz however – and maybe in a few larger towns – it will be possible to look for a flat in English. However, it’s still important to know some of the more important terms. 

Agents and sellers in Austria may speak English, but they will often use German nouns in an otherwise English conversation. 

Therefore, German words like Kaution will probably be used rather than bond or security deposit. 

Words without a real English equivalent like Altbau (pre-war building) or Neubau (new(er) building) will also be commonly used in English conversations. 

Then there’s the English words which have been repurposed into German and don’t really have the same meaning in English – but which German speakers will expect you to understand. 

The best example of this is ‘casting’. 

Right out of the same category as ‘Handy’, ‘Public-Viewing’ and ‘Beamer’, Casting is an English word which has taken on a different and somewhat odd use in German. While ‘casting’ in English means the process of auditioning for a part in a movie or play, ‘Casting’ in German is the process of interviewing a new flatmate.

We’ve prepared a glossary of the most commonly used words when renting a flat in Austria – so check it out. 

READ MORE: The words you need to know before renting a flat in Austria

Have a sizeable deposit at the ready

Even for a rental flat, a large deposit or Kaution will most likely be necessary.

This can be several months rent and up to €5,000, so be ready to pay through the teeth (and then some). 

Of course, a deposit for a home will be much higher. More info on that is available at the following link. 

READ MORE: Seven common mistakes to avoid when buying a home in Austria

A sign outside a house which says ‘sale pending’. Photo: AFP

Know your rights – and who is in your corner

From long notice periods upon the cancellation of a lease to being able to make significant changes to the flat – along with rare or non-existent inspections – tenants have strong rights in Austria. 

However, in many cases these rights are useless unless you know about them. In some cases, landlords are actually more willing to rent to foreigners because they do not know their own rights. 

So besides brushing up on Austrian tenancy law, what can you do? One option is to join a tenants’ association. This might cost you, but it will ensure you’ve got someone in your corner if you’ve got any questions or need assistance. 

Be aware of scammers

One major thing to be aware of at all steps in the process – from the first time you click ‘search’ to the moment you’re getting handed the keys – is to be aware of scams. 

Scammers are unfortunately relatively common in the Austrian property market, even if the scammers themselves might not be in Austria at all. 

Never be too shy to ask for clarifications or further documentation/identification. 

Scammers operate on all platforms. While official property platforms have greater resources to weed out dodgy operators, don’t assume that the deal is legit simply because it’s on a reputable searching platform. 

A good ad should have pictures from inside and outside. 

Oh, and never transfer money after a promise to be sent keys via the post, that’s the oldest trick in the book. 

If your prospective landlord is out of town and won’t show you around, then this person is not your prospective landlord. 

Try and use your common sense. Think about what you would do if you were renting out your flat – would you send your keys in the post to a stranger? 

Remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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For members

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about camping in Austria

Camping in Austria can be a lot of fun, but what are the rules? Here’s everything you need to know about setting up camp in the Alpine republic.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about camping in Austria

Waking up beside a lake or surrounded by mountains is a dream Austrian holiday for many, but it’s important to know the rules about camping before heading off with a tent or campervan.

As the summer season approaches, here’s everything you need to know about camping in Austria.

Is wild camping legal in Austria?

Wild camping – setting up camp outside of a designated campsite – is generally illegal in Austria. This applies to both camping in a tent or sleeping in a van on the side of the road.

Exceptions to this rule do exist but usually only if the municipal authority grants a temporary exception, for example for a school trip or a youth club activity.

A bivouac (temporary camp without cover) is allowed in the event of bad weather or injury, but planned wild camping in the mountains is illegal. 

FOR MEMBERS: What are the rules for wild camping in Austria?

There are some regional differences though.

In the states of Salzburg, Vorarlberg and Styria there are no laws strictly forbidding camping outside of campsites, but local authorities can prohibit it and take action if necessary.

The strictest rules apply in national parks, nature reserves and special protection areas across Austria, so check before you plan your camping trip that your spot is not located in one of these areas.  

In most cases, if someone is caught camping illegally in Austria it is considered as an administrative offence and a fine can be issued, ranging from €5 to €500, depending on the location.

Camping in the forest

Camping in the forest is prohibited everywhere in Austria by law (specifically Section 33 of the Forest Act). The only exception is when you have the consent of the landowner.

Camping above the tree line

In Upper Austria and Styria you are allowed to camp in the mountains above the tree line, as long as you are outside of pasture areas.

In Vorarlberg this is also permitted, although the mayor of a municipality can prohibit the setting up of tents outside approved campsites if the interests of safety, health, agriculture or the protection of the natural balance as well as the landscape and townscape are “grossly violated”.

In Salzburg, camping above the tree line is in theory permitted, but the Alpine Association recommends groups wishing to camp should contact the nature conservation department of the responsible district administration before setting up. 

READ ALSO: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

Camping in a tent

Camping in a tent is the most common way of camping in the summer and most people pitch up on a dedicated campsite.

Many campgrounds have water and electricity facilities, as well as showers, cooking areas, recreation spaces and even kids clubs. Others have luxury elements like year-round heated pools, saunas, beach volleyball and restaurants.

Campsites are also often located near a lake or at the base of mountains, which means you can wake up to beautiful scenery every morning .

Some of Austria’s top camping associations include Camping Wien, Camping Steiermark and Top Camping Austria.

Camping in a van

Camping in a motorhome is only allowed at campsites in Austria and if someone is caught sleeping in a van in a prohibited area they can be fined.

The only exception is if a driver has to stop and recuperate before continuing driving.

Top camping tips

Austria is packed with stunning natural landscapes, so camping during the summer months is a popular activity – both for Austrian residents and tourists.

For this reason, it’s recommended to book ahead during the peak summer holiday months of July and August, whether planning to camp in a motorhome or tent.

Camping in motorhomes is also becoming more popular at some winter campsites during the ski season, so it’s always a good idea to book in advance.

Additionally, it’s advised to take bug spray when camping in Austria in the summer as insects like mosquitoes and ticks are common in countryside areas.

In fact, tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) – a viral infection transmitted by the bite of infected ticks – is endemic in Austria and it’s recommended to get vaccinated before going on a hiking or camping trip in the country.

The main affected areas for TBE are Tyrol and Upper Austria.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s ‘tick vaccine’ and should you take it

Useful vocabulary

Campsite – Campingplätze

Tent – Zelt

Campervan – Reisemobil

Electricity – Strom

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