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PROPERTY

Can foreigners buy property in Austria?

More and more people are moving to Austria from abroad, while others might be planning to do so in the future. So how easy is it for foreign nationals to buy a home in Austria?

Views like these explain the appeal for buyers in Salzburg. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN. 
Views like these explain the appeal for buyers in Salzburg. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN. 

Despite the economic uncertainty hitting sectors such as tourism in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, property prices have continued to boom in Austria. 

Prices have risen by 50 percent over the last decade. 

READ MORE: Where have housing prices risen in Austria during the pandemic?

So with buying becoming a more attractive option for whoever can afford it, can foreigners in Austria buy property? 

And what are the rules? 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Can foreigners buy a home in Austria? 

The short answer to the question is ‘yes’, but a lot will depend on your legal status with regard to residency, the type of property you want to purchase and the country – and state – in which you reside. 

First things first, check your residency status

If you are living in Austria as an EU/EFTA citizen you have the same rights as Austrian citizens when it comes to purchasing property, providing you plan to live in it as your main residence.

What about ‘third-country nationals’ who live in Austria? 

OK, so you might not be an EU/EFTA citizen, but you live in Austria as a national from a non-EU country – making you a ‘third-country national’. 

A third person national can only buy property in Austria if they have a permanent residence permit. 

Austria consists of nine federal states, and the laws about buying property are different for each of them. In most of these states, before a buyer from outside the EU can buy a property, the purchase must be approved by the real estate commission, which varies from state to state.

Getting permission can take anything between three to four weeks to several months.

The Austrian government website states “Requests are approved if the transaction is of cultural, social, or macroeconomic interest and no national interests are negatively affected.”

You can find out more about the rules in each individual states by clicking the following links (in German).

Two notable exceptions are in the city of Graz (Styria) and Vienna.

In Graz no extra permit is required for third country citizens who wish to buy a property there.

In Vienna, if you are a third country national married to an Austrian citizen, extra authorisation is also not required.

The Local spoke to estate agent Vana Doranovic, who works for Tristar.

She said the reason extra permission was needed for non EU citizens to buy property in Austria was to ensure there was sufficient housing for Austrian citizens and to prevent land and housing prices being driven up by “speculation”. 
 
She said: “If you live and work in Austria, and have a valid residence permit, you can usually buy a property. However, this should only for your own residential purposes. If you already own an apartment and you want to move to a different one, you should sell the one you own first.  
 
“In practice, we very often broker apartments in Vienna to non-EU citizens, and we have yet to experience a rejection from the Grundverkehrskommission” (the organisation which oversees land transfers in each federal state in Austria).  
 
She said getting approval to buy an apartment for a non-EU citizen could take between two and six months, so it was important to find a seller who was willing to wait for the buyer to be approved.

Buying a holiday home or second home

Charming scenes such as this draw people to Tyrol (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

If you want to buy a holiday home or second home in Austria, you will face additional hurdles. Even EU citizens face extra hurdles in buying in Austria. 

The German magazine New Business reported in 2019 that EU citizens buying a holiday home in the most touristy parts of Austria (Tyrol, Salzburg or Vorarlberg) must get a leisure residence permit (Freizeitwohnsitzbescheid) which can take “many years”. The Luxury Vienna website comments it is “practically impossible” to buy a holiday home in these areas. 

There are also increasing crackdowns in these states on people who have bought homes which they claim are their primary residence and then used them as holiday homes, according to the German lawyer Dr Hannes Wiesflecker. 

Buyers must indicate from the start if they are buying the residence for permanent residential use. If, after signing the documents, a violation of the regulations is discovered, such as using the property for a second or holiday home, the buyer risks paying a fine of €25,000 euros.

More information on buying a second home in Austria can be found at the following link. 

READ MORE: How can I buy a second home in Austria?

Useful vocabulary

Real estate commission – Grundverkehrskommission 

Leisure residence permit – Freizeitwohnsitzbescheid

Land acquisition by foreign nationals – Ausländergrunderwerbsgesetz

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PROPERTY

Where to find property in Austria for under €100k

Austria is not known for being a cheap country and property prices are higher than in some other European countries, but it's still possible to find property bargains, some for even under €100k.

Where to find property in Austria for under €100k

Property prices are rising in much of Europe, and Austria is no exception.

The graph below from the European Union’s statistical agency Eurostat shows the sharp upwards trajectory over the past few years with property price increases in Austria outpacing those in the European Union  as a whole.

And a new survey found that the average price per square metre for new apartments in Austria rose by 11 percent last year, making the country Europe’s second-most expensive market.

It’s no surprise, then, that property ownership in Austria remains low.

According to Eurostat, 55.2 percent of people owned their home in Austria in 2021 – well below the 70 percent European average. That’s the third lowest percentage in Europe after Switzerland (41.6 percent) and Germany (51.1 percent).

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

So, where can we find cheap(er) homes in Austria – either properties that are move-in ready or those that could be excellent investments for those who enjoy fixer-uppers (or huge DIY projects)?

To find these gems, we used a property website that allowed us to search for real estate in the whole of Austria (instead of just a few main cities) and showed us homes with at least three rooms.

The price limit was set at €100,000 (while our colleagues in even-more-expensive Switzerland had theirs set at a much heftier CHF 500k, around €515k).

As of August 2022, we found 25 houses and 34 apartments meeting these criteria on sale.

As you might expect, many of these need (a lot of) work, but the good news is you can definitely still nab a home for under €100,000 with gorgeous views, small plots of land or lake access.

austria map
Houses below €100k are mainly in the south and east of the country. Property map from Wlllhaben.at.

What types of properties are there?
Looking at houses first (see the map above, which also shows the average purchase price across Austria’s different regions), a few things stand out:

The vast majority of the immediately liveable properties are on the tiny side – most are around the 40 square metres mark and billed as holiday homes – but many come fully furnished, a bonus if you’re working to a tight budget.

You will find bigger ones (the largest we saw was 124 square metres), but then they are likely to be complete renovation projects.

If you head for the border, you’ll get more house for your euro in southern and eastern Austria. Many of the properties we saw were in peaceful Burgenland, Austria’s least populous state.

And if you’re happy to buy just over the border in Hungary, Slovakia or even cross into Croatia, you’ll get more space – and less work – for your money.

You might think cities would be a complete no-no for snapping up bargain properties, but when we looked, we actually found a few properties a short drive from Vienna that were below our top price.

House or apartment?
When it comes to apartments, you’ll get more square metres  – we found flats within this price bracket were around 70 square metres on average – and a slightly greater choice of location for your money

READ ALSO: ‘Concrete gold’: Austria ranks as Europe’s second most expensive property market

Plus, the apartments we found were generally in much better condition – some are even newly renovated and fabulous – so you wouldn’t have so much, if any, work to do.

But there is, inevitably, a compromise: you might get a terrace or a balcony, but most won’t have a proper garden, and certainly no land or outbuildings, which many of the houses we found did have.

If you opt for an apartment over a house, you’ll usually have a slightly greater choice of location. Property map from Willhaben.at.

Even when you do find cheap properties, though, they are sometimes quite literally too good to be true. Some may require completely gutting, others may not be connected to the grid or might need costly lease renegotiations.

So, whether you go for a house or an apartment, you need to make sure you do your homework and carry out a thorough inspection first.

While renovation projects can be great investments, they’re time-consuming and can be very costly.

Before you take the huge step of purchasing, be honest with yourself about your own skill levels and how much time you have for a project – it’s easy to get caught up in the romantic idea of the end result of a gorgeous renovation – and get estimates for any work that needs to be done.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why Austria’s rising property prices are causing alarm

If you’re looking at buying somewhere to rent out, check average monthly rents for that area to be sure it’s worth you putting all the hard work in and that you’ll get a good return on your investment.

Whatever your reason for buying, check the property’s location carefully – some have poor access or no connection to basic services.

And it’s important to be mindful of extra costs, too: besides renovation costs, you’ll also have to fork out for property taxes, monthly charges, as well as any lease renewal costs and other living expenses.

These can all vary depending on the type of property and where it is.

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