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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

EXPLAINED: The rules for buying property in Graz as a foreigner

Buying property as an international resident in Austria is not a standard process across the country, and there is a key difference in the Styrian city of Graz.

EXPLAINED: The rules for buying property in Graz as a foreigner

Graz is Austria’s second largest city (after the capital, Vienna) and attracts people from all over the world to live and work.

But what about buying property as a foreigner in Graz? What are the rules?

Here’s what you need to know before jumping into the property market in the Styrian capital city. 

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: Property buying rules for international residents in Austria

Who is classed as a foreigner in Austria?

Foreign nationals are defined by the Austrian Federal Government as those that do not have Austrian citizenship.

However, when it comes to buying property, there are varying rules for different foreigners, mostly depending on whether someone is from an EU country or not (rather than whether they have an Austrian passport). 

Property buying rules for EU and EEA citizens in Austria

In Austria, it’s relatively easy for citizens from EU and EEA countries and Switzerland to buy property as a foreigner.

This is because these citizens are granted the same rights as Austrian nationals under EU law.

So this means whether you are an EU citizen already living in Graz as a resident, or you simply want to purchase an investment property in the city, it is possible.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How Austria’s new property buying rules could impact you

Austrian rules for third country nationals

In Austria, the term ‘third country nationals’ refers to anyone who is not from an EU member state, an EEA (European Economic Area) country (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland. 

For this group it usually becomes more difficult to buy a home in Austria – even for permanent residents – due to strict property buying rules.

In principle, any permanent residents from a third country in Austria have to go through an authorisation process to gain a special permit that will allow them to buy property. 

The reason for the special permit is to ensure there is sufficient housing available for Austrian citizens and to avoid surging property and land prices from interest by non-EU buyers.

But in Graz, the rules are more relaxed than the national laws, making the process much easier for foreigners wanting to invest in property in the city.

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

What is different in Graz?

The biggest difference in the rules for foreigners in Graz is that there is no requirement to gain the special permit to buy property, unlike in other provinces and cities across Austria.

This means, as long as someone is a permanent resident in Graz (and they have the funds), they can buy property – no matter where they are from.

Brits with an Article 50 card

Since Brexit became a reality in January 2021, there has been some confusion in Austria about the rights of British people to buy property in the Alpine Republic, so here’s a brief explainer.

For those in possession of an Article 50 Card – a post-Brexit residency permit that grants British people living in Austria before December 31st 2020 pre-Brexit rights – they are still treated the same as those from EU member states.

FOR MEMBERS: How can British second home owners spend more than 90 days in Austria?

This should apply across Austria and was confirmed to The Local by the British Embassy in Vienna. It was also highlighted by the UK government in its official Living in Austria guide.

As a result, there is no need for British people with an Article 50 card to apply for the special permit to purchase property in Graz, or anywhere else in Austria. 

But for any British people that have moved to Austria in post-Brexit times, they will be considered as third country nationals and subject to the rules detailed above (although not in Graz where the permit is not required).

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