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How can I find an apartment in Austria without a ‘Provision’?

Woman in empty apartment
Avoiding the upfront cost of the agents' commission or Provision is appealing, but watch out for these pitfalls. Photo: Kari Shea/Unsplash
In Austria, the estate agents' fee or commission on rental apartments can be up to two months' rate plus VAT, a non-refundable cost which you can avoid if you know how.

The Provision or estate agents’ commission usually costs between one and two months’ rent plus 20 percent VAT, depending on the type of place you’re renting and the length of the contract.

This is a non-refundable, one-off fee, which is especially frustrating if you don’t know whether you’ll be staying in an apartment long-term. For example, if your apartment costs €600 for the net rent and you stay there for only one year, a Provision of two months’ rent means you are effectively paying €100 extra per month.

Renting in Austria:

That might be worth it if it means living in your dream property, or if you prefer the security of going through an agent. If you have other specific criteria that you don’t want to compromise on, like living in a specific area or any hard-to-find features, it may be best not to narrow your options further.

But if you want to try to find an apartment without this cost, there are a few options to try.

Most of the standard apartment rental platforms, such as Willhaben, ImmobilienScout24, and Der Standard’s rental section, have options to search for “provisionsfrei” apartments — those rented privately without an agent and therefore free of commission. But be prepared for your search results to reduce drastically!

Sometimes newly built apartment blocks are a good place to start, because it may be the case that the building owner pays the agent commission, making them provisionsfrei to you as the tenant. You’ll usually find these on the usual search portals too.

There are a few other search portals dedicated specifically to finding apartments without going through an agent, which include Wohnheim Wien (run by the Jewish Community of Vienna), KeinMakler, PrivatImmobilien, MietGuru, and FlatBee. Note: The Local has no affiliation with any of the sites listed in this article.

And word of mouth can be especially helpful if your priority is avoiding agent fees. You never know who might know someone who is leaving your city or their apartment and is looking for someone to take over the contract.

Other options for provisionsfreie apartments include renting a cooperative apartment (Genossenschaftswohnung), which means paying a large upfront fee to become a member of the cooperative in return for no commission and lower monthly rents, or looking into other kinds of rentals altogether such as co-living spaces or serviced apartments. But whether these are suitable really depends what your priorities are. It’s almost certainly not worth choosing a co-operative, co-living or serviced apartment just to avoid the Provision; it’s much more important that you choose what’s right for your financial and living situation.

So what do you need to watch out for when searching for a provisionsfrei apartment?

These apartments are very popular, so you might need to make more of an effort in your search than you otherwise would, for example by browsing the rental sites more regularly and contacting landlords quickly when you see something you like. Make sure to have documents like your proof of income ready to show them.

Landlords know that provisionsfrei apartments are appealing, so you should also check that they aren’t ramping up the cost elsewhere. Austria has regulations on how much can be charged for rent, so you should do your research if the price seems high.

If you’re looking at furnished places, check if there’s an Ablöse (fee for taking on the furniture) and whether the price seems reasonable for the quality of furnishing — otherwise you’re simply swapping one high upfront cost for another.

It’s always important to do due diligence when renting, for example checking out the condition of the apartment at the viewing and making sure the costs are all in line with what’s legally allowed and the standard prices for that area, but this is especially important when renting privately.

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