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MOVING TO AUSTRIA

Nine things you need to know when relocating to Vienna

Vienna waits for you, Billy Joel sang, but he forgot to mention the mountain of administration and culture shocks also waiting. Martine Pey, who has lived in Vienna for more than 20 years and works as a relocation consultant, spoke to The Local about her top tips for moving to the Austrian capital.

Vienna skyline
There is a lot to sort out when moving from one country or another, but don't neglect these nine crucial points. Photo: Dimitry Anikin/Unsplash

1. Take care of necessary bureaucracy 

The first step when relocating to Austria should be to complete the Meldezettel, which is the compulsory address registration certificate. Without a Meldezettel you won’t be able to rent an apartment, get a mobile phone contract or register for family allowance, so make sure it is at the top of your to-do list.

READ MORE: Meldezettel: Everything you need to know about Austria’s compulsory address registration

2. Learn the language

Learning German is more of a long-term goal and it’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s important to have some basic language skills, even if just for simple tasks like buying groceries. When I first moved to Austria from France I made some simple mistakes, like buying powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar because I didn’t have knowledge of the language. Learning a few basic words can really make a difference when you arrive!

3. Understand the rental market

Finding a good home can be hard when you first move to Austria as most adverts and websites are in German. It can be confusing when comparing offers because some prices will include utilities, like heating, whereas others won’t. To prepare for this, I would suggest translating some key words and terms to make sure you understand the advert before booking a viewing. Another tip is to get help from a colleague, a relocation company or a friend with good German skills. 

Also, don’t make the mistake of visiting the same flat with two different agents. If you decide to take it they will both expect the commission (known as a Provision). Apartments are often listed with several different agencies and tenants can end up receiving two invoices from two different agents for the same property.

RENTING IN AUSTRIA:

4. Get help with contracts

It’s crucial to understand a rental contract before signing it. Google Translate can help to an extent but it can’t tell you if a clause is unusual or illegal. I recommend people seek advice from a tenant’s association, a lawyer or a relocation company before signing a contract. Examples of unusual clauses include having to repaint the entire flat, or a two-year non-cancellation clause. This is illegal but most people that have recently relocated to Austria won’t be aware of it.

5. Explore the city

When moving to a city like Vienna it’s a good idea to spend some time visiting the different districts before making appointments to view apartments. People often do the opposite and start searching for a flat online, then realise they don’t actually like the area when they visit it.

The best way to explore a new city is by bike or public transport to get an understanding of the local infrastructure and to identify the most attractive areas for your needs. In Vienna, many residents use the Qando transport app. It helps people to find the fastest route between where they are and where they want to go.


Keep an open mind and visit as many neighbourhoods as you can before deciding where to settle. Photo: Dan Visan/Unsplash

6. Find a doctor

Finding a doctor in Vienna is quite easy. Around 70 percent of doctors are public, which means visits are covered by social insurance payments. Plus, there is no obligation to stay with the same doctor in Austria, so if you don’t like one, you can try another practice.

New residents in Vienna can find a doctor by using the Praxisplan platform (an online search tool). Praxisplan allows users to submit their criteria, including whether they would prefer a male or female doctor and any language specifications. Alternatively, new residents can speak to friends or colleagues to get recommendations. 

READ MORE: How the Austrian healthcare system works

7. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from professionals

In Vienna, new residents can visit the Expat Center, which is financed by the Vienna Business Agency. They offer free advice on a range of topics, from launching a business to finding a relocation company or even help with formalities.

8. Be prepared for cultural differences

Many people think that Austria is similar to Germany but it’s actually quite different and I advise anyone relocating here to have an open mind. Try not to make too many comparisons with your home country or neighbouring countries. Austria can actually be quite laid back and there is almost an Italian bohemian quality to the culture. Today, all countries in Europe look similar with the same shops and brands, but Austria is a bit different and there is something special here that people should be aware of.

9. Make an effort to integrate 

Integrating into Austrian life can be difficult for international residents – especially for couples without children who don’t meet other parents through a school. Austrian people often have their own lives and don’t always have space for new friends that don’t speak German, so it can be hard to meet new people. Loneliness can become a problem when relocating to Austria but engaging in some activities can be worthwhile, like walking a dog or joining a badminton group. Another problem is when a spouse stays at home while the other is at work and we are currently in the process of creating an expat club in Vienna to help new residents with integration.  

Martine Pey is a founding partner of Recom Relocation in Vienna.

What are your tips for people relocating to Vienna, or elsewhere in Austria? Get in touch at [email protected] to share your comments, and we may share a selection in a future article.

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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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