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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Renting in Austria: How to find a furnished apartment

In Austria, most rental apartments are unfurnished, which is not always convenient for new arrivals, students, or those on short-term contracts. But there are alternatives if you know where to look.

Furnished apartment
There are lots of factors to consider in your Austrian apartment hunt: price, location, and furnished vs unfurnished. Photo: Patrick Perkins/Unsplash

The typical situation in Austria is that your apartment won’t come with any of the furniture. You can expect to have the bathroom and kitchen fittings including in many cases a built-in kitchen, but often not a washing machine.

Additional furnishings such as the bed, tables and chairs, storage, light fittings, and curtains are rarely included.

Serviced apartments

One option for those who prefer a furnished rental is to look for a serviced apartment. These are a popular choice for new arrivals during their first few months, or for people on short-term work contracts. 

In this type of housing, you can typically expect a small kitchenette (think a hob and microwave, but no oven and limited preparation space). Extra services like a weekly clean and WiFi will usually be included in your monthly cost. Some buildings may have communal areas like co-working spaces or even a gym or pool.

However, rent tends to be quite a lot higher than a usual one-bedroom apartment, particularly since serviced apartments are typically small and compact.

Companies that specialise in furnished apartments

As well as serviced apartments, several companies offer furnished apartments, often targeting the expat or international community. These include Housing Anywhere, The Homelike, TempoFlat, and AirBnb for example.

However, be aware that in many cases the price you pay for the convenience with these companies is, well, a higher price; when The Local checked rates for the above sites in Vienna, they were significantly above what you would expect to pay on the private market, even taking into account extra costs for furniture rental. 

Tap into your network

Beyond browsing the usual property sites and checking out serviced apartments, you also have the option of using informal routes for finding a new home.

Even if you don’t yet have local friends and colleagues to speak to, Facebook groups for foreigners in your city, for example, might be a good place to find people who are leaving their apartment and need to hand over the contract to someone else. If you can take on the furniture as well as the contract, that could be a win-win situation.

The private rental market

You can also search for long-term furnished rentals, which like unfurnished apartments may be rented privately or (more often) via an estate agent. Look for apartments labelled as ‘möbliert’ on the usual rental services such as Willhaben, Immoscout and Der Standard. 

Make sure to check the description carefully, or speak to the landlord, to find out exactly what is included. You can’t assume that everything in the pictures will be left for you; some unfurnished apartments will be illustrated with photos of the current tenant’s furniture.

If you do rent a furnished place privately, it’s good to know that there are two different ways the costs might be worked out. 

The first is that sometimes it is possible to ‘take over’ the furniture when you rent the property. This means that you pay a one-time fee (called an Ablöse) to buy the furniture, which is then yours to use, maintain, and keep or sell on when you leave.

In other cases, you rent the furniture. This usually means that your rent includes a Möbelmiete (literally ‘furniture rental’), which you pay as part of your monthly fee — the landlord should provide you a breakdown of the different costs including basic rent, VAT, service charges, and this furniture rental.

There are pros and cons to each option, including the fact that the Ablöse is often a significant upfront cost. With Möbelmiete, you’re paying more each month but if any of the items break and it’s not your fault, the landlord is responsible for their repair or replacement, whereas if you paid an Ablöse for them, you own them and have to pay for their upkeep. The disadvantage of Möbelmiete is that you can’t get rid of the items, so could be stuck with furniture that’s not to your taste. 

While there are options out there for furnished rentals, it does mean limiting your options — the vast majority of rentals in Austria are furnished. If you’d rather focus on finding a perfect apartment, it might make more sense to just factor the cost of furniture into your budget, particularly if looking for a long-term home, but it’s an individual decision. There are always options for making your new place a home without spending a fortune upfront, such as browsing secondhand shops or joining a ‘buy nothing’ group in your area.

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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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