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.
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.
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.