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EXPLAINED: Property buying rules for international residents in Austria

Austria has strict rules when it comes to foreigners buying property, but there are some key differences depending on where you are from.

EXPLAINED: Property buying rules for international residents in Austria
Buying property in Austria as a foreigner can be tricky - depending on where you are from. Photo by Datingscout on Unsplash

Buying property is a dream come true for many and one of the most expensive purchases most people will ever make.

So it makes sense to understand the rules around buying a home in Austria, especially for those living as international residents.

Here’s what you need to know about buying property in Austria as a foreigner.

READ MORE: Tenant or landlord: Who pays which costs 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, 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 Austria as a resident, or you simply want to purchase a holiday home in Austria, it is possible.

FOR MEMBERS: REVEALED: Where in Europe have house prices and rent costs increased the most?

Property buying rules for third country nationals

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 becomes more difficult to buy property in Austria – even for permanent residents.

In principle, permanent residents from a third country have to go through an authorisation process to gain a special permit to buy property. This can take up to six months and the rules vary depending on the province (more details on this below).

To obtain a permit, applicants need to provide proof of citizenship, a valid permanent residence permit, a contract for the property, an excerpt from the property’s current listing in the Land Registry and an overview of the intended use of the property (for example, as a main home).

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 overseas buyers.

Brits with an Article 50 Card

British people currently living in Austria as a resident will come under one of two categories – those with an Article 50 Card and those without.

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. 

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

As a result, there is no need to apply for the special permit to purchase property in Austria. This was further confirmed to The Local by the British Embassy in Vienna, and the UK government recently issued a notification in its official Living in Austria guide.

But for any British people that have moved to Austria in post-Brexit times, they will be considered as third country nationals.

Regional rules within Austria

Despite the national rules for buying property in Austria, there are key differences in two major cities and some western states.

For example, in Graz, third country nationals do not need the special permit to buy a home.

Likewise, in Vienna, if a married couple is buying property and one spouse is an Austrian citizen, they do not have to go through the authorisation process to get a permit.

However, in Tyrol, which has high levels of tourism and holiday homes, only EU, EEA and Swiss nationals are allowed to buy property as a foreigner. This was highlighted in a 2021 case of a Serbian couple denied a permit to buy a house, despite living and working in Tyrol for 20 years.

For this reason, it’s always a good idea to check the property buying rules for foreigners within a province before starting the process.

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PROPERTY

EXPLAINED: Is the construction ‘boom’ over in Austria?

Austria has seen a property and construction boom in the last few years. Will inflation dampen new investment in the sector? And what will it mean for the property market?

EXPLAINED: Is the construction 'boom' over in Austria?

Austria has seen an increase in residential construction in recent years. In 2021, the activity in residential construction was the highest since the 1980s, according to data from Statistik Austria.

Around 71,2000 flats were built across the country in 2021, which exceeded the already high level of the two previous years by 5 percent and is the highest result since the beginning of the 1980s, the data institute said. 

The provinces with more activity were Vienna (23 percent of all completed apartments were built there), followed by Upper Austria (19 percent), Lower Austria (17 percent) and Styria (14 percent). However, the province of Tyrol, in Western Austria, had the highest construction activity per inhabitant, according to the data.

FOR MEMBERS: Is now a good time to buy property in Austria?

Based on annual average population figures, about 7.9 apartments per 1,000 habitants were built in 2021 overall. 

The highest rates were registered in Tyrol (9.0), followed by Upper Austria and Styria (both 8.8). The numbers in Vienna include only new homes in new buildings – not any renovations to add apartments to already existing blocs.

Rising costs and fewer new buildings

However, inflation has also been felt in the construction sector, according to a separate report by Statistik Austria.

“In October 2022, construction costs for residential buildings were +7.6  percent, significantly above the October figure of the previous year, but down slightly by 0.3 percent compared to the previous month of September,” said Statistics Austria Director General Tobias Thomas.

The Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO) currently expects the completion of new homes to stagnate this year and decline by 2 or 3 percent in 2023, according to Der Standard.

The reasons are inflation, higher construction costs, delivery problems and the new stricter lending guidelines that prevent some people from being able to borrow and finance a home, Wifo economist Michael Klien told the daily. 

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

Austrian housing researcher Wolfgang Amann told Der Standard that, from 2024, the stricter rules would have more impact leading to a “massive drop” of 24 to 30 percent in the completion of single-family homes. 

From August 2022, anyone applying for a mortgage in Austria is subject to new rules related to equity and terms and conditions for loans, as The Local reported.

The most significant change to house-buying rules in Austria is that there is now a mandatory deposit of 20 percent of the value of a property, including additional costs. Previously, banks were simply issued with recommendations about a minimum deposit.

Additionally, the monthly loan instalment may not exceed 40 percent of the monthly disposable net household income, and the financing term may not exceed 35 years.

So, what will happen to the property market?

Peter Marschall from Marschall Real Estate in Vienna told The Local: “In one scenario, the political situation is not so bad and property prices and demand go down a bit but not dramatically.

“In the worst case scenario, the war in Ukraine is still ongoing or getting worse, the economy is bad and bankruptcies are increasing.

“The question is, how bad will it get? I hope not as bad as some people predict, but it’s difficult to see into the future right now.”

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What will happen to Austria’s property market in 2023?

Justin from Amazing Austria told The Local that he expects prices to fall across the entire property market in Austria next year. However, it might increase transactions in some segments.

Justin said: “Predictions for 2023 are that the market will definitely slow at the lower end.”

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