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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 buying rules for foreigners in Tyrol and Vorarlberg

While many countries have a north-south divide, Austria is often split between east and west, and it’s no different when it comes to property.

Property buying rules for foreigners in Tyrol and Vorarlberg

The west of Austria is home to the Alps and many famous ski resorts, making it a highly sought-after place to buy property – for both Austrians and foreigners.

But the popularity of this part of the country has led to skyrocketing prices and strict rules on who can and can’t buy property.

Thinking of investing in a home in Tyrol or Vorarlberg? Here’s what you need to know.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rules for buying property in Graz as a foreigner

Who is a foreigner in Austria?

Foreign nationals are defined by the Austrian Federal Government as people that do not have Austrian citizenship.

But when it comes to buying property, there are varying rules for different foreigners. This mostly depends 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 can be easy for citizens from EU and EEA countries and Switzerland to buy property as a foreigner in Austria.

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 Tyrol or Vorarlberg as a resident, or you simply want to purchase an investment property in the Alps, then it is possible.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: Property buying rules for international residents in Austria

Brits with an Article 50 card

For people with an Article 50 Card – a post-Brexit residency permit that grants Brits living in Austria before December 31st 2020 pre-Brexit rights – they are still treated the same as those from EU member states. 

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

Nationwide property-buying rules for third country nationals

In Austria, 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 is usually more difficult to buy property in Austria – even for permanent residents – due to strict rules.

In principle, any permanent residents from a third country in Austria have to go through an authorisation process to gain a special permit that will allow them to buy property. 

The reason for the permit is to ensure there is sufficient housing available for Austrian citizens and to avoid surging property and land prices from interest by non-EU buyers.

But the rules for foreigners buying property in Austria are regulated by the Foreign Nationals’ Property Acquisition Act of each province, which is why they can vary across Austria.

READ MORE: Where to find property in Austria for under €100k

What is different in Tyrol and Vorarlberg?

In Tyrol and Vorarlberg, only EU, EEA and Swiss nationals are allowed to buy property as a foreigner. British people with an Article 50 card are also included in this group.

This means third country nationals are not allowed to purchase property in these states.

Innsbruck, one of Austria’s most beautiful – and expensive – cities. Photo: Photo: Wikicommons

Why are the rules different in the west of Austria?

In a bid to reign in the property markets in Tyrol and Vorarlberg, governments have introduced measures such as caps on the number of holiday homes in certain districts. Third country nationals are also prohibited from buying property.

However, this has led to some international residents being pushed out of the market, like a Serbian couple who were denied a permit to buy a house in Tyrol in 2021, despite living and working in the province for 20 years.

In Vorarlberg, there are also special laws in place to restrict where holiday apartments can and can’t be built to protect the local housing stock.

Likewise, a property in Vorarlberg can only be used as a holiday home within specially designated zones – a rule that applies to Austrian citizens and foreigners.

READ ALSO: ‘Concrete gold’: Austria ranks as Europe’s second most expensive property market

Other regional property buying rules and exceptions

While the west of Austria has strict rules when it comes to foreigners buying property, it is the opposite in some places in the east.

For example, in Vienna, the key difference is that 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 special permit.

But for couples in Vienna where both partners are international residents, or non-EU individuals, the authorisation process still applies.

And in Graz, there is no requirement for foreigners to gain the special permit to buy property. This means, as long as someone is a permanent resident in Graz (and they have the funds), they can buy property – no matter where they are from.

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