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PROPERTY

Property buying rules for international residents in Vienna

Buying a home in another country – even as a resident – can be a tricky process. Here’s what you need to know about buying property in Vienna as a foreigner.

Vienna pictured in summer. Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash
There are specific rules for foreigners that want to buy property in Vienna. Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash

Vienna is famous for having affordable housing and a stable rental market.

This is part of the reason why Austria’s capital regularly tops the best place to live lists and also why so many international residents choose to make the city their home.

But what about buying property as a foreigner in Vienna? 

Here’s what you need to know before jumping into the property market. 

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: Why Austria’s rising property prices are causing alarm

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.

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 Vienna as a resident, or you simply want to purchase an investment property in the city, it is possible.

READ MORE: REVEALED: Where in Europe have house prices and rent costs increased the most?

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 Vienna – even for permanent residents.

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

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.

But in Vienna, the rules are slightly more relaxed than the national laws, making the process easier for some Viennese residents.

What is different in Vienna?

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

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 permit.

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

However, Vana Doranovic, an estate agent at Tristar, told The Local in a previous article: “In practice, we very often broker apartments in Vienna to non-EU citizens, and we have yet to experience a rejection from the Grundverkehrskommission.”

FOR MEMBERS: How can British second home owners spend more than 90 days in Austria?

Brits with an Article 50 Card

British people currently living in Vienna 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. 

As a result, there is no need to apply for the special permit to purchase property in Vienna, or anywhere else 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 Vienna in post-Brexit times, they will be considered as third country nationals and so subject to the country’s property buying rules for foreigners.

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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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