Buy your apartment in Berlin in 5 steps

Berlin is one of the most interesting real estate markets in Europe right now. Germany’s capital still boasts attractive prices in sales. This city offers a unique urban & international environment. With high living standard, and plenty of parks and recreational areas, Berlin the right choice for living or looking into buying your apartment in Berlin.

As I started my investigations in the real estate market, i came across a few things that one should know when looking into that topic. I have gathered most important aspects to consider if you want to invest in the Berlin real estate market. It is mainly focused on apartments since i don’t have the means to buy a house, but most of this is still relevant for bigger properties.

DISCLAIMER : This is rather long piece so don’t be impressed. However, this is an introduction to a pretty big broad topic with many elements to consider so bear with me and make yourself another cup of tea. 🙂 You can also jump to the part that interests you the most by clicking on “show” in the table of contents here under.

buy an apartment in berlin

1 – General considerations 

On the Berlin housing market, investors and residents’ demand has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years. The main explanations behind this are growth in both population and numbers of households due to the increased attractivity of the city. In addition, the economic performance is improving in the capital of Germany. Thus the purchasing power is increasing.

The purchases prices for an apartment in the center of Berlin are still “moderate” compared to London, Paris or New York. The positive expectations for the city and low interest rates make Berlin an attractive place for an investment.

While some parts of the cities like Prenzlauerberg or Kreuzberg has largely gentrificated and are more costly, many areas like Moabit or Neukölln are still interesting choices to consider. However, even in Prenzlauerberg or Kreuzberg, the price difference can play in your favor if you extend your search to just a few streets away.

Rental returns on new apartments in Berlin range between 2,5 and 3.5%*  and estate agents are able to manage the property rental on your behalf. When buying an apartment in Berlin to rent out, it is important to know that any existing tenant agreement cannot be legally terminated to allow the owner to move in. In worst case it can be 10 years later considering the very protective laws towards tenant in Berlin. This is particularly important to know since Berlin is a market where most apartments are rented out.

The reason for that is simple : for many years with such low estate prices, there was simply no advantage to be a landlord and buy an apartment in Berlin. Even over the course of 20 years, it was better to be a simple tenant. This is now changing as more and more people are looking into buying their own home, but the offer for available apartments is often scarce. This could also represent an opportunity for negotiations and bargain a lower price. If you are not afraid of taking the issue to court or if you are patient, you can buy the apartment in Berlin for a cheaper price when there are tenants inside.

You don’t need a German address for any correspondence, as everything can be handled from home. Finding a flat in Berlin is relatively easy, it is best to start out browsing through Berlin property websites.

2-  What is important regarding taxes, fees and legal issues when one wants to buy an apartment in Berlin?

A tax consultant is recommended to assist purchasers with any tax issues related to buying property in Berlin. Additional fees can be up to 15% of the purchase price as follows:

  • Notary costs (Notar): 1-2%
  • Land registry office fee (Grundbucheintrag): 0.5%
  • Property transfer tax (Grundwerbsteuer): 6%
  • Agents fees up to 7.14%

Take also good note that the German law has also taken steps to avoid speculation and fast increases in estate prices. A hefty tax has put into place onto the benefit made over reselling an estate if you don’t respect some conditions, literally removing that benefit. This means that under German law, in case you want to sell your apartment again, you need to have lived at least 2 consecutive years in the said apartment prior to the selling contract. Another alternative is to resell after 10 years if you don’t live in the flat your self.

There might also be some additional domestic regulations in your home country that you might want to check as well before you buy an apartment in Berlin. (I can’t help you there 😉 )

buy apartment Berlin
Don’t throw your cash out the window

2b- What are the possibilities to obtain a credit with a local bank?

International buyers can obtain finance for up to 50% of the property value. Banks and other lenders may offer loans based on the equity available in another property. Many estate agents will assist buyers in finding suitable financing options and renting out the property, if required.

You can of course go to your domestic bank to see what’s possible but it is not guaranteed they will agree to a loan involving an estate abroad or/and there might be some translation to do for the bank to have a look at all the documents. Just get in touch, you might not know what comes out of it.

Another alternative could be one of the innovative platforms like Hypofriend, which brings much needed transparency for expats in that market. They help you to find the optimum mortgage for your case by letting banks and credit institutions compete to provide the best rate. They are also able to tell you very fast how much you can afford with your current situation, income etc… All of this 100% digital and with no strings attached. That’s a pretty clever way to go about this. Look at this as the next-generation finance advisor.

3- Which documents should i request from the owner to learn more about the property ?

It is simply not enough to see the place and knock on the walls. You have to take a look at bigger picture of your involvement in the place.  You should ask the following minimum :

  • Wirtschaftspläne (Budget/Economic planning) : This describes what has been decided by all the owners of the building financially speaking, giving also more details about the different expenses and their evolution in time. Look for the mention “Rücklage“, the reserve of money in the common budget of the property. Look also for “Hausgeld” which are the monthly expenses.
  • Teilungserklärung (Declaration of division) : This document is showing what belongs to the apartment and what belongs to the joint-property like the stairs for example.
  • Energie Ausweis (Energy consumption assessment) : Gives details about the energy efficiency of the property.
  • Grundriss (Ground view) : The lay-out of the property.

4- Who are the different actors on the market and what are their roles ?

Agencies :

Agencies are necessary middle-men in the Berlin market as direct transactions between private owners are quite rare. Again, the local culture & market conditions hasn’t led to a lot of small private owners but rather to several big-scale property management companies. Thus the culture to do deals between small private persons is not mainstream when it comes to buy an apartment in Berlin.

Agencies gather your requirements and help you find your dream apartment either by working with other agencies or using their first-party database.
As anywhere else in the world, there should be no fees involved hiring an agency as they work on a performance basis.

Steuerberater / Tax Consultant

A tax consultant can help you find the best system so, depending on your case, there are as little costs as possible owning or renting out the flat. They can often help you grasp you a better picture of what the total cost of ownership could be. Many variables come into the deal so it could be a good idea to spend a bit of money on a tax consultant to potentially save thousands in the future. It’s not a necessary to involve a tax consultant but it’s advised.

Anwalt / Lawyer

Lawyers are not necessarily involved in the process of buying an apartment in Berlin either but they can be helpful to draft a sales contract or even pre-sales agreement one. Just as a tax consultant, they can also guide you through the different technicalities of owning and optimizing the costs of a flat. Some Steuerberater have a lawyers’ practice they work with, or even have one internally. In addition to analyze the contract, they can also represent the buyer at the notary. This is often the case if the buyer is not living in Germany or does not speak German. So a perfection option especially for investors as they have to come only once for selection the flat. The notary has to check if all parties involved understand the contract when he reads it in front of all parties involved. If a person who does not speak German wants to buy an apartment in Berlin without a lawyer an interpret has to be a the appointment at the notary.

Notar / Notary

In opposition to some countries, notaries in Germany don’t have a advisory role during the transaction. They stay neutral and are purely there to execute and make the transaction visible & official to the eye of the German state. They also make sure that all documents are valid to put your name of the land register. Their fee depend on the value of the property. Don’t expect to understand any of their administrative German while making their deed, it’s purely formal that they enunciate orally all elements of the transaction and the contract.

Hausverwaltung / Property Management

While not directly involved in the process for people who look to buy an apartment in Berlin, they are a valuable contact to have as they often provide all the documents to prospective buyers. Those documents give away important information about the property as we have seen. Most of the time however, the agency representing the seller has gathered those documents for the buyer already.

5- Typical process during a search

buy flat in Berlin
  1. Set your requirements and get real about your search/priorities

    My first priority was always location-location-location when i wanted to buy an apartment in Berlin but you might feel differently. Try to get a sense of the market and know what’s reasonable to expect. Don’t hesitate to widen your net at first as it is by visiting many apartments that you will know which requirements should be considered with more flexibility.

  2. Create alerts on Immobilien Scout, Immonet & Immowelt to get the latest offers

    We know those platforms from our search for a flat to rent, but those platforms are also the leaders for purchasing apartments. Sign-in for an account (on Immowelt, Immonet & on Immobilien Scout),  set search agents to get alerts by emails as soon as a property matches your requirements. This way, you are sure to put a foot in the door early.

  3. Talk to a few agencies for guidance & reality check.

    Agencies can be powerful allies when you pick the right ones, they help you to get through all the administrative stuff especially if you don’t speak German. They also represent the chance to be brought-in first (or at least early) when something new is being put out for sale, which is really important in the Berlin estate market. Just make sure to pick the right ones. I strongly recommend Invest-AB for 3 reasons :

    They are former colleagues. They helped me get my apartment.They are a team composed of Germans and expats speaking French or English. You can really trust them, they work with foreigners on a regular basis.

  4. Go and visit interesting properties even if they don’t match your requirements exactly

    This relates to my first point. This is really important because it will teach you the reality of the market and allow you to make a more qualified search. You also don’t want to dismiss a property that might have been “above par” after all. So go see a property that’s a bit further than that Ubahn Station. Go see that flat that looks like it’s been in a war zone. Go see that house that doesn’t have central heating. I can’t stress how important this is.

  5. Make sure your bank is aware of your wish to buy an apartment in Berlin

    Once you have reached an agreement with the seller, it is important to go as fast as possible. You probably will have a bank lend you part of the money you need so make sure your contact person at the bank is aware of your search. Something i did for example is to send my bank an “alert” about a flat i was “about to buy” to rehearse the process with them and keep me in their top-of-mind. They then knew me as the guy who is about to buy an apartment in Berlin. I also listed in this article the options when it comes to loans in Germany.

  6. Check ALL parameters of the property (location, location, location but also…)

    In my search to buy an apartment in Berlin, location was my first priority so i naturally had special eye for this when weighting my decision. However, try to push away the “sexy” parameters for a second and consider the other very important parameters. Space, location, orientation and lay-out are all important but make sure to check how the finances of the property looks like, how expensive the monthly expenses are, if there are any renovations already planned, etc. Those parameters can make the difference between a good deal and a bad one.

  7. Make your bid – fast, sort of…

    If you are convinced you have found your dream property, be fast ! Others may be faster than you. Don’t rush it and ask all the necessary documents but be quick about making the decision. You might also want to use the service of a building surveyor too to check everything.

Have a professional estate agent as assistance to buy an apartment in Berlin

A professional agent takes the buyer through every step in the buying process and communicates with the seller and all partners involved. Its highly recommended to have a lawyer for consulting and to discuss details of the contract. Here again, i do strongly recommend Invest-AB when buying an apartment in Berlin.

tip 1 : look beyond what meets the eye and see the potential

A lot of people, even experimented ones, often dismiss an opportunity because they only look on the surface of things and don’t look at the actual potential of a place. A poorly equipped kitchen, a really dirty living room shouldn’t put you off. Look at the bigger picture and think about the potential you could uncover with a bit of work & time. Little gems can hide under gravels. 🙂

tip 2 : consider auctions

This option is often little known but several properties are being sold at auctions by the city. This could also represent a good opportunity to bid and make a bargain and buy an apartment in Berlin but involves a few risks. You are almost always not permitted to visit the place since it is an auction. The tenant or the owner is not obliged to let people see it so most of them just don’t, making this a wild card sometimes. You do have access to all regular documents though. Another issue is also how good you are at auctions; it can be tricky to bid in German. You also have be present physically and transfer 10% of the estimated value to enter the auction. All apartments for sale in Berlin are listed on this website.

Tip 3 : this post got quite popular so i decided to make one about how to approach the issue and sell an apartment in Berlin.

buy apartment in Berlin

* source


  • Reply Max 06/08/2020 at 04:36

    Thanks for the very helpful post. Just one question about working with a realtor/agent. When I look online at properties on one of the several sites (e.g., immobilienscout24), most properties list an agent (Anbieter) to contact for more information (someone I would call the listing agent). If I understand your advice correctly, you would suggest having my own agent (e.g., someone from Invest-AB) and work with him/her to learn more an apartment rather than contacting the listing agent directly? Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/08/2020 at 22:42

      Hey Max. You can go both ways really, it depends how confident you are doing this on your own. There is no “right way” to do this.

  • Reply Heena 09/01/2020 at 12:41

    Hey, thanks for sharing a great piece of information.

    Can you throw some light on how owning a house effects tax deduction from salary?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/01/2020 at 09:51

      Hey Heena. Right now, i can’t think of anything but some expenses on an house may be put off in taxes.

  • Reply Himanshu 05/09/2019 at 13:23

    Very good article indeed. do you know if it is recommended to get a credit to pay for the initial deposit ? Will it affect the possibility of getting a mortgage?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/09/2019 at 15:43

      Hey Himanshu. You’d need to meet with a finance advisor for a qualified response but it’s probably best to be able to pay that from your own pocket, as well as the fees too.

  • Reply Appaswamy 21/02/2019 at 14:17

    Excellent Blog. This is very useful to know the things to be considered when buying an Apartment in Berlin. Thanks for sharing this post.

  • Reply Emelia 20/01/2019 at 19:35

    Hi Bastien. I don’t know if Invest-AB has changed much recently, but we haven’t been able to get much info from them. I was told by them that a 3 room flat will be 300k + We’re not looking for a place in any of the trendy areas and we don’t mind if it’s occupied (we’re not ready to move yet), so we were surprised that the price would be that high. Then Invest-AB said they’d get back to us with a place that might be right for us, but we haven’t heard anything. Can you recommend any other agencies or do you know if it’s possible to find someone who can act as a purchasing agent to help us look? Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/01/2019 at 10:33

      Hey Emelia. Thanks for your feedback. This doesn’t seem unreasonable, but of course there are so many parameters to take into account. Berlin prices have grown by a lot (the biggest worldwide increase last year!). You are of course right to try your luck with multiple agencies at the same time. However, i have been out of the game for a little while, so there is no other agency i can recommend without any doubt. Sorry. Good luck for the search!

    • Reply Jean - 24/01/2019 at 13:12

      Dear Emelia,

      Thank you for your message and your interest in our agency.

      As Bastien replied, the prices increased rapidly – specially in the last three years – and if you check offers on the current market, you can see it pretty fast. If you find a cheaper offer than the average prices of the area, then we always recommend precaution as it certainly means that something is wrong or not clear.

      We might have had a conversation about prices and if we did not have anything matching your search criteria in our portfolio, we prefer being honest to clients and not suggest something they might not want. We always say that we will contact you if we have an offer that might interest you – and we really do it – and if we do not have anything, then we do not have anything. Nobody wants to receive offers that does not match search criteria.

      To be able to see if we can help you and to understand better your search criteria, we would need your full name as we do not find any mails from an Emelia in our Databank/Mails, which makes us hard to connect the dots and to know what were your search criteria. Please feel free to contact us again by e-mail and we see what we can do.

      Have a great day!

      Best regards,
      Jean from

    • Reply Marie 16/04/2019 at 10:40

      I just called to Invest-AB the first time this morning because of the recommendation in the blog and got quite interesting customer service, so I’m not bothering them again. I wanted to ask general questions about how the process of bidding an apartment goes, what I should take into account when reserving an apartment and so on and the person in the call told me he can’t help me because I’m not their customer and then after 5 min he complained to be giving me now answers for free and that I didn’t even tell my name in the beginning of the call (which I actually did).
      I’m not native German speaker and lived in Berlin less than 2 years and about to make the biggest purchase of my life so would like to really feel trust when dealing with potential agency and can’t really say I got a good impression.
      So sorry I took 7 min in total your time this morning for free!

      • Reply Jean - 29/04/2019 at 18:26

        Dear Marie,
        Thanks for your comment. We are always open to constructive feedback in order to improve our customer experience constantly .
        In your particular request, 2 points were not reported correctly in your comment. First, you have not presented yourself and you did not mention that you found an apartment through another agency than ours. Second, we are not allowed to answer in the name of other agencies regarding a reservation process. Third, we have a dedicated service for this kind of situation and buyers in your situation ask us for a consulting service. Most of our clients arrange a real estate consulting appointment.

        We are ready to help people willing to buy in Berlin with English language support. We are aware it is an important purchase in their life, we deal with them every day. For that, we have a consulting service that you can book with our agency if the property is not for sale through our agency.
        We hope you understand this position and wish you all the best with the purchase of your property. If you need any consulting, please feel free to contact us.

  • Reply Barbara 21/12/2018 at 11:33

    I`m considering buying an apartment in Berlin.
    Can you please help me to understand how meeting at notar should end? After agreeing on everything with seller. Should I receive copy of signed contract and the end of the meeting at notar? If not when and how I should receive it?
    Thank you in advance for your help,

    • Reply Nick 28/04/2019 at 09:07

      Hi Barbara,

      Since in Germany only notarized purchase contracts for real estate or land are legally binding, a notary is needed. The notary in Germany requires all documents to be in German, hence you will be required to be present with a German speaking representative, and their identity will be recorded as a witness.The notary serves as a neutral intermediary between the contracting parties, they noatrize the purchase contract of the property and arrange the request for the land charge at the land registry (Grundbuch).

      Typically, if you use a bank you will need to make sure that your loan contract is prepared before the notary appointment otherwise you will run the risk that you sign the purchase contract (legally-binding) without being able to finance the property. Hence, we always suggest to understand your mortgage options well in advance of the final signing. Please note, you always have up to 2-weeks to cancel the mortgage contract even if the notary appointment is cancelled or the seller pulls out last minute.

      Kind Regards,
      [email protected]Hypofriend

  • Reply Dassise 25/05/2018 at 16:20

    Hi Bastien,

    Thank you for your feedback. Do you have any a advice for an agency or someone that can renovate my apartment ?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2018 at 22:23

      Hi Dassise, i know Invest-AB can help you find the right professionals but i don’t know any myself sorry.

  • Reply manasi 21/11/2017 at 14:09


    Do you have any contacts who can inspect the building for you? (like a surveyor)


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2017 at 18:59

      I cannot recommend anyone at this point i’m afraid.

  • Reply Phil 24/10/2017 at 12:48

    Compared to US real estate markets with multiple listing services, the Berlin market seems not very transparent and very fragmented. How do you find reliable (that is accurate and disinterested) information an such questions as price trends, time on market of individual properties, differences of offer and closing prices, etc? Is this even possible, or do you just pay the asking price and hope for the best?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/10/2017 at 15:05

      Hi Phil. It’s like anywhere else in the world; you get a better understanding with time and experience as you are active on the market. Otherwise, you need to “buy” this information from an experienced estate agent via consulting fees.

  • Reply Daniel 11/10/2017 at 15:49

    Good read!
    What are my rights, as a buyer, if the property comes with a tenant and a contract. Can I end the contract and move in?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/10/2017 at 20:04

      Hi Daniel. Germany is very protective of tenants. Depending on the contract, it’s not unusual to see tenants leave after years. It’s on a case by case basis.

  • Reply J. Heinze 30/09/2017 at 12:34

    I plan to go to Berlin to see properties. Eventually I will want to buy one, but I will no longer be there. My brother lives there so I thought giving him a power of attorney to buy the property for me. Is that called Vollmacht? Who can make the document? A lwayer or notary? Any info on this might help. Thanks!!!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/10/2017 at 14:20

      Hi there. Yes it is called a Vollmacht, a lawyer can help you do it as the notary is staying neutral is this.

  • Reply Dana 26/06/2017 at 11:15

    Good article. Would like to add that banks no longer give you finance for a property unless you earn a taxable income in Germany.
    While it’s a pity, it helps avoid foreign investors inflating property prices, which I guess is a good thing for the German economy.

    • Reply Nick 28/04/2019 at 08:55

      Hi Dana,

      I am the founder of and would like to chime in on this since we’ve also helped people with foreign taxable income secure local German mortgages. The downpayment requirements are between 30% & 40% depending on the rental income as are the interest rates. But I can confidently we say it is possible as long as your are not self-employed abroad.

      For more questions please check our website.

      Kind Regards,
      Nick @Hypofriend

  • Reply Brian 03/06/2017 at 03:05

    Can you tell me a bit more about how the property auctions go?
    The price/value listed on the website, is that the starting bid? or what they think it is worth?

    Any idea how long you have to pay what you bid?
    Explain the 10% bit to me- is that like you have to pay that to even bid? Or just show that you have that much?

    As usual, love your blog posts. Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/06/2017 at 12:42

      Hi Brian. Yes, the prices listed there are the starting bid and you need to transfer the 10% beforehand to be able to enter the auction.

  • Reply Brogan Clephan 27/02/2017 at 14:39

    Does anybody know anything about “”, we’ve been scammed out of £2000 previously trying to find a place so want to be 100% sure now and can’t find any reviews online. We can make an appointment to view the apartments and are doing so but just have a constant uneasy feeling about everything now after losing the first amount on money.

    • Reply Alejandro Arauco 07/03/2018 at 10:22

      I’ve been renting an apartment for almost 2 years with them and haven’t had any issues.
      I was not able to view the apartment before renting it but it was 100% what was advertised in the ad.
      Sometimes they do take forever to reply though when talking about contract renewals.

  • Reply Luke J. 24/02/2017 at 09:33

    Thanks for good information, What about costs for foreigners? Does it cost more to buy or rent apartmanet or the same as german people?
    Thanks for answer.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/02/2017 at 10:34

      Hi Luke. Market prices are the same for all and there is no extra-tax for foreigners if that’s what you are asking. However, please note that there may be additional regulations from your home country. Also, you might pay more/lose money indirectly, because your level of information is not the same as locals, hence the need for an agency sometimes.

  • Reply Johnny 22/02/2017 at 17:27

    Thanks for a very helpful article!

    I’m wondering if I would need to consult a Tax Consultant before signing a contract, or can it be done afterwards?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/02/2017 at 09:06

      Hi Johnny. Do you need to meet one before signing a contract; it’s optional but recommended to understand more about the impact it will have on your finances. Do you need one after: probably a good idea to optimize your investment.

  • Reply Marta 13/02/2017 at 23:07

    really clear and helpful.
    Thank you 🙂

  • Reply Vishal 10/02/2017 at 06:26

    Fantastic piece. Well-structured and thorough. Super useful as a starting point and to have this overview. Thanks a lot!

  • Reply Madeleine 01/01/2017 at 14:55

    Hi Bastien!

    Great article, very informative. In your experience, what is a normal % required for the deposit upfront on an apartment?



    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/01/2017 at 09:39

      Hi Madeleine. Thanks for leaving a comment. I’m glad it helped. Usually banks here require 20% to 30% of the total loan, depending on your contract.

      • Reply Nick 28/04/2019 at 09:00

        Hi Madeleine,

        I am the founder of Hypofriend and would like to chime in on this since we’re a licensed German mortgage broker. In Germany, the minimum downpayment depends on a number of factors, the main factor is your residence status, if you are a blue-card holder or non-permanent resident, you should expect to put down 10%. Additionally, you should expect to at least cover the purchase fees (up to 15%). Finally, a downpayment of 5-10% can save you a lot of interest as the interest rates drop significantly due to a lower Loan-to-value.

        For more questions please check our website.

        Kind Regards,
        Nick @Hypofriend

  • Reply Eddie marzbani 30/12/2016 at 01:45

    Very good explanation! I am a French citizen and right now I am in San Francisco with my daughter.
    I return to France in a couple of weeks; is it possible to send me a brochure for a one bedroom and two bedroom with their prices and monthly expenses ( charges and taxes)
    Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/12/2016 at 17:13

      Hi Eddie, please contact an estate agent directly. I am not one of them. AB invest, the agency in this article does speak french.

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