Archive for the 'Housing' Category

Life-changing cities

Berlin, a life-changing city? apparently yes. Check this article on Repubblica.

AflatinBerlin on air!

If you understand Italian and want to know more about buying a flat in Berlin, listen to the interview on the Italiansonline WebRadio…please don’t laugh 😀

Click here and get to the mid on the streaming.

Living in a vintage gas station, in Schoeneberg

Andreas Meichsner for The New York Times

Have a look at the fabulous article by the New York Times on a very lateral-thinking renovation: from gas station to apartment-cum-art-gallery!

Actually, I remember seeing an Aral gas station teamed up with a bar/restaurant at Schlesisches Tor U-bahn station, close to Club der VisionĂ€re. I wonder if it is seasonal or open all year round…have to check it out.

The full article can be found on the New York Times website together with a beautiful slide show. An excerpt of the article follows.

In Berlin, a renovated gas station


Continue reading ‘Living in a vintage gas station, in Schoeneberg’

Real estate prices across Europe

And today’s most popular article in the Financial Times is…

“House prices slide hits recovery hopes”.

Play around with the interactive charts, plotting against each other the price developments across different EU countries. A live audio comment is also available on the website, commenting specifically the quite different trends among UK, Germany, Austria… quarterly data since 2000 or annual data since 1970.

At first sight, it seems that at end 2007 the German market (existing homes) was at its most depressed level ever since 2000, and with Austria and Norway it was one of the few to remain flattish-slightly up while the crisis unfolded. Fingers crossed. Touch wood.
Continue reading ‘Real estate prices across Europe’

a view from Qatar

An article from Qatar…According to several studies, the German housing market still provides positive cash-flow development and increase in rents and prices. Despite the financial crisis, the residential real estate markets in the major cities of Germany are performing very well, and international investors are looking forward to increasing their investments in the market this year”.

High demand for properties in Germany
Web posted at: 7/6/2009 0:18:23
Source ::: The P

Doha: The first real estate investment meeting of Engel & Völkers held at the Sheraton Doha in Doha, last Monday. The conference focused on prime residential buildings in Germany and was set up to introduce local individuals and investment companies to the German housing market. Continue reading ‘a view from Qatar’

Boring, tedious, envious or just plain lazy?

“Gentrification has hit Prenzlauer Berg at a speed unmatched even by the most tarted-up quarters of other European capitals. Ninety per cent of the district’s apartments have been vacated by their original East German inhabitants since the Wall’s fall. They have been replaced by a generation of young Germans who have arrived as rich invaders from the West. The standing joke in Prenzlauer Berg is that the borough is populated exclusively by Swabians from wealthy south-western Germany. Like most jokes, it contains an element of truth”.

This morning I found this article on my virtual shore, the Google tide brought it from The Independent.

A flavor on the pros and cons of gentrified Prenzl’berg. A panoramique on the former-DDR LĂ€nder demographic, economic and neo-nazi problems. All in all not so original. Frankly, I expected something better from the Independent. This piece feels stale, like a “Panorama” article, full of clichĂ©s and made of rechauffĂ© themes.

Or is it just envious? To me, the british society doesn’t seem so “full or harmony” or heavenly homogeneous in terms of economic and social opportunities. Heathrow airport or some stops of the Tube don’t even evoke “poor but sexy” thoughts like some rusty rail platforms in OstBerlin. And there was never an iron curtain in between Putney and Islington.

If you want to read articles criticizing Germany, read the German press…it’s more interesting. Be it on the debate on prams in Prenzl’berg. Or the unemployment rate in Mecklemburg. Or Rostock gangs. Or the Swabian invasion.

Continue reading ‘Boring, tedious, envious or just plain lazy?’

The pros and cons of Neukölln

TĂŒrkish fĂŒr AnfĂ€nger-style hype or “unreachable by positive trends”? An interesting article on Neukölln by The Local…for more info (on the pros and cons) check out Toytown and IOL forums.


Neukölln, beyond the hype

Published: 20 May 09

Despite the buzz that fuelled the resettlement of the young and hip in Berlin’s Neukölln district, the area is still light years away from the gentrification of the city’s trendy eastern areas.

Low living costs haven’t just drawn cool types: they’ve attracted lots of poor people as well, adding to the existing social misery. Exberliner Magazine explores what Neukölln really is: colourful melting pot or Hartz IV ghetto? Continue reading ‘The pros and cons of Neukölln’

Inflation Angst

Warren Buffett said a fwe weeks ago in Omaha that the only viable forecast which can be made is that we are going to have “lots, lots of inflation”.


Gerade in Krisenzeiten entdecken die Menschen in Deutschland die Immobilie als werthaltige Asset-Klasse wieder”, stellt IVD-PrĂ€sident Jens-Ulrich Kießling fest. 54 Prozent der Befragten nannten Immobilien mit großem Abstand vor anderen Anlageformen als besten Schutz vor Inflation. “Die Immobilie ist damit der Gewinner der Finanzkrise”, ergĂ€nzt JĂŒrgen Michael Schick, VizeprĂ€sident des IVD.

And another interesting excerpt from the Morgenpost:

Wulff Aengevelt, geschĂ€ftsfĂŒhrender Gesellschafter des Maklerhauses Aengevelt Immobilien, weist aber auch auf einen anderen Trend hin: „Vermögende Privatanleger suchen Objekte im Hochpreissegment, die stabil und konjunkturresistent sind.“ Deshalb hĂ€tten in diesem Teilmarkt mit der steigenden Nachfrage auch die Preise merklich angezogen. Hingegen seien im unteren und mittleren Marktsegment die Nachfrage und damit die Preise weiter zurĂŒckgegangen. „Die Rezession und die Angst vor der Arbeitslosigkeit hĂ€lt mittelstarke Haushalte derzeit davon ab, Wohneigentum zu erwerben“, sagt Aengevelt. Da die Hypoport-Statistik den Gesamtmarkt in Deutschland abbilde, spiegele sie die unterschiedliche Entwicklung in den einzelnen Marktsegmenten nicht wider.

JĂŒrgen-Michael Schick, VizeprĂ€sident der Maklerorganisation Immobilienverband Deutschland (IVD), spricht von einem zweigeteilten Markt: „Wir erleben derzeit einen deutlichen NachfrageĂŒberhang bei hochwertigen Eigentumswohnungen und insbesondere sanierten Altbauwohnungen in guter und bester Lage in den Metropolregionen.“ Hingegen ĂŒbersteige bei EinfamilienhĂ€usern und Eigentumswohnungen in KleinstĂ€dten und lĂ€ndlichen Regionen das Angebot deutlich den Bedarf. Gerade in diesen MĂ€rkten gebe es trotz der aufkommenden Inflationsangst Selbstnutzer, die ihre Objekte verĂ€ußern wollten oder mĂŒssten, sagt Schick. „VerĂ€nderungen in den LebensumstĂ€nden fĂŒhren immer wieder dazu, dass sich Menschen von ihren Immobilien trennen.“ Nicht nur Scheidungen oder der Verlust des Arbeitsplatzes wĂŒrden VerĂ€ußerungen erzwingen. „Wenn die Kinder aus dem Haus ziehen, wollen viele Paare ihr großes Haus gegen ein kleineres Objekt tauschen – und umgekehrt suchen Familien nach einer grĂ¶ĂŸeren Immobilie, wenn weiterer Nachwuchs hinzukommt“, sagt Schick.

Die vermögenden Privatanleger setzen dagegen in der allgemeinen Inflationsangst auf hochwertige Immobilien gerade in den bevorzugten Lagen in den GroßstĂ€dten. Die Konjunkturpakete werden Deutschland nach dem FrĂŒhjahrsgutachten der Wirtschaftsinstitute dieses Jahr immerhin ein Defizit von 89 Milliarden Euro bescheren. 2010 soll die Neuverschuldung 132 Milliarden Euro betragen. Wegen der riesigen Schulden fĂŒrchten vermögende Anleger, die Regierung wĂŒrde sich ihrer Verbindlichkeiten durch massive Geldentwertung entledigen. „Die Angst vor der Inflation treibt massiv die Nachfrage nach hochwertigen Wohnimmobilien“, beobachtet Christian Wittke, Immobilienexperte der Berenberg Bank’.

photo: flickr

Functional flats from the 50s

When we started visiting flats we noticed that the first clivage is between Altbau und Aufbau.

The majority of flats that are featured in ads online and on the newspapers are those that we nicknamed “Aufbau”,  since they date from the 1950s or the 1960s and were built following standardized plans. The use of space is intensive and clever, ceilings are not particularly high (still, they are higher than in Paris), and even small surfaces do have a nice layout.

Once you have visited a dozen of them you already know what to expect when you visit another one. The smallest flats feature a functional bathroom, a small but effective kitchen, and a Wohnzimmer with a balcony (sometimes as small as 1 sqm, a smorker’s balcony, but definitely there) that doubles as a bed room.

In some cases there are indeed surprises, like this flat’s interesting small hot house for the plants. Our Maklerin (and good friend) F. explained to us something quite logical, ie that in post-war Berlin people spent their holidays on the balcony: having dinner outside, doing some gardening. The small hot house was conceived for storing plants in the winter. In-house it would be too hot and they would take up too much space, whereas the small hot house provided a transitional temperature ideal for storing the pots of plants.

Our architect B. said that he is always amazed by the generally very good quality of design of these 50-years old flats. Very rational and functional, but never poor. You clearly have the impression that through standardization the administration needed to re-build vast amounts of the city and to house thousands of people, but good design was provided together with housing. In every Kiez you can spot the 50s flats, even in the middle of Altbau compact blocks you can still spot where the odd bomb cancelled one building, the 50s geometric lines mend up the shattered urban texture.

During our first flat expedition in august 2007, we “missed” two flats like these. The first was really small but in a fantastic location, in Motzstrasse close to the beautiful Viktoria-Louise Platz. Our bid for the flat was preceded by someone else’s…this was our first disappointment. Because disappointments happen, all the time, when you are looking for a flat. You fall in love with a location, a layout, a sort of je-ne-sais-quoi and then…it’s gone.

The second was close to Rathaus Schoeneberg, facing a nice small piazza, a standardized 1950s building. Recently renovated, and with a nice black marble staircase. Because these buildings are indeed simple, but they were conceived very well at the time. Space for storing your bicicles in the courtyard, Keller downstairs, very frequently they have lifts (quite rare in Berlin), they have nice stairs, made of stone and with windows. Simple, but very dignified and easy to maintain, never grotty. These are dignified buildings.

This time we were the first on the list! We had very clear ideas about the flat we had just visited, we did the offer after less than one hour by fax and confirmed it by visiting the Makler in her office before lunch. We did notice that this Makler looked somewhat unsure or hesitating, but when we handed her the duly filled in form with our signature and offer (she was selling formerly State-owned flats at a fixed price, on a first-come first-served basis) she said that we were the first to have done a bid, so it was just a matter of checking data and starting to talk about notary issues.

We went back to Rome, expecting an e-mail to kick-start the purchase process, but never heard anything from her anymore…she would not answer e-mails or phone calls, nor return messages. Eventually she sold to someone who did an offer after ours. Just because she didn’t feel comfortable in “dealing with foreigners”.

So we discovered that even in the reliable Germany it happens to meet The Unreliable Makler. I must admit, all the flats we visited fitted at a 99% rate the description in the Expose’. Both the Expose’ and the Makler talk are very, very transparent and reliable, reality fits description, a nice feeling compared with our past experiences when renting in Paris and Rome, where Makler equals absurd jargon and unrealistic descriptions.

We did meet with so many Makler in Berlin and the vast majority of them do not speak a single word of English, but are extremely helpful and professional. We make an effort in German, they reduce the speed of their talk, and the discussion goes on. Their Expose’ are immaculately detailed, full of pictures, so the visits are quite easy.

But apparently, there is 1 dumb Makler in Berlin, and we met her!

Bottom line: sound disappointment, feeling of being cheated on, loss of time and opportunities. Because we had seen other interesting flats, but then committed to this specific one and did not pursue the other transactions. Our first expedition to Berlin in august 2007 (10 days of our holidays) ended up with a lot of research and a big disappointment…But research is never a loss of time. You will capitalize on it.

Nevertheless, we still are fascinated by the quality of design of the 50s. Our friend in Moabit with the help of Mr B. (the architect) renovated one of these flats and the result is absolutely gemuetlich…on the balcony there is space for pots of Erika and Hypericum.

Considering all the criticism attracted by the balcony-missing Schlange or Snake-building between Moabit and the Spree, during the 50s they had an idea or two on how to build apartments, even on a tight budget…

O. Reuter / Luftbildarchiv Berlin

Transaction costs

Transaction costs in Germany are indeed scary if you look at them purely in % terms: up to 13%! But in absolute terms, that depends on what sort of amount you apply the % upon…so back to square one…if your target is 1,000eur/sqm, that is not so expensive.

We found that this website is quite clear in explaining the cost structures and comparing countries. Have a look. Not so many articles but useful tables and information about tenants, owner, legal framework etc.

Roughly speaking you must reckon with about a 13% extra cost if you are buying with the help of an agent (Makler). Flats are good value for money, but include that transaction cost in your budget. If you are buying from the seller it will be cheaper of course, in that case you will pay just the taxes and your Notar and registration fees…plus those cheap Easyjet/Ryanair/AirBerlin/GermanWings air tickets, and probably one or two professional translation services, if your legal German language skills are a bit dusty.

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