House Hunting in … Germany – Smart Media Magazine

House Hunting in … Germany

This three-story home is a short walk from the center of Baden-Baden, the spa town in the mountainous Black Forest region of southwestern Germany. Known as Villa Thur, the 4,628-square-foot house is on Lichtentaler Allee, a historic corridor of parks, gardens and old homes along the River Oos.

The four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom house was built in 1877, making it one of the oldest homes in the area. It has been designated a historic landmark, so the exterior and elements of the interior cannot be altered without approval, said Andreas Klein, an agent with Engel & Volkers, which has the listing.

A complete restoration of the half-acre property, in the 1990s, took more than four years to complete, Mr. Klein said. The project was conducted with “the close cooperation of the local government,” he said, to ensure preservation of the historic elements.

During the restoration, an elevator was installed and modern water, electricity and heating systems were added. Repairs were made to the facade and roof, and a two-car garage was built. “A lot of money was also invested in the outdoor area,” Mr. Klein said, “to build a new terrace and rebuild the garden in a historical way.”

The house sits on a steep hillside, surrounded by old trees, lawns and manicured gardens. A portion of the bottom floor is a walkout basement level, with a separate entrance in the front of the house. This area, which once served as a wine cellar, is often used as guest quarters by the current owner.

The main entrance is at the rear, up a flight of stairs adjoining the garage and around to a tall foyer with bright red walls, Greek columns and a checkered tile floor. The foyer leads to a living room with an ornate fireplace and chandelier, and tall glass doors that open to a large covered terrace with an ornamental tile floor typical of Baden-Baden, Mr. Klein said.

All of the main rooms on this level have 13-foot ceilings and parquet floors. The kitchen and a dining room with a small balcony are on one side of the living room; on the other side are a billiard room and another room used as an office.

Three bedrooms are on the top floor, grouped around a large sitting room. The master bedroom has a large en suite bathroom with a marble tub and a chandelier. A fourth bedroom is on the basement level, along with a living room and kitchenette.

The furniture is not included in the price, but some pieces may be available to buy, Mr. Klein said.

Baden-Baden is about six miles east of the Rhine River, which divides Germany and France, in a northern valley of the Black Forest, the verdant mountain range that stretches about 100 miles to the south. The town has been a popular resort destination for centuries, thanks to its natural hot springs (“baden” means “to bathe” in German) and picturesque scenery. This property is within walking distance of the city’s well-known casino and concert hall, as well as museums, restaurants, a tennis club and a botanic garden. The regional airport in Karlsruhe is about a 25-minute drive; the Frankfurt international airport is a two-hour drive or a 90-minute train ride.

The residential housing market in Germany is strong, said Jürgen Michael Schick, president of Immobilienverband IVD, the German real estate association. “Compared to one year ago,” he said, “prices for residential property have gone up in all segments.”

Prices of existing single-family homes across the country are 5.3 percent higher than they were a year ago, led by high demand in major cities like Berlin and Hamburg, according to data from the IVD.

“There is a real shortage of homes in the big cities, so prices can be justified by a lack of supply,” said Michael Voigtlander, a real estate analyst with the Cologne Institute for Economic Research.

Baden-Baden has traditionally attracted older buyers looking for second or retirement homes, agents said. But in recent years, sales have been bolstered by younger buyers, because of the city’s proximity to Karlsruhe, a growing center for technology companies about 25 miles north, Mr. Voigtlander said, adding that prices in Baden-Baden have increased by 22 percent since 2013.

In the center of the town, demand often outpaces supply, agents said. “The problem for us is to find properties where the price range is right,” Mr. Klein said.

At the lower end of the market, homes priced below 300,000 euros (about $340,000) “are sold within days,” said Theresa-Luisa Ernst, sales and project manager for the Immobilien Regional real estate agency.

But recently there has been a small drop-off in prices at the high end of the Baden-Baden market, she said, in part because there are fewer Russian buyers. With the fall of the ruble and international tensions high, Ms. Ernst said, “Russian oligarchs are no longer choosing Baden-Baden.”

About 20 percent of Engel & Volkers’s clients in Baden-Baden are foreigners, most of them from France, Switzerland, Eastern Europe and the United States, Mr. Klein said.

The decline in Russian buyers has been offset by higher demand from residents of neighboring countries like France and Switzerland, said Rainer Harter, manager of Von Poll real estate in Baden-Baden, as well as from domestic buyers looking for vacation homes “in attractive holiday locations.”

And an increasing number of buyers are investors — many of them German — looking to take advantage of the high rents, Mr. Harter said. Buying property, he added, is “one of the most preferred ways of investing” in Germany.

There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Germany.

A notary plays a key role in the process, Mr. Harter said, which includes confirming the authenticity of documents and entering the transaction in the real estate registry. “All transfers have to be handled by a notary in the end,” he said.

Many foreign buyers choose to hire a lawyer, but it is not essential, agents said.

Mortgages are widely available to foreign buyers; those who pay in cash must have an account at a bank in Germany, Mr. Harter said.

German; euro (1 euro = $1.13)

Closing costs can total about 10 percent of the sale price, agents said. There is a 5 percent property tax, and the notary fee is usually 1 to 2 percent of the sale price. Buyers typically pay a 3.57 percent commission to the real estate broker, plus a 19 percent value-added tax on the commission.

The annual property tax on this home is about 600 euros ($680), Mr. Klein said. If it is not used as a primary residence, it is also subject to an annual tax on second homes that might be as much as 18,000 euros ($20,400), he said.

Andreas Klein, Engel & Volkers, 011-49-7221-97-08-60;

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