A magical summer in Berlin has convinced you that you want to stay here forever. You’ve found the perfect apartment to buy at the right price and talked to your bank about financing. Here’s what you can expect when buying property in Berlin, from making an offer through to getting the keys.
Working with a Notary
After your offer has been accepted by a seller via your real estate agent (Makler), it’s time to set up a meeting with a notary (Notar). In Germany, contracts and payment procedures for property purchases are legally regulated and overseen by a notary. The notary checks the property register and provides information about the property and any encumbrances attached to it. He/she then prepares the contract, supervises the signing, controls payment and is generally the conduit between the purchaser and the vendor. You might take a recommendation from the seller or your agent, or you can use a notary you already know and trust. In most cases, you cover the costs of the notary as the purchaser, so you should get a say in who does the work.
The Draft Purchase Contract
Contract content may vary from what you have previously seen in your home country – for instance, the procedure for entry of your new ownership into the title deeds and property register (Grundbucheintrag) and conditions about how the common and private property portions of the apartment and its building are set up (Teilungserklärung, Gemeinschaftsordnung, Abgeschlossenheitsbescheinigung). Not to mention details on your new status as a member of the housing association or Wohnungseigentümergemeinschaft.
At this point, getting a written translation of your draft contract from German into English will be helpful so that you understand the conditions, restrictions, and critical dates/deadlines. You can also use this information to negotiate further if required, so that by the time you get to the contract signing appointment, all parties are satisfied. As well as translating your contract for you, Red Tape Translation can also translate other documents your broker, agent or notary provides, such as condition reports, summaries of outstanding debts for the building (Rücklagen) and any other correspondence.
The Contract Reading and Signing Appointment
While the conditions and length of each contract vary widely, they all have one thing in common – the notarisation procedure which makes the contract a binding document. Your notary will set up an appointment for you and the vendor to be present, and he/she will read through the contract out loud in his/her office.
Yes, that’s right – the notary reads the entire contract through to the parties present before it is signed. It’s obligatory. The whole appointment usually takes between 1.5 – 2 hours. You don’t necessarily become the owner after you’ve signed the contract, or even after you get the keys: that happens once the entry into the property register is complete.
If you are not a fluent German speaker, your notary will ask you to bring an interpreter. Some notaries will insist on a court-sworn interpreter, others don’t mind if the interpreter doesn’t have a specific qualification, as long as they are competent. Talk to Red Tape Translation to find out more about how this works, and to book a professional or court-sworn interpreter for your appointment with the notary. We need about a week’s time with your purchase contract to prepare for the appointment.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered?
After your appointment, it’s just a matter of waiting out the timeframes mentioned in your contract and following the necessary steps as instructed by the notary. The documents will flow on through and you can make payment, usually through a notary’s public escrow account. At every stage, the notary needs to know what is going on so that he/she can ensure that the conditions of the contract are fulfilled and then enter you as the new owner into the property registry. When you gets the keys depends on what you’ve arranged with the seller. Once you’re in the registry, congratulations! You’re a property owner with your very own little piece of Berlin. Let the fun of renovating and furnishing begin!