Guide: Buying an Apartment in Berlin

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Julia Ptock

Aug 11, 2021
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Berlin is not just the largest city in Germany, it is also characterized by its diversity and internationalism. However, the real estate market in Berlin is one of the most attractive in Germany. Although property prices in the capital have been rising for years, they are starting from a very low level. That is why property prices are still moderate compared to a European-wide level.

Our guide shows you what you need to know about buying an apartment in Berlin and gives you an overview of the local property prices per neighborhood. 

Does buying an apartment in Berlin make sense?

Does buying in Berlin still make sense? According to the latest edition of the Wohnkostenreport 2021, it still does. The report shows that almost everywhere in Germany it remains cheaper to buy a property and live in it yourself than to rent a similar flat or house yourself. This even applies to the German metropolises, where purchase prices have risen significantly in recent years.

In the capital city of Berlin, owner-occupied housing costs around 41 percent less than renting. A great potential saving - especially in the long term. Buying an apartment is particularly attractive given the current low-interest rates. The management consultancy arm of PWC named Berlin the most attractive city in Europe for real estate investors in 2018.

Find the perfect apartment to buy in Berlin with our Hypofriend property search

Property prices in Berlin

The purchase prices for apartments in Berlin have risen dramatically in recent years. At times, no other city in the world has seen prices rise as sharply as in Berlin. Strong population growth, stable economic situation, low unemployment, and a high interest of foreign investors were the reasons for this.

According to Immowelt, purchase prices for apartments in Berlin rose by 211 percent between 2010 and the first 5 months of 2020. At the beginning of 2020, a square meter in Berlin cost a median of 4,450 euros, whereas in 2010 prices were still a favorable 1,430 euros per square meter. 

The purchase price development sounds extreme. It is, but Berlin came from a very low level. The 2010 square meter price of 1,430 euros was exceptionally low for a major capital city. With a median square meter price of 4,450 euros, the costs are still moderate. By comparison: In Munich, the median price per square meter in 2020 was 7,970 euros and in 2010 it was already just under 3,000 euros. Let alone Paris or London. 

Property Price Trends in the 14 Largest Cities in Germany from 2010 to Jan.-May 2020

In Berlin, there is still an upward potential. Dr. Chris Mulder writes that German property prices are historically undervalued.

Some people expected property prices to fall due to the Corona crisis. However, this picture has not materialized so far. Although demand was somewhat more restrained at the beginning of the pandemic, there are now hardly any signs of buying restraint. On the contrary, demand is vigorous. Real estate represents a stable investment in times of volatile markets, and Corona has driven "home" the message "home sweet home”.  

The high demand for buying a property in Berlin after Corona is also shown by the market report of Guthmann Estate: “Berlin remains a magnet for people from all over the world. And since one can almost certainly assume that the influx will increase again after the pandemic, the curve of demand, which is already high, will keep rising.” 

The demand for real estate exceeds the supply. This is likely to continue to drive up property prices in Berlin in the future. One indicator of this is the vacancy rate for apartments, which is extremely low in Berlin. The latest data show a vacancy rate in Berlin of just 0.8 percent in 2019. By comparison, the vacancy rate in 2003 was still 5.1 percent. This clearly shows the high level of immigration in Berlin. The national average vacancy rate currently stands at 2.8 percent.

Property prices in Berlin have been rising for years. This is due to the factors already mentioned. Anyone who wants to buy a property in Berlin must spend a median of 5,110 euros per square meter for an existing property in August 2021. For new buildings, the price is significantly higher at 6,930 euros per square meter. This is shown by data from Guthmann Estate. 

Depending on the district, property prices vary greatly. In Berlin-Mitte, for example, the median price of a new-build apartment in August 2021 was more than 9,770 euros per square meter. In Spandau, the median price of a new-build square meter in the same period was just 5,700 euros. That’s a difference of more than 3,000 euros difference.

Finding an apartment in Berlin

If you are specifically looking for an apartment in Berlin, the major real estate portals will help you. The best thing to do first is to sign up to Hypofriend to see what you can afford

Once you know how much you can afford, you can start looking for your dream apartment. Our weekly property alerts will help find properties based on your search criteria: how large your desired property should be, how much it should cost, and where it should be located. If a new property that meets your search criteria comes onto the market, you will receive a notification. This way you don't miss anything and stay up to date. 

You should also fill out your profile on the property portals and keep it up to date. This will give sellers and real estate agents a good impression of you and your financial situation. 

However, many properties do not even make it onto the official market. Because especially good offers are quickly placed under the table. Real estate agents often already have several potential buyers on hand for new properties. Therefore, it makes sense to introduce yourself to real estate agents in the desired area and leave your search criteria for properties for sale. 

In this guide, we've put together six tips on how to find a property in Germany.

Buying an apartment in Berlin 

If you are thinking of buying an apartment in Berlin, the first thing you should do is calculate your potential budget. Hypofriend has developed an affordability calculator for this purpose, which tells you how much you can afford in a few minutes given your income, residence status, and other factors. 

If your purchase project is concrete, your next step in the process of buying is the search you should look for an optimal mortgage in Berlin. It’s important to know, that you will not necessarily get the best offer from your bank. That is why a comparison of mortgages is always worthwhile. 

After all, a mortgage can have a significant impact on your financial future. Accordingly, your financing should be tailor-made for you. With the wrong product, you can quickly lose several thousand euros.

Tip: Are you looking for a mortgage in Berlin? Click here for a comparison of mortgages.

Hypofriend helps you find the optimal mortgage from a pool of more than 750 banks. Not only the lowest interest rate plays a role, but even more important, the appropriate interest rate fixation, repayment, and down payment. We accompany you throughout your home buying journey from the start of buying a property to the signature of your mortgage. 

Having a mortgage broker in Berlin can also increase the chances of actually winning the bid for your dream property. The financing certificate that you get from Hypofriend shows the landlord or agent that you are capable of paying the marketed purchase price. 

Discover your mortgage options with our German mortgage calculator.

Purchase fees in Berlin

Anyone buying an apartment in Berlin shouldn't ignore the additional costs of the purchase. In addition to the property price, there are other fees for the notary, land registry, property transfer tax, and the real estate agent. The amount of these costs varies from state to state. 

Buyers in Berlin and Brandenburg have to dig deep into their pockets. The purchase fees in Berlin amount to 11.57 percent of the purchase price. The expenses are made up as follows:

  • Property transfer tax: 6 percent 

  • Notary and land registry entry: 2 percent 

  • Real estate commission: 3.57 percent 

Tip: Many newly built apartments are sold without a real estate agent and require just 8 percent purchase fees, but beware of the uptick in the prices as some developers build the fees into the price.

Necessary documents for buying a property in Berlin

To apply for a mortgage in Berlin, you need to prepare several documents. These include personal documents as well as documents about the property you want to buy. 

In our guide "Which documents do you need when you apply for a German mortgage?" we have listed all the important documents you need. We also explain which additional documents you need if you are self-employed or want to buy a newly built property.

Property prices by districts of Berlin

The purchase prices for apartments in the capital of Germany vary greatly from district to district. In the following, we give you an overview of the districts with the median current purchase prices (August 2021) for existing and new buildings. The prices for this come from Guthmann Estate.

Median Property Prices by Districts of Berlin For New Buildings Median Property Prices by Districts of Berlin for Existing Properties

Buying an apartment in Berlin-Mitte 

For an existing property in Berlin's trendy Mitte district, you have to spend a median of 8,070 euros per square meter for an existing apartment. A new build costs 1,700 euros more per square meter. 

Those who live in Mitte live in the pulse of the city. In Mitte, there are also a lot of tourists. Brandenburger Tor, Checkpoint Charlie, or the Wall Memorial - many of Berlin's top sights are located in Mitte. Thanks to the Museum Island, there is also plenty of cultures to offer.

The Friedrichstraße, the Hackescher Markt or the Potsdamer Platz invite you to go shopping. On Torstraße one restaurant follows the other. Many companies also have their headquarters in Mitte. The district is especially popular among young people and employees that don't have a long commute to their offices.

Buying property in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

An apartment in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district costs on average between 5,200 and 6,520 euros per square meter. New buildings are considerably more expensive: Buyers can expect to pay between 8,810 euros and 9,920 euros per square meter. 

Both Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg attract free spirits. Here, everyone can live as they want to. The population is accordingly colorful, international, and alternative. The Volkspark Friedrichshain, the park at Gleisdreieck, many restaurants and the most famous clubs in Europe are located here. 

An addition is its beautiful location close to the Spree. This makes Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg very popular for families and young people alike. Especially in the last few years, the district has become very popular. 

Buying property in Neukölln

Property prices in Neukölln are still below those of other inner-city districts. A squaremetere costs about 4,440 euros and 7,540 euros for new buildings. 

Neukölln is particularly popular among young people because of the lower rents. On Weserstraße, one bar follows another and attracts Berliners from all areas of the city. Neukölln is also characterized by its internationalism. There is hardly any other district where you will find so many nationalities. Nowhere else in Berlin is multiculturalism so strongly lived.

Although Neukölln is not known for its green spaces, the Tempelhofer Feld and the park in the Hasenheide offer a green retreat.

Buying property in Tempelhof or Schöneberg 

If you want to buy a property in Tempelhof or Schöneberg, you have to spend between 3,990 and 5,210 euros per square meter. A new building is much more expensive at 6,070 to 9,030 euros. 

The district is characterized by its versatility and serenity. Due to the proximity to Charlottenburg, Schöneberg has many classic cafés and restaurants, which are elegant but not out of place. Schöneberg also has a popular Gay scene. 

The Tempelhofer Feld, which was an airport in the past, is now a days a huge park, which is unique because of its runway. In Tempelhof, real estate prices are moderate, which is why many families move here. 

Buying a property in Charlottenburg or Wilmersdorf

Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf are among the most expensive residential areas in Berlin. Buyers have to pay between 5,430 and 6,150 euros per square meter for a renovated old building. A square meter of new construction is between 8,910 and 9,750 euros per square meter. 

Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf are part of classic West Berlin and enchant with their magnificent old buildings and promenades. Kurfürstendamm is one of the most famous shopping streets in Germany and home to the shops of all the great designers. Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf are not only trendy when shopping, but also when it comes to restaurants and cafés. A contrast to the bohemian places is Kantstraße, which is famous for restaurants with Asian cuisine.

Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf also has a lot of cultures to offer. The German Opera and Schloss Charlottenburg are also worth a visit.

Buying property in Steglitz or Zehlendorf

Also in the west is the district of Steglitz-Zehlendorf. Here, the square meter costs between 4630 and 5420 euros for a renovated old building and between 7250 and 8310 euros for a new building.  

Both in Steglitz and Zehlendorf, quality of life is a top priority. Zehlendorf is known for its grand old villas and magnificent single-family homes. Steglitz feels like a small town in a big city. In the Schloßstraße are shops for everyday needs. 

Wannsee itself as well as the Große and Kleine Wannsee are also part of Steglitz and Zehlendorf and attract water sports enthusiasts. Nevertheless, the Ku'Damm can be reached in a short car or train ride. 

Buying property in Spandau

Spandau is one of the less expensive districts in Berlin. An existing property here costs in median 4,080 euros and a new building about 5,700 euros. 

Spandau is located in the west of Berlin and borders on Wilmersdorf, Steglitz and Reinickendorf. It is characterized by a quiet and familiar atmosphere. Spandau has the largest area with the smallest number of inhabitants and accordingly many green spaces and retreats. Nevertheless, the city center is only a 15-minute train ride away.

Buying property in Reinickendorf

Reinickendorf is located northwest of Berlin. Real estate buyers have to pay here 3,920 euros per square meter for a renovated old building and 6,820 euros per square meter for a new building. 

In Reinickendorf, things are done with care, and it seems almost village-like in contrast to the big city. Reinickendorf does not have a great nightlife or a lot of entertainment, and nature is not exuberant either. 

On the other hand, the district benefits from its proximity to Berlin and is particularly popular with commuters. Work in the hustle and bustle and live in peace. The property prices in Reinickendorf are correspondingly moderate. 

Buying property in Pankow 

The price per square meter for an existing property in Pankow is on median 4,480 euros. A new building costs 6,270 euros. This is because hardly any new buildings are being built in the trendy quarter of Prenzlauer Berg due to lack of space. The existing properties are being renovated. If you want to live in a new building, you have to move out a little further. 

Pankow is the second-largest district in Berlin and very popular. The district Prenzlauer Berg in the south attracts residents as well as tourists. Beautiful old buildings, hip cafés, bars, and cute shops characterize the streets there. 

Pankow stands out as a great place for families. It is clean, you meet many parents and towards Weissensee, there is a lot of nature. Pankow is popular and this is also reflected in the higher property prices.

Buying property in Lichtenberg 

Those who end up in the northeast of Berlin pay 4,510 euros per square meter in Lichtenberg and 6,200 euros for a new building. 

Lichtenberg is located in the former East Berlin. The location is often considered ideal because Lichtenberg is close to the turbulent city center and yet quiet and greener. If you are looking for entertainment, take the train. If you need relaxation, take a bike ride to the Spree at the Rummelsburger Bucht. This combination has made Lichtenberg more popular and dynamic in recent years. 

Originally, Lichtenberg was considered a working-class district. There is still a lot of potential and development opportunities in the district. 

Buying property in Marzahn-Hellersdorf 

In Marzahn-Hellersdorf, the real estate prices are among the lowest in Berlin. The square meter costs here 3,560 euros and 5,130 euros for a new building.

The reputation precedes the district Marzahn-Hellersdorf. They are often associated with Plattenbau and grey in grey. But what was true after the fall of the Berlin Wall is currently changing. Many families are moving out of the city to Marzahn or Hellersdorf. The old "Platten" are being modernized, made friendlier, and offer a great view. 

The low rental and purchase prices and green spaces are also an advantage. Due to the strong population growth in Berlin, Marzahn-Hellersdorf will also see some changes in the next few years. 

Buying property in Treptow-Köpenick 

The districts of Treptow and Köpenick are green oases in south-east Berlin. Potential buyers here have to pay an average of between 4,140 and 4,570 euros for a renovated old building. A new building costs between 5,990 and 6,310 euros per square meter.  

Treptow-Köpenick offers its residents of all districts the largest proportion of forest and water bodies. Köpenick itself has a picturesque old town from the 12th century with countless cafés and restaurants. The quality of life is particularly high in the district. 

Treptow-Köpenick is gaining in importance as a business location. Not least because of this, many young people have moved to Treptow-Köpenick in the past five years. 

Rental returns in Berlin

The property does not necessarily have to be lived in by the owner. It is also worth renting it out. Especially in cities like Berlin with strong population growth and a low vacancy rate, this makes sense. Another advantage is the currently low mortgage interest rates. A mortgage has rarely been cheaper. 

Tip: Read our deep dive guide “Why Buy-to-Let is so attractive in Germany”.

In Berlin, owners achieved an average rental yield of 3.21 percent in 2020. Higher returns can nowadays only be achieved on the currently volatile stock market. 

However, if you buy a rented apartment in Berlin, there is one point to consider: Berlin strongly protects its tenants. Especially, people who have been living in a property for a long time cannot easily be evicted by the new owner. In Berlin, tenants have the protection of ten years. This means that the new owner can only register the apartment after ten years at the earliest - other procedures like claiming own use are not recommended. 

Tenants who have lived in a property for a long time pay very little rent. Only sometimes cash-offers are negotiated for tenants in case of early termination. That makes the investment uninteresting. Buying properties in Berlin makes a lot more sense for own use as can be seen in our Rent-or-Buy calculator.

According to Guthmann Estate, Berlin currently lacks more than 205,000 apartments. The calculation takes into account the difference between the number of inhabitants and the statistical household size minus the housing stock. 

Berlin has been lacking housing for years. In 2020, Berlin again issued fewer building permits than in the previous year. According to the Berlin-Brandenburg Statistics Office, 20,459 approved apartments were reported last year. And thus 9.2 percent less than in 2019 (22,524 apartments). According to the office, the negative trend in residential construction has already continued for four years. In addition, the influx has increased enormously. 

Due to the rent cap in Berlin and the corona crisis, the mood on the real estate market was clouded at the beginning of 2020, as the experts at Guthmann Estate analyze. It remains to be seen how the pandemic develops and thus also the economic situation in Germany. 

The demand for real estate in Berlin remains high. The interest of national and international buyers continues. The low interest rates for a mortgage make buying an apartment in Berlin even more attractive. 

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Julia Ptock

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