German real estate platforms: Understanding your options
Germany is a hugely popular place to buy real estate. But if you’re looking to buy German property, where should you start? This article will provide some useful context on the German property market, take a look at the various strategies available when seeking to buy German real estate, and compare the main online platforms serving the market.
The German Housing Market
It’s safe to say that the German housing market has been growing for years.
German House Price Index figures from January 2018 to August 2019 were at their highest level since 1991. According to a March 2019 PWC Real Estate Investor Survey, average rents in Germany’s biggest cities are increasing by 2.2% every year. On top of this, the average period for rental properties lying unrented went down by a full month over the course of last year.
The trend of house prices and rents rising, while interest rates remain low, is predicted to last until at least 2022, and will most likely continue even further into the future.
This makes Germany a very attractive proposition for anyone looking to buy real estate.
So if you’re looking to buy property in Germany, how should you start looking?
How to find real estate in Germany
There are a number of ways to search for properties in Germany. You can find adverts in newspapers, approach private sellers, enlist the help of an estate agent, or search for property using online portals.
Let’s examine these options:
Properties up for sale may be advertised in local papers, or display a sign at the front of the property as advertisement. However, be warned: This is a relatively uncommon practice in Germany. You won’t spot many properties being advertised this way, so it’s a fairly ineffective method that could lead you to miss out on opportunities.
Compared to other countries (the UK for example), big name, nation-wide real estate agencies (Immobilienmakler) are rare in Germany.
The German population isn’t very mobile when it comes to property. The concept of “climbing the property ladder” is less common, with renting very much the standard practice. So when (or if) Germans commit to buying a property, it tends to be for life.
Because of this, brick-and-mortar estate agents tend to be smaller, local businesses, serving relatively small areas. There is no equivalent to the USA’s Multiple Listing Service. As such, it’s harder to get an overview of the market through an agent than in many other countries, especially if you’re casting a wide net in terms of location.
All this means that if you want the widest search possible for the least amount of effort, your best bet is to look online using one of Germany’s many online real estate platforms.
Online Real Estate Platforms
These sites are incredibly useful. Not only are they full of classified ads, but they’re a great way to get a snapshot overview of local markets, quickly make comparisons, and find the websites of individual local real estate agents. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of different sites out there, but the market tends to revolve around a few key players.
Here’s a list of some of the key platforms available:
- Null Provision
What’s the difference?
With over 40 million views per month (as of February 2020) ImmobilienScout24 is the clear leader among German property portals. It’s part of the Scout 24 group of websites, which are run by Deutsche Telekom. Nuremberg-based provider Immowelt is the second largest German real estate platform. Combined, Immowelt and ImmobilienScout24 account for around 80% of all listings in Germany. Interestingly, most other portals are actually powered by the search algorithms of these top sites. Indeed, Immowelt is the parent of Immonet, and Null Provision is basically a sister site of ImmobilienScout24. The top four portals offer a mostly similar user experience. They offer advanced filters to help narrow down your search, and you can also receive email updates when new properties become available, so you’re always getting the most up-to-date information. The same set of tools and features tend to be available across the board, as the top sites usually adopt each other’s new ideas pretty quickly. The massive coverage offered by these portals is a clear benefit to any prospective buyer. We’d definitely recommend using them. However, bigger doesn’t always mean better. The downside to this approach is that it represents the beaten track: So you’ll have lots of competition and properties will be hotly contested.
As an alternative to the top four, you could check out the new platform Govesta, which aggregates properties from real estate brokers across Germany. Govesta takes a puristic approach to real estate. In their own words: “Challenging the rules made by traditional property portals”. They like to keep things clear and straightforward. Govesta’s clean interface offers a user-friendly, jargon-free approach with listings also displayed in English. And for real estate agents who want to advertise on Govesta, there are no overpriced subscriptions or long term contracts, as they operate with a performance marketing model. Govesta don’t host the same daunting list of properties you’ll find on other property portals. Instead they aggregate listings from a wealth of different sellers, then match prospective buyers to compatible real estate agents based on their individual needs.
So what’s the best option?
There’s no single best-fit option for finding German real estate. Every option presented here could be useful, and each has its pros and cons. Ultimately, the best advice is to consider all your options, use every tool at your disposal, and be present across as many of the different platforms and approaches as possible.