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House Hunting in … Frankfurt, Germany | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Peters & Peters Sotheby’s International Realty – New York Times

Frankfurt- This fourth-floor penthouse is centrally located in the Westend neighborhood of Frankfurt. It has about 3,000 square feet of living space across two levels and is one of 10 apartments in a building a short walk from the financial district, said Dagmar Kurz of Peters & Peters Sotheby’s International Realty, the listing agency.

The penthouse is reached by a key-operated elevator that opens directly into the loft-like living area from within a cube-shaped bookshelf structure. The airy space has 15-foot ceilings and is surrounded by windows, with glass doors at one end that open onto a large terrace.

The industrial-style kitchen is all stainless steel, from the cabinets to the appliances. While most of the living space has parquet floors, the kitchen has floors of polished concrete that extend toward the terrace, defining the dining area.

Both bedrooms are on the main floor, each with its own bath. The master suite’s spacious bath has black slate floors, double sinks, a soaking tub and a sauna with a private balcony; there is also a dressing room. A concrete staircase that appears to float above the floor in the main living area leads to an upper-level office with skylights and a storage room.

The owners are art collectors, and the unit has spotlights and other lighting designed to emphasize their collection, Ms. Kurz said. It also has automated shades and a wood-burning fireplace. A parking space in the garage is included.

Westend, a prominent residential area with some of the city’s most expensive developments, is so well known in Frankfurt that it is “nearly a brand,” said Olivier Peters, the listing agency’s managing director. This building is close to the five-star Grandhotel Hessischer Hof, the Festhalle Frankfurt exhibition and concert hall, several parks and numerous restaurants. Frankfurt Airport is about a 25-minute drive.

Market Overview

As a major financial center and home to the European Central Bank, Frankfurt has seen considerable growth in recent years. The current population of roughly 730,000 is expected to increase to about 764,000 by 2020, according to a housing market report published in January by Deutsche Bank, and the surrounding urban area has a population of more than two million.

That population growth, combined with the country’s booming economy and the city’s limited supply of housing relative to the demand, is driving up Frankfurt’s real estate prices, although they are still lower than those in other major German cities. Between 2009 and 2016, prices of existing apartments in Frankfurt rose by 40 percent, the report noted, compared with increases of more than 60 percent in Munich and more than 90 percent in Berlin.

But in 2016, single-family home prices in Frankfurt rose by nearly 12 percent and apartment prices by about 10 percent, an increase the report attributed in part to anticipated relocations from Britain, following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

Frankfurt’s housing supply is constrained by a lack of available land for development and local antipathy toward large-scale construction projects, the report said. Even so, some eight to 10 high-rise residential towers are likely to come on the market over the next couple of years, said David Schmitt, an executive partner in the Frankfurt office of Engel & Völkers real estate.

Recent price increases, he said, mean that a four-bedroom single-family home with a small garden — and “if you’re lucky, a nanny room” — now goes for about 2.4 million euros (or $2.7 million), up from around 1.6 million euros (or $1.8 million) a few years ago. During the same period, the price per square meter for apartments has risen from roughly 5,000 euros (or $5,595) to 8,000 euros (or $8,953), he added, and newer buildings can command as much as 12,000 euros (or $13,430) a square meter. Among the neighborhoods with the highest home prices are the Westend, the East End (site of the new European Central Bank) and the Diplomatic Quarter.

Who Buys in Frankfurt

While the financial crisis slowed the real estate market from 2009 through 2011, by 2012 foreign buyers were beginning to take notice of Frankfurt’s competitive prices, Mr. Peters said: “It was considered a safe haven, and property prices were cheap compared to other major markets.”

Most foreign buyers in Frankfurt are from Europe, China or Middle Eastern countries, Mr. Schmitt said. They are drawn by the strong economy, he added, as well as Frankfurt Airport, a major international hub and the country’s busiest airport, which makes the city easily accessible.

Buying Basics

There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in Germany, apart from the requirement to have a German bank account. As Mr. Schmitt put it, “You cannot fly in with a suitcase full of money.”

Mortgages are available to foreigners, but usually not for more than half of the purchase price, he said, and interest rates have been extremely low in recent years, at just above 1 percent.

Transactions must be done by a notary; the fee is about 1.5 percent. Some buyers hire a lawyer as an added precaution, but it is not necessary, he said. In Frankfurt, however, it is customary for the buyer to pay the entire 6 percent commission owed to the real estate agent, Ms. Kurz said, rather than splitting it with the seller.

Taxes and Fees

Transfer taxes on real estate transactions vary from state to state. The rate in Frankfurt is 6 percent, at the high end of the range, Mr. Schmitt said.

The annual property tax on this apartment is around 700 euros, or $783, Ms. Kurz said.