Documents to Check Before Buying a House in Germany
5 property documents you must check before buying a house in Germany
Germany is a land where people actually live by the rules and regulations. While buying a house in Germany, the information in the property documents is absolute. Thus, it is vital for you as a buyer to understand the content of these documents.
You will come across many documents while buying a house in Germany. In this guide, you will learn about the five most important documents.
Declaration of division (Teilungserklärung) specifies the ownership structure of the building.
The ownership structure is divided into three broad categories; Sondereigentum, Gemeinshaftseigentum, and Sondernutzungsrecht.
Check different property documents to verify the information of Teilungserklärung.
Land register paper (Grundbuchauszug) contains the property ownership information.
As a buyer, you need no more than a 6-month-old Grundbuch.
German banks require land register paper to issue a mortgage.
Grundbuch contains the changes made to the Teilungserklärung if any.
House union's meeting minutes (Hausverwaltungs protokol) are the record of discussions and decisions made during the annual homeowners' meetings.
Read the last 2 to 3 years of Hausverwaltungsprotokol to know the past and future renovation plans.
A financial plan (Wirtschaftsplan) is an annual statement of expenses for maintaining and renovating the property building.
Check the last 2 to 3 years of the financial plans to see the amount spent on renovations.
Check the current cash reserve (Rücklage) of the property. The more cash reserve the property has the less you have to pay for future renovations.
Unusually high Hausgeld (Monthly advance payment that every household pays to the homeowners' community for maintenance and renovation of the building) is not a good sign.
The energy efficiency certificate (Energieausweis) shows how much energy a building needs or uses for heating.
As per German law, it is mandatory for the seller to provide an energy efficiency certificate to the buyer.
Table of contents
1. Declaration of Division (Teilungserklärung)
Teilungserklärung (Declaration of Division) is the document you check when you are buying an apartment in Germany.
It contains the details of the property and the rights & obligations of the individual owners.
It is important as a buyer to investigate whether there are any regulations in the document that can have an adverse effect on you.
I will focus on things I will check as a buyer in Teilungserklärung and not the legalities or technicalities of the document. Only a Notar or a lawyer can check the document's validity, and I am none of them.
1.1 Check the "Allocation Plan" (Aufteilungsplan) of the property
By studying the Allocation Plan (Aufteilungsplan) of a property, you can learn the following about a property.
Division of apartments in the building.
Every apartment in the building is given a number to identify it. So, you can check the number assigned to your apartment. This number is used in many places; hence it is important to know it.
It includes the basic floor plan of the apartment.
Lastly, it shows the Miteigentumsanteil (MEA) of the property.
1.2 Check the Miteingentumsanteil (MEA) of the apartment you are considering buying in Germany
In Teilungserklärung you can find the MEA of the apartment you are considering buying. MEA represents what percentage of the entire apartment building you own.
For example, it could be 126 out of 10,000 or 1.26% ownership of the entire building.
So, why does it matter to you as an apartment buyer in Germany? There are several scenarios where House Union uses MEA. Here are a few:
1. Calculating the weightage of an owner's vote during the annual owner's meeting
As there are several apartments in a building, all the owners make decisions related to the building's maintenance and renovation together.
The decision is taken via a vote from all the owners. But, every vote is not equal. Some votes have more weightage than others.
The weightage of a vote is based on the Miteigentumsanteil of the apartment. For example, if MEA is 126 out of 10,000 or 1.26% ownership of the entire building. Then, the apartment owner's vote weightage will be 1.26% of the total votes.
2. Distribution of the renovation and maintenance costs among the owners
Miteingentumsanteil is also used for dividing the maintenance and renovation costs of the building. The larger your share, the more you will pay.
Continuing with the above example, if the renovation of the building's roof costs 10.000 €, then the owner has to pay 1.26% of the total cost, i.e., 126 € only.
1.3 Check the portions of the apartment building you own
Before buying an apartment in Germany, it is important to check what part of the building you own and which is common to all apartment owners.
This information you can find in the Teilungserklärung document of the property.
To understand it better, let's understand the following German terms used in the Teilungseklärung document.
1. Wohnungseigentum (Home Ownership)
Everything that you own or will own in the apartment building and have access to comes under this term. It means the apartment you are considering buying and the common areas of the building.
2. Sondereigentum (Seperate Property)
Sondereigentum is a subset of Wohungseigentum. It represents the parts of the building you own.
Only you have access to the parts that come under Sondereigentum. As these portions do not belong to the common property, you are responsible to maintain them.
So check carefully, what comes under the Sondereigentum of the property you want to buy.
Generally, the following components come under Sondereigentum.
All the rooms of the apartment
Apartment's inner walls
The floor of the apartment
Sanitary installations inside the apartment, etc.
Garden, parking, if any (Sometimes you do not own the parking or the garden, but have rights to use it. We will learn more about it later in this guide.)
As you may observe, you own and are responsible for the things inside your apartment. Anything that is outside your apartment belongs to the House Union. Hence, the House Union will take care of it.
3. Gemeinschaftseigentum (Joint Property)
Gemeinschaftseigentum represents the parts of the building that belongs to all apartment owners.
It includes the common areas that everyone living in the building shares and uses. For example, stairs, garden, pipes, central heating, etc.
Usually, House Union is responsible for maintaining the area that comes under Gemeinschaftseigentum. And, all apartment owners share the maintenance cost.
As we learned in Section 1.2, the House Union uses MEA to divide the maintenance costs among the apartment owners.
4. Sondernutzungsrecht (Special Usage Right)
Sondernutzungsrecht means that you do not own that part of the building, but you have an exclusive right to use it.
For example, suppose there is a garden that you do not own, but only you can use. In this situation, the garden will be mentioned under Sondernutzungsrecht.
House union maintains the areas that come under Sondernutzungsrecht. The maintenance cost is split among all apartment owners as per MEA.
There are also situations where the House union and you share the responsibility to maintain an area.
For example, only you can use the balcony of your apartment, but you and the house union share the responsibility to renovate it.
So, you can renovate the floor and the inner walls of the balcony. However, House Union maintains the parapet, ceiling, and outer walls.
To conclude, ensure the things the seller is selling are documented in the Teilungserklärung document.
1.4 Traps and pitfalls that you can find in the Teilungserklärung document
1. The new apartment owner has to settle the past unpaid dues
It could be possible that there are some unpaid expenses for the apartment before you bought it. Such expenses must be paid by the previous owner.
Hence, to ensure that the previous owner pays such expenses, I recommend doing two things.
Ask the previous owner or seller to get a letter from the house union that there are no dues pending.
I will add a clause in the purchase contract that the seller settles the expenses incurred before the property purchase.
2. Change in the distribution of renovation or maintenance costs
As I mentioned earlier, the House Union divides the renovation costs as per the MEA of each apartment owner. However, the cost distribution may change in individual cases.
For example, the apartment owners may decide to not share the maintenance cost of the garden that only you have the special rights to use.
Hence, check the Teilungserklärung document for such decisions or changes.
3. Teilungserklärung is the single source of truth
You can use or have access to things that are mentioned in the Teilungserklärung document. So, cross-check everything that the seller is selling is mentioned in this document.
For example, the previous owner is using a storage room that is not mentioned in the Teilungserklärung document. In this case, the previous apartment owner has no legal right to use it.
Thus, even if other apartment owners are allowing such use, this may change in the future.
1.5 To summarize
Under Sondereigentum comes the things that you own.
Under Gemeinschaftseigentum come the common areas that belong to all the apartment owners.
Lastly, under Sondernutzungrechts comes the things that you do not own, but have a special right to use.
Who pays for the maintenance costs?
You pay the renovation costs for the things that come under Sondereigentum.
House Union distributes the renovation and maintenance expenses of areas that come under Gemeinschaftseigentum among all apartment owners.
For things that come under Sondernutzungrechts, the expense distribution depends on the regulations defined in the Teilungserklärung document.
2. Land Register Paper (Grundbuchauszug)
Grundbuchauzug is the land registry paper that contains information about the ownership and legal status of a property.
2.1 What information does the Land Register paper (Grunbuchauszug) have?
The first page of the Land Register Paper (Grundbuch) has a number. This number is the unique identifier that the land register office uses to find the property in their system.
You can find which land register office issued the document. To issue a mortgage, banks require the latest Grundbuch document. To issue the latest Land Register paper you need to contact the land register office that issued it. More on it later.
It contains the property's information like the address, and Miteigentumsanteil (MEA).
It records the changes in the ownership of the property.
Changes in the Teilungserklärung document are also recorded in the Grundbuch. Thus, you can verify whether you have the latest teilungseklärung or not.
NOTE: It is important to have no more than 6 months old Land Register paper (Grundbuchauszug). Since, if you have 5 years-old Land Register paper (Grunbuchauszug) and any change has been made last year, you will not know about it.
It has information about who is the current owner of the apartment or the house.
If the current owner has a mortgage, it will also be mentioned in the Land register paper (Gundbuch). Usually, Notar removes the old mortgages before you buy the property.
The seller will either delete the existing mortgage or adjust the asked price accordingly. Thus, as a buyer, it is important that there are no previous mortgages mentioned in the Grundbuch.
2.2 Who to contact for understanding the content of the Land Register paper (Grundbuch)?
There is a high probability that you may not understand something written in the Grundbuch. Even native german speakers have difficulty understanding the text.
However, it is nothing to worry about. Here are the people you contact when in doubt.
First, ask the seller or the broker about the things you don't understand in the Land Register paper.
If they don't know, you can ask your bank consultant. Bank consultants handle many mortgages, hence they know how to read the property papers.
If your bank consultant is not sure about the content of the document, you can contact the Notar. Notar drafts these documents, so they know what's in them.
I know Notar comes a bit late in the process of buying a house in Germany. But, it's okay to drop the deal after hiring a Notar.
Don't worry! You don't have to pay any penalty or broker's fee. The only sum you have to pay is the Notar's fee.
I understand that some people would not be comfortable canceling the deal so late in the buying process. In that case, you can consult a lawyer.
Using the services of a lawyer in Germany can be expensive. Typical consultation charges of lawyers in Germany are between 200–500 euros per hour.
So, think carefully before going to a lawyer.
2.3 Adding the mortgage to the Land Register paper in Germany
If you take a mortgage from a German bank to buy a property in Germany, the bank requires to add the mortgage to the Land Register papers.
The mortgage entry is proof that you took a loan from the bank against this property. In case you fail to repay the mortgage, the bank can sell the property to recover the debt.
3. House Union Meeting Minutes (Hausverwaltungs Protokol)
As per German law, it is mandatory for every multi-family house in Germany to have a House Union or Homeowners community.
House Union looks after the maintenance and renovation of the building. They also facilitate annual homeowners' meetings to discuss renovation plans, grievances, etc.
The facilitator of this meeting records the decisions made during the meeting. The document containing the meeting minutes of the annual homeowner's meeting is the Hausverwaltungs Protokol.
3.1 Why should you read the last 3 years of Homeowner's meeting minutes (Hausverwaltung Protokol)?
As a buyer, you should read this document for the following purpose.
The document contains all the building renovation decisions made in the past. Thus, by reading it you can find out the past and future renovation plans.
You can check if the homeowners have any unresolved issues.
Pay attention to the postponed renovations. As you will pay for them as an owner in the future.
In the "Hausverwaltungs Protokol" you can see the company hired by the homeowners to perform the building's administrative tasks.
TIP: You can contact the House Union (Hausverwaltung) to know major pending renovations or any other question about the building. This information can help you negotiate the property's buy price with the seller. You can also use this iinformation to make a buying decision.
4. Annual Financial Statement of the residential building (Wirtschaftsplan)
As the name suggests Annual Financial Statement is the financial statement of the property building.
The document contains the following information.
The period in which the House Union calculated the expenses.
Yearly maintenance and renovation expenses.
Advance payment (Hausgeld) by all the homeowners.
Distribution of expenses among the homeowners based on Miteigentumsanteil (MEA).
Based on the expenses and the advance payment, whether a homeowner has to pay or will receive money at the end of the year.
Change in monthly advance payment (Hausgeld) if any.
4.1 What expenses are listed in the Annual Financial Statement (Wirtschaftsplan) in Germany?
Rainwater fee (Niederschlagswasser): It is the fee for the disposal of rainwater that enters the sewage system via your property building.
Electricity usage in the common areas of the building (Allgemeinstrom): It is the cost incurred by using the electricity in the common areas of the building.
Waster disposal fee (Abfallgebühren): It is the fee to dispose of your building's garbage.
Maintenance costs (Wartungskosten): It is the sum of all the maintenance expenses of the property. For example, maintenance of the central boilers, garden, etc.
Heating costs (Heizkosten): Some properties may have central heating. In this case, the heating costs will be part of the Annual Financial statement.
Building insurance (Gebäudeversicherung): Every property building in Germany takes Building insurance. The insurance covers the cost of fixing any unknown damage caused to the building. For example, the insurance covers the expense of fixing a pipe burst inside the building walls, fire, damage to the building due to thunderstorm, etc. Note, this insurance covers the areas of the property that come under Gemeinschaftseigentum only.
House Master salary (Hausmeister): The housemaster is the representative of the homeowners. (S)he takes care of any issues in the apartment building. And the homeowners pay Housemaster for their service.
Cleaning of the common areas (Hausreinigung): Not every building hires someone to clean the common areas of the property. But, if they do, everyone shares the costs.
Winter service (Winterdienst): During winters in Germany, every household has to clean the snow in front of their houses. Some homeowners hire someone to do this task. Winterdienst is the cost of such a service.
Garden maintenance and outdoor facilities (Gartenpflege/Aussenanlagen): It is the cost to maintain the garden and the outdoor facilities of the property.
You may find other expenses in the Annual statement (Wirtschaftsplan). But, these are the most common.
4.2 Two categories of expenses in the Annual financial statement (Wirtschaftsplan) in Germany
Umlagefähig costs: The costs that a landlord can transfer to their tenant come under this category. For example, heating costs, water costs, garbage disposal costs, etc.
Nicht Umlagefähig costs: As you may guess, the costs a landlord cannot transfer to their tenant come under this category. For example, renovation costs, building's cash reserve, etc.
4.3 What is Hausgeld?
It is the monthly amount that you pay to the homeowners' community. The homeowners' community uses Hausgeld to pay utility bills, maintenance, renovation, etc. of the building.
As discussed in section 4.1, you can check the financial plan of the building to know where the House Union spends your Hausgeld.
The bigger the property, the more you have to pay every month in Hausgeld. Generally, old properties tend to have a higher Hausgeld as compared to newly built houses.
NOTE: Unusually high Hausgeld of a property in Germany is not a good sign. In such scenarios, I typically reject the apartment and look for others.
4.4 What is building's cash reserve (Rücklage)? What is its use?
Every multi-family house in Germany saves a part of the Hausgeld. This saving is the building's cash reserve or Rücklage in German.
The purpose to build a cash reserve is to use this amount for renovating the building. With time, the building will need major renovations like changing the roof, painting the facade, renovating the balconies, etc.
All these renovations are expensive. Hence, the homeowner's community saves a small amount every month to cover such expenses in the future.
The more money in the building's cash reserve (Rücklage) means the less money coming out of my pocket for building renovations.
4.5 Can I reduce my Hausgeld?
Yes, you can reduce the Hausgeld to a certain extent.
There are expenses like rainwater fees, garbage disposal fees, etc. that you cannot reduce or stop paying. Such expenses are compulsory for every residential unit in Germany.
But, there are services like cleaning the common areas, removing snow during winter (Winterdienst), etc. that you can stop using to reduce your Hausgeld.
Of course, the majority of the homeowners have to agree to this proposal.
5. Energy Efficiency Certificate (Energieausweis)
As the name suggests, it is a certificate that tells how energy efficient a building is.
Here are a few things you should know about the Energy Efficiency Certificate (Energieausweis).
The energy efficiency certificate rates the property based on the energy required to heat the building and for hot water.
The certificate (Energieausweis) is for the entire building and not for a single apartment.
The certificate applies to the living areas only. So storage rooms, garages, etc. are not considered while calculating the energy consumption.
It is mandatory by German law for the seller to provide the energy efficiency certificate to the buyer. Similarly, German law obligates the landlord to provide an energy efficiency certificate to the tenant.
5.1 What to check in an Energy Efficiency Certificate (Energieausweis) in Germany?
The first page of the energy efficiency certificate (Energieausweis) has general information like the issue date, register number, and type of energy certificate.
Check the age of the boiler. As per the regulation of Energie Einspar Verordnung (EnEV), oil or gas boilers installed after 1985 and older than 30 years must be replaced. So, if your boiler meets these conditions, add the costs of replacing the boiler.
The cost of the boiler depends on its size and brand. A central boiler for a multi-family house with eight residential units may cost around 8000–15000 € in 2022.
Check the energy rating of the property. Energy efficiency certificates in Germany have a band from A+ to H. A+ being the best and H the worst energy efficiency.
For a house with an energy efficiency rating between B and C, the energy consumption is almost half of a house with an energy efficiency rating between D and E. This means the cost of energy consumption is also half.
5.2 Different types of energy efficiency certificates in Germany
There are two types of energy efficiency certificates (Energieausweis) in Germany.
Energy Requirement Certificate
Energy Consumption Certificate
The energy requirement certificate shows how much energy a building needs under standard usage conditions.
The energy consumption certificate is based on how much energy the residents of the building consumed in the last three consecutive years.
Calculating energy consumption is complicated and expensive
Obtaining this certificate is faster and cheaper.
It is not based on the user's behavior. Hence, you get a neutral view of the energy consumption.
The energy consumption rating depends on the user's behavior. Hence, a frugal household achieves better ratings in the same building than a wasteful one.