Home Searching in Austria: Snowboarding Heaven within the Austrian Alps for $1.5 Million

What’s With All the No-Fee Apartments in New York City?

This four bedroom penthouse is located on a plateau at the foot of the Grossvenediger, an 11,700 foot high glacier peaked mountain that rises above the village of Neukirchen am Grossvenediger in the Austrian Alps.

The 1,615-square-foot apartment was built in 2016 on the second floor of a south-facing country-style chalet with overhanging eaves and features wooden beams and vaulted rafters with a ceiling height of about 16 feet, said Florian Hofer, managing director of Austria for Engel & Völkers, who made the listing Has. Balconies at either end of the penthouse and a loggia overlook some of the 16 other nearby chalets with mountain views reminiscent of "The Sound of Music" that is set in Salzburg.

Steps lead from a ground floor entrance to the thick wooden door of the penthouse. The large room, clad in wood, includes the living, dining and kitchen areas with wide wooden floors, a fireplace and a floor-to-ceiling, triple-insulated glass door that opens onto a loggia that is protected from the elements on three sides. The balcony has decorative wooden railings with imaginative carvings near the top of the chalet.

The J-shaped kitchen has white laminate cabinets, a laminate top with a wood pattern and a raised breakfast bar. A picture of Bergen is printed on a glass shelf on the wall.

A short hallway leads to a wellness area with a sauna with glass walls and an adjoining relaxation area with a view of the mountains. A second door from the spa opens to the master bedroom.

Three bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms and double doors to a rear balcony. The fourth bedroom opens to the front balcony.

Two parking spaces in an underground communal garage are reserved for the penthouse, with a walk of about 40 meters along a path to the chalet.

Neukirchen am Grossvenediger is located with around 2,500 inhabitants in the western part of the 715 square miles large Hohe Tauern National Park. The penthouse is 30 minutes away from five ski areas, including Kitzbühel, a fashionable winter resort with Tony shops in the medieval center and an annual downhill race, the Hahnenkamm. Zell Am See, a town of around 10,000 people known for winter sports and summer on the shores of Zellsee, is 40 minutes to the east.

The medieval city of Salzburg with around 150,000 inhabitants and the claim to be famous as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is 90 miles north. Salzburg Airport offers flights to other European cities. Munich International Airport is a two-hour drive away.

Salzburg has had a solid decade of real estate market growth. Prices in the city rose 110 percent (and even more at the top) during this period, the brokers said. This is in line with national trends: real estate prices throughout Austria rose by around 8 percent year-on-year in 2019, according to the Oesterreichische Nationalbank, the Austrian central bank.

The city attracts a large number of tourists and students who visit one of its three universities. Buyers are often looking for renovated apartments in the Salzburg baroque city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as lakeside houses in the Salzkammergut, a nearby region with lakes, valleys, rolling hills and steep alpine mountains.

When the coronavirus pandemic closed the market for about six weeks from mid-March, “certain discussions and transactions were postponed but not really stopped,” said Mark Hüsges, license partner of Engel & Völkers Zell Am See.

Prices remained "extremely stable and will continue to rise as they have in recent years," added Hüsges. "I don't see any negative consequences from Covid."

Although around half of Salzburg's residents rent their houses, "people have considered their options," said Hüsges, and in the event of a second closure, he pushed for suburbs with "small houses and small gardens". "Before Covid, they would have spent money on a city apartment," he added.

As of September 22, Austria had recorded 39,303 cases of Covid-19 and 771 deaths, according to the New York Times' coronavirus map. A recent increase in cases, particularly in the Vienna capital, prompted Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to reintroduce mask war mandates at the beginning of September.

Since the summer peak of the pandemic, prices in high-end areas have risen by 7 to 8 percent, said Marlies Muhr, owner and managing director of Marlies Muhr Real Estate. Afraid of losing money through inflation, "people are currently starting up real estate," said Ms. Muhr.

Inventories are low in the city of Salzburg, where new development is restricted by numerous "grassland zones", she said. The harvest is also small in the Salzkammergut.

"Because of the lockdown, people felt that it was worth having your own property by a lake instead of being locked in an apartment," she said. Some customers who shop virtually "bought property without going in, without even going to the location."

The sale was helped by the opportunity to get "good finance" with very low interest rates, she said.

The markets in Salzburg and Vienna, about 200 miles east, are between 5,000 and 7,000 euros per square meter ($ 550 to $ 770 per square foot), said Alex Koch de Gooreynd, a partner at Knight Frank who works on the international residential real estate sales team. Innsbruck and Bregenz are around 5 percent more expensive, said Richard Buxbaum, head of residential real estate at the Vienna agency Otto Immobilien.

The high-end starts just under 750,000 euros and goes up to 15 million euros ($ 17.8 million), Ms. Muhr said. A newer two-story, 3,200-square-foot brick home with a basement and garage on 4 acres in a good neighborhood could get $ 3 million ($ 3.5 million). New penthouses with roof gardens cost 20,000 euros per square meter. Properties with a view of the Hohensalzburg Fortress, a completely preserved medieval castle above the historic center of Salzburg, cost an additional 25 percent.

Demand is particularly high in Kitzbühel, a “very expensive market”, due to its proximity to Munich (approx. 90 minutes) and Salzburg (60 minutes), among other things. "The prices there went through the roof," said Ms. Muhr.

In 2020, renowned villas in Vienna changed hands for up to 11.5 million euros. Exclusive condominiums have achieved top prices per square meter of up to 24,500 euros, ”said John Philipp Niemann, Managing Director in Vienna at Engel & Völkers.

Many wealthy Germans move their apartments to Austria "because there is no inheritance tax", said Ms. Muhr, although taxes in Austria are usually higher than in other countries of the European Union. British and Dutch nationals usually buy in the ski resorts, while Italian buyers go to Vienna, Salzburg or Innsbruck, which is closer to Italy, she said. Chinese customers also buy in Vienna.

Swiss nationals and Austrians living abroad also buy in Vienna, said Niemann. The majority of buyers tended "towards luxurious new developments and renovated historic buildings with the latest equipment and fittings".

Americans "love Salzburg as a cultural and holiday destination as well as a place to live," said Hüsges.

Buyers in ski and holiday areas such as Zell am See and Kitzbühel as well as Innsbruck come mainly from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Great Britain, said Hofer.

This chalet is located on a property that is licensed for tourists. Although the owner can live there, the penthouse has to be rented “for a certain number of weeks per year,” said Hofer. To buy Austrian real estate, Americans and other buyers outside the European Union must set up a company in Austria or elsewhere in the European Union. A tax advisor should be consulted, added Hofer.

In Salzburg, the use of a property as a holiday home or tourist accommodation is subject to "strict restrictions, unless the property is located in one of the few communities that have not yet reached their maximum rate of second homes of currently 16 percent," he said. Johann Brundl, notary.

A property "may only be used as a second home in a second home area," which is set out in a development plan, and not as a main residence or tourist accommodation, said Dr. Brundl.

Mortgages are 30 percent less available, said Ms. Muhr.

German; Euro (1 Euro = 1.18 USD)

Apart from a one-off fee of 3.5 percent upon conclusion and a land registry fee of 1.1 percent, there are no annual property taxes in Austria. Homeowners pay an annual fee of around 630 euros for water consumption, sewage and garbage collection, said Ms. Muhr.

The notary and legal fees are between 1 and 2 percent of the purchase price plus a VAT of 20 percent, said Dr. Brundl.

Buyer and seller each pay a commission of 3 percent to the real estate agent.

Florian Hofer, Engel & Völkers, 011-49-171-83-08-379; engelvoelkers.com

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