Those who love a vibrant lifestyle are snapping up homes in the affordable and buzzing city
It’s been 25 years since the wall came down – and Berlin is now better known for being an edgy and vibrant global capital with an interesting historic and cultural legacy.
Amid majestic historic architecture, newly gentrified communist apartment blocks and staid buildings from the Third Reich, the Berlin skyline is forested with construction cranes. Massive capital projects such as a much-delayed new airport are taking place alongside any number of more modest commercial and residential projects.
“The residential sector runs relatively smoothly for new construction,” according to Thomas Zabel, CEO at Zabel Property Group. “Although the procedure for building permits can be lengthy, property prices are buoyant.”
The economic think tank Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft reports that newbuild apartment prices in Berlin rose by 79 per cent between 2007 and the first quarter of 2014.
“By 2007, the first wave of foreigners who had come for pure property investment were well represented by the British,” said Mr Zabel. “Many Britons fell in love with the city, returned often and eventually moved here on a permanent basis. Nowadays they buy property less for investment and more to live because Berlin is such a young dynamic city for business and culture.”
Residential property is far cheaper than in Munich, the country’s most expensive city. “Today, demand in Berlin exceeds supply “ said Julius Stinauer, principal consultant at Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate company.
The central district known as Berlin-Mitte is the most popular property destination for international buyers. “Seventy per cent of our Mitte clients are foreign and a substantial number of these are British,” observed Fiede Clausen, Zabel partnership manager. “Expats see quality of life, security and value for money as much better than in Britain. And regarding retirees, it’s a no-brainer for lifestyle and affordability.”
From central Mitte to its outskirts there are several new developments with expat appeal that cost from high-end millions down to relative affordability.
In the heart of Berlin-Mitte at the top end of the market is Palais Varnhagen [pictured above], designed by British architect Sir David Chipperfield. Forty-nine elegant apartments and massive penthouses with up to six bedrooms are priced from just under half a million euros up to €5.5million (£4.3million).
For buyers who seek ultra modern design, the 14-floor Living Levels is one of the Mitte’s last riverside projects to be given a high-rise building permit. Each of the three top floors has around 500 sq m of living space and 360 degree views. All 56 one to seven-bedroom units include state-of-the-art environmental features and cost €335,000 (£262,000) to €6 million (£4.7million).
Berlin is, unsurprisingly, a city of contradictions. While unemployment is high, though improving, the economy is growing faster than the German average. That widely anticipated but elusive post-1989 era of prosperity is finally materialising. Perhaps the time is nigh to consider Berlin as a prime expat property destination.