House Hunting in … Austria

International real estate

In Vienna — where unemployment and interest rates are low — the housing market is strong, especially when it comes to historic villas.

A Restored Five-Bedroom Villa in Vienna


This five-bedroom, three-bathroom home is in northwest Vienna, in the Dornbach neighborhood of the 17th district, which is known as Hernals. Built in 1884, the house was once a place where Austrian royalty was entertained and concerts by musicians and composers like Johann Strauss were held, said the listing agent, Elisabeth Wiederkehr, of Engel & Völkers.

For many years, the property was used as a film studio, before falling into disrepair in the late 20th century. The current owner bought it in 2003, divided it into five units and renovated the main home, combining restored elements of the old house with contemporary features. The home for sale, which is 5,996 square feet, includes three of the units: the three-bedroom main house, a two-bedroom apartment and an office. (An apartment on the top floor and a restaurant are not part of this sale.)

With its 23-foot ceilings and tall windows, the wide-open main room includes the living area, dining area and kitchen.CreditFranz Neumayr for The New York Times

The exterior of the house is in traditional altdeutsch (old-German) style, with exposed wood beams and a sloped red-tile roof that descends to about eight feet above the ground. Visitors enter through two tall wood doors leading to a 2,583-square-foot space that originally served as a ballroom. The arched-wood beams, wooden trim carved with German phrases and stained-glass windows are all original to the house. With its 23-foot ceilings and tall windows, the wide-open main room includes the living area, dining area and kitchen.

At one end of the space is a large, modern fireplace with a mantel made of colored concrete. The floors are epoxy resin, and there is under-floor heating throughout the house. An ornate iron chandelier, salvaged from the old house and restored, hangs in the dining area.

The kitchen has lacquered wood cabinets, an island with a counter seating area and Gaggenau appliances. Behind it is a lounge area that serves as a media room, with a large U-shaped sofa. (The furniture is not included in the asking price, but is available to buy; several pieces were custom-made for the home.)

As part of the restoration of the ground-floor main hall, a loft was added above the kitchen area to serve as the master bedroom. It has an en suite bathroom and a round tub built into the floor. Two more bedrooms are on the ground floor, set off from the main room, and there is an additional space currently used as an office.

Behind the kitchen, a lounge area with a large U-shaped sofa serves as a media room. (The furniture is not included in the asking price, but it is available to buy.)CreditFranz Neumayr for The New York Times

Floor-to-ceiling glass doors in the rear open to a private 2,422-square-foot backyard, with a large ground-level deck, several large trees, sculptures and a manicured lawn. A small building in the garden houses a sauna, whirlpool and shower. The attic and basement offer additional storage space, and there is also a garage, which is shared with the other units on the property.

The neighborhood of Dornbach is home to many 19th-century villas in the distinctive Gründerzeit style, with spires and ornate facades. This house is on a commercial stretch of Dornbacher Street, with shopping, restaurants and schools nearby. It is a short walk to a tram stop, with connections to downtown Vienna that take about 30 minutes. Vienna International Airport is a 30-minute drive.

Market Overview

Home prices in Austria rose 7.3 percent in the first quarter of 2018, according to the house price index compiled by Oesterreichische Nationalbank, Austria’s central bank. In Vienna, prices rose 3.5 percent in the quarter, after an increase of 1.5 percent in 2017, the bank reported.

Demand for housing in Vienna is strong, with low unemployment, a growing population and a stable economy driving the market, agents said. “Since the economic crisis in 2008, investors are looking for a safe investment, and interest rates are very low,” said Peter Marschall, chief executive of Marschall Real Estate, in Vienna.

More buyers are looking beyond traditional neighborhoods, with affordability and proximity to public transportation increasingly important. “There are many new developments in locations where people did not want to live several years ago,” Mr. Marschall said.

Glass doors in the rear open to a large deck surrounded by several large trees, sculptures and a manicured lawn.CreditFranz Neumayr for The New York Times

The most popular areas for high-end buyers are in the western part of the city, including the neighborhoods of Währing (the 18th district) and Döbling (the 19th district), as well as the 17th district, where this home is, said Susanne Thomanek, a Vienna-based agent with Austria Sotheby’s International Realty. “The beautiful, classical prewar architecture is known worldwide and fascinates buyers,” Ms. Thomanek said.

In the 18th and 19th districts, the best-known areas for buying older estates, “2017 was an absolute record year on the villa market,” according to a report by Otto Immobilien Gruppe, a real estate agency in Vienna. The median sale price for a villa in the two districts rose to just above 2 million euros (or about $2.3 million) in 2017, up from 1.2 million euros (about $1.4 million) in 2009, according to the company’s data.

Many of the older homes are family-owned and haven’t been on the market for generations, said Richard Buxbaum, the head of residential real estate for Otto Immobilien. “More people are interested in selling their villas,” he said. “Elderly people own the property, and they don’t know what to do with it.”

Homes in the Gründerzeit style, found throughout the 17th district, are especially popular, Ms. Wiederkehr said, adding that “many Gründerzeithauser are being lavishly refurbished and then sold as individual apartments.”

Who Buys in Austria

Foreign buyers account for only about 10 percent of home sales in Vienna, and most of those buyers come from nearby countries like Germany and Switzerland, Mr. Marschall said. But the number of foreign buyers is increasing, “especially from eastern European countries,” he said, noting that most are looking for second homes or an investment.

Five years ago, international buyers were “mainly in the luxury area and primarily from Russia,” Mr. Buxbaum said. But today the market is more diverse, with recent buyers from Hong Kong, France and the United States, he said, estimating that international buyers account for 20 to 30 percent of his business.

The 1884 house (in the foreground) was renovated a decade ago and divided into five units.CreditFranz Neumayr for The New York Times

Buying Basics

Buyers who are not residents of the European Union typically must apply for a special permit to buy real estate. “If you are a non-E.U. citizen, you may need to wait six months” to get approval, said Elisabeth Karoly, an agent with Avantgarde Properties, in Vienna.

Many foreign buyers use a company to buy property, which can speed the process, agents said.

A notary formalizes the sale agreement, Ms. Thomanek said. Buyers must apply to register ownership in the Austrian land registry, which tracks any liens or restrictions on the property. “A purchaser may rely on the correctness of the information contained in the register in good faith,” she said. “It is advisable to obtain all information from the land register before acquiring real estate.”


Languages and Currency

German; euro (1 euro = $1.14)

Taxes and Fees

Taxes and fees typically add 10 percent to the sale price, Ms. Karoly said. They include a transfer tax of 3.5 percent of the sale price; a registration fee of 1.1 percent; agent fees of 3 percent; a 20 percent value-added tax; and lawyer and notary fees.

Annual local taxes and fees on this house are likely a few hundred euros a year, Ms. Wiederkehr said.


Elisabeth Wiederkehr, Engel & Völkers Vienna, 011-43-1961-5000;

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