Berlin Real Estate terms explained and translated to English from A-Z

Even if you have owned property before, the Berlin property market can be confusing. What’s more, you are faced with real estate terms in German you may not fully understand.

Our A-Z Guide to real estate property terms in Berlin explains the many terms (in German and English) you will encounter during your property search and purchase.

Whether you have already decided to buy a property, or still looking, read below and discover all you need to know from Altbau to Wohngeld.

1-Zimmer Wohnung / Studio apartment

If you are looking for a studio apartment your search should focus your search on 1-Zimmer apartments, which translates to a one-room apartment. Kitchen, bathroom and hallway are not counted in the number of rooms an apartment contains.

2-Zimmer Wohnung / 1-bedroom apartment

An apartment with one separate bedroom is defined in german as a 2-Zimmer apartment. For a space to count as a room, it should be a minimum of 10m2 and have a window.

Studio apartment – Kantstrasse 52


A term used to describe an apartment or building built between 1850 and 1949. These buildings often showcase historical details (borrowed from classical architecture) on their facade and in their interiors.

Bezugsfrei / Vacant

An empty apartment which can be used for self-use or rented out, without the burden of a previous tenancy agreement.

Dachgeschoss / Attic

The dachgeschoss can mean either an undeveloped roof space (Rohling) or a penthouse unit which was built out in the previous attic space. If you are buying a property in a building with an undeveloped attic, it can be advantageous to the owners community in the future because the attic developer will typically pay the full cost of a new roof. If permissions allow, you should be aware that an elevator can be added but is not always allowed to connect to all floors.

Penthouse apartment – Behaimstr. 25

Eigenkapital / Downpayment

The sum to be paid as a downpayment for a property loan.

Eigentumsgemeinschaft / Owners community

The various owners of divided apartments in a building make up the Eigentumsgemeinschaft or owners community.

Eigentumswohnung / Condominium

An apartment which is owned by an individual, and where the group of owners form a Eigentumsgemeinschaft.

Energieausweis / Energy certificate

All buildings in Germany are required by law to possess a current energy pass. The Energieausweis must be valid at time of an apartment being up for sale and should be available upon request to the potential buyer without any binding agreement.

A German energy certificate

Ferienwohnung / Holiday apartment

An apartment which has the special permission to be rented out on a short-term basis. Applications for the holiday apartment status are to be made to the Berlin authorities and are increasingly difficult to receive.

Gemeinschaftsordnung / Regulations of the common property

This document describes what is allowed and not allowed within the building including general day-to-day rules on how the owners community / tenants should behave and changes or work that you can carry out.

Grundbuch / Land register

The land register contains records of all properties and plots in Germany. You are legally entitled to view an excerpt of the land register before purchasing a property. After the purchase, your ownership of the new property will be inscribed into the land register.

Grunderwerbsteuer / Property transfer tax

In Berlin the purchaser is responsible to pay 6% of the purchase price to complete the sale of a property.

Grundsteuer / Property tax

Yearly property tax in Berlin varies depending on the location of the property, the type of property and the year of construction of the property. The monthly running cost is a minimal rate as many of the taxes are covered in the apartment running cost (see Wohngeld)

Hauswervaltung / Building management

The Hauswervaltung is responsible for the overall management of the building and maintenance of the common areas. If you are renting out your apartment, the property manager will collect the rent and coordinate with tenants.

Heizung / Heating

Buildings in Berlin have varying heating systems depending on the year the building was built, the district, or the choice of the owners community. Some common heating systems are Gasetageheizung (Individual boiler heating), Zentralheizung (Gas or District heating), Fernwärme (District heating).

Immobilien / Real Estate

The german term referring describing either the Real Estate industry, or a specific property.

Instandhaltungsfonds (Rücklage) / Maintenance Fund

The maintenance fund is an amount of money kept in reserve for maintenance and construction works to the common areas of a building. Owners contribute to the maintenance fund monthly by paying a set fee per square meter which is outlined in the building’s Wirtschaftsplan.

Kapitalanlage / Investment property

The term Kapitalanlage describes a property which is sold with a valid tenancy contract. Unless otherwise indicated, the tenant will continue to live in the apartment regardless of the change of owner.

Kaufnebenkosten / Additional purchase costs

In Germany it is typical to pay an additional  7-15% of the purchase price for ancillary costs related to the purchase. Commission for the purchase of a property ranges from 0-7.14%, whereas Notar costs amount to roughly 1.5%. Inscription to the land register costs 0.5%, and land transfer tax is 6%.

Kaufpreis / Purchase price

The price of the apartment for sale, not including any taxes or fees related to the purchase such as the notary.

Kaufpreisfälligkeit / Payment notification

This term refers to a notification from the notary to the buyer, asking him or her to pay the purchase price of the property.

Kaufvertrag / Purchase contract

The purchase contract is a legal contract between the buyer and the seller. When you reserve an apartment you will receive a draft purchase contract, by law in Germany you have a two week time period to review it. The contract is not binding until the two week period has expired and the contract is signed by both the selling and buying parties.

Keller / Cellar

When you buy an apartment in Berlin you will be allocated a cellar as part of the purchase agreement. The cellar is not be owned by individual parties, but rather remains as part of the common property of the building. The use of the cellar is private and each owner has its own key to the cellar. Typically, the property manager has rights to access the cellar for emergencies.

Kündigungssperrfrist / Protection period

By law, tenants present at the time of the first division of the building are protected from eviction for 10 years. This protection period comes into effect after the first sale after the partition of the building has taken place. This means that an owner may not evict the tenant, even in the case of the owner wanting to use the property as a primary residence.

Investment property – Alarichstrasse 4-5

Makler / Agent

A Makler is a Real Estate agent, responsible for executing the sale of a property. Some agents require the potential buyer to sign an exclusivity agreement before viewing a property, it is important to understand the terms and the commission percentage before signing.

Millieuschutz / Urban area protection

Millieuschutz is a German law which limits the scope of modernization and renovation of buildings in specific areas in Berlin. This measure restricts major changes to the floorplan of a unit, limits design changes which will qualify as luxury finishes (double-sinks, marble, etc.) and forbids the combining of two smaller units into one large apartment. It is advisable to consult a map of the Millieuschutz areas in Berlin before any property purchase.

Notar / Notary

In Germany any legal transaction involving property must go through an accredited Notar. A Notar in Germany (as related to a property purchase) is a lawyer specialized in property law. The Notar in this context is not to be confused with a notary public or civil-law notary which have no authority on any real estate transactions in Germany. Notar costs amount to approximately 1.5-2% of purchase price of a property.

Provision / Commission

An additional charge, to be paid by the buyer to the selling agent, for the sale of the a property. In Germany the highest commission percentage is 6% + VAT (7.14%).

Rendite / Yield

The gross yield is calculated by dividing the yearly rent by the purchase price. The gross yield does not take into account running costs or additional purchase costs, whereas the net yield will take into account all costs after expenses.

Selbstnutzung / Self use

To use an apartment as a primary residence, as owner-occupier.

Teilungserklärung / Partition deed

Every building which has been divided into individually-owned condominium apartments will have a Teilungserklärung document which outlines the terms of the division of the building.To use an apartment as a primary residence, as owner-occupier.

Übergabe / Handover

The handover is the event by which the new owner takes possession of the apartment from the seller. Typically locks are changed and the new owner is given a set of new keys.

Vermietet / Tenanted

An apartment which is already rented out and has a valid rental contract at the time of sale. The rental contract is bound to the apartment and remains valid after the sale. Tenanted apartments are typically more than 20% cheaper than vacant apartments.

Wirtschaftsplan / Building running costs

This document describes the yearly costs for running the building which includes costs such as property management, waste disposal, water supply, cleaning, and various other costs related to the property. The document is available for review to all owners and can be amended with agreement of the owners.

Wohngeld / Apartment running costs

The Wohngeld is the amount the owner of the apartment pays towards the running costs of the building. Owners contribute to the costs of running the building by paying a monthly set fee per square meter which is outlined in the building’s Wirtschaftsplan.

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