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PROPERTY

Renting in Austria: How much can estate agents charge in commission?

The size of the estate agent's commission, called 'Provision', comes as a shock to a lot of foreign renters in Austria. There are legal limits on what they can charge, depending on the type of contract you have.

Couple and estate agent looking at an apartment
If your estate agent overcharges you for commission, you have a right to claim it back, so it's worth knowing your rights. Photo: Alena Darmel/Pexels

The majority of apartment rental contracts in Austria are managed by estate agents, which means that there is a commission to be paid. This is even the case if you found the apartment using an online service or through word of mouth, as long as an estate agent has been given the job of that apartment rental.

This commission is called Provision or Maklerprovision.

A standard amount is two months’ rent, plus an extra 20 percent in VAT.

For the purposes of the commission, the ‘rent’ means the net rent (Nettomiete) plus any service costs (Betriebskosten) that are included, but not the VAT that makes up part of your gross rent, and not extra costs you pay individually as the tenant, like electricity and gas in most cases. 

If your contract is limited to three years or less however, the maximum an estate agent is allowed to charge in commission is one months’ rent plus VAT. The same is generally true if the estate agent is also the property manager of the landlord; you should only be charged one months’ rent plus VAT (or half a months’ rent if it’s limited to less than three years).

These fees apply whether you’re renting an apartment or a house. If you are renting a single room as a lodger, you can only be charged one months’ rent plus VAT, regardless of the length of contract.

What’s more, if the estate agent owns the apartment and is representing themselves, they should not be charging any commission to the tenant. They’re obliged to disclose any economic or personal relationship between the agent and landlord.

If your contract is extended after you reach the end of the initial time period, whether it’s extended to another set term or changed to an unlimited contract, the estate agent can again take a commission, but this time the limit is half one month’s rent.

A few things to note about the Provision that may not be immediately obvious are that the amount must be listed in the apartment ad, and that this is not a refundable fee like the deposit (Kaution).

Check the Provision amount carefully; these are legal upper limits, so you can’t be charged extra — and if you are, you can claim the money back. Since they are upper limits and not fixed prices, it may even be possible to negotiate a lower fee, especially if it’s an apartment that hasn’t been easy to rent.

You should also make sure that VAT has only been counted once, so that the two months’ rent calculation wasn’t made on the basis of the gross rent.

Lastly and crucially, you should only need to pay the commission after the conclusion of a valid rental agreement, so be very wary of any agents that ask for fees upfront. 

Do you have questions about renting, or another aspect of life in Austria? Email our editorial team at [email protected] with your question and we will do our best to help you.

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PROPERTY

Where to find property in Austria for under €100k

Austria is not known for being a cheap country and property prices are higher than in some other European countries, but it's still possible to find property bargains, some for even under €100k.

Where to find property in Austria for under €100k

Property prices are rising in much of Europe, and Austria is no exception.

The graph below from the European Union’s statistical agency Eurostat shows the sharp upwards trajectory over the past few years with property price increases in Austria outpacing those in the European Union  as a whole.

And a new survey found that the average price per square metre for new apartments in Austria rose by 11 percent last year, making the country Europe’s second-most expensive market.

It’s no surprise, then, that property ownership in Austria remains low.

According to Eurostat, 55.2 percent of people owned their home in Austria in 2021 – well below the 70 percent European average. That’s the third lowest percentage in Europe after Switzerland (41.6 percent) and Germany (51.1 percent).

READ ALSO: Why do so few Austrians own their home?

So, where can we find cheap(er) homes in Austria – either properties that are move-in ready or those that could be excellent investments for those who enjoy fixer-uppers (or huge DIY projects)?

To find these gems, we used a property website that allowed us to search for real estate in the whole of Austria (instead of just a few main cities) and showed us homes with at least three rooms.

The price limit was set at €100,000 (while our colleagues in even-more-expensive Switzerland had theirs set at a much heftier CHF 500k, around €515k).

As of August 2022, we found 25 houses and 34 apartments meeting these criteria on sale.

As you might expect, many of these need (a lot of) work, but the good news is you can definitely still nab a home for under €100,000 with gorgeous views, small plots of land or lake access.

austria map
Houses below €100k are mainly in the south and east of the country. Property map from Wlllhaben.at.

What types of properties are there?
Looking at houses first (see the map above, which also shows the average purchase price across Austria’s different regions), a few things stand out:

The vast majority of the immediately liveable properties are on the tiny side – most are around the 40 square metres mark and billed as holiday homes – but many come fully furnished, a bonus if you’re working to a tight budget.

You will find bigger ones (the largest we saw was 124 square metres), but then they are likely to be complete renovation projects.

If you head for the border, you’ll get more house for your euro in southern and eastern Austria. Many of the properties we saw were in peaceful Burgenland, Austria’s least populous state.

And if you’re happy to buy just over the border in Hungary, Slovakia or even cross into Croatia, you’ll get more space – and less work – for your money.

You might think cities would be a complete no-no for snapping up bargain properties, but when we looked, we actually found a few properties a short drive from Vienna that were below our top price.

House or apartment?
When it comes to apartments, you’ll get more square metres  – we found flats within this price bracket were around 70 square metres on average – and a slightly greater choice of location for your money

READ ALSO: ‘Concrete gold’: Austria ranks as Europe’s second most expensive property market

Plus, the apartments we found were generally in much better condition – some are even newly renovated and fabulous – so you wouldn’t have so much, if any, work to do.

But there is, inevitably, a compromise: you might get a terrace or a balcony, but most won’t have a proper garden, and certainly no land or outbuildings, which many of the houses we found did have.

If you opt for an apartment over a house, you’ll usually have a slightly greater choice of location. Property map from Willhaben.at.

Even when you do find cheap properties, though, they are sometimes quite literally too good to be true. Some may require completely gutting, others may not be connected to the grid or might need costly lease renegotiations.

So, whether you go for a house or an apartment, you need to make sure you do your homework and carry out a thorough inspection first.

While renovation projects can be great investments, they’re time-consuming and can be very costly.

Before you take the huge step of purchasing, be honest with yourself about your own skill levels and how much time you have for a project – it’s easy to get caught up in the romantic idea of the end result of a gorgeous renovation – and get estimates for any work that needs to be done.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why Austria’s rising property prices are causing alarm

If you’re looking at buying somewhere to rent out, check average monthly rents for that area to be sure it’s worth you putting all the hard work in and that you’ll get a good return on your investment.

Whatever your reason for buying, check the property’s location carefully – some have poor access or no connection to basic services.

And it’s important to be mindful of extra costs, too: besides renovation costs, you’ll also have to fork out for property taxes, monthly charges, as well as any lease renewal costs and other living expenses.

These can all vary depending on the type of property and where it is.

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