House Hunting in Germany: A Traditional Estate With Modern Taste


This equestrian property of traditionally fired brick with a regionally distinctive reed-thatched roof was built in 2000 in the town of Fredenbeck, about 40 miles west of Hamburg, in northern Germany.

Besides the three-bedroom, four-bathroom main house, the 6.9-acre property has a one-bedroom guesthouse and stable building with living quarters adjacent to a heated 43-by-16-foot swimming pool. A second stable building large enough for five horses has access to paddocks and a professional equestrian area, said Alexander Stehle, a managing partner at Hamburg Sotheby’s International Realty, which has the listing.

Granite steppingstones lead to the front door of the main house, which opens to an airy foyer with double-height ceilings. The 4,800-square-foot house, which was renovated in 2009, has interiors with heavy wooden statement beams and Asian art and motifs designed by the New York-based Tonychi Studio. Furniture, excluding artwork, is included in the asking price, Mr. Stehle said.

The entrance foyer opens to an open-plan dining and kitchen area with panoramic windows, ceiling beams and artisan terra-cotta tiles. The kitchen, designed by Bulthaup, has a cooking island and breakfast bar, with cabinets and countertops of silestone clay and smoked natural oak. There are appliances by Gaggenau and Cucineria. Arched glass doors open to the pool terrace, with an al fresco dining area with barbecue.

Beyond the foyer’s curved oak staircase, the spacious living room has a wood-burning fireplace with a raised hearth and a wood mantelpiece typical of traditional houses in the area, Mr. Stehle said. More arched glass doorways open to a terrace, while double windows overlook the pool and garden.

The curved staircase ascends to a landing accessing all three bedrooms. The main bedroom has a half-timbered gabled ceiling, integrated ebony wardrobes and polished wood floors. Four large tilt-turn windows flood the bedroom with light. The en suite bathroom has a black stone shower and Hinoki tub, made from Japanese cypress. There is also an area for a dressing room and spa treatments. The two other bedrooms (one of which is currently furnished as a home office) have en suite baths.

The basement has a wine cellar, along with utility and storage rooms. The guesthouse has about 1,076 square feet of space, with one bedroom, a small fitness area and a bathroom with Dornbracht fittings. The lofted clean-stable building has a summer kitchen, tack rooms and living quarters upstairs with beds for six and a bathroom.

The estate has hurdle and dressage areas, as well as grazing and exercise areas for the horses. Besides the riding areas, the estate, which is maintained by a professional housekeeping and landscaping staff, also has a pond, an orchard with open-air seating, and beehives tended by a professional beekeeper.

The town of Fredenbeck has about 6,000 residents in a region of gentle hills, woods and meadows in Lower Saxony state, part of which is in the greater metropolitan area of Hamburg, a riverfront city of about 1.8 million residents. The area offers plenty of shops, restaurants and cultural attractions, along with the Golf Club Deinster Geest, an 18-hole course surrounding an 800-year-old mill, in Deinste. Lower Saxony’s coastline on the North Sea, called East Frisia, is about an hour’s drive and popular with tourists. Hamburg Airport is about 45 miles northeast.

The German housing market was well positioned to weather the global coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. From 2009 to 2019, single-family homes in Germany saw prices rise by roughly 65 percent, while existing apartments more than doubled in price, according to Deutsche Bank’s 2020 market outlook report, which cited the country’s mass immigration and “sluggish supply of new homes.”

“The German housing market experienced a 10-year-long upswing on the back of healthy labor markets, record-low interest rates and strong inward migration from Eastern and Southern Europe and by asylum seekers,” said Tobias Just, a professor in the International Real Estate Business School at the University of Regensburg.

Homes in the Hamburg area generally followed suit before the pandemic, said Daniel Ritter, an executive partner at Von Poll Immobilien, a brokerage network headquartered in Frankfurt. “In Hamburg, prices for single- and two-family houses have climbed by around 5 to 6 percent annually since 2018, and for condominiums, even by about 10 to 12 percent annually,” Mr. Ritter said.

The pandemic briefly throttled sales activity in the spring of 2020, when uncertainty among buyers and sellers alike reduced supply and demand, brokers said. But the market rebounded in the summer and fall.

“In the second half of 2020, the demand for real estate quickly increased to pre-crisis levels,” said Janina Stuwe, a Hamburg branch manager for Von Poll Immobilien. “However, the number of real estate offerings also fell rapidly, for example by more than half in Hamburg’s Elbe suburbs. This has further increased price levels.”

Currently, homes in Hamburg can cost as little as 240,000 euros ($290,000) and as much as 10 million euros ($12.1 million); buyers can expect to pay about 1 million to 1.5 million euros ($1.2 million to $1.8 million) for an average single-family home in a nice location, including on the rivers Elbe or Alster, Ms. Stuwe said.

“Properties on waterfront locations are particularly in demand and can be found in the higher price segment, for example in the Elbe suburbs with a view of the Elbe, or around the Alster with a view of the Alster,” Ms. Stuwe said.

Before the pandemic, there was some movement out of German cities as residents tried to escape high rents and home prices, Dr. Just said. That movement was balanced by the migration of young Germans and foreign migrants into the cities — a flow that has dwindled during the pandemic, he said.

At the same time, many families in the city center have been seeking more living space and outdoor space in the suburbs, brokers said. “Thus, the net effect for an increasing number of cities is negative,” Dr. Just said. “Many cities are slightly shrinking and losing inhabitants to their fringes.”

Most home buyers in the Hamburg area are locals, with foreign home buyers accounting for a fraction of home sales, brokers said. During the pandemic, residential sales to international buyers were largely stymied by travel restrictions and quarantine regulations.

“I didn’t have many investors who live abroad or have companies abroad buying residential property in Hamburg during the last year,” said Jens-Olaf Lenschow, a notary at Notariat Neuer Wall 41, in Hamburg. “I don’t know if there was a decrease in those sales, but they definitely didn’t grow.”

Typically, foreign home buyers in Hamburg come from France, Switzerland, the United States, the Netherlands, Britain and Austria, Ms. Stuwe said. There was a huge wave of Danish investors buying in Hamburg between 2005 and 2015, but they have since thinned out, Mr. Lenschow said.

Mr. Stehle said he sees many buyers from China and the United States, as well as expatriate Germans returning home.

There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Germany. The process is transparent and fairly standard, with impartial notaries handling all sales, so the services of a lawyer, which are typically expensive, aren’t necessary, brokers said.

Foreign home buyers would be more likely to hire a broker or a real estate adviser to assist in their home search, Mr. Lenschow said.

The notary fee is about 1 percent of the home sale price, with registry fees totaling about 0.5 percent. Real estate transfer taxes vary by state; in Hamburg, buyers pay 4.5 percent, Dr. Just said.

While buyers used to pay the entire real estate agent commission, as of December 2020, those fees must be shared between the buyer and seller, brokers said. Real estate commissions vary by region, but are typically 6 to 7 percent. In Hamburg, the buyer and the seller each pay 3.125 percent, Mr. Stehle said.

Foreigners seeking a mortgage from German banks may face obstacles, depending on their situation, said Lucie Lotzkat, an executive partner at Von Poll Finance. German banks typically avoid lending to buyers from countries that don’t use the euro, she said: “If the customer lives outside Europe, as there is no connection to the EU and Germany, a mortgage from German banks is difficult, though not impossible.”

German; euro (1 euro = $1.21)

The annual fees for this property, excluding staffing costs, are about 21,000 euros ($25,400), Mr. Stehle said. This includes annual property taxes, which are approximately 2,460 euros ($3,000).

Alexander Stehle, Hamburg Sotheby’s International Realty, 011-49-171-28-24-474, sothebysrealty.com

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