Our new flat: 5. The Meeting

Having lived in Germany for so long, it is  not so often that I come across a bureaucratic process that is new to me.  I think the last major ones before this year were getting married, registering a birth and starting a business.

Buying a flat was, of course, a new and very complicated one.  Yet more was still to come.  Last week I took part in our first Eigentümerversammlung – a German Word worthy of a podcast sometime 🙂

The Eigentümerversammlung is the annual meeting of all the owners of the flat in our block.  You see, our block of flats consists of two houses, each with 8 flats.  So there are theoretically 16 owners.  Some live in their flats – as we do, others rent them out.  Some even own more than one.  Each year they all come together for this important meeting to approve the accounts for the building and make any plans for long-term repairs.

And so I found myself discussing items such as colours for paving stones, alternatives to cable television, trees that need cutting down, and various other problems that need sorting out.

Actually, it’s a very organised way of doing things.  The building has an administrator who looks after things for the rest of the year and can take action in emergencies, but otherwise we have to agree on what is to be done and how it is going to be paid for.

On the other hand it can be quite restrictive, as you cannot make certain alterations to your flat – especially if they will be visible from the outside – without the other owners agreeing as well.

Most points on the agenda were dealt with without too much discussion, but every now and then things got quite lively as the discussions became more passionate for their respective causes.

The meeting was a very new experience for me.  If I hadn’t realised before that I had an important responsibility as a property owner, then I did now.  What a long way I’ve come…

Our new flat: 4. The Move

I’m catching up on some blogging this week.  Yesterday I reported on the paperwork for our new flat.  Today, I take a look at how we moved in.

When you think about moving into a new flat, you often have an image of packing up lots of removal boxes and taking everything in a large lorry on a specific day from the old flat to the new one.

In our case, by the time we had the keys and could gain access to the new flat we had long decided that we were going to do as much as possible using our cars and then only have the “big move” for the furniture.  Some furniture we wanted to move in advance, to make the “big” day run more smoothly.

But first, we had to deal with our kitchen.



Although the rest of the flat had been redecorated, the kitchen had not, although it contained an almost new cooker and sink.  We needed a new kitchen, and so for the first time since being in Germany I went to a kitchen showroom.

Here modern technology played a big part.  Using the measurements that we had already made, we were able to plan our kitchen with 3D graphics, helped by an expert kitchen planner who certainly knew his stuff.  In fact, we quickly agreed on how to use the space available, it took a bit longer to decide on the colour for the cupboards and the worksurface.

Over the course of the next few weeks we – helped by our respective families – transported as much as we could between the flats, whilst trying not to hinder our daily working lives.  We took furniture apart and rebuilt it.  We put tables together for the office.

But perhaps the biggest job of all at this point was to re-tile the kitchen.  What should have been a simple job for my wife and father-in-law turned into a much bigger event when it was discovered that the wiring in the kitchen was not up to modern standards, indeed even potentially dangerous in some parts.  In the end, over the course of two weeks they re-wired, re-papered and re-tiled the kitchen.

After that we continued to use our spare time to move as much as possible into the flat, until, at the end of August, we shut down the business for a week and, with the help of both families and a friend, we moved our larger furniture and kitchen appliances into the new flat and slept there for the first time.

Not all of this went quite according to plan, though.  Our kitchen, that should have arrived in the third week of August was now not scheduled until after we moved in, so we made do with a coffee machine, a microwave oven and a fridge.  Water had to come from the bathroom.  But then, finally, on the last Friday in August, our kitchen arrived.

For around six hours two kitchen builders built, mounted, wired and plumbed in our kitchen.  At the end of it all we had a lovely fitted kitchen where everything worked.  We even had modern drawers that you don’t shut right up – you give them a push and they go in normally until, just before they shut completely, they brake and “zish” in slowly.

... and after

... and after

It was time to relax, but only for the weekend.  The following Monday the business re-opened and we had to catch up on all the phone calls and e-mails.  We had been worried that our phone line might not have been re-connected in time, but everything worked fine.

However there was still work to be done.  Most of our cutlery and crockery were still in the old flat.  Any spare time we had in the following week was taken up with moving things out of the old flat and into the new one.

Now, thankfully, that process is almost finished.  But that doesn’t mean that we can stop paying the rent just yet…

Our new flat: 3. The Paperwork

I’m catching up on some blogging this week.  Yesterday I reported on how we arranged our mortgage.  Today, I take a look at the paperwork involved.

The decision to buy the flat had been relatively easy, and discussions with the bank had also turned out to be easier than I had expected.  Now we got down to the nitty-gritty of signing the paperwork.

Our first appointment was with the estate agent.  Here we had to sign a pre-contract agreement to show our intention to buy the flat – and to pay his fee of 5% + VAT.  If we turned back now it was going to cost us 1,000EUR.

Our second appointment was with the Notar (a form of solicitor who specialises in such things) to sign the purchase contract.  Here we met the seller for the first time.

The contract was 18 pages long, and the Notar read it all out to us and explained the more tricky to understand paragraphs.  I am particularly proud of the following paragraph:

“Herr Tappenden is britischer Staatsangehöriger.  Er ist der deutschen Sprache hinreichend mächtig, um dieser Verhandlung folgen zu können, wovorn sich der Notar im Gespräch überzeugt hat.  Auf Vorlage einer Übersetzung oder Hinzuziehung eines Dolmetchers wird verzichtet.”

I took that as a compliment!

Anyway, even though that was probably the biggest step in our life for a long time, it was all actually rather easy at this point.  We just needed to get our part of the money together (Eigenkapital, similar to the deposit in the UK) and sign a formal contract with the bank.

And then, we started getting lots of post.

Every now and then we got a letter from the Notar, telling us what he had done and including his bill for the work.  This would cause the town of Oberursel to send us a bill as well.  This is all to do with the Grundbuch, something like a land registry office.  First they put our intention to buy the flat on the books, stopping it being sold to anyone else.  Eventually the removed the names of the previous owners and entered ours as permament new owners.  And every step meant two letters and two bills.

But it didn’t stop there.  The Finanzamt sent us a few bills to pay as well – for Grunderwerbsteuer. The best thing I can think of to translate it as is “stamp duty”.  It is a tax based on the price of the property being purchased.

And then came the biggest envelope of all – from the bank.  It contained our mortgage documents and a list of things that we had to provide, sign, answer etc. before they would pay the seller.  Luckily we had about a month to get all of these together, as the list had 17 items on it!

One of the more tricky ones was something called a Zustellungsvollmacht – I needed someone who would legally be allowed to receive post from the bank from me in case I decided to stop the repayments and return the UK.  In this case the bank would want to repossess the flat, but would not be able to sell it until they had sent me notice of the sale.  Since they would not be able to forcefully deliver the documents to me in the UK, I had to nominate a German national who they could deliver them to instead and who would be responsible for informing me.

By the end of June we had managed to get all the money where it needed to be and all the documents that the bank wanted to have.

For a brief moment my current account was credited with the full value of the mortgage and had the entire purchase on it.  A few minutes later the bank transferred it all to the seller, and the transaction was complete.

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