US citizens living part-time in Vienna and buying an apartment

And bringing a car to EU

Q&A about daily life in Vienna
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RaspberryLatte
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US citizens living part-time in Vienna and buying an apartment

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Hi,
My husband and I would like to buy an apartment in Vienna to spend summers there. Maybe 3 months per year or so. Both of us are US citizens. I have a few questions and will really appreciate any information.

1. We are not EU residents and don't plant to become EU residents. We can spend 90 days every 180 days in the EU without a visa, and that's good enough for us. Will we be allowed to buy an apartment in Vienna, Austria if we don't plan to become EU residents?

2. If we can buy an apartment, we would like to bring one of our cars to Vienna to be able to use it in Europe while there. Can we do that? Can we leave it in Vienna while we go back to the US? Ideally, we wouldn't want to buy a car in Europe as we own a spare car already. But I'm more concerned if we can leave the car in Austria for the time we're absent. The apartment we're looking for comes with a space in the underground parking garage. It's just easier to leave it there than ship it back and forth to/from the US.

3. If you own an apartment in Vienna, is it mandatory to keep the minimum heating in winter so that the pipes wouldn't freeze?

4. Can we open a bank account in Austria in order to pay the utility bills? Can non-residents do that? Or is it possible to arrange utility payments through our US bank? If we must heat our condo in winter to some degree, then there will be bills, which we will have to pay. And I don't know how that can be done if we're physically in the US in winters.

I have many more questions. But these are the ones that I'd like to get the answers to. Just to know our chances... Thank you so much in advance for any help!


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morgenhund
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Re: US citizens living part-time in Vienna and buying an apartment

Post by morgenhund »

RaspberryLatte wrote:
Fri Jul 03, 2020 7:11 pm
1. We are not EU residents and don't plant to become EU residents. We can spend 90 days every 180 days in the EU without a visa, and that's good enough for us. Will we be allowed to buy an apartment in Vienna, Austria if we don't plan to become EU residents?
In Vienna you can buy an apartment but expect an approval fee on the purchase of 1% of purchase price. Add 12% to the purchase price to be on the safe side in working out the ancillary costs. You will have to register with the police - regardless of being permanent residents or not. You would need to check with other owners if you want to consider using it for Airbnb or similar while you are back in the US.
RaspberryLatte wrote:
Fri Jul 03, 2020 7:11 pm
2. If we can buy an apartment, we would like to bring one of our cars to Vienna to be able to use it in Europe while there. Can we do that? Can we leave it in Vienna while we go back to the US? Ideally, we wouldn't want to buy a car in Europe as we own a spare car already. But I'm more concerned if we can leave the car in Austria for the time we're absent. The apartment we're looking for comes with a space in the underground parking garage. It's just easier to leave it there than ship it back and forth to/from the US.
If you are considering using a clunker as a run about, you might like to reconsider. You'd pay import duty and parts and servicing might make it uneconomical. Particularly as you might also need winter tyres on it for half the year. If you are in the city, the transportation is fantastic, parking a hassle, and besides most locals don't drive. Also if it runs on dinosaur juice, and has a large engine capacity, the fuel costs might deter you. Add the insurance costs and you might be spending more than you think.
RaspberryLatte wrote:
Fri Jul 03, 2020 7:11 pm
3. If you own an apartment in Vienna, is it mandatory to keep the minimum heating in winter so that the pipes wouldn't freeze?
Not sure it is set out in law that the heating has to be on, but if you are buying an old apartment, it might be an idea to avoid damp and or mould. The winters aren't always that cold. You might be well served to have someone check the flat regularly, to avoid break in risks from the flat being clearly unoccupied. Also just to clear your postbox.
RaspberryLatte wrote:
Fri Jul 03, 2020 7:11 pm
4. Can we open a bank account in Austria in order to pay the utility bills? Can non-residents do that? Or is it possible to arrange utility payments through our US bank? If we must heat our condo in winter to some degree, then there will be bills, which we will have to pay. And I don't know how that can be done if we're physically in the US in winters.
Regarding a bank account, you can open one as a foreigner, but should be aware that they will charge you to keep it open. Since you are from the USA, you should also bear in mind that some banks will not allow US citizens to hold accounts due to FATCA issues. Utility bills are most commonly paid by standing order/direct debit here, ie. taken out of your bank account directly provided that there are funds in your account to cover them. Also there will be various anti money laundering (AML) hurdles to clear in opening an account.
Vienna is like an Ikea sofa - you know you should upgrade, but why bother when it is this comfortable.
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Re: US citizens living part-time in Vienna and buying an apartment

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Morgenhund, thank you so much for your reply! It's good to know that we can open a bank account in Austria. We won't need to use it for anything except the bills as we have several credit cards that don't charge foreign transaction fee and we use them when we travel.

We are interested in the Neubau only, mainly to avoid all the issues with repair and outdated things that might either use too much energy or not be safe (like old electric wiring or something). Things like this still happen in older houses. We used to live in an old house here in the US and it was a pain in the neck when it came to its outdated electric wiring. Never again!

We don't want to use our apartment for Airbnb, just for our personal use. Potentially, we might retire there some day, when time comes but that's a long time from now. Right now we want to have a "base" in central Europe. But we don't want to bother with permanent residency because we have a house in the US and want to keep it. It's just very convenient to have a base in Europe and do short trips from there in summers.

As for the car, we are also considering shipping it to Europe to use it there for 3 months. I've been doing some research the past few days, and I found out that we can use our car for up to 6 months in Europe without paying the import tax or registering it. We can stay in the EU for 90 days visa-free. The car shipping cost is around $1,800 round trip from a port in our neighboring town, which is surprisingly reasonable. Not that bad actually - the airfare for 2 people costs this much, if not more. Of course, we'll have to have the car insured, which we will do anyway. But if it's just a car for personal use for up to 6 months, then we wouldn't need to register it or change anyting like lights etc. Then we'll take it back home after 90 days. We've been renting a car a few times when we traveled in Europe, and it cost on an average $90 per day. My husband is very tall and he can't fit in just any car, only in those bigger SUV that always cost a lot more. If we have our own car for 90 days, that would save us a lot of money. And we wouldn't have to worry anout every single potential scratch and huge repair bills.

The main reason we want to have a car is that even though we will be living in Vienna for 3 months, we won't be spending all that time in Vienna itself. We want to explore Austria and surrounding countries, do day trips and short trips. We're looking for a Neubau apartment because it often comes with an underground garage, so parking in Vienna isn't really on my "worry list". If we're in Vienna, of course we won't need a car. We're familiar with this city and its transportation system and I see no point of using a car in town. But we want to have a car ready to hop in and travel somewhere for a few days, then spend a few days in Vienna, then travel again, etc. It's a matter of convenience really, and even if we don't end up saving a few bucks, it's not a tragedy. So, it actually looks like it's not that difficult to bring your own car and use if when traveling. Yesterday I read about a couple with a daughter who traveled with their own car from the US, and today I read another story about a couple bringing their van to Europe to travel in it. it's definitely doable and seems to be not that complicated. :) I'm still researching on that though.

Morgenhund, do you know what yearly property tax on apartment in Vienna is? Not the VAT that you pay when you buy it, but the property tax you have to pay every year while you own the property. Here, for example, we pay 1% of the total assessed value. I just want to know beforehand what we're getting in...
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Re: US citizens living part-time in Vienna and buying an apartment

Post by morgenhund »

RaspberryLatte wrote:
Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:36 pm
Morgenhund, do you know what yearly property tax on apartment in Vienna is? Not the VAT that you pay when you buy it, but the property tax you have to pay every year while you own the property. Here, for example, we pay 1% of the total assessed value. I just want to know beforehand what we're getting in...
You're talking about "millage" on property from what I can make out. The good news is that there is no annual millage tax. Here the issue is more about realised gain when you sell. And how long the qualifying period before exemption is depends on whether you hold it as principle residence (Hauptwohnsitz), secondary residence (Nebenwohnsitz) or for investment purposes. This is set out under regional law - some provinces in Western Austria even determine it separately by Gemeinde, in an attempt to prevent communities being bought up by people who just want somewhere to ski for a few weeks.

What you will have if you buy, irrespective of how much you occupy will be Betriebskosten from the house management company. These costs are based on the costs for the whole building, split between the flats that make up the whole building. The Betriebskosten cover electricity and water in communal areas of the building, drainage, contributions to a maintenence fund, rubbish collections, maintenance to lifts and security doors etc. Usually when you buy a place the month amount will be indicated - expect about €2 / month / m2 - or slightly more with a parking space.
Vienna is like an Ikea sofa - you know you should upgrade, but why bother when it is this comfortable.
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Re: US citizens living part-time in Vienna and buying an apartment

Post by RaspberryLatte »

Wow, morgenhund, thank you so much for the good news! :-)
Here we pay 1% to3% of annual mileage tax, depending on a state. We're lucky to pay only 1% in our state, but in some states for many people this could be equal to the mortgage payment. So even if you pay off your house, you continue paying high annual tax and it's basically almost the same as having a perpetual mortgage. Not easy for those who retire.
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Re: US citizens living part-time in Vienna and buying an apartment

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We also have Betriebskosten here, it's called HOA fee (Home Owner Association). Pretty much everything you listed is included, except garbage collection which we pay separately. But yes, we're used to such fees and I can even say that Vienna Betriebskosten are much lower than our HOA fees here. I already love Austria! :-)
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