Bubble fears

Germany's Unreal Estate Market

frankfurt baustelle frank rumpenhorst dpa
Growing, growing, growing...
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    If Germany’s real-estate market continues to overheat, its fairytale price development could turn into nightmare – for some, it already has.

  • Facts


    • According to Bundesbank data, Germany’s outstanding residential property loans alone total nearly €1.1 trillion – more than a third of gross domestic product.
    • Outstanding home loans in wealthy G7 countries total €14 trillion.
    • Even amid the real estate boom, only 53 percent of Germans live in apartments or homes that they own. That’s the lowest ownership rate in the world for a major developed economy.
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Spotless Jaguars, Maseratis and Mercedes line the cobblestone street, reflecting in the sun. Well-heeled men and women traverse the sidewalk in fine coats and hats, pure-bred dogs in tow.

Behind them, historic villas are to die for — classic stuccos with grand entries, alcoves and sparkling parquet floors, majestic turrets and landscaped gardens.

Welcome to idyllic Potsdam, the opulent former residence of Prussian kings. On the southwest edge of Berlin, Potsdam is the capital of the eastern state of Brandenburg and a very hot city in Germany’s overheated real-estate boom.

From a stately lakeside manor on picturesque Heiliger See, Anja Farke manages the Potsdam branch of real estate broker Engel & Völkers. Just down the road, Ms. Farke is showing another roomy villa, a lovely shade of rose. It’ll sell for no less than €3 million, or $3.3 million, she assures.

Ms. Farke is used to working effectively with millionaires. She’s elegant and attentive, casually fashionable, self-conscious yet reserved. She would never say Potsdam’s real-estate market is blowing its top right off and that she can’t field enough agents to greet all the hungry buyers.

In understated terms, with a slight smile, she said: “What we are experiencing here is a significant rise in prices.” Growing population and proximity to Berlin make Potsdam very attractive, she added, smiling once more.

Young families, well-to-do singles and retirees are moving to Potsdam in droves to escape the bustling metropolis of Berlin and its 4 million residents, for clean, quiet Potsdam, a quiet, dignified very East German city of 165,000.

That’s fueling a run on property. Potsdam’s purchase price of real estate per square meter jumped by 10 percent last year on average.

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