House Hunter: 'We'd like to move to Germany, but don't know where to start our search'

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The Independent Online

David and Kate Simms write: "We both run our own businesses which are currently London-based but, as in theory we could work from anywhere in the world, we are thinking about relocating to somewhere which will offer us a more peaceful and less stressful existence.

THE PROBLEM

David and Kate Simms write: "We both run our own businesses which are currently London-based but, as in theory we could work from anywhere in the world, we are thinking about relocating to somewhere which will offer us a more peaceful and less stressful existence.

"In our precious free time we are both passionate walkers, nature lovers and cyclists, and would prefer to live somewhere where the air is cleaner and where we can indulge our love of the outdoors but perhaps be within striking distance of a vibrant European city. Neither of us has a particular inclination to live somewhere hotter than the UK.

"Recently we took a trip cycling around southern Germany, which we enjoyed tremendously. It has started us thinking about buying there, but we are unsure about where to target our search and also what the market is like there. At this stage we have no fixed budget as we intend selling our London property and buying a smaller pied-à-terre, which we can keep as a base for when we are on business here. Friends and family will be visiting us so we would need space to accommodate them.

"It would be wonderful to have some outdoor space, even just a balcony. A new, rather than older, style property would perhaps suit us as we do not want maintenance worries, particularly as the property may initially lie empty for several months at a time.

"The area in and around Munich would definitely be one of our preferred destinations. It would be interesting to know which areas attract other British buyers."

THE ADVICE

"We do have British buyers who come here to Germany but most are relocating as they are working for German companies. There are not many like David and Kate. Most British people don't seem to choose to relocate to Germany or buy second homes here, perhaps because of the history between the two countries or because of the language barrier. However, there are some and the ones who do buy here always buy in the same place - in the south.

"Engel & Völkers have three offices in the south, one in Munich which is very urban, one just outside the city and one right down in the lakes area, which is very beautiful and quiet. Munich was recently voted the safest city in Europe, and a lot of buyers are attracted to it because of that. This whole area feels very safe, very quiet and yet you have the proximity to everything including the mountains and Italy, Austria and Switzerland, and the international airport. The area around the lakes is wonderful for walking and cycling, and indeed all across Germany, cycling is very important. There are lots of rules and regulations and bike paths everywhere in towns and trails in the countryside.

"The area is called Bayern Free State, it's a very old country and they tend to think of themselves as separate from the rest of Germany. Initially David and Kate may find it hard to integrate into the community. I'm Spanish and I know I found it hard at first - German people are open but it takes time. But they will find other English people who own small houses and flats in the area, which they tend to lock up and leave when they aren't here.

"The market in the Munich area is very stable, prices have never dropped, but they haven't risen either in recent years. Further south is known as the area where German people are happiest, so this affects the prices, which are relatively high. Kate and David need to know, however, that there are many more buyers than properties; you can't just turn up and hope to buy immediately, it can take some months and you need good contacts. Often vendors don't use agents as they know they can easily sell their properties themselves."

Miguel Saintz is based in Engel & Völkers' Munich office: 0049 89649 88 60; www.engelvoelkers.com

THE SOLUTION

Property one: Penthouse with roof decks in Harlaching, Munich.

Price: €649,000 (£437,600).

Agent's details: Built on an exquisite piece of land in 2001, the penthouse has a living area of approximately 141 square meters and contains high-quality finishing such as cherry-wood parquet flooring, designer kitchen and light-flooded ambience. There are two bedrooms, one reception room and two basement garages.

Property two: Old building with charm located at the river Würm south of Munich.

Price: €850,000 (£573,000).

Agent's details: This house was built in 1898 and was completely renovated in 1998. There are numerous mature trees and it directly borders the river Würm. The house retains many traditional features, for example antique wooden floors and windows. It comprises a living and utility area of approximately 283 square meters and offers nine bedrooms, two reception rooms and dining-room.

Property three: Flat with roof terrace in Pullach.

Price: €695,000 (£468,500).

Agent's details: This property lies in a most sought after and idyllic suburb of Munich. Because of Pullach's good infrastructure you can easily get to the centre of Munich, which is only 12km away. Built in 1989/90 in the country-style, this first-floor flat was completely renovated in 1995. The kitchen is made of blue-grey wood, with a grey granite floor, the living-room, leading to the terrace, has an open chimney. There is also a guest room, nursery, basement with sauna, and the price includes a place for your car in the subterranean garage.

THE VERDICT

"We are grateful for this advice and particularly like the sound of being based in the region around the lake area, which is not too far from Munich. We also like the idea of being in close proximity to other countries, especially Austria which we've also visited and liked very much. As for the properties themselves; number two sounds very charming but is much too big for our needs and is also rather more than we hope to pay. Either of the two apartments would probably suit us, and property number three's location sounds particularly tempting. We have had enough of central-city living and would prefer to be based in a nearby suburb so that we can enjoy easy access to the countryside and the conveniences of the city when we want them."

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to House Hunter, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail with full details: househunter@independent.co.uk

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