Second home on the ski slopes
Lucky are those who already have an approved second home or vacation residence in one of the local ski resorts. This is because the requirements are becoming ever stricter.
A chalet on the slopes, an apartment in the center of the ski resort – many people dream of buying a property in their favorite ski region to indulge in skiing fun at weekends and on vacations. However, second homes that are empty for most of the year are a thorn in the side of many local authorities, especially in tourist hotspots. On the one hand, they argue that the high demand has driven up real estate prices and continues to do so – with the effect that housing has become unaffordable for locals. On the other hand, the municipalities complain that they incur additional costs as a result of second homes. And so, in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult in some federal states to turn the idea of a home on the slopes that is only used temporarily into reality. We asked around to find out what the current regulations are in Salzburg, Tyrol and Styria.
Salzburg: “New dedications are not in sight”
In recent years, the province of Salzburg has noticeably tightened the reins with regard to second homes. “New second homes can only be built in designated areas,” says Peter Mayr, Managing Director of Raiffeisen Immobilien Salzburg and spokesman for Raiffeisen Immobilien Austria. However, there are only a few of these, such as in Maria Alm or Mauterndorf. “There are currently no new dedications in sight,” says Mayr, who speaks of the continued strong demand for vacation homes.
Another way to realize the dream of an apartment or house on the slopes is to purchase a property that has been used as a second home for years. “Properties that were already used as second homes before March 1, 1992, can in principle be sold as such,” says Mayr. However, there is only one condition: “The seller must provide confirmation from the mayor that the property has always been used as a second home,” explains Mayr, who points out that compliance with the regulations is being checked more and more frequently.
A hurdle has also been added to the Land Transfer Act: Anyone buying a plot of land, an apartment or a house must prove within certain deadlines that a main residence will be established there. “This is five years for a plot of land, three years for a house and one year for an apartment,” says Mayr. If this is not the case, the owner is not entered as such in the land register.
Owners of second homes will also be asked to pay: The Secondary Residence and Vacancy Tax Act (ZWAG) also came into force in January 2023. From January 2024, Salzburg municipalities will therefore be able to impose a second residence and vacancy tax by ordinance. The former can be up to 2,500 euros, the latter even up to 2,000 euros.
Tirol: The contingent is exhausted
The situation is similar in Tyrol: here, too, second homes can only be built in appropriately designated properties, although these are rare. New dedications are now almost impossible to obtain. Not least because the quota for areas dedicated as second homes – the quota is eight percent – has already been exhausted in most municipalities. If you want to buy a part-time residence in Tyrol, your only option is usually to purchase a property that already has the same designation. Since 2020, owners of a dedicated leisure residence have also had to pay a leisure residence tax and a leisure residence flat rate to the respective municipalities and tourism associations.
Incidentally, local authorities are increasingly checking whether the requirements are actually being met. The unauthorized use of a recreational residence can be punished with fines. In addition, the mayor, as the building authority of first instance, can prohibit further use of the property.
Styria: Family transfer or second home
In Styria, it is a question of location whether the issue of second homes becomes virulent or not. “The situation in the Styrian Salzkammergut and Upper Enns Valley is no different than in Salzburg, for example,” says Klaus Schrottshammer, real estate consultant at Raiffeisen Immobilien Steiermark. This means that secondary residences in Schladming, Bad Aussee, Altaussee or Bad Mitterndorf can only be established in appropriately designated areas. “This also applies to properties that were previously only used during weekends or vacations, but are not located in areas designated as vacation homes,” says the estate agent. These can therefore only be passed on within the family; in the event of a sale, the buyer must register the main residence there. However, there are still no controls in place, but if a violation is detected, there could also be severe penalties in the Styrian ski regions. As in Salzburg and Tyrol, local authorities can also levy a vacancy tax here.
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