Some experts say that owner-occupied property is a form of consumption, and that it’s even more reckless to view an apartment as a pension fund, because the purchase is tied to high ancillary costs that are difficult to recoup later. Renting a property out, however, is attractive from a taxation point of view, and can be used to earn a profit. Investing this profit in an ordinary savings account, even at one percent interest, is still worthwhile. Will Ziegert give more consideration to that in future?
That is a process that we would like to work on. We have noticed, however, that there is great interest in owner-occupied properties in Berlin. An owner-occupied apartment is certainly a consumer product, but it has plenty of advantages over, say, chocolate: an apartment doesn’t melt, can’t be eaten, and will probably undergo an increase in value.
Where in Berlin do you currently see the greatest dynamism in price, and what parts of the city have some catching up to do?
We’re on the lookout ourselves and we find it very exciting to bring a product to market, say in Neukölln, where we sell at an average price of 3,300 euros per square meter. Our feeling is that there’s still a lot of potential. There are some areas on the edge of town like Pankow or Weissensee, or even Lichtenberg, where there are some great spots, some great neighborhoods that I hadn’t seen before I went out there recently. As a team, we’re always excited when we get to know these hidden corners where prices could still develop very strongly.
And what about Zehlendorf – is that already off the scale?
As far as I’m concerned, yes. Berlin pulsates where new things are happening and new things are being discovered. Grunewald, for instance, is a fantastic location, but prices there have barely developed at all. So in the south of the city there are some areas that have stayed quiet, and others such as Neukölln that have seen a lot of action. What could happen next in Wedding? I don’t quite have an answer to that, but something could happen.
Mr. Ziegert, when you came to Berlin in the 80s, your first apartment was under the stairs in Schöneberg – it’s quite a journey from there to being the market leader in selling apartments. How did you manage that?
It’s entirely due to the vision that I had. Back then in West Berlin there were plenty of financial jugglers. I thought to myself: what would be the safest investment? What would be best for the Berliners who want to stay in their neighborhoods? I came up with the idea of property dealing and thought that that would be my focus.
And you turned out to be right.
Back then, I assumed that it would take ten years. I never thought that I would invest my life in it, but I have now been convinced for almost 30 years that Berlin can reach a certain level of owner-occupied property and that living in their own four walls could have a positive effect on people. The feeling of responsibility that the residents have is strengthened when they own their own apartment and feel they owe a debt to their surroundings. That’s our vision, and I expect it to still develop considerably. I, personally, am still investing in property.