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50,000 new residents moved to Berlin last year, and with over 200,000 more young professionals set to join this burgeoning populace by 2030, this boom is set to trigger surging growth within the city’s rental market.

With homeownership at just 17%, renting is the norm in Berlin, meaning that the majority of these new residents are set to add to the already, incredibly high number of renters in the city.

The potential of this surge was recognised by investors last year, as Berlin became the third most active European real estate market between Q1 and Q3 2013, receiving investment of over €4 billion.

Berlin has also toppled Munich as Germany’s most attractive area for investment. Last year, 96,000 residential units were sold within the historic city, accounting for 44% of all real-estate transactions in the German property market.

This surge in real-estate investment has facilitated growth within Berlin’s wider economy. The start of 2014 saw the economic index of the Berlin-Brandenburg Chamber of Industry and Commerce reach its highest level since 2007, while Oxford Economics predicts that this growth is not set to slow any time soon, forecasting growth of 1.4% throughout the rest of the year.

As investor interest compounds, prices are inevitably rising in the Berlin market. According to ImmoWelt.de, asking prices for one bedroom flats have risen 53% in three years, while residential property prices have jumped 17% in the last 12 months and 31% in the last five years, ending July 2013.

However, this has not served to dampen investor appetite as prices for apartments in Berlin still remain relatively low, selling at an average of €2,000 per sq. metre, a third less than the existing rate in Paris and less than a quarter of the price in London.

These low prices have seen Berlin ranked as the number one choice for residential investment in the “Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2013” survey by PWC, because of the opportunities for growth within the market.

Attractively, rents also remain relatively low, allowing for opportunities of growth in the rental market.  At the end of 2013, the average rent in Berlin stood at €7.90 per sq. m lower than rents in Hamburg and Munich, where they stood at €10.00 and €12.50 respectively, outlining the opportunities for growth in Berlin.

Berlin’s emergence as an area for investment is a result of it being recognised as one of the world’s fastest growing cities.

This new-found status can be seen in the city’s surging tourism figures. Berlin hosted over 26 million overnight guests last year, according to its tourism office, making it not only Europe’s third most popular city for real-estate investment, but also Europe’s number three city destination.

Leaders in worldwide property investments, Knight Knox International, were quick to respond to these changing market trends in Berlin, launching a host of developments in Berlin at the start of 2014.

One of these developments is situated in the artistic region of Kaiserdamm, while two more developments are located in the district of Mitte – a popular destination for new residents to the city, which sees annual population increases of 3%.

The developments include; Mitte Living which is set to comprise of 128 residential apartments upon completion, Shorhnhorststrasse, which is set to comprise of 118 high-end one, two and three bedroom apartments, and Kaiserdamm, which will contain 31 residential units, two commercial units and 20 underground parking spaces.

The Shorhnhorststrasse luxury apartments are available from £305,663; Mitte Living apartments are available from £187,065 and Kaiserdamm apartments from £149,990.

For more information please contact a Knight Knox International property consultant on 0161 772 1370.

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Barbie has lived in Malibu since the 1971 introduction of Malibu Barbie.  But now she has made a bold move, from the sun and sand of California to 25,000 square foot Berlin townhouse.

Of course, the bold move is really by Mattel, owners of the Barbie brand.  The Malibu mansion was listed with real estate website Trulia for $25m and a member of a real estate realty show’s cast has been hired by Barbie to handle the listing.  Since Barbie retains the number one position for dolls, companies and brands were eager to collaborate with Mattel’s stunt.  Not only was it a bold, creative marketing move, but you have to admire the chutzpah required to put a $25m tag on a one-room house with a wall missing.

But the Berlin Barbie Dreamhouse is entirely real, at least in the sense that it will occupy 25,000 square feet of Berlin real estate.  The multi-storey mansion, bright pink throughout, is expected to open in March.

According to promotional material ‘dreams will come true’ – ‘You want to be a model or a pop star, we will show you how.’

Visitors will have the opportunity to make customised digital cupcakes in Barbie’s kitchen, visit Barbie’s walk-in closet and digitally try on clothes, check out the enormous four-poster and parade in a Barbie fashion pageant.  Each room will feature themed activities.

The Barbie Dreamhouse is intended to cement Barbie’s place in the doll firmament.  When she was created in 1959, Barbara Millicent Roberts was modelled on a German doll, Lili, whom her creator had seen while on holiday.  She swiftly acquired a dominant position in the doll market.  Fifty years on, 90% of girls between three and ten years old own a Barbie, but the company isn’t resting on its laurels. ‘There are so many toys for girls today, and the Dreamhouse is about bringing Barbie to life,’ said Sarah Allen, a spokeswoman for Mattel in the UK.  ‘We’re constantly trying to reconnect.’

In 2009, Barbie’s 50th birthday celebrations saw a lifesize recreation of one room, in California, but the Dreamhouse is on a different scale from that.

And the Barbie brand faces stiff competition from rival dolls Bratz €“ literally; prior to 2013 Bratz dolls had no arm joints.  In 2013 Bratz owner MGA Entertainment will attempt to build up the 40% market share of Bratz by increasing their height to match Barbie’s.  There may be records, movies and spin-offs, but as yet there is no Bratz house.  Barbie is the queen of plastic real estate.

The event agency behind the house itself is EMS Entertainment, whose Christopher Rahoffer told Das Spiegel that ‘we want to allow fans to spend an entire day in the fantasy life of their icon.’  It’s likely that the house will go on tour, spending time at other German destinations, but EMS are ‘very pleased that we have the Barbie Dreamhouse  in Berlin for the first worldwide opening,’ according to company director Thomas Ladicke.

The news follows on the heels of other Barbie promotional stunts.  Not only has Barbie sold her Malibu home to move to Berlin, but she’s added to her portfolio of careers by trying out in Silicon Valley, and Mattel announced in December that Barbie would be taking those nails to construction sites in the near future as she takes up the building trade.

Barbie is expected to take a hands-off approach to the construction of the Dreamhouse, which is planned for one of three areas in Berlin with no final decision yet.  It’s possible that it will be built on the site of the old Berlin Zoo ferris wheel.

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Almost alone in Europe, Germany is economically in good shape and solvent.  Almost alone in Europe, Berlin’s property market is on the up, with the result – probably also unique in Europe – that the number of squatters in the city is actually decreasing.

Berlin isn’t a success story within Germany, on paper at least.  Unemployment in Berlin runs at twice the national average of 6.8%, and there are relatively few employers.  The city has nevertheless spent the last three and a half years building itself up into the go-to destination for Europeans.  Wealthy Germans used to go to Greece, Spain and Italy; now wealthy Greeks, Spaniards and Italians are coming to Germany.

They’re fleeing the economic woes of their own countries, and they’re contributing to a spike so sharp – 17% in a year that George Soros is worried about a bubble.  There’s a particularly high demand for luxury apartments in Berlin.  New builds are more likely to feature modernist architecture and designer interiors than to be family homes or affordable housing.  Those Greeks, Spaniards and Italians have helped push up prices and rents to the point that Berliners are protesting in the streets, to the chant of ‘nicht Ihre Prozent auf unsere Miete!’ – ‘don’t make your percent off our rent!’

Berlin’s population, much like that of any capital city, comes largely from outside.  The city’s been swelled in recent years by professionals, young creative types and entrepreneurs with an eye to emerging technologies, and prices and rents reflect this mix.  Rent on a Berlin apartment typically runs at 5% annualized return, and prices for residential property have risen by 31% in the last five years, according to property broker ImmobilienScout 24.  US corporations are moving their property investment money to Berlin, to capitalize on a market that’s low but shows strong promise.

In the process, the culture and atmosphere of Berlin is changing.  Berlin has a long history of being the place for arty Europeans to go, especially Germans, and has caught all those who might have gone to Paris if they could afford it.  Now they can’t afford Berlin either.  Berlin has no concentration of industries or banks, as London or Paris does.  As a result, claims Steffen Sebastian, head of the Real Estate Institute at the University of Regensburg, Berlin apartments are overvalued already.

A sign of the end of an era, as much as the renovation of any Dockland warehouse, is what’s happening to Tacheles.  Tacheles is German for ‘Straight Talk.’  It’s Berliner for a building in the now-fashionable Mitte area of the city which used to hose a department store.  For more than twenty years now, it’s housed a collective of artists who squatted there to work and live.  They were evicted a fortnight ago.

‘This part of Berlin doesn’t interest us anymore,’ said one of the squatters, Reiter, as bailiffs supervised the eviction of the collective to make way for developers.  But it’s also true that Reiter and those like him no longer interest Mitte.  It’s gone from a post war bombsite – old Red Berlin, with extra bullet holes and rubble – to an upmarket German analogue of London’s East End.  Gentrification, identified as ‘capitalist coup’ by Reiter and characterised by him by ’boutiques and restaurants,’ has set in.  George Soros, speaking in Berlin on September 10, seemed to agree, albeit in a different language.  He warned his audience of a bubble and said the Berlin market had a lot to do with the flight of capital and negative real interest rates.

Photo Credits: Piano Light

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Berlin Mitte Skyline (credits: Dennis Gerbeckx)

Reports about Berlin’s flourishing property market are not shy in the last few months. It seems that the capital of Germany has finally morphed out of its sleeping beauty shell and climbed into the international limelight when the rest of Europe licks their wounds.

We hear of shiny, modern new property developments in the middle (Die Mitte) of Berlin with prices as high as 10,000 euros per square metre which is apparently more than double than only a few years ago.