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Buying property in Denmark: scams and pitfalls

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Everything you need to know is included in our Denmark Property Pack

Denmark is becoming a top choice for foreign investors in real estate due to its stable economy and high quality of life standards.

Navigating the property market in this area can be quite challenging, especially for non-local residents. There are various obstacles and unexpected problems that you might encounter if you're not cautious.

Our community of customers, along with our local experts, has reported numerous issues. We've listed them all in our Denmark Property Pack.

This article provides a brief overview of potential pitfalls that may arise during the property buying process in this country.

Is it safe or risky to invest in real estate in Denmark?

Generally, Denmark's reputation for transparency and low corruption makes it relatively safe for property investments.

However, there have been occasional reports, especially in prime areas like Copenhagen, where sellers have artificially inflated property values based on the perceived premium nature of the locality.

For instance, some apartments in the Østerbro district were found to be overpriced, leveraging their proximity to the famed Fælledparken and the coast.

The primary hurdle is the aforementioned residency requirement.

A notable example here would be of British citizens post-Brexit. Previously, as EU citizens, they faced fewer barriers. Now, without a five-year residency, they find themselves in a tighter spot, often caught off-guard by this regulation.

Danish property transactions include a two-part agreement process: a purchase agreement followed by a deed of transfer.

A lapse in understanding the intricacies, like not invoking the "subject-to-clause" (a provision that allows buyers to retract offers under specific conditions) during the purchase agreement phase, can lead to costly regrets.

This clause is especially crucial when securing financing or awaiting property inspection outcomes.

The Danish housing market's transparency can be attributed to its 'Boligsiden' platform—a comprehensive property portal detailing sales prices, property history, and valuation details. This level of transparency is commendable, especially when juxtaposed against countries where such extensive property histories might be harder to trace or non-existent.

While the Danish legal system is commendable, it's not without its peculiarities.

A classic case highlighting this was a dispute over waterfront properties in Nordhavn, where changing zoning regulations led to unforeseen restrictions for property owners. It serves as a reminder that understanding local zoning and future development plans is paramount.

The Danish government's active role in housing is evident in their response to the housing price surge in early 2020s.

By intervening with tax reforms targeting property speculation and introducing stricter lending standards, they showcased their commitment to maintaining market stability. However, this also means that investors should be ready for sudden regulatory shifts.

Beyond bureaucratic hurdles, foreigners often remark about Denmark's unique property tax system—‘ejendomsværdiskat.’

Unlike many countries where property taxes are based on current market values, in Denmark, they're often based on historical valuations, which can be puzzling for newcomers.

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Watch out for mistakes when buying property in Denmark

The "Andelsbolig" system

When buying residential property in Denmark, a unique pitfall you should be aware of, especially as a foreigner, is overlooking the "Andelsbolig" system.

Unlike typical property ownership, an Andelsbolig (cooperative housing) involves purchasing a share in a housing cooperative. This share grants you the right to live in a specific unit, but you don't own the property in the traditional sense.

In the context of Andelsbolig, it's essential to understand that the value of your share is not solely determined by real estate market trends but also by the cooperative's financial health.

You should be cautious about the cooperative's debt and financial obligations, as these can significantly impact the value of your share.

Additionally, there are often strict rules governing the resale of Andelsbolig shares, and you may face limitations in renovating or altering the property. This mistake can be quite common among foreigners who are not familiar with the Danish housing market.

They might assume that an Andelsbolig is equivalent to a condominium or typical homeownership, which can lead to misunderstandings and financial surprises down the line.

"Ejendomsvurdering" or property valuation system

Another unique and often overlooked aspect when buying residential property in Denmark, especially for foreigners, is the importance of understanding the "Ejendomsvurdering" (property valuation) system.

In Denmark, the government conducts regular assessments of property values, which are used to determine property taxes.

As a buyer, you should pay close attention to the Ejendomsvurdering of the property you are interested in. This value can significantly differ from the market price and can impact your future property taxes.

In some cases, new buyers find themselves facing unexpectedly high tax bills because they were not aware of the most recent Ejendomsvurdering.

This aspect is particularly crucial in cities like Copenhagen, where property values have risen sharply in recent years, leading to substantial increases in property tax assessments.

The frequency of these assessments and the potential for significant variation in property taxes are aspects that foreign buyers are often not familiar with.

To navigate this, you should always check the latest Ejendomsvurdering of a property before making a purchase decision.

You can typically find this information on the Danish government's official website or request it from the seller or real estate agent.

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"Boligrapport" or home condition report

A specific pitfall in the Danish real estate market is not being aware of the "Boligrapport" or home condition report.

This report is a detailed document that provides information on the condition of a property, including any defects or necessary repairs. In Denmark, it's common practice for sellers to provide a Boligrapport, but as a foreign buyer, you might not be familiar with the importance of this document.

Neglecting to thoroughly review the Boligrapport can lead to unexpected repair costs after the purchase.

The frequency of overlooking this aspect is higher among foreigners who might be accustomed to different standards or practices in real estate transactions.

You should ensure that you receive, read, and understand the Boligrapport for any property you're considering. If necessary, seek the assistance of a Danish-speaking expert who can help interpret the report's findings.

This step is crucial in making an informed decision and avoiding costly surprises in the future.

Risks regarding "Ejerlejlighed" purchases

Another unique aspect in the Danish real estate market is the regulation regarding "Ejerlejlighed" (condominium) purchases, particularly related to the "Foreningsgæld" (association debt).

In Denmark, when you buy an Ejerlejlighed, you're not only buying the individual unit but also assuming a portion of the debt held by the building's homeowner association.

This is a common pitfall for foreigners who might not realize that the price of the condominium includes a share of the building's collective debt. This debt can significantly impact the overall cost and future financial obligations associated with the property.

You should inquire about the Foreningsgæld of any Ejerlejlighed you are interested in.

Understanding the full financial implications of this debt is critical. Sometimes, the association debt can be substantial, affecting your mortgage eligibility and potentially leading to higher monthly costs than initially anticipated.

To avoid this mistake, you should ask for detailed financial records of the homeowner association, including any outstanding loans and future financial plans.

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The concept of "Fremleje" agreement

In Denmark, a unique and often overlooked issue in residential property transactions is the "Fremleje" (subletting) agreement associated with some properties, especially in major cities like Copenhagen.

In Danish law, certain properties may have existing subletting arrangements that can legally transfer to the new owner.

This means you could inherit tenants and ongoing rental agreements.

For foreign buyers, this can be a surprise, as they may expect to gain full and immediate access to the property upon purchase. However, if there is a Fremleje agreement in place, you must honor the existing rental terms until they expire, which can affect your plans for the property.

To avoid this situation, you should ask specifically about any existing Fremleje agreements before finalizing the purchase.

Reviewing these details is crucial to understand your rights and obligations as the new property owner.

If such an agreement exists, make sure you are comfortable with its terms.

"Jordforureningsloven" or soil contamination law

A less commonly known but significant issue for residential property buyers in Denmark, particularly for foreigners, is the "Jordforureningsloven" (Soil Contamination Law).

This law pertains to soil pollution and the responsibilities associated with it. In Denmark, if a property is found to be on contaminated land, the responsibility for cleaning it up can fall on the current owner, which could be you after the purchase.

Foreign buyers might not be aware of the implications of this law, as the regulations and liabilities regarding soil contamination can vary significantly from those in other countries.

If you unknowingly purchase a property on contaminated land, you could face substantial costs for soil remediation, which can be a significant financial burden.

To avoid this pitfall, you should conduct a thorough environmental assessment of the property before finalizing the purchase.

This includes checking the "Jordforureningsregister" (Soil Contamination Register), a public register maintained by the Danish government that lists known contaminated sites.

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The risks related to "Grundejerforeningen"

In Denmark, a specific issue that foreign buyers might overlook is related to the "Grundejerforeningen" (Homeowners' Association, HOA) regulations and fees.

Unlike in many other countries, in Denmark, the Grundejerforeningen can have significant authority and impose strict rules and fees on property owners within certain areas or housing developments.

As a foreign buyer, you might not be fully aware of the extent of these regulations and fees, which can include mandatory contributions for communal area maintenance, specific rules about property modifications, and even restrictions on the use of your property. Ignoring these aspects can lead to unexpected costs and limitations on how you can use your property.

You should inquire in detail about the Grundejerforeningen's rules and fees for any property you're considering.

Understand the annual fees, what they cover, and any specific regulations or restrictions imposed by the HOA.

Sometimes, these associations have strict guidelines that could significantly impact your plans for the property.

The "Tinglysning" concept

An aspect specific to the Danish real estate market, often overlooked by foreigners, is the concept of "Tinglysning" – the official registration of property deeds and mortgages.

In Denmark, the Tinglysning is a critical step in the property buying process, and failing to understand its implications can lead to significant issues.

The Tinglysning serves as the official record of ownership and any encumbrances or rights associated with the property. If the Tinglysning is not correctly executed, you might face legal uncertainties regarding your ownership status or disputes over property boundaries, rights of way, or other easements.

Foreign buyers might not be familiar with the Danish Tinglysning system, which is quite comprehensive and can be complex.

Overlooking this aspect can lead to delays or complications in the property transfer process.

To ensure a smooth transaction, you should familiarize yourself with the Tinglysning process and its importance.

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"Energimærkning" or energy labeling

A unique and often underappreciated aspect in the Danish real estate market is the significance of "Energimærkning" (energy labeling).

In Denmark, it's mandatory for sellers to provide an energy label for almost all types of residential buildings when selling. This label gives the property an energy efficiency rating, from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient).

Foreign buyers might not be fully aware of the implications of this energy rating.

A property with a poor energy rating (like E, F, or G) can lead to higher energy costs and might require significant investment to improve its efficiency. Additionally, there are increasing legislative pressures in Denmark to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, which could further impact property owners.

You should pay close attention to the Energimærkning of any property you're considering.

A lower rating not only means higher ongoing costs but could also affect the property's future resale value and your potential renovation expenses.

The potential risk of "Udlejningsejendomme"

A distinct aspect in the Danish property market, which can be a pitfall for foreign buyers, is the regulation surrounding "Udlejningsejendomme" (rental properties).

In Denmark, if you purchase a property that is classified as a rental property, there are strict laws governing tenant rights, rent control, and the conditions under which tenants can be evicted or have their rents increased.

For a foreigner, these regulations can be quite complex and different from those in other countries.

You might not be aware that in Denmark, tenants in rental properties have strong legal protections. This means that as a new owner, you might face limitations in terms of adjusting rents, terminating leases, or renovating the property.

Additionally, rental income from these properties is subject to specific taxation rules in Denmark. Failure to comply with these rules can lead to legal and financial repercussions.

Before purchasing a rental property in Denmark, you should thoroughly research and understand the legal framework surrounding Udlejningsejendomme.

This includes tenant rights, rent control laws, and tax implications.

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