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Friday, August 29th, 2014

A new trend in Berlin: the boom in luxury penthouses

Fantastic panoramic viewsA new trend is currently presenting itself in the German capital’s property market. According to experts, there has been a notable boom in the sale of penthouse apartments in Berlin.

When we look to define the characteristics of penthouses, we talk about properties located on the top floor of buildings which usually stand out due to a number of distinctive features which cannot be found in other apartments. Amongst these features, for example, we can indicate fantastic location and positioning, as well as high-quality interior fixtures and fittings. Penthouses originate from the city of New York, which is where the apartments were first built during the construction boom in the 1920’s. However, to what extent is this a valid definition, and what do the American penthouses have in common with those in Germany?

Coming from the United States, the concept of penthouses spread to Europe and, in the 1920’s, the first properties of this kind appeared in Monte Carlo. Following the example set by Monaco, other European cities such as London and Paris also started to build them. In Germany, this innovative architecture became gradually more common, with the first of these residences being constructed in West Germany, specifically in cities including Frankfurt and Bremen, and also in holiday beach resorts. These resorts were known as Dachterrassenwohnungen (penthouse with a terrace), Dachwohnungen (penthouse apartment) and Dachgeschosse (loft apartment) depending on their quality and whether or not they could be inhabited. Although there were luxury buildings on the west side of Berlin, developed shortly before the First World War and following the Second World War, very few contained penthouse apartments.

The situation was different, however, in East Germany. There, penthouses only began to be constructed after the fall of the Berlin Wall, during the reforms of the 1990’s. The reason for such a lack of penthouse apartments was the scarcity of lifts in buildings in Berlin. According to the Berliner Mieterverein (a tenants’ association in the German capital), it was during the 1970’s that the first regulations regarding lifts in public buildings came into force, but lifts were still not considered urgent or necessary in private residences. The lack of lifts, therefore, was the reason behind apartments situated on the top floors or basement levels of buildings being the least sought-after and cheapest, while the piano nobile was considered to be the first floor. Consequently, these buildings were almost completely unrelated to American penthouses. Even today, a large quantity of old buildings in Berlin do not have lifts and, for this reason, are not accessible for disabled or elderly people.

It was not until the turn of the century that the number of penthouses in the property market slowly began to rise, and this was largely due to new construction projects which were established following the reunification of both sides of the city. In fact, we cannot talk about a boom in the construction of penthouses until 2011, when their popularity began to take hold and Berlin gained greater international importance in the business world.

But where are the best penthouses to be found in Berlin? According to a market study, they are located in buildings in the Mitte district, especially those situated near the Gendarmenmarkt, Hackeschen Markt and Unter den Linden boulevard, where the majority of luxury apartments in this area are sold before they are even constructed. In the neighbourhoods which border Mitte, such as Prenzlauer Berg, Schöneberg y Kreuzberg, many new-build and reformed apartments are also sold, with surface areas ranging from 100 m2 to 250 m2. Moreover, the numerous transactions carried out have not only been made by Germans, but also Russians, Americans, Italians, Israelis and Chinese nationals interested in property investment.

The high demand in the Berlin property market from international clients outlines the prestige and popularity of this German metropolis. Amongst those interested in these penthouses are celebrities such as Lionel Richie, who allow famous designers like Philippe Starck to shape their magnificent, luxury penthouses. The apartments are located in exclusive buildings, constructed by renowned architects, and have asking prices which fluctuate between €13,000 and €17,000 per square metre. For these reasons, they are not easily accessible. Nevertheless, as offers can vary greatly, it is possible to find penthouses with the same characteristics and of the same quality for a more affordable price, both in Berlin-Mitte and in other districts.

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