Frankfurt is changing. Walk around almost any area of the city, and you will see bulldozers and diggers pulling down the old and putting up the new. Offices, apartments, hotels, shopping centres, there is a lot to suggest that Frankfurt expects growth.
But where there is growth there can be cost, especially when the newcomers need to find a place to live. There is a lot of hearsay surrounding Frankfurt’s property market, with many people complaining that prices are rising and choice is falling, especially in the city centre. There is also speculation that Brexit and an influx of so-called ‘Brefugees’ is partly responsible for this perceived hike in prices, a situation that is likely to get worse.
The figures are hard to unpack, as Frankfurt was already booming prior to that fateful day in June 2016. However, last December the Financial Times reported that ‘in the five quarters leading up to the Brexit vote, purchase prices for residential property in Frankfurt rose by €250 per sq metre to an average of €4,550. In the five since, they have risen by €600 to €5,150 per sq metre.’
Not everyone agrees with the Brexit boom theory though. Peter Barbas from the property company Mietenkaufenleben.de says, ‘I am not convinced that the price increases are due to Brefugees. Other German A and B cities have been getting more expensive as well, so it’s not just Frankfurt. I do expect Brexit to increase prices, but I am not sure how one would split that between normal German property growth trends and direct impact of Brexit.’
Short Commutes and Varied Lifestyles
Whatever the reasons, it is clear that prices are rising in the Frankfurt area, and many families are feeling the pinch. And yet despite this, Frankfurt is still significantly cheaper than London; a 2017 report by the estate agent Savills suggested that Frankfurt is 65% cheaper than London in residential and office costs.
Frankfurt is also a surprisingly small city; in 2015 it had just over 731,000 people in its administrative centre, and 2.3 million in its urban area. This is significantly smaller than other major European cities and allows for wider scope when it comes to property and lifestyle choices. Eric Menges, the president and CEO of Frankfurt Rhein Main Marketing GmbH agrees: ‘Short commutes are actually an essential part of the quality of life offered by the Frankfurt region. Whether it is to get to work, the international airport or outdoor leisure activities, you hardly ever spend more than thirty minutes in the car or public transport to get there and back.’ This is essentially true even for families that choose to live out of the city, for example in the towns and villages of the Taunus hills. While property here is also not cheap, it does at least mean that those hoping for a bit more space and perhaps a garden don’t have to compromise too much on their proximity to the city centre.
Efficient German Trains
For anyone thinking of relocating to Germany, it is also worth noting that the country does have an impressive and extensive rail network. Germans love to complain about Deutsche Bahn, but the reality is that the trains are generally reliable and well serviced, making commuting between cities an attractive and viable option for many. Taking the ICE train from Frankfurt, it is possible to be in Cologne in 63 minutes and Stuttgart in 77 minutes.
To the east of Frankfurt centre on the banks of the river Main, a twin skyscraper looms across the city, its glass exterior glinting in the sun. This is the new seat of the European Central Bank, opened in 2015, it is one of the many reasons why Frankfurt is emerging as such an international city. Frankfurt’s appeal is complex and the effect of Brexit remains to be seen but, if recent changes are anything to go by, the city is ready for the challenge.
Written by Claire Crossland Naujoks, Freelance Writer and Parental Choice Consultant in Frankfurt