Why you always get a little piece of luxury when you buy a ‘Liegenschaft’

Among the apartments and villas in prime locations, many German portfolios also include so-called ‘Liegenschaften’. But what distinguishes ‘Liegenschaften’ from other luxury properties? On the one hand, their spaciousness – on the other, a particularly high standard of location and quality.

Bettina Schneuer 12. August 2021 · Updated: 19. November 2023 · Reading Time: 3 Minuten

The word ‘Liegenschaft’ is rarely heard in everyday German usage. Outside the technical language of economics and law, the term is hardly used in real estate either – and if it is, almost exclusively in reference to commercial construction, for example, the Liegenschaftsamt (property office). In this context, luxury ‘Liegenschaften’in private residential properties stand out all the more, because in this specific area the term has long been used as a byword for exceptional luxury properties.

‘Liegenschaft’ – a (very) brief history of the term

Although the term ‘Liegenschaft’ may seem a little old-fashioned given its infrequent use, the word itself is comparatively new. As late as 1885, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s Germany Dictionary defined ‘Liegenschaft’ as a ‘recent word for immovable property’ [1]. Since ‘property’ in the language of the day was a general term for ‘a precious, valuable thing as an object of possession’, we can see from this brief definition that ‘Liegenschaft’ fundamentally emphasises the same aspect as real estate: the immobility of this specific form of ownership.

Nevertheless, ‘Liegenschaft’ is not completely synonymous with modern ‘real estate’. While in official and legal language all immovable property is referred to as real estate – the land would be classed as one property, the building erected on it a second – everyday language focuses on the actual building and tends to leave out the land on which it stands.

“In contrast to this small-scale view, the term ‘Liegenschaft’ always emphasises the property as a whole: as a plot of land with everything that may already have been built on it,” explains Maciej Auda, Head of Acquisition and Sales in Berlin and Hamburg for RALF SCHMITZ. “This means that a large apartment building falls under the definition of ‘Liegenschaft’ just as much as an undeveloped plot of land – the difference being that it’s classed as a unit consisting of the plot of land, the structures such as the main building and the garage, and all the associated outdoor facilities such as gardens or parking spaces.”

Buying a luxury property means acquiring the highest quality of living
Spacious plots, exclusive locations – whoever buys a luxury property acquires the highest quality of living

What makes a luxury ‘Liegenschaft’ different?

Besteht ein funktionaler Zusammenhang zwischen mehreren Grundstücken und diversen darauf errichteten Gebäuden, können auch mehrere Immobilien ein „Anwesen oder [eine] abgegrenzte Anlage“ [3] und somit eine Liegenschaft bilden. Was die Liegenschaft in ihrem Kern ausmacht, ist jedoch nicht nur diese ganzheitliche Perspektive: In Bezug auf Wohnimmobilien geht mit dem Begriff auch ein gewisser Anspruch an Lage und Ausstattung einher.

“Although theoretically it would also be a ‘Liegenschaft’, hardly anyone refers to their family home in the new local housing development as such,” explains Maciej Auda. “When we talk about a ‘Liegenschaft’ in the context of private residential construction, the term is usually chosen to make it sound as if we’re talking about a luxury property. Spacious plots of land, exclusive locations, fine interiors – whoever buys a ‘Liegenschaft’ acquires the highest standard of living.”

Since the very concept of a ‘Liegenschaft’ attests to a high standard, the explicit reference to luxury here usually serves as an additional sign of quality; a discreet indication that a luxury ‘Liegenschaft’ is a truly exceptional property.

Exceptional properties are also characterized by their surroundings
Exceptional properties are also characterized by their surroundings: Popular location by the water
Accurate planning constitutes a defining feature of a luxury property
Defining feature of a luxury property: Accurate planning from the haptic wood model to the virtual tour

Managing a ‘Liegenschaft’

‘Liegenschaft’ management enables the property to be comprehensively administered and maintained. In keeping with the term ‘Liegenschaft’, it not only includes the building management, but also the management of undeveloped land and any outdoor facilities that may be built [4]. The larger the property, the more comprehensive the management demand.

To lighten the load for buyers, RALF SCHMITZ takes care of property management for the first year: “From caretaker services to cleaning, we conclude all the service contracts needed to maintain the ‘Liegenschaft’. This way, buyers can settle in in peace and enjoy their new way of life without having to immediately throw themselves into the organisational aspects of running their property,” adds Dr. Axel Martin Schmitz.

RALF SCHMITZ pays particular attention to developing community rules that are individually adapted to the living community: they ensure that all parties are clear about their rights and obligations.

“Anyone who buys property from a developer sets great store by comfort and the highest quality. Amicable cooperation within the community is indispensable for this,” says architect and project developer Jan Lorenz. Through intensive consultations, he finds out the desires and ideas that connect the parties of an owners’ association. Based on these consultations, the experts at RALF SCHMITZ develop community rules. “Unambiguously formulated agreements create commitment and trust. In this way, an owners’ association that buys a ‘Liegenschaft’ together can avoid any teething problems from the outset.”

Buying a 'Liegenschaft' means investing in exceptional quality
Buying a ‘Liegenschaft’ from an experienced developer means investing in exceptional quality

Selling luxury ‘Liegenschaften’ – downsizing in style with RALF SCHMITZ

Given the size of a ‘Liegenschaft’, the value of the real estate increases, but so does the amount of work required by the owners: after all, gardens need to be tended and buildings need to be maintained, and this is a cost-benefit calculation that does not work out in every situation.

“Once their children have flown the nest, many owners enjoy their newfound freedom: many of them travel, often spending weeks and months abroad. When they return, the ‘Liegenschaft’ then simply feels far too big and empty,” says Dr. Axel Martin Schmitz. “In such cases, it’s all about downsizing in style: into a luxury flat with the same exquisite location and furnishings as the ‘Liegenschaft’, but in a size more adapted to this new chapter and, particularly, new mindset in life.”

A new house, a new person.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When a ‘Liegenschaft’ is transferred to an owners’ association, it brings huge benefits for the buyers of the individual residential units: they enjoy all the advantages of the ‘Liegenschaft’, at only a fraction of the organisational and financial expense – from then on, the owners’ association is jointly responsible for operation and maintenance.

For this reason, many owners decide to sell their extensive luxury ‘Liegenschaften’ and instead purchase an apartment in a sought-after city location. To ensure that their ‘Liegenschaft’ is in safe hands during the process, they rely on renowned property developers such as RALF SCHMITZ when it comes to selling too.

“For all our clients who want to downsize and sell properties in Berlin, Hamburg or Düsseldorf, for example, we’re also available as buyers,” reveals Dr. Axel Martin Schmitz. The same portfolio in which clients find their new luxury apartment becomes a promise of quality for the future of their ‘Liegenschaft’: “When we buy a ‘Liegenschaft’, we don’t build a shopping centre or a factory on the land. RALF SCHMITZ has always been synonymous with exceptional luxury real estate, and that’s why we’re always on the lookout for ‘Liegenschaften’ in exclusive locations that we can develop further for our clients.”

Bettina Schneuer

Bettina Schneuer studied law in Hamburg and then graduated from the Henri Nannen School of Journalism. She lives in Berlin and works freelance for magazines such as "Architectural Digest"


  1. The Trier Center for Digital Humanities provides the Deutsche Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm (German Dictionary by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm) free of charge and fully digitalised. The complete entry for ‘Liegenschaft’ (volume 12, column 1017) can be found there.

  2. Cf. the entry for ‘gut’ (property/good) in the Deutsche Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm (German Dictionary by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm), volume 9, column 1353.

  3. This definition – also based on historical linguistics – was compiled by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities as part of the ‘DWDS – Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache’ (Digital Dictionary of the German Language)e</a project.

  4. Cf. the Act on the Ownership of Apartments and the Permanent Residential Right (Wohnungseigentumsgesetz – WEG) Section 5 The Subject and Content of Separately Owned Property, paragraph 4. This complete legal text, among others, is available free of charge at Gesetze im Internet, an official website of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection.