Oh, so you’re buying in Friedrichshain? Well, before you can “be Berlin,” the German bureaucracy has some more of that welcome culture for you.
One of our cherished traditions is having a notary read out the purchase contract to the buyer and the seller (or their real estate agent) in German. It might not make much sense, because the notary will find the task more boring than you, and won’t advise you whether you’re even getting a decent deal. Nevertheless, it’s something that stands between you and that gorgeous little Altbau (Hinterhof).
If your native language is not German, the notary will ask you to bring an authorized interpreter (ermächtigter Dolmetscher). They will also give you the option of having the entire contract translated into your language. I recommend the second option, but more on that later.
If English is not your native language, but you think you speak it well enough, you can tell the notary you’d like to bring an English interpreter along to the appointment.
Hiring an English interpreter might be easier than finding someone for, say, Arabic or Russian. It might also be cheaper (but not necessarily). Please leave a comment, if you need some direct advice.
If you have the contract translated into your language, the interpreter will not have to be at your meeting with the notary. You will save the hassle of coordinating an appointment with 3 other parties. Also, most interpreters will charge a flat daily fee.
The other option is that they will say they’re “busy” because they think you’re trying to be skimpy. This is what lawyers often do. Like with most professional services, if you want it done right and on time, do ask several providers, but don’t expect it to be cheap.
Although many think otherwise, translating the contract is not necessarily more expensive than having it read out (called sight translation / Stegreifübersetzen). Ask for two quotes – one for sight interpreting and one for translation. The estimate should show whether your provider has any related experience.
With translation, you’ll have the advantage of having a reference for later. It also makes the meeting shorter, saving you billable notary hours. With sight interpreting, you’ll have to listen to the whole contract being read out twice – once in German, once in your language. Therefore it also makes sense to ask the notary if they’re willing to lower the price if you bring your own translation of the contract.
I hope this article makes the process somewhat clearer. In any case, don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you have an questions!