„Home Is Where Your Heart Is“ » An Interview with Nikolaus Ziegert, Managing Director and Founder of Ziegert Bank- und Immobilienconsulting GmbH

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An interview with Nicholas Ziegert, Managing Director of the Ziegert Bank- und Immobilienconsulting GmbH. The Ziegert-Group offers a complete service for the Diplomatic Corps. In addition to real estate consulting, interior and renting services, the team will assist you also in dealing with the authorities, banks and financing.

Mr Ziegert, you have started as an estate agent in Berlin in 1985. When did you move to Berlin, and how and where had you lived before?

I moved to Berlin in 1981 into a tiny 11m² room for 80 Deutschmarks into a family in Wilmerdorf. On moving in, I learned that not only was the flat on the ground floor, but that I was expected to become their babysitter, and that I had to visit the local public bath for taking showers. I was rather amused, but started to enjoy living there even more once they decided to install a private sink for me.

The housing shortage today is similar to the one we experienced in the eighties. Are you still living subtenant or in your own property?

I am at present a subtenant, actually, and until now have not decided on a permanent residence. I like changing districts and am rather some traveling sort of person. I love spending some weekends in the countryside, too. By now we have several objects there and I am spending a lot of time there on our building sites.

Should diplomats rent or buy property?

We try and satisfy all needs of new and temporary Berliners: temporary and furnished living and property tailor made for the individual. A property is an important decision for families, and we like to advise them on location and infrastructure to the best of our knowledge. Our team is caring individually for an increasingly international clientele, and there are more and more agents and staff members able to communicate with our clients from over 70 nations in all different languages.

Different neighbourhoods in Berlin as well as in Hamburg are called Kiez. Do you know where this word comes from?

Experts as well as scienctists have not reached any consensus on this. I cannot answer this question easily either. To me, living in a Kiez is more about a feeling. You have to consider that Berlin used to consist of many different little villages in the old days, with their own market squares, churches, pubs and weekly markets where people went and met their neighbours. This has essentially remained like that. The Berliners are still celebrating their backyard festivities, and already started to create their communal roof-gardens in the eighties. In a lively Kiez there are people taking control of their home, showing responsibility for there surroundings as well. A Berliner waters the tree in front of his door, laying out flower beds and manages misbehaviour in a typical Berlin fashion. For people new to Berlin, this often might appear a bit rude, but it always comes straight from the heart. This to me, up to now, accounts for the Kiez-feeling.

Where does this special Berlin culture come from?

By many historic factors that have always characterised Berlin. A part in recent history played the student revolt of 1968, as well as the squatting scene of the eighties. Furthermore, Berlin is the biggest marriage market in the world. Young, self-confident women are coming to stay, fed up with the restrictive morals in their small towns. There are modern men, too, cooking, while women and their friends are discussing politics in the kitchen living. And while the whole world is making fun of Berlin, since the building of opera houses and airports is taking ages and might never be completed, the Berliner shrugs his shoulder, casually sipping his beer or bionade. This city is liberal and mad. People from all nations live here, every one in his manner able to live peacefully.

Which are the perfect Kieze for diplomats?

I would personally recommend Charlottenburg, Dahlem, Grunewald, Schöneberg and Wilmersdorf and in the former East of the city Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg or Pankow. Until now, Berlin has no gated communities, and there the clientele is an international and rather middle-class one. One feels safe, there are international kindergartens and schools.

Condominiums have only become interesting after the fall of the Berlin wall. Who are your buyers?

Berlin‘s number of inhabitants increases in 42.000 every year. Apart from renovated old buildings, we also specialise in new building projects. After a period of major consortia only interested in a quick return on investment, today Berliners and those new to this city, mainly individualistic people who have made a conscious decision for Berlin are investing attracted by the cultural offerings and our lifestyle. Internationally Berlin has a much better reputation than in Germany itself, also as a location for investment.

Is Berlin still a good investment market for real estate, or is the caravan already moving on again?

We are now at Zero Hour, as far as property is concerned. While Berlin used to be more exciting for speculators in the former days, prices are rising now, which is rightly criticised by tenants, but has to be regulated politically. We are aware of our responsibility and help with our foundation for payable renting space. Still we are now in a phase where one can make solid investments and get good returns. The city is on its way to become a major global metropolis. Berlin is not poor, but sexy anymore, as former mayor Klaus Wowereit revised his old statement in his current book, but one of the safest places for property in the world. Prices are, compared to international standards, still low – the incomes are increasing. International investors do not only have real estate on their map. We are interested in a healthy growth of the city and are not only building for diplomats, but also for normal families and students. This is why we have been actively advocating stronger housing promotion in the social and political debate for years, since housing property is the key for individual personal fulfilment and financial security in old age. This commitment is founded also on the belief that home ownership is accompanied by a responsibility for your own Kiez.

INTERVIEW Fanny Zschau

Pictures: 1 = Suza Schlecht