Slovaks Buy Lower Austria

Austria’s lower costs and higher standard of living lure Slovakia

News | Bisera Bozinovska | April 2009

A few years ago the idea of living in Austria seemed unreasonable to Juraj Matus. But on May 1, 2004, along with six other ex-communist countries, Slovakia entered the European Union, bringing the two closest capitals in the world, Bratislava and Vienna, even closer.

Three and a half years later Slovakia became one of the new members of the Schengen Zone. Suddenly the villages on the Austrian side became not only accessible but sometimes the best option for young couples with children looking for cheaper houses.

So Matus and his family moved to Gattendorf, on the Neusiedlersee in northern Burgenland.

"It takes me about 15 minutes to get to work, which is the same as it was from our apartment in Bratislava," says Matus, who is still in the process of moving.

Since Slovakia’s admission to the EU, the population of Bratislava began spreading into neighboring Hungary and Austria. As the first people came, some Austrians started to become uneasy.

"They didn’t want their towns and villages to become dormitories for Slovaks," says Monika Haklova.

However, it was not until joining Schengen that these Austrians’ fears of a Slovak ‘invasion’ really came true.

"From late spring last year, we have noted an incredible increase in sales," says Monika Haklova, a real estate broker with Immobilien, Universal Development GmbH in an interview with The Vienna Review. "We are now moving to Kittsee, and our Slovak company is now registered in Austria." Immobilien Group is made up of Slovak real estate brokers who sell to Slovaks in Austria.

"We started selling Austrian land about three years ago, but last spring, our sales increased by 50%," Haklova said.

Particularly revealing is the fact that the Austrian economy is so much stronger than the Slovak economy, and yet as far as borderland prices go, it’s the other way around.

The phenomenon has a simple explanation. These border regions, too far to commute from Vienna, have been of little interest to Austrians, keeping the prices low. But this in turn makes them financially attractive for Slovaks.

"The villages across the boarder are much closer to Bratislava than to Vienna, therefore more appealing to Slovaks who move to Austria, but still work in Bratislava," Haklova said.

The most atractive villages are Kittsee, Hainburg, Gattendorf, Wolfsthal, and Nickeldorf, all less than twenty minutes from Bratislava.

"The social system in Austria is much better, and as citizens of the EU, Slovaks have no problem getting all the support the Austrians get," Haklova said. Most of the people who move to Austria are young. Thus programs like the Mutter-Kind Pass for prenatal care and family support payments to parents of school-age children can make an important difference.

Local Austrian officials have adjusted to the situation.

"If you say ‘we don’t want you here,’ well, they will still come," said Schodinger, the mayor of Wolfsthal in an interview with BBC News. "They have the right to live here. It’s better to welcome them."

Overall, business is booming. Haklova reports selling 290 properties near the border in less than a year. And the Austrian Post Bus has begun a route between Bratislava and Hainburg, as well as Kittsee.

Crisis or no crisis, the ‘invasion’ is still on – at least for now.

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