German North Sea islands see soaring property prices

Property prices in Germany's North Sea islands are soaring, a new report shows. It's leading to local tensions and plans for tougher rules on holiday accommodation.

People walk along the promenade on the beach in Westerland on the North Sea island of Sylt in June 2021.
People walk along the promenade on the beach in Westerland on the North Sea island of Sylt in June 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Bockwoldt

The North Frisian Islands, with Sylt in the lead, are seeing a huge spike in property prices, according to the latest Coastal Report published by the Von Poll estate agency.

According to the report, average asking prices on the Schleswig-Holstein islands that lie in the North Sea climbed by 17.1 percent to €14,115 per square metre within a year in the first quarter of 2022.

This equates to an average price of around €425,000 for a 30-square-metre apartment, or a whopping €1,411,500 for 100 square metres.

Meanwhile, in Lower Saxony’s East Frisian islands, which include Norderney, Juist and Borkum, there was a price jump of 5.7 percent to €8,206 per square metre. Despite the increase on this group of North Sea islands, properties there are 42 percent cheaper than the North Frisian islands.

“Demand from buyers remains high on the North Sea coast,” said Von Poll Managing Director Daniel Ritter.

The biggest price driver among the islands is Sylt, where it now costs a whopping €18,740 per square metre for an average house, 21.7 percent more than a year earlier. 

People looking to buy on Sylt can now expect to shell out around €560,00 for a 30 square-metre flat and an average of €1,874,000 for an 100 square-metre property.

Thanks to its sandy beaches, the island of Sylt is one of Germany’s best known domestic tourist destinations. Sylt hit the headlines last week because of fears it will become overrun with tourists due to the introduction of the €9 transport ticket. 

READ ALSO: What is Sylt and why is it terrified of Germany’s €9 holidaymakers?

“Sylt is as sought-after as ever,” said Martin Weiß, the Von Poll office manager who is based in Sylt. “However, the supply has been reduced to about a third and that causes prices to spiral upwards.”

The district of Nordfriesland, which includes Sylt, Föhr,  Amrum, as well as Sankt Peter-Ording, was named the most expensive district in Germany by Postbank in its property atlas published at the end of March – with an average price per square metre of €7,977 (2021).

The list of the 10 most expensive districts otherwise includes counties from the Munich area, and from the holiday areas of the Alpine foothills.

Sylt mulls stricter rules for holiday accommodation

The high prices and scarce supply have been leading to social tensions. Many native islanders, who can no longer afford to live on the islands, have already been forced to move to the mainland and commute to the isles for work, according to local reports.

The German Social Association (Sozialverband Deutschland, SoVD) warned back in 2016 of Sylt becoming a place that only rich people can afford to live on.  

Sylt has been described as the “German Hamptons” in reference to the area north of New York City that is frequented by the wealthy and famous. 

However, locals are trying to fight back. The municipality of Sylt, for instance, recently put together an accommodation plan. The report, which was presented last week, concluded that the amount of misused living space in Sylt is already far too high, and that the island is too full. Now stricter rules are being discussed which could mean that people are no longer allowed to launch new holiday homes. 

READ ALSO: How soaring property prices are out of reach for German buyers

According to Von Poll, prospective buyers for real estate on the North Sea islands come from all over Germany, and given the price level, they are increasingly expanding their search radius.

Therefore, the asking prices on the mainland also rose strongly. Property prices spiked by 22.8 percent to €2,544 per square metre and by 22 percent to €2,489 in the East Frisian districts of Wittmund and Aurich.

But this is topped by the North Frisian mainland and the district of Dithmarschen, where prices have risen by an average of 26.2 percent to €2,657 and by 27.6 percent to €2,353 per square metre respectively. Compared to the first quarter of 2021, prices have also risen significantly in Cuxhaven, a seaside town in Lower Saxony. 

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EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

The EU has announced that its Covid travel certificate will be extended until 2023 - so what does this mean if you have a trip planned this year?

EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

Cleaning up the phone and thinking of getting rid of that Covid app? Just wait a minute. 

The European Union has decided to extend the use of EU Covid certificates by one year, until June 30th 2023. 

The European Commission first made the proposal in February as the virus, and the Omicron variant in particular, was continuing to spread in Europe. At that point it was “not possible to determine the impact of a possible increase in infections in the second half of 2022 or of the emergence of new variants,” the Commission said. 

Now tourism is taking off again, while Covid cases are on the rise in several European countries.

So the EU has taken action to ensure that travellers can continue using the so-called ‘digital green certificates’ in case new restrictions are put in place after their initial deadline of June 30th, 2022. 

What is the EU ‘digital green certificate’?

If you have travelled within the EU in the last year, you have probably already used it.

On 1st July 2021, EU countries started to introduce the ‘digital green certificate’, a Covid pass designed by the European Commission to facilitate travel between EU member states following months of restrictions.

It can be issued to EU citizens and residents who have been vaccinated against Covid, have tested negative or have recovered from the virus, as a proof of their health status. 

Although it’s called a certificate, it isn’t a separate document, it’s just a way of recognising all EU countries’ national health pass schemes.

It consists of a QR code displayed on a device or printed.

So if you live in an EU country, the QR code issued when you were vaccinated or tested can be scanned and recognised by all other EU countries – you can show the code either on a paper certificate or on your country’s health pass app eg TousAntiCovid if you’re in France or the green pass in Italy. 

Codes are recognised in all EU 27 member states, as well as in 40 non-EU countries that have joined the scheme, including the UK – full list here.

What does the extension of certificates mean? 

In practice, the legal extension of the EU Covid pass does not mean much if EU countries do not impose any restrictions.

It’s important to point out that each country within the EU decides on its own rules for entry – requiring proof of vaccination, negative tests etc so you should check with your country of destination.

All the EU certificate does is provide an easy way for countries to recognise each others’ certificates.

At present travel within the EU is fairly relaxed, with most countries only requiring negative tests for unvaccinated people, but the certificate will become more relevant again if countries impose new measures to curb the spread of the virus. 

According to the latest data by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, countries such as France, Portugal and parts of Italy and Austria are in the red again. 

The EU legislation on the certificate neither prescribes nor prohibits such measures, but makes sure that all certificate holders are treated in the same way in any participating country. 

The EU certificate can also be used for access to venues such as bars and restaurants if countries decided to re-impose health or vaccines passes on a domestic basis.

So nothing changes?

In fact, the legislation introduces some changes to the current certificates. These include the clarification that passes issued after vaccination should reflect all doses administered, regardless of the member state where the inoculation occurred. This followed complaints of certificates indicating an incorrect number of vaccine doses when these were received in different countries.

In addition, new rules allow the possibility to issue a certificate of recovery following an antigen test and extend the range of uthorised antigen tests to qualify for the green pass. 

To support the development and study of vaccines against Covid, it will also be possible to issue vaccination certificates to people participating in clinical trials.

At the insistence of the European Parliament, the Commission will have to publish an assessment of the situation by December 31st 2022 and propose to repeal or maintain the certificate accordingly. So, while it is extended for a year, the certificate could be discontinued earlier if it will no longer be consider necessary. 

The European parliament rapporteur, Spanish MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar, said: “The lack of coordination from EU governments on travel brought chaos and disruption to the lives of millions of Europeans that simply wanted to move freely and safely throughout the EU.

“We sincerely hope that the worst of the pandemic is far behind us and we do not want Covid certificates in place a day longer than necessary.”

Vaccination requirements for the certificate

An EU certificate can be issued to a person vaccinated with any type of vaccine, but many countries accept only EMA-approved vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Valneva and Janssen) – if you have been vaccinated with another vaccine, you should check the rules on the country you are travelling to.  

Certificates remain valid for 9 months (270) days following a complete vaccination cycle – so if you had your vaccine more than nine months ago you will need a booster in order to be considered fully vaccinated.

There is no requirement for a second booster, so if you have had a booster you remain ‘fully vaccinated’ even if your booster was administered more than 9 months ago. 

As of 1st March 2022, EU countries had issued almost 1.2 billion EU Covid certificates, of which 1.15 billion following vaccination, 511 million as a result of tests and 55 million after recovery from the virus. 

France, Italy, Germany, Denmark and Austria are the countries that have issued the largest number of EU Covid certificates.