Test of building societies: poor advice

Unfavorable, if the building society contract is paid out only years after the house purchase. In a test, the advice of building societies scores poorly.

If the financing has gaps, the dream house quickly becomes a nightmare Photo: dpa

Unfavorable rates, excessive building savings amounts, too high repayment contributions – according to a study by Stiftung Warentest, building societies often fail to advise their customers. In a study for the magazine Finanztest, only one of 16 building societies received a "good" rating. Editor-in-chief Heinz Landwehr assessed the results as a "poor report card for the industry".

The testers wanted to clarify two questions: How good is the advice given by the institutions? And how good are the recommended offers? They conducted 119 test interviews in one of three scenarios. In one scenario, for example, a customer wanted to modernize his house in six years. For this planning and the estimated costs of 50,000 euros, the building society advisors had to find a suitable product.

Landwehr’s conclusion: "The advisors hardly missed a single mistake." The most serious error, he said, was that they often recommended building savings amounts that were too high. The problem with this is that if someone wants to build or buy at a certain point in time, it can happen that the building savings contract is not yet paid out. This is because a certain amount, usually 30 to 50 percent of the building savings sum, must be saved for this. In every fourth offer tested, the building savings sum was paid out at least one year too late, in one case even more than 15 years after the planned purchase date. Below the line, only one building society scored "good": LBS Schleswig-Holstein-Hamburg.

Three institutions received a "poor" rating: Bausparkasse Mainz, Debeka and LBS Sudwest. Nine received an "adequate" rating, four a "satisfactory" rating, including Die Alte Leipziger, which came off as the best nationwide fund with a "satisfactory" rating. One building society was tested twice. Landwehr advises customers who want to conclude a building society contract to seek neutral advice, for example from consumer advice centers. At the very least, however, prospective customers should consider key points such as the monthly savings rate and the desired payout date before seeking advice – and then take the documents home and check them at their leisure.