February is housing month at Expatica and we’ve been asking our readers about their experience finding housing in their new countries. We ‘ve had a huge response from you, with most respondents coming to their host countries from the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Austria, India and Canada.
The results are in and we’ve found that only about 30 percent of you live in housing similar to what you left behind in your home countries. Plus, the majority of you (60 percent) have chosen to rent in your host countries, with a not-too-shabby minority (40 percent) choosing to take the plunge and invest in buying a place instead.
Unsurprisingly, those who decided to buy a home reported that they plan on staying in their host countries much longer than those who rented. Our renters, with shorter-term assignments and less fixed plans, indicated they plan on staying in their new countries for an average of five years. Our renters were also often younger expats and drew lower incomes than those who chose to buy a home.
Almost half of those who responded to our survey were between twenty-five and forty years of age and one third were between forty and fifty-five. More than half were female (60 percent) and most live currently in the Netherlands, Germany, or Belgium.
Of the 40 percent of our readers who chose to buy a home in their host country, most reported that it was the freedom of ownership that attracted them. Many others indicated that rental prices were so high that buying became a viable alternative. Expats in the Netherlands reported that the tax advantages offered were also very attractive inducements to buy. Nearly all respondents reported that they viewed buying a house in their host country as an investment opportunity and almost a quarter of respondents also own a house in their home country.
We also asked buyers what their top considerations were as they undertook the hunt for that perfect home. Price, proximity to work or school, and location in a good neighbourhood were top on the list. Other top priorities included proximity to the town centre, architecture typical of the host country, spaciousness, proximity to water and rural location.
Of those respondents who decided to rent, a whopping 58 percent reported finding rental prices in their host country unreasonable. The majority found their rental places via the Internet (61 percent), but rental agencies and word of mouth through colleagues and friends also yielded results. Our respondents offered mixed opinions on rental agencies, with a few horror stories reported.
In contrast to buyers, the vast majority (84 percent) of renters live near work or the centre. They are also less interested in finding a place with a garden or with architecture typical of the host country.
When we asked what you wish you had known before you made the commitment to rent or buy, we received comments that fell into a few main categories. We've reprinted a number of these comments below, indicating which country the respondent lives in.
Regarding legislation affecting renters:
I wish I had known about the huurcomissie, which assesses the renting price of a flat and helps the tenant to get their money back if the rent they pay is too high.
The crazy regulations in Belgium regarding renting. The landlords are hardly responsible for anything, it's all out of the tenant's pocket!
That squats were available!
Regarding dishonest landlords, estate agents, and officials:
How the damage deposit return and "normal wear and tear" is determined.
Honest notaries and how to obtain protection from the malevolence and shrewdness of Bauträger.
I wish I had known about the dishonesty of agents and local government officials!
That the surveyor's report would not be worth the paper it is written on!
The poor state of the apartment and how little my landlord would do about problems.
The level of dishonesty among estate agents--they tend to steer you to the least favorable contracts. Also …. final inspections are always a drama when you leave a property. Always ask for an invoice for any supposed damages and have a friend with you as a witness.
Erin Russell Thiessen / Expatica
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