Buying a property in the Netherlands
Foreigners can freely buy a house in the Netherlands, but you should know the quirks of the Dutch housing market before buying your home in the Netherlands.
Whether you've just moved to the Netherlands or already well-established, you may want to consider the benefits of buying a home in the Netherlands. No restrictions are placed on foreigners for buying a house in the Netherlands, but you should know the quirks of the Dutch housing market before buying your Dutch home.
Along with many other countries, the housing market in the Netherlands has been in flux since the 2008 financial crisis ended a long period of rising property prices. The country is densely populated with a growing population, so competition for appealing properties in certain areas can be fierce. Almost 60 percent of Dutch people own their own home, and apartments or high-density family housing are common.
Should you rent or buy in the Netherlands?
The Netherlands has a high proportion of social housing and rent controlled housing. Both are often restricted to low-income renters, which can make finding a property harder. There are tax benefits for home owners and mortgage costs are often lower than rent, however as the transaction costs of buying a house are around 6 percent and the property market is in flux, it is recommended you rent if you are new to an area or planning a stay of three years or less. Find out more in Expatica's guide on renting in the Netherlands or read on for further information about buying a property.
In terms of buying Dutch property, average house prices have almost reached pre-crisis levels, recovering from a price fall of more than 20 percent that occured during the years of economic crisis. By the end of 2016 Rotterdam joined Amsterdam and Utrecht in surpassing pre-crisis levels, although some financial experts predict the recent strong growth will balance out by 2017.
For those considering buy-to-let investments, there is a growing shortage of affordable rental apartments in the main Dutch cities, especially in Amsterdam where developers are building thousands of micro apartments (around 30 sqm) to meet demand. In 2017 the estate agents association NVM reported a shortage of rental accommodation between the range of EUR 710 to 1,000 per month. However, it's important to note that the Dutch rental sector is restricted by rent-controls, which can limit how much a particularly property can be rented for.
Are foreigners allowed to buy property?
Yes. The Netherlands does not place any restrictions on the purchase of property by foreigners, whether resident or non-resident.
Finding a property to buy
As in most countries, you can find property listings online, and in local newspapers and free property papers. Using a real estate agent is very common in the Netherlands, and is advisable, particularly for those who are new to the country or are not fluent in Dutch.
Dutch estate agents are called makelaar. It's common to have both a buyer's agent and a seller's agent, and each will have different roles in the transaction – and have to be paid separately.
Online property portals
Advantages and disadvantages of using a Dutch estate agent
- Expect to sign a contract with your agent – these are often exclusive.
- This means you may be charged the agent's fee even if you find a property yourself or decide not to buy.
- Fees are typically 1–2 percent of the property purchase price.
- Agents do the search and initial screen for you.
- The agent should be only working for you, not for the seller.
- Agents may have insider knowledge about the market in a particular area.
- Agents may be able to advise on peripherals, such as neighbourhoods, schools and public transport.
- Agent may be able to translate for you.
- Agents can handle negotiations, notary meetings and arrange the sale contract.
- Agents should perform property checks (not a structural survey) regarding ownership, land registry and apartment cooperative contracts – this is important as it is possible to buy a property without then having the right to live in it.
Concerns when choosing an apartment in the Netherlands
When you buy an apartment, although you own the flat itself outright, you only own a share or a leasehold in the building and/or the land it stands on. As a result, buying an apartment can be more complex than buying a freehold property.
In the Netherlands, each apartment building is managed by an owner's association called a Vereniging van Eigenaren (VvE). These are responsible for general repairs and maintenance and may be well or poorly run, or even go into debt. As a member, you will be responsible for your share of that debt, so it is important to check into the status of the VvE before purchase.
Further terms and conditions relating to the shared spaces will be laid out in the property division regulations (splitsingsreglement) which should be included with your documentation at the time of transfer.
Buying a property in the Netherlands
Once you've found a property you wish to make an offer on, the next step is to get an appraisal and, if required, a structural or building survey. Contact the mortgage broker you intend to use to ensure you get an appraisal which is also suitable for your mortgage application. You can also request land registry and property value information through the registry office at Kadaster (Dutch only).
When you have a clear idea of the value of the property, you can make an offer and begin negotiations. This is usually done through the buyer's and seller's estate agents. Negotiations are usually only undertaken with one prospective buyer at a time.
After the sale price has been agreed, the formal steps towards property transfer take place.
- Buyer and seller sign a pre-sale agreement (koopovereenkomst) or provisional (voorlopige) contract.
- A notary (notaris) is selected who holds the signed contract and a 10 percent deposit paid by the buyer.
- The buyer arranges any mortgage they require.
- Buyer and seller sign a completion contract (akte van levering).
- The notary registers the property transfer at the land registry office (kadaster) completing the process.
Dutch law requires that a notary must perform the property registration process. The costs will vary and may be a percentage of the property price, a per-hour charge or a fixed fee. As the total cost is usually EUR 1,000–3,000, it's worth shopping around a little.
A translator is also required to attend notary meetings in cases where one or more of the parties is not a Dutch citizen. Accredited translators can be hard to find, so ensure you book in advance, even if your Dutch is excellent. Translator fees are typically around EUR 200.
Funding: Deposits and mortgages
Your mortgage (hypotheek) will be arranged after the provisional sale contract is signed. However, it is possible – and important – to discuss mortgage terms with one or more prospective lenders before you make an offer. You may also wish to arrange a bridging loan or banker's guarantee to cover the deposit, for example if your cash is tied up in a property you are selling. Find out more in Expatica's Guide to Dutch mortgages.
Sale fees and charges
In the Netherlands, it is common to have both a buyer's agent and a seller's agent. The seller's estate agent fees will be paid by the seller, otherwise, all fees are typically handled by the buyer.
Budget approximately 6 percent of the purchase price for fees and charges. This breaks down to:
- Transfer tax (overdrachtsbelasting) currently at 2 percent;
- Legal fees around 1.0–1.5 percent;
- Registration fees 1.0–1.5 percent;
- Estate agent's fees 1-2 percent.
In any financial transaction, don't forget to ensure you understand whether the value added tax (BTW) applies, currently at 21 percent, and if so whether it has been included in the quoted price.
Pre-sale agreements (koopovereenkomst) or provisional (voorlopige) contracts should include all the usual essential information, such as property details, liens and encumbrances.
In addition, it is important to ensure that it includes:
- An escape clause, in case you cannot get a mortgage;
- Clear penalty or escape clauses, in case either party decides not to go through with the deal;
- Whether any fixtures or fittings are included (such as carpets, light fittings and appliances).
This will form the basis for the completion contract (akte van levering) so it's important to make sure it's correct.
There is a legally mandated 72-hour cooling off period after you sign the contract in which you can change your mind without incurring a penalty. After that – congratulations! You're well on your way to owning your own home in the Netherlands.
Find a home to rent in the Netherlands using Expatica's housing search.
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