Are you an expat looking to buy a new home in the Netherlands? Here are seven expert tips to help you navigate the Dutch real estate market and secure your dream property.
Confidence has returned to the Dutch housing market in the last year or so, with low mortgage rates encouraging expats to say goodbye to renting and finally buy a home. That said, property prices are on the rise in some areas, and there’s a considerable shortage of housing, especially in the bigger cities such as Amsterdam.
Buying property in another county can be a complicated business no matter how the market is performing, as each real estate system has its own unique quirks. Henk Jansen of Expat-Mortgages, an independent mortgage broker for expats, shares here some expert tips for expats looking to buy their Dutch dream home.
Expat Mortgages is an independent mortgage broker for expats who want to buy a house in the Netherlands and need a mortgage to realize their homeownership dream. For more than ten years, they have become a specialist in providing expats of all nationalities with home financing solutions, walking them through the entire process from the mortgage application to life insurance and tax advice.
1. Determine your budget
The first thing to do is to make an appointment with a mortgage advisor. There are many online mortgage calculators that will give you a ballpark estimate of the maximum mortgage amount you can obtain, but beware: rules can be different for expats, and some hidden factors may come as a (bad) surprise. Your best bet is to find a financial adviser who will quickly, accurately assess a realistic price range for your future home. Like a number of other mortgage consultants, Expat Mortgages provides this introductory service for free.
2. Do your research: check the house prices
“While the old ‘location, location, location’ adage is also true in the Netherlands, it’s important not to panic-buy a property that could be a poor investment in the future. On the list of things to look for when buying a home, the historical prices of the home and surrounding houses in the neighbourhood is high up” advises Henk.
When eyeing up prospective homes, check the Dutch Land Register to see how much a property has previously sold for; this register also allows you to compare the sale prices of other properties in that postcode in the last five years. The register, operated by Kadaster, charges between €1.50–2.40 for a house price search.
3. Employ a buying agent
Henk also advises to “contact a real estate agent right away. They come at a price, but it’s worth it in a seller’s market, as the agents have access to an intranet that offers properties before they are listed on websites such as Funda or VBO, giving you a clear advantage over other buyers.”
Real estate agents in the Netherlands work for the seller – so they’re not on your side. By employing your own buying agent, you can get important market advice and ensure the property you’re considering purchasing is valued by someone with your interests at heart.
Before appointing an agent, check they’re a member of a reputable organisation such as the NVM, which oversees agents selling around 75% of homes in the Netherlands.
4. Look a little closer during house viewings
When you turn up to view a property, you’re sure to be taken in by the superficial, cosmetic things such as carpets, furnishings and what colour you’d repaint that awful living room wall.
However, if you approach your viewing with an eagle eye (or, even better, using the trained pair of your agent), you could get ahead of the game — and potentially spy some major issues. Details to look out for, according to Henk: “Check taps and light switches, and keep an eye out for signs of humidity or mould in the bathroom, basement and attic. Be sure to check the foundation of the home, the ceilings and window- and doorframes — any necessary repairs may cost a lot of money if gone unchecked.’
Note: as for those attractive furnishings and appliances that caught your eye, they’re not usually included in the purchase price. But your agent can expertly negotiate your offer to give you a chance at keeping those lovely curtains, or that state-of-the-art washing machine.
5. Get the house surveyed
Asbestos can be a problem in older homes in the Netherlands — and though the government aims to have it eliminated by 2024, it can quickly turn a great buy into a dud.
This is just one of many issues that can be identified in a house survey. While your mortgage lender will usually undertake a valuation survey, this will not properly examine the structural integrity of the property. How comprehensive a house survey needs to be depends largely on the age and condition of the property. Further advice on the different types of house survey is available from companies such as Woningschouw, but your agent will also have all the resources necessary to ensure you don’t end up with a lemon.
6. Insure your new home
There are a number of insurances you might consider (or need): insurance in the case of death, insurance in the case of disability for work, and unemployment insurance.
However, being the owner of a house, you should also arrange homeowner’s insurance, household insurance and liability insurance.
7. Take care of your mortgage
One final tip from Henk that will serve you well in the long-term: once you’ve gone through the process of arranging your mortgage (which can take a few weeks, but is made immeasurably smoother with the assistance of a mortgage broker), and you finally own your dream home, it’s a good idea to think about after-care. ‘Your new house needs the occasional upkeep; so does your mortgage. I would recommend that you, periodically, take a good look at your mortgage, or let a professional do this. Your personal situation could change, your fiscal situation could change, or the types of mortgages available could change.’