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Finding, Buying and Renting Property for Expats in The Netherlands

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: April 2016

Finding Property

Spacious housing is often in short supply in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. hence, if you are heading for one of these cities, it is important to start your search early. If you are looking for cheaper accommodation, you may want to look to the suburbs or nearby small towns within the Randstad conurbation.

The internet is an invaluable tool for searching for property, especially while you are still in your home country. There are many Dutch websites that show property for rental and purchase available. Some of the most popular are given below:

There are many other sites, but they are in Dutch only. This should underline the importance of learning Dutch if you are serious about living in the country. Once you have arrived in Holland, if you can read Dutch, you will be able to browse through local newspapers (particularly the weekend editions), look at bulletin boards on the streets and in supermarkets and walk around the area you want to live looking for available properties.

If you struggle with Dutch, you will need to rely more on estate agents  who are bilingual with English, which, in Holland, is practically all of them. Estate agents facilitate the house-hunting process by finding suitable properties, arranging viewings and negotiating with the landlord or owner on your behalf. It is best to choose an agent registered with the Dutch Association of Estate Agents (Nederlandse Vereniging van Makelaars, or NVM) or Koophuis Makelaars. Note that some estate agents cater specifically to expats, such as NK Housing.

 

Renting

It is usual for newly arrived expats to rent property in Holland. Other than in Amsterdam, rented accommodation is reasonably priced, especially in the more rural south and east. Most property that is available is rented out via letting agents rather than directly with landlords. Their typical fee is one month’s rent.

There are strict rental controls in operation in the Netherlands, not just applying to social housing but to private landlords too. The law is firmly on the side of the tenant. This means that finding and renting accommodation is a much less strenuous business than in some other countries. More than 80% of rented accommodation is run not by profiteering private landlords but by social housing organisations. Housing authority accommodation is available for longer-term stayers, though there are strict eligibility criteria and waiting lists are often long.

The normal deposit payable is one or two months’ rent. Bear in mind that some rented property is unfurnished; in some cases, this will mean that the property has no fittings at all, not even carpets or curtains. The remaining properties are partly furnished with fittings and white goods, or fully furnished. Utility bills are not normally included.

The standard notice period is a month. However, if you are in a furnished apartment, you can be asked to leave with very little notice, just a week or so. Tenancy agreements tend to last for an indefinite period. You need to provide ID and a letter of hire from an employer or its equivalent. Some estate agents and landlords require your employer to be guarantor, so you should check if they are willing to do this.

 

Buying Property

The housing market in Holland declined in the wake of the credit crunch. Property prices have been in the doldrums for several years but are now slightly increasing. They remain reasonable compared to many Western countries.  The average property price for a medium house is about €225,000 (£178,000 / US$255,000).

At only 56%, owner-occupancy is low in Holland. This is partly due to the rent controls and tenant protection that tenants enjoy. As a consequence of this, there is very little buy-to-let activity in Holland. Many properties, particularly flats, are under the control of housing authorities, so you may well be buying from local government.

There are no formal barriers to foreigners owning property in Holland. It is preferable to arrange a mortgage in principle before you start looking for a property. Doing this now saves a lot of time and stress later on. For more information, see Mortgages.

Having found a property that you like and is within your price range, you are in a position to make an offer to the vendor. Possibly following some negotiations, the vendor will hopefully accept your offer. In Holland, legal matters of conveyancing and property transfer must be conducted by a notary (a specialist lawyer). One notary is normally used both buyer and vendor, which saves money.

Once they have seen a written formal offer, the notary can draw up a purchase agreement (koopovereenkomst), which formalises the offer. Once this is made, you have three days to change your mind; after this period the agreement is binding and a party that pulls will be financially penalised.

The next stage is to ensure that all the necessary investigations into the property have been made. It may be necessary to conduct a survey, using the services of a surveyor. This is because the vendor is under no obligation to point out hidden faults the building may have. In Holland, however, surveying is only necessary on older buildings as tight regulations ensure that properties are well maintained.

At the same time, the notary will conduct checks on land registry records and elsewhere to ensure that the property does not have any existing mortgages on it. You will also need to get the property valued for mortgage purposes. You may also need to pay a 10% deposit at this stage. The onus is on you to find funds for the rest of the purchase, and if you fail to do so, you will lose the deposit. This is why it helps to have a mortgage arranged in principle before you reach this stage.

If all the checks are satisfactory, the notary will arrange a date for completion. On completion, both parties sign a transfer contract (akte van levering), and this document is registered with the authorities by the lawyer, including the land registry or Kadaster.

In the Dutch property market, kosten te koper (the buyer pays the costs). There is a mandatory transfer tax of 2% for persons buying a private residence, notary’s fees of up to 1.5% and registration of around 1%. Additionally, estate agents will take 1%-2% of the cost of the property as a fee. In addition, fees associated with mortgages will amount to around €2,000.

 

 

 




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