Many expats describe quality of life in the Netherlands as ‘easy’. These expats have probably been here for a while and have forgotten about a lot of the obstacles, red tape and jumping through hoops they had to do to get settled in the first place. In the case of buying a home this red tape is not just an inconvenience, it’s potentially a very costly risk. Though it is not strictly required, engaging the services of a broker (makelaar in Dutch) is very strongly recommended to help you make sense of the regulations and to guide you through the process of buying your home.
Requirements and Restrictions
There are a lot of expat property owners in Amsterdam. Many are from the UK and other European countries whose requirements are less strict than for non-EU citizens. If you are a non-EU citizen, you must have lived in the Netherlands for at least five years and hold a valid residence permit. On the other hand, it’s usually possible for an EU citizen to buy property before they have been living in the Netherlands for the standard five years.
Financial questions will, of course, come into play and you must be able to prove that you have been in full time employment for two years or have accrued substantial enough savings to qualify. Often, some form of guarantee from your employer that you will be engaged in continuous employment may be required also.
A large number of properties in the Netherlands – particularly in the big cities – are reserved as subsidized housing. These properties are usually for younger Dutch people who register their interest early and then wait up to 7 years for an offer. Aside from these and any other specifically subsidized housing, foreigners may purchase whatever is on offer for their Dutch counterparts.
Property in Amsterdam tends to be very expensive so you will probably need to pre-finance. Speaking to a financial advisor who can help to explain your financing options is recommended. Financial advisors differ from the brokers (makelaars) mentioned above as they will help you with financing options, not the process of buying a home. Most banks also offer mortgages and have their own, in house financial advisors (see ‘Main banks’ in the Banking section). You may also consider approaching a hypotheek (estate agency) for advice on where to seek financing. (Finsens Makelaardij http://www.finsensmakelaardij.nl/ are specialists in helping expats with the move). When approaching a financial advisor or a bank about financing you will need identification, a residence permit if applicable, a work contract, and proof of savings (note that assets back in your home country can also positively influence your mortgage). Most financial advisors charge drastically different rates but €75 per hour is a very loose guideline.
- Financieel Voorlichting Bureau De Boer – http://www.fvbdeboer.nl
- Expat Finance – http://www.expatfinance.nl
- Expatax – http://www.expatax.nl/index.html
The Purchase Process
The first thing to do is engage the services of a makelaar or housing agent. You should ask them about what is available, which solutions might work best for you and how to go about financing the purchase. Armed with this information you can then approach a lender. When you have secured a home loan you can begin searching for a place to call home.
Once you find a place that you like it will be necessary to do a few assessments of the property including foundations and general state of repair. Generally speaking the property and the land it is on will not belong to the same person. You are buying the property, not the ground it is on therefore ground rent is often a factor. At this stage it’s sensible to ask your makelaar to investigate ground rent on the property and they will be able to arrange for the appropriate assessments to be done. This will usually be at your expense.
With all of this done you are ready to make an offer through your broker (makelaar) which will, hopefully, lead to a negotiation. At this stage your offer is just that, an offer, and there is still time to back out for both parties. Note that if you have not already secured financing at this stage you need to make that very clear to all parties involved so a ‘Subject to financing’ line can be added to any offer written or verbal. As soon as you have come to an agreement with the seller and their representatives a formal offer will be made which should include details of when you will move in, when the deposit (usually 10%) will need to be paid and under what conditions, and whether you want to get any further work done.
Once you have made your way through these processes buying a home in the Netherlands is surprisingly straight forward and there are services to help you during the process (see below). Take time to make sure that you are well informed ahead of time and the process should be quite smooth.
- http://www.finsensmakelaardij.nl/en/ – Finsens Makelaardij, specialists in helping expats with buying and selling property
- http://www.funda.nl/ – Funda allows you to compare current market prices (in Dutch).
- http://www.fvbdeboer.nl/ De Boer Financial Consultants offers general finance advice including mortgage assistance, for expats.