1 Be realistic
You might love the idea of living in Amsterdam but unless you have a high-paying job, the city centre is probably going to be out of reach – even though it is cheaper than places like London and Berlin. Decide which is more important to you – location or price – and tailor your property search accordingly. Will it be a small apartment in a nice area or a bigger place in a less desirable part of the city?
2 Think about the future
You need to think of buying a home as an investment that will last for years to come so take your future needs into account as well. Do you work in Amsterdam and are you considering having a family? Then you might be better checking out the pretty town of Weesp or more centrally-located Hoofddorp for family-friendly options instead.
3 Realise there are some things you can change and others you can’t
I always try to manage my clients’ expectations with a meeting before we start visiting properties so I can find out what they are looking for and can try and temper their expectations if I think they are not being realistic. The stairs are steep in city homes and flats are small by American standards. There is not much you can do about either of those. But as for the small ovens – you can always redo a kitchen.
4 Be aware about bathrooms
My English clients always want a bath. But space is at a premium, particularly in city apartments, so don’t expect to find natural light and a bath in your bathroom, let alone a second shower room for guests.
5 Be patient
The Dutch housing market may be in overdrive with soaring prices, but that doesn’t mean you should rush into things. You want your new home to be a good investment as well. I know, for example, that old linoleum in the kitchen often means there is asbestos on the floor which will have to be removed. I tell clients that at the moment it will probably take about six months on average to find that dream home, complete the paperwork and get ready to move in.
6 Understand the rules
The Dutch housing market has its own peculiarities. The leasehold system, for example, is completely different to the way it operates in China, Malaysia or the UK. So it really is crucial to talk to an estate agent who understands the intricacies of buying a home before you get started – even if you speak great Dutch.
7 Remember the selling agent is not your friend
The Netherlands works with a dual estate agent system – one representing the buyer and one the seller. Of course, you don’t need to have a buying agent but without one, you are opening yourself up to all sorts of problems – particularly if you are a novice. The estate agent selling the property and who shows you around that two-bed flat in Amsterdam is trying to get the best deal possible for his or her client. So feel free to ask lots of questions, but don’t give anything away.
8 Get the VvE checked out financially
By Dutch law all properties with multiple owners have to have a VvE, a vereniging van eigenaren, and it is essential to check out the finances and plans thoroughly. The VvE organises and carries out maintenance on the communal parts of the property as well as roof and foundations. If you don’t do your homework, you could find out that the VvE running your lovely but expensive canal home has plans to redo the foundations, adding €1,000 a month to your regular VvE payment.
9 Check out the VvE rules
A VvE will have its own statutes saying what is and is not allowed in the property. Many, for example, include a ban on holiday letting so you won’t be able to rent out your new flat via Airbnb. And check out what the rules have to say about pets as well. I’ve come across a ban on snakes in some statutes, but I’ve also seen VvEs which ban dogs and cats.
10 Make a deal on fixtures and fittings
I always warn clients that we should try to make a deal on basic fixtures and fittings as well, otherwise they may find every light bulb in the house has been taken as well as the toilet seat when they move in. And including the curtains in a deal is crucial. They might not be to your taste, but they will fit the windows while you are deciding how to decorate your new home.
11 Selling up and moving on
The great thing about selling a property in the Netherlands is that you don’t have to pay capital gains tax on the profit. So when you decide it is time to move on, or up the property ladder, listen to your estate agent’s advice. Get rid of the orange wall, tidy up and get rid of the family photographs. You see some very strange things in estate agents’ photographs – piles of washing in the corner, dead plants. In fact, the oddest thing I’ve ever seen was a gun on a bed. It turned out to be a fake but, needless to say, that was one property we crossed off the list.