While there are signs that the rise in house prices in the Netherlands may be slowing down, the market is still extremely tight. So what can you do to boost your chances of buying a home of your own?
Rotterdam-based estate agent Wil Jansen of @Work Real Estate Agency has been watching the housing market closely, as prices pick up in the port city. House prices in the most popular areas have more than doubled in the past two years, and are still rising, he says.
Nevertheless, there are still bargains to be had, if you know where to look and are prepared to step outside the areas currently considered hot.
‘If you look in Rotterdam Prinsenland, for example, you get much more house for your money,’ he says. ‘But you can still cycle to the city centre for work. Or take Noordereiland, an island in the middle of Maas river, which has a real village-like atmosphere. Kop van Zuid is another place where there is a lot of investment and development going on.’
Schiedam too is going up in price and is a good place to invest, he says. ‘It is just next door to Rotterdam which is easy to reach by public transport or bike.’
‘These are all popular places to live but still under the radar to some extent. On Noordereiland, for example, there are two or three bedroom flats with views over the water to be had for around €300,000.’
So what can you do to maximize your chances while making sure you are not going to make a mistake and are not rushing in without thinking things through properly?
For a start, says Wil, you should remember that not every house which is for sale can be found on Funda. And some estate agents specialize in selling property before it hits the internet – so it is crucial to make sure your buying agent has a good network and knows what is what.
A buying agent will also make sure you don’t pay over the odds for a property because you don’t want to miss out.
‘Selling agents don’t like it when people bid for a property themselves, rather than through a buying agent, because it could be they don’t yet have their finances in order,’ Wil says.
Wil works a lot with mortgage advisor Richardo Cruz Fortes of Expat Mortgages so his clients know exactly how much they can borrow. ‘Trust is very important, and that is what you have with a buying agent on your side,’ he says.
‘And sometimes a selling agent will price the property too high or too low – something a buying agent will alert you to. Remember, even though the trend at the moment is to overbid the asking price, you don’t have to always do that!’
Remember too, that the seller does not have to sell the house to the highest bidder. ‘That is, of course, usually the case,’ says Wil. ‘But if you have a lot of your own money to invest in the property, or if you don’t place any, or just a few, financial conditions on the sale, it could make a difference… if there is little to choose between the offers.’
‘And it could be that the seller decides they want you to have the property for some reason. They might want a family to have the property or think that you would look after their old home well. That “I’d like you to have it” factor should not be underestimated.’
Of course, you may have the money lined up and have found the home of your dreams, but how do you know that the property is sound and are not about to make a mistake? ‘The selling agent is required to brief potential buyers if the property has a known defect,’ says Wil, who has around 20 years experience in the field and knows the signs to look for.
Asbestos is one hazard you may have to deal with (check, for example, under the laminate floor for old asbestos-based flooring), and a second is the state of the property’s foundations.
In older properties which are built on wooden piles it is crucial that the top of piles are under water to stop them rotting away. Putting in new foundations costs some €1,500 a square metre. If you are buying into a property with several owners, the cost of the work will be split between all the home owners.
‘You can bring in a surveyor to check the condition of the property, but it is wise to ask for that after you have agreed a price,’ Wil says. ‘If there do turn out to be problems, you still have time to pull out of the sale. But the most sensible thing is to use an estate agent who knows what to look for in the first place.’
Wil Jansen works in Rotterdam, The Hague, Barendrecht, Capelle aan den IJssel, Delft, Gouda, Ridderkerk, Schiedam, Vlaardingen and Zwijndrecht. Check out the website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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