Want to find your dream house? Why not build it yourself, in the green stretches of Almere, a new town and a space where more than 2,000 people have done just that.
If embarking on a quirky construction is a little ambitious for you, Almere still has plenty to offer, according to local experts. It may not have an ancient historic centre, but pretty much everything else you might want is there or nearby (including the dream houses other people have built).
Forty years young, and quickly growing, Almere has matured into an attractive place for house buyers, says Mira Makkinje, a mortgage consultant for Expat Mortgages. ‘At first, nobody knew about Almere but nowadays property prices here are much better than Amsterdam, public transport to Amsterdam and Schiphol is very good, there’s an international school in Almere Poort, and a lot of people are thinking about moving here.’
Amsterdam prices – an average of €5,129 per square metre at the end of 2018, according to estate agents association NVM – are increasingly out of reach for most people. But in the reclaimed lands of Almere, a stone’s throw from beaches, harbours, and nature reserves, €275,000 can still buy you a modern, family home with a garden.
‘It’s very easily reachable from all parts of the Netherlands, it’s very central, and it has everything you can dream of – shops, restaurants, beaches, forests, lakes,’ says Makkinje. ‘You can do anything in Almere. The only thing that’s missing is an old city centre – and a lot of expats don’t have that at home either, so they don’t miss it at all.’
Makkinje says that interest in the area has been steadily growing, and when she suggests Almere to house hunters and they go to explore, they are pleasantly surprised by the well-planned districts, their excellent, segregated bike lanes and efficient public transport.
‘I think people under-estimate it – it’s still a bit of a secret,’ she says. ‘But now I’ve been talking to a lot of Indian expats, especially young families or couples who are trying to start a family, and they really like Almere.’
Rents have been rising in the area, with the platform Pararius reporting a rise of 20% at the end of last year – the largest increase in the Netherlands. Marcel Schumacher, an estate agent who has lived in Almere himself for 30 years, says that house sales are booming too, especially for expats.
‘It is growing really hard,’ he says. ‘In the past years, more and more expats have come to Almere, especially from India and other countries, there are a lot of nationalities here, and perhaps you can meet some people from your own country too. The prices, especially compared to Amsterdam, are much better, as are the waiting lists for schools.’
When he first moved to the area, he says, some people thought a similar move would be a ‘crazy idea’, but that has changed entirely now – especially as Amsterdam struggles with over-crowding, rocketing prices, and a lack of affordable homes.
There’s a bit of fun each year at the Free Festival on the beach, says local estate agent Daniëlle de Jong – although it’s a bit less free (financially) than it used to be when she was younger! Meanwhile, if you like flowers, the massive Floriade 2022 is coming up, offering employment opportunities as well as a spotlight on the area.
Even the local habit of ending sentences with ‘enzo’ – ‘and so on’ – is rather endearing, she says, because it suggests it’s a young town with a lot more to come.
‘For us it’s a very good market,’ says De Jong. ‘Fifteen years ago, everyone said, “You don’t want to live in Almere – you don’t even want to die in a place like that.” But now, we are cheaper and have better houses than in Amsterdam. Zaandam is more expensive, but the foundations are terrible. That’s why everybody’s coming this way.’
Although Makkinje always advises that her clients do a house survey, she says there’s another great advantage of Almere because everything is relatively well constructed and newly-built.
‘Usually the properties are alright, and there are no problems with leakages and so on,’ she says. ‘They don’t have the leakage problems of Amsterdam – which will cost you extra money – and there’s no monument protection service looking over your shoulder either!’
If you are thinking about buying a house in the Almere region, feel free to get in touch with Mira Makkinje via email@example.com
You can also meet the Expat Mortgages team at the IamExpat fair in Amsterdam on April 6.
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