Thursday 09 April 2020

Coronavirus and the housing market: questions and answers

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Will coronavirus lead to a surge in mortgage interest rates and is now the right time to buy a home? Henk Jansen, founder of Expat Mortgages, answers questions about the likely impact of COVID-19 on the housing market.

Is it business as usual?
In the sense that we are still open and talking to people yes. Everything we do, we do online. We have stopped doing our live meetings. Instead we are holding webinars, for example.Yesterday I did one for 40 people.

Do you expect mortgage interest rates to rise?
‘I’m not as negative as some people and the bottom line we all need a place to live. Interest rates are very low and I have no indication that rates will really go up. They may go up a little as a reaction but there is enough liquidity and I think rates will stay low.

And what about demand?
The demand for houses is still incredibly high. There may be a temporary impact on demand – not really necessarily a negative one, more a question of people being more hesitant. But I think in the long run the market will stay stable.’

What are your clients asking you?
We have had people asking if they can get out of a deal they have already signed, but others have told us they want to start the process of buying a place now. It’s a mixed picture – as it is across society in general.

If people are worried or have questions, they should get in touch with the broker who helped them or with their mortgage provider.

Your clients are mainly international workers. Are they particularly concerned?
Buying a house is a long term decision and one which should be independent of the short term economic situation. Coronavirus will of course have an impact in the short term. But if you want to buy a house, you should always have a horizon of four to five years.

This is obviously a situation none of us have ever seen or foreseen. But buying a house is a long term decision. And if buying a house was a good decision yesterday, it will be a good decision today.

What if you are not secure about your income?
If coronavirus is going to have an impact on your job, and if your stay in the Netherlands is more precarious because of that, I can imagine you want to reconsider. That makes sense.

But if you work for a solid company which will get government support in all sorts of different ways – or if you are a freelancer who will benefit from government support as well – you will still need a place to live.

So then you can compare renting with buying, and I think that if you are making a longer term commitment to the Netherlands, it is always worth buying if you can.

It is worth mentioning that the big Dutch banks have already said that they will talk to people who run into trouble with their mortgage because their income drops off due to corona.

What are the estate agents you work with saying?
I’ve rung around 12 estate agents and some of them have closed their doors until April 6. But I am afraid that things will last beyond that. Some are saying it is business as usual. They are visiting houses with only one or two people at a time, and they may have fewer people being interested in viewing.

Are you optimistic?
When I first realised what coronavirus would mean, it depressed me, I thought about my mum and about our employees. But now I am more positive about all the initiatives which are springing up. I’m not worried about the economy in the long run, but I am worried about the vulnerable people around us. But I think if we all work together on this, we can really make a difference.

If you have questions about buying a home at the present time, you can contact the Expat Mortgage team via their website.

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