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Housing

My Story: Let’s buy a place…

Almere Buiten Red Houses

© Andrea de Poda

Most of us, when com­ing to the Nether­lands, rent  a place some­where. It’s the best way to start up new — get to know the coun­try, the area and not too com­mit­tal for the first few months. But some­how that rented place is never quite ‘home’ and sooner or later most longer term expats are look­ing into buy­ing a place.

For us, this deci­sion came after we decided to stay in the Nether­lands for good for at least ten years. It seemed not only more sen­si­ble from a finan­cial point of view, but mak­ing the com­mit­ment was very impor­tant for our peace of mind. Where before, we would con­stantly think about mov­ing here or there, tak­ing this new oppor­tu­nity or that new job, with the deci­sion to buy a house, we became more settled.

I was amazed at how easy it is to buy a place in the Nether­lands — com­pared to our home coun­tries — we didn’t even need to make any down-payments. Also, I was sur­prised to find that often, rent is actu­ally more expen­sive than the the mort­gage pay­ments. Mainly thanks to the “afloss­ingsvrij” mort­gage. That is a curi­ous Dutch con­struct, in which you basi­cally pay for max. 30 years inter­est only and then you get money back from the taxes (Belast­ing­di­enst). How much that is, depends on your income. (If afloss­ingsvrij makes sense for you or not depends on a lot of dif­fer­ent fac­tors, don’t just pounce on it.)

With this spirit of  “wow, I can be a house owner”, my part­ner and I went to one of the banks that looked promis­ing in an overview and had our ini­tial appoint­ment. I had salary slips, con­tracts, finan­cial overviews and immi­gra­tion infor­ma­tion with me right from the start and was all happy that the lovely lady spoke Eng­lish to us. She gave us a max­i­mum mort­gage amount (which was way too high) and assured us that noth­ing could go wrong with our appli­ca­tion, because we are both Euro­pean cit­i­zens with unlim­ited work con­tracts — easy peasy.

House shop­ping was painful — but I don’t want to bore you with my scars from real estate agents today. When we found our dream home very unex­pect­edly in Almere, we put in the next mort­gage gear. We dou­ble checked with the bank if they were happy to give us the mort­gage for this very prop­erty, sent them all infor­ma­tion we had from the real estate agent and after a ver­bal okay, signed the let­ter of intent with the seller.

This let­ter of intent is a com­mon thing in the Dutch house sales cycle. Basi­cally, you declare that you intend to pur­chase the prop­erty and both buyer and seller com­mit to the process. The buyer then has usu­ally 4–6 weeks time to straighten out the finan­cials. Often — and so in our case — a penalty of 10% of the pur­chase value is attached to this con­tract in case the sale does not go through. So this let­ter of intent is a major step.

A day later.… the phone rings… and the nice lady from the bank is on the line. She was ter­ri­bly sorry, but she hadn’t noticed that I had not lived in the Nether­lands for three full years yet. So, her bank would unfor­tu­nately not be able to give us a mort­gage. — - — . Right. Need­less to say, I went bal­lis­tic. We had been with this bank in detailed con­ver­sa­tions for a two months and I just could not believe that she would have missed some­thing as basic, yet essen­tial as this. Espe­cially because we put so much empha­sis on the fact that we are expats.

After I went bal­lis­tic, I felt very sick. Very very sick.… that’s when I real­ized that we had signed this let­ter of intent and I had no idea how to get any mort­gage in that time frame. I don’t remem­ber any­more what I typed into Google, but I ended up on the Expat Mort­gages web­site. And I gave them a ring.

When Chris picked up the phone, I think he could hear the panic in my voice. He calmed me down in a mat­ter of min­utes, asked a few ques­tions and assured me that he could help us to get our house. We made an appoint­ment the very week and Chris sat down to explain to us all the ins and outs of the mort­gage options and appli­ca­tion process. Chris researched a num­ber of options for us and came back within a week with a very com­pre­hen­sive report and rec­om­men­da­tion on the model and the best options for banks.

He didn’t just toss that report over to us, but sat down with us a num­ber of times — because I am really slow with num­bers — and explained over and over again why, how and what. I did admire his patience! The excep­tional thing about Chris and the team at Expat Mort­gages was that they did not only help us to get a mort­gage, but sup­ported us in the entire sell­ing process. It wasn’t a smooth ride at all, but thanks to Chris it did not feel quite as bumpy. All in all, it took us a bit longer to get the mort­gage set­tled than agreed with the real estate agent — but Chris took up the con­ver­sa­tion with them directly and ensured that we got the okay for the delays. He checked the con­tracts for us and gave us trans­la­tions. He helped to find an inter­preter for the ses­sion at the notary and was even there in per­son to assist in case of an fur­ther complications.

I remem­ber, that Chris often proac­tively approached me and asked if he could help with sev­eral things. And I would say: ‘Chris, how much do you charge for that?” Then he would laugh and tell me, that that’s just what he does as a ser­vice to us, because we are his cus­tomers. And true enough, we did get great service.

You will say — what’s this now, are you in the busi­ness of sur­rep­ti­tious adver­tis­ing? I am not — but I have had the expe­ri­ence that with pro­fes­sional help, spe­cialised for expats, you can save your­self a lot of night­mares when look­ing to buy that dream property.

If you would like to get in touch with the Expat Mort­gages team, you can find them online under http://www.expat-mortgages.nl/

Do you know other mort­gage advi­sors that rock for expats? Drop a com­ment, why don’t you? :)

/S

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Discussion

2 Responses to “My Story: Let’s buy a place…”

  1. All of our mort­gage details were han­dled by Rene at Hypotheek Visie in Almere Stad. He was fan­tas­tic, happy to speak Eng­lish (told me it was an eas­ier deal than the pre­vi­ous week where he had to explain every­thing in French!) and didn’t hold back with the cons of my being a non-EU cit­i­zen apply­ing for a mort­gage (no NHG for me and a slightly higher inter­est rate). They also had a free buy­ing real estate agent, espe­cially for first home buyers.

    We made sure that we would be eli­gi­ble for finance before we even started look­ing at houses, and although we weren’t in any hurry, found our ‘dream home’ within a cou­ple of weeks of look­ing. I think it may have been about the fifth house we looked at!

    Oh, and one more point about Hypotheek Visie, Rene even helped us sub­mit our tax return the first year after we bought the house as so much is tax deductible, includ­ing the solic­i­tor fees. Even bet­ter, he didn’t charge us for it.

    Highly rec­om­mended.

    Posted by Nerissa Muijs | January 16, 2012, 15:35
  2. It’s true, we also chose to stay on an extended basis in Almere and bought a house, it is a great invest­ment (espe­cially with the house prices drop­ping recently!) and indeed cheaper than rent­ing. We actu­ally have bought a new house, our old house is still up for sale, take a look! :-) We also have great con­tacts with our real­tor, Hoek­stra & Van Eck.

    Posted by Wendy | January 16, 2012, 20:06

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