Finding apartments in Amsterdam can sometimes feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle: rents are expensive, agents want to charge extra fees, landlords won’t let you register… the list goes on and on. Renting doesn’t come cheap in a capital city and in a place like Amsterdam – where demand outweighs supply – you can be left spending more than half your salary on a box room with rising damp. With interest rates currently very favourable for mortgage payments, many are looking to get out of the renting cycle by buying their own place (me being one of them). If you’re thinking about buying your own place in Amsterdam here’s a little guide, based solely on my own experiences of the process. I’m by no means an expert in finance, mortgages or negotiation but I hope I can provide a realistic overview of what to expect and what you need to do to get on the property ladder!
Step One — Prove your worth
The first thing you’ll need to do is to prove that you can actually afford to buy a house. For this you are required to hold a full time contract or an employer statement from your company stating that if you behave yourself they plan to keep you on when your current contract expires. If you are self employed you’ll need to provide income/ tax documentation from the past three years as well as proof that your business is registered.
…one of the major outcomes of your first meeting is to get that all important budget so you can begin the hunt!
Step Two — Meet with a mortgage advisor
The next step is to go and see a mortgage advisor, for this you can either go and see the advisor at your bank (some of which have dedicated expat mortgage advisors) or to go to a “hypotheker” who will give you much more impartial advice (this was our choice). The bank fees for the mortgage are often cheaper but you’re only going to get a mortgage with that bank which might not always be the best rate for you. I must admit I was a bit bamboozled by the different types of mortgages available, information about tax incentives and other financial jargon, but our advisor did a great job of explaining things in layman’s terms (but please don’t ask me to try and explain them again). Of course, one of the major outcomes of your first meeting is to get that all important budget so you can begin the hunt!
Step 3 — Choose your “makelaar”
This person is your estate agent, negotiator and local housing expert. They know property, they know the market and they know some of the other makelaars in town (who you might want to know when you decide to buy a property they are selling). There are plenty of apartments in Amsterdam but demand is high and the market is crazy, so whilst your makelaar will go to viewings and advise you, they won’t be helping you search or suggesting particular properties, essentially they don’t need to put any effort in as houses sell themselves in this neck of the woods. It varies depending on who you choose but our system was to go and take a look first, then if we liked it our makelaar would then go and give us feedback.
I always thought this would be the most fun part, oh how mistaken I was.
Step 4 — Start searching
I always thought this would be the most fun part, oh how mistaken I was. Hours trawling funda.nl, checking their newsletter every morning, fitting in viewings around work and then arriving to find another 100 people already looking around, it can all become rather frustrating and exhausting. Most places we looked at would have open house viewings one week and closed bids the next, it can all become very disheartening and when it comes to apartments in Amsterdam the market moves very fast. We treated it like a full time job: every day we were not only checking funda but researching other estate agents who weren’t listed on there (which is a good “cheat” as most house hunters just use funda), calling to make appointments and then adding them to our “house viewings spreadsheet” which was nerdy and boring but essential for remembering what the hell was going on.
Step 5 — Making an offer
So you’ve found your dream home, or somewhere that ticks all your boxes and you’ve decided to make an offer. Your makelaar can advise you on what they think its worth and what sort of offer you might need to make to be in with a chance, but in the end the decision is down to you. The important part here is to not get carried away and think about what you can afford. If a property is valued at a certain amount and you bid 10k over that amount, its important to know the bank will only give you a mortgage for what the house is worth and you’ll have to pay the difference from your own savings (if you even have any).
This is NOT the end but if everything goes smoothly after this point the house is pretty much yours.
Step 6 — Initial signing at the notary
They accepted the offer, woohooooooo! If you’re lucky to get an offer accepted it’s off to the notary to do the initial signing of the papers. This is NOT the end but if everything goes smoothly after this point the place is pretty much yours. This is when you’ll find out what your handover date will be but keep in mind this may be able to be moved to an earlier or later date.
Step 7 — Taxation by an independent valuer
Now it’s time for the moment of truth: your new house/ apartment/ studio needs to be valued so that the bank will agree to give you a mortgage for that amount (hopefully). As previously mentioned if you have overbid you can hope that they will value the property higher than the asking price but it’s a risky strategy if you don’t have the extra capital to bridge the gap.
Step 8 — Mortgage application
So your new home has been valued and now it is back to the hypotheker to get the all important mortgage application completed. This was the point where we were advised which bank to use and got a real idea of timelines. The application process can take anywhere up to 6 weeks, but for us this was slightly shorter. One important piece of advice our mortgage advisor gave us was not to give up our rental contract too hastily, there can be delays in the process and if your move date gets pushed back you could find yourself stuck with nowhere to live…apparently this happens a lot!
Step 9 (the final step) — Back to the notary
Once your mortgage has been approved by the bank the final stage is to go back to the notary to sign the official papers and get the keys! As I do not speak fluent Dutch, by law we were required to have an official translator to make sure I understood everything in the contract (having a partner who speaks Dutch and can translate is sadly not an option). The translator doesn’t translate the documents themselves but is there at the meeting to verbally translate the integral parts of the contract! Once you’ve signed, congratulations: you just bought an apartment in Amsterdam!
If you have any questions or other useful tips, feel free to drop me a commend below or get in touch via my contact page!