Buying a house in Amsterdam can be a daunting experience and definitely a rollercoaster of emotions. My boyfriend and I bought our next home in Amsterdam just a few months ago. And, I thought to summarise the main tips which definitely would’ve helped us in the beginning.
Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor nor am I a (selling/buying) agent. My tips below are based from our own personal experience and it might differ depending on your own personal situation 🙂
1. Amsterdam is competitive, but don’t settle for a house you don’t fully love – be patient
I feel like people don’t really talk about this a lot. But, finding a house which meets all your requirements can take a super long time and that’s okay. It’s really frustrating and you might want to lower your standards, but don’t do this! I talked to a few people and I found out that it’s common to spend 6 months to 1 ½ years looking in the market. You just can’t rush the process of finding something that clicks with you. I started looking for a house in September and my boyfriend and I only found the house for us sometime in mid-May. It does take long and that’s normal.
Buying a house in Amsterdam feels different cause it feels like you need to rush. But, seriously, don’t. Lots of good houses come on sale if not in the next weeks, in the next months. It’s important to stick to the list of wishes that you have. Buying a house is not only costly, but it’s also a long-term commitment and somewhat permanent. Your house is fixed to its location and you can’t move it. Aside from that, renovations are very costly and it’s money you usually can’t borrow 100% or at all. With that being said, don’t settle for a house that doesn’t fully click with you.
Tip: Narrow down your searches and make a clear list of requirements with the things you absolutely can’t compromise on.
This really helped minimize our frustrations with the house searching. I mean, you don’t have to be super strict with following your list. But, it’s good to know what are the main things which you can’t compromise on. For instance, we knew that we really didn’t want a house from the 1900s cause of the maintenance costs and possible asbestos risks. Strictly removing older houses from our searches minimized the results significantly.
2. Don’t make a bid unless you’ve talked to a mortgage/financial advisor
We heard from friends who were selling their houses and from our own selling agent (who sold my boyfriend’s house in Rotterdam) that a lot of deals fell through because the bidders didn’t actually check with a mortgage advisor whether they can actually afford that bid. You might also notice this from the number of houses being re-posted on Funda. It does happen. The amount which the online checks give is usually quite accurate, but your personal situation might have an impact on your maximum mortgage amount. For instance:
- The amount of your student loans, if any (we heard from several advisors that it’s now required whilst in the past it was optional to disclose).
- Lease-car situation or other loans for your cars/appliances, this includes phone subscription (essentially any big recurring expenses which is seen by the bank as debt).
- Contractual relationship with your current employer (whether or not you have permanent contract at the place of your work).
- Whether or not your salary is paid out with a ‘personal budget’ arrangement.
- Specific to foreigners:
- Whether or not you have an EU nationality;
- The length of your stay in the Netherlands (I think you’d need to be here for at least 3 years, but it depends on the bank which you’re applying the loan from – your mortgage advisor will know).
Personally, I think it’s better to just have that first initial meeting with the mortgage advisor. It’s free, without any obligation, and it doesn’t take that long. This way you can be absolutely sure of the maximum bid which you can give to the seller.
Good to note:
- Erfpacht (ground-lease) might have an impact on your maximum mortgage amount. There’s a really good article on this which you can read here.
- If for whatever reason you haven’t had the time or chance to talk to an advisor but you don’t want to risk losing the house: you should at least insist on including conditions in your bid. I.e. you will only buy this house if your financing goes through. In Dutch: verkoop onder voorbehoud.
3. Know your competitors and the market: you don’t always have to overbid in Amsterdam
Buying a house in Amsterdam feels difficult because you may think that you have tons of competitors and you have to overbid. But, that’s not necessarily true. We did not overbid and we also saw from Kadaster that we were not the only ones. This is why it’s important to do a lot of research and gauge your seller. Kadaster is honestly a life-changing. You can see the prices actually paid for all the other houses sold within that area (as determined by the zip code) for a super cheap price of 2,95€. This came in especially handy for the negotiation.
From what I observed, houses below 300k-450k tend to sell a lot faster. But, houses above 450-500k tend to sell a lot longer. I presume that there’s also a lot less competitor, because at least that’s what happened in our case. If you recall from my earlier point, I also noticed that some houses were reposted on Funda after being on the market for quite a while. There was a house in the Amstel area which was listed at 650k for quite some time and it was reposted again at 599k. I don’t know if this was noticeable to a lot of people, but I am an avid checker of Funda so I noticed right away. I get a sense that not a lot of people are buying a house in Amsterdam at that price range and that could work to your advantage (less competitors). This is tied back to the income level of the target demographics. For instance: houses below 450k in Amsterdam are often tailored to young starters without kids – the income level of this group might also be within that range and the population of the group is larger.
Other helpful resources which you can read before buying a house in Amsterdam:
- Again, check Kadaster. The details of information which they have is crazy and totally helps with the negotiation bits.
- Also, the NVM is the largest association for real estate agents and appraisers. They have a lot of statistics on the Dutch housing market and it definitely helps a lot to keep you informed (see here).
- Banks also monitor the housing market and they post really insightful articles like this one from Rabobank or this one from ABN Amro (+ this one addressing corona).
- Student theses! They’re published online and they’re usually quite thorough. I also wrote my Master thesis on the real estate market in Amsterdam and I applied the hedonic pricing model to observe the attributes of a home. If you really want to be super academic on this, you can also check those out.
4. Knowing your seller’s situation can be an advantage to you
Related to the above, it’s also good to gauge the situation of the seller from the selling agent. Are they in a rush to move or are they flexible with the move in date? If they’re in a rush, it’s likely that they’ll seriously consider whichever bid comes first with shorter negotiations on the price. But, they might also be a bit pickier with the verkoop onder voorbehoud conditions cause they want certainty. Conversely, if they’re not in a rush, they might want want to wait for the highest bid to come along, but they won’t be as picky with the buying conditions.
FYI – buying the house and only moving in a lot later (like I think 4 months or longer) might be financially less attractive to you. We were considering this cause the seller wanted to move out a lot later, but our financial advisor said that it increases the risk for the bank and so you’d already have to pay at least the interests to the bank in that period.
5. There’s a lot of extra costs and documents when buying a house
I can’t stress this enough, but save up as much as possible before you make a bid on a house. There’s so much extra costs before the purchase and after you get your financing in order. In total it’s about 5-10% of the price of your house. But, the specifics of it is better listed here. Keep in mind that there’s a new update on the transfer tax which may affect your own personal situation (check it out here). Not only that, but if you’re thinking to renovate just know that it costs a lot and you usually can’t borrow the amount 100% or at all. We spent a minimum of 20% of the total price of our house for the renovations alone and we couldn’t borrow a huge majority of that amount.
FYI the bouwdepot amount (renovation/home improvement loans) depends a lot on the taxateur (appraiser?) and the bank. They need to agree with you that the nominal value of the renovations which you have planned will also raise the value of the house by that amount or more. The specifics of it can be better advised by your mortgage advisor.
As for the documents, there’s almost 50 different kinds of documents that the bank might request from you. It’s not super difficult to get, but it’s a bit time consuming and meticulous. If I’m not mistaken the number of documents also depends on your personal situation e.g. your occupation, whether or not you own another house. I heard that freelancers and people with their own company/self-employed needed to submit a lot more. Depending on your mortgage provider, you might also be asked to give more insights on the impact of corona (long/short-term) on your business/company/employment.
6. Don’t go for the first mortgage advisor/notary/agent, etc.
Buying a house in Amsterdam is already the biggest pill/homework you can have. But unfortunately, I need to add this point to the list of things to consider so you can save money. I heard from people looking for a house that they often just go to the really big mortgage advisor/big notaries as those are the first options that show up on Google. But, just know that there’s more of these advisors and notaries with lower costs!
For the hypotheek:
We did a comparison on Independer and went with the ones with the best reviews and also the best fees per items of things that they will do. This saved us over half of the costs than going to a really big mortgage advisor. It took a lot of comparing, but it wasn’t as bad as the comparison for the notaries.
For the notaries:
We went through a long list of notaries on Google Maps and we contacted the ones with super good reviews. We specifically did the following:
- Request a specific itemised and detailed offer.
- Ask them to confirm via email whether there will be any additional costs after paying the amount listed.
If they’re super transparent and competitive with their pricing, then it’s all good to go for us. But, it was a lot of comparing and reading through the list of things they include and exclude. Every offer is different which made it all the more confusing.
Specific to non-Dutch speaking people: as far as I know, they don’t do formal translations of the document. They’ll instead give you an informal translation upon request and for a fee, only for the pre-agreement (or sales agreement which states that you’re buying the house). And, they’re required by the law to invite a sworn translator to the signing of the purchase deed (or the mortgage deed). This costs about 250 euros (if I recall correctly) and it feels a lot like a guided tour experience.
To be honest, I speak a fair amount of Dutch and I wish that I went along with the notary who asked me if I was sure if I wanted a translator. He didn’t think I really needed one and during the signing, I didn’t feel like it was really necessary to have the translator. The signing of the hypotheekakte was really short and the document was quite straight-forward (at least in our case). Not only that, but our notary sent through the concept beforehand. I felt like I could’ve also gone through them at home if I really wanted to study it. Plus, during the meeting itself, the notary usually translates the difficult words on the spot.
Other frequently asked questions:
- Does corona have any impact on the mortgage?
We had specific questions related to corona, but nothing too crazy. They asked about the sustainability/vulnerability of our jobs and how corona has impacted the company we worked for.
- What do you pay monthly when owning a house?
Similar to renting a place, we also pay the gas, water and electric (GWE) and internet+TV bill. But, instead of monthly rental and service costs, we pay our mortgage and the house-owners committee (VVE) costs. We also pay the taxes to the government and the maintenance costs inside our home.
I hope this helps you in your journey of buying a house in Amsterdam. Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions by posting a comment down below. Or, you can also contact me privately here. We’re also in the middle of our 2-months long full house renovation and I’m thinking of writing a separate post on that. I have tons to talk about when it comes to finding the right contractor, costs, vloerverwarming, lowering the ceilings, paint color, herringbone floors, smart homes, all that jazz. If you’re interested, please let me know and I’d be happy to make that series!