Buying a new house should be a fun and exciting milestone. However, getting a good deal on your perfect home is no mean feat, especially for an expat in NL! You can find information about each stage of the process on this page. Taking out an appropriate mortgage, finding the best place for the best price, and having all the necessary inspections carried out: we have outlined it all below. By understanding Dutch property protocol, you can enjoy buying a house in the Netherlands, without feeling too overwhelmed by negotiations or money-matters.
Buying a House in NL: Step-By-Step
From the beginning of the house-hunt to the handing over of the keys, buying a home is a lengthy process. We will go into several of the stages in more detail later on. However, let’s start off with a summary of the key steps you need to take:
1. Contact a Bank or Mortgage Broker
- It is helpful to consult a professional about whether you will be able to take out a mortgage
- A bank or mortgage broker will be able to tell you how large a mortgage you can afford
- They can also help prepare you for what kind of monthly expenses you can expect to pay
2. Select a Real Estate Agent
- Talk to your real estate agent about your budget and exactly what you are looking for
- If there are any specific ‘must-haves’ for your new property, do not keep them to yourself
- Make sure that both your agent and the real estate agent of the seller, are well-aware of your wishes
- If you are not clear about what you need, and your estate agent finds you a home that does not satisfy your requirements, you will not be able to hold them accountable
3. Research your Potential Community
- Once you have found a home you like, make sure that you are also happy with its municipality and local surroundings
- There could be issues with, for example, city council regulations or even soil contamination
- If there is an external issue that proves to be a deal-breaker, it is crucial that you uncover it before you commit to buying!
4. Give Your Agent an Answer
- If you still want the house after your investigation, inform your real estate agent verbally
- They will contact the seller and relay your message
5. Have a Building Inspection Carried Out
- However beautiful a house might look on the surface, it will not make up for a costly, chronic plumbing problem
- If you fail to have a building inspection carried out before you agree to buy, and discover an issue once you have moved in, you will be stuck
- It is likely that you will lose your right to hold the seller accountable
- You might be left to tackle the issue yourself, having just used up a lot of money buying the property!
6. Outline Your Terms in the Contract
- Make sure the purchase of the house is contingent upon its passing the building inspection
- This way, you will not be obliged to buy a house that is not structurally up to scratch
Check out our ‘Step-by-step buyers guide‘ for more information.
Mortgages in NL
Be sure to get expert advice
This is a phrase you will get sick of hearing when it comes to buying a house in the Netherlands! However, it applies to every phase of the process, and taking out a mortgage is no exception. A professional mortgage broker can help and council you on the following:
- Finding out whether you only need a mortgage for a limited period of time
- Informing the bank if you are benefiting from the 30%-ruling
- The additional tax consequences you may face, if the mortgage is linked to a capital insurance
- Whether you are only allowed to deduct your mortgage interest from your taxable income. This could apply to you if you are taking out a new mortgage, due to recent legislation in the Netherlands
For more comprehensive information on this topic, make sure you read: ‘Taking out a Mortgage in NL’.
Preliminary Tax Refund in NL
You can receive a tax refund on your mortgage interest deduction every month. To secure your tax refund you must:
- Fill out a special form, requesting a preliminary negative tax bill from the tax authorities
- On receiving it, the tax authorities will deposit the refund directly into your bank account
- For further advice, consult your mortgage broker
Estate Agents in NL
It’s Tempting to ‘Go It Alone’
- These days, you can go a long way on your own with the help of the internet
- Real estate agents charge a brokerage fee for their services. This is referred to as a ‘courtage’
- This is off-putting for some people, because they see it as an unnecessary extra cost
You Need an Estate Agent
However, when you decide to buy a house in the Netherlands, it is strongly advisable to use a professional estate agent. Here’s why:
- However, the fee is negotiable. It tends to come to approximately 1 to 2 percent of the purchase price of the house
- Moreover, some real estate agents also offer expat service packages
- Most importantly, buying is far more complicated than renting!
- There are some matters on which you need expert advice
- Finding reliable information about the fluctuation of prices and environmental laws online is very challenging
- Similarly, there are issues to take into account regarding leaseholds vs. free-holds
- The construction of a house must be thoroughly examined too, in order for any hidden defects to be found
- Agents have access to a computerized multiple-listing system
- This enables them to keep up-to-date on properties available in their district
- What is more, they are familiar with prices, local contracts and ‘invisible’ obligations
House Hunting in NL
As we said earlier, it is crucial that your agent is well-informed about exactly what you are looking for in a house, before the hunt begins. Once you have made your wishes clear, here is what will happen:
- Your agent will put together a list of Dutch properties that meet your requirements
- Your agent can also help to acquaint you with the terms and conditions of Dutch contracts and procedures. They may be different to those in your home country, so this can be very useful
- Your agent will also check that your specifications are in line with your price range, and the kind of housing available in the Netherlands
- You will tour and inspect the residences your agent has selected, until you find the house you want
- It is much easier to determine which kind of house suits you best, after you have visited several different properties. So, try to be patient
- The average house-hunt will take a few months, depending on availability, your needs and market circumstances
It is important to note that prices and conditions quoted in property listings are usually negotiable:
- This means that it might be worth your while viewing some properties that are slightly over-budget
- When you have found a house you like, a negotiation will take place between your agent and the agent of the owner
- These negotiations often consist of several rounds of verbal bidding and counter-bidding
When you first discover a great house that is within your price range, it can be thrilling. It is easy to start picturing where your furniture is going to go, and what you will plant in the garden. However, try not to get too attached straight away. There can be hidden costs and complications that mean the house is actually not quite right for you. Below we have listed a few basic points you should watch out for, and offered some advice on how to navigate them.
For a more detailed rundown of what to be wary of when buying a house in the Netherlands check out our article about ‘Hidden Defects in Dutch Houses‘. Buying a new home should be a joyful process! Do not let it be spoilt by unpleasant surprises.
1. Fixtures and Fittings
When negotiations begin on the house you wish to buy, keep in mind that the purchase price probably excludes the following:
- Light fixtures
Sometimes even kitchen appliances are not included.
So, we recommend that you try to reach a very clear agreement with the seller about what is and is not included in the price of the property.
You will probably have to put down a sizeable deposit on a house. Remember to factor this into your budget!
- The deposit on a house in the Netherlands is generally 10% of its purchase price
- It will be due approximately five weeks after a deal on a house has been made
- The deposit will be arranged by the mortgage advisor or the bank itself
- If it is arranged through the bank, a bank guarantee will be issued by a Dutch banking institution
- The deposit must be paid to a civil law notary
- It can be part of the financing agreement reached for the purchase of the house
3. Additional Costs
There are a lot of additional costs that can catch out first time buyers. As a general rule, the cost of purchasing a property in the Netherlands will come to approximately 6% of the price of the house. This cost is not the same as the 10% down payment. These extra costs are for the following:
- Government transfer tax of 2%
- Land registry expenses
- Real estate agent’s commission
- Cadastral investigation
- Structural survey of the house
- Bank guarantee
- The Notary’s work on the transfer deed
- Interpreter fees. We will discuss the need for an interpreter later on
- Official appraisal of the house, in order to secure a mortgage
- Civil law notary’s work on the mortgage deed. The mortgage deed is called the ‘hypotheekakte‘ in Dutch
- Cadastral registration for the mortgage deed
- Administration for the mortgage deed
- Mortgage commission, for either the bank or the broker
- National Mortgage Insurance, or ‘Nationale Hypotheek Garantie‘ in Dutch
For a house worth € 350,000, your approximate additional cost would be an € 21,000.
Remember to factor these costs into your budget!
Tax Deductible Costs
It is important to know that some of the costs listed above are tax-deductible. This means that they can be declared once, on your income tax return. Charges for the following come under this category:
- Civil law notary’s work on the mortgage deed
- Mortgage commission
- Cadastral registration
- Cadastral investigation
- Appraisal of the house
- Administration for the mortgage deed
- Bank guarantee
4. Resolutive Conditions
A ‘resolutive condition’ is a condition written into a housing contract. The contract will only be binding if the resolutive condition has been fulfilled. Here’s how it works:
- If you need to obtain a mortgage to finance your purchase, make sure it is in your purchase agreement as a resolutive condition
- If, for some reason, you are unable to get a mortgage, you will not be bound to the contract
- Another common example of a resolutive condition is being able to obtain a permit to occupy the real estate, or having the option to carry out a constructional survey
- If your purchase is subject to these conditions, you will be protected if you are unable to carry out the aforementioned tasks
Preliminary Purchase Contract in NL
If you still want the house after the initial checks and decisions have been made, congratulations! It is then time for the verbal agreement to be put in writing. This is called the ‘preliminary purchase contract’, or the ‘voorlopige koopakte’ in Dutch. This stage of the buying process goes as follows:
- As a buyer, you will need to select and employ a Civil law notary, and send them the contract
- A penalty clause is usually written into the contract, incase the seller or the buyer does not meet his or her obligations
- The preliminary purchase contract is signed by all parties
- In the Amsterdam area, both parties and their agents often visit the office of the Civil law notary together, for the signing of the preliminary purchase contract
- Upon receipt of the preliminary purchase contract, the Civil law notary will inspect the public registers of the Land Registry regarding mortgages and/or attachments with which the property may be encumbered
- The Civil law notary will also deal with the transfer of the title of the house, which you can read more about in the paragraph below
- A three-day ‘cooling-off’ period will begin, the day after the buyer receives a copy of the signed contract
- During these three days the buyer can cancel the deal without any repercussions and without having to state the reason
Transfer of Ownership in NL
The transfer of ownership will take place at the civil law notary’s office. The steps go as follows:
- A deed of transfer will be drawn up by the civil law notary
- The notary will send you a draft of this deed, together with a statement showing the payment due in order for the purchase to be complete
- This statement will include everything from the purchase price to the real estate agent’s fees
- If there is a mortgage loan, you will also receive a draft of the mortgage deed
- Your agent will receive these documents too, and check them
- If everything is in order, the deed will be signed by the notary, the seller and you: the buyer
- Usually, on the day of the transfer, you will visit the house with the agent, to check that it has been vacated and is in the agreed condition
- It is the task of the civil law notary to take care of the financial settlement of the transaction, and to ensure that the deed of transfer is entered in the public registers (Land Registry)
- The transfer will then become official and the seller will give you the keys of your new house!
Hiring an Interpreter in NL
- There is a lot of communication and discussion involved in the purchase of a house
- Therefore, it is crucial that you understand what you are committing to, and can make yourself understood
- Your civil law notary is the person with whom you most need to communicate effectively
- You are legally required to request the assistance of a sworn interpreter, if you do not have sufficient mastery of the Dutch language
- Depending on your language, this could cost you between € 150 and € 500
Deemed Rental Value and WOZ-Value in NL
If you own a house and use it as your principal place of residence, this will affect how you need to fill out your income tax return:
- You must report a certain amount, related to your home ownership, on your tax return
- This amount is a percentage of the value of your property
- It is called the ‘eigenwoningforfait‘ in Dutch, or ‘deemed rental value’ in English
- The eigenwoningforfait is based on the official value of your house
- In the Netherlands, this is also known as the ‘WOZ-value‘
- The WOZ-value is calculated every year by the municipality
Keen to move, but unsure about whether you are ready to buy a house yet?
House Hunting Websites
Real Estate Agent Portals:
Vereniging Eigen Huis: Dutch Housing Association
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