Do you actually need an estate agent? That question is often on the lips of anyone buying or selling a home in Amsterdam. With rental prices going through the roof, the received wisdom is that if you can, you should buy a home. If you are staying a few years, it certainly makes sense. Homeownership is a big step up for most people and often the largest financial operation they will make in their lifetime. You put down roots. Maybe you are buying as a couple and you plan to start a family. Whatever the reason, it is generally a good idea and relieves you from constantly paying rent which is money you will never see again. Interest rates remain at record lows and it has never been so cheap to finance a property purchase.
Getting Great Advice
There are hundreds of estate agents (Makelaars) in the Amsterdam area. Sometimes there are several on one busy street. They all have an array of properties for sale. Maybe you would use the estate agent that happens to be near the area you would like to move to. Maybe you found a property you like on Funda and want to look more into it. Of course, the estate agent wants to sell the property and move their stock of housing. All estate agents love to be completing deals. That is how they make money.
Speaking of money, you should definitely put your finances in order for the mortgage first, so that you know your budget and the price range for a home. (See out mortgage advisers section if you need help with that.) So the selling Makelaar will set up property viewings for you. If you see something you like, you might want to start the buying process.
The makelaar is acting for the seller, so who is acting for you? You might like to move forward as it is and a notary will be involved anyway, so it should all be above board. Well, sometimes stuff happens. Are there more things you should be aware of? Maybe other inhabitants have the right to enter your house to access a communal roof terrace. No one told you? It’s in the contract you signed? The fact of the matter is that there are sometimes surprises. And are you paying the ‘right’ price? With offers regularly over the asking price at the moment, are you being correctly advised when deciding the offer? Did you go high enough not to lose the property? Or, did you pay too much?
Over the years, we have bought and sold different homes in Amsterdam. We always consult Michiel at DSTRCT Makelaars on Elandsgracht. This is a small and charming boutique estate agent that is very design orientated. They love to work with beautiful properties in Amsterdam and you can see those on their website, but they can also advise on your behalf. That advice has helped up avoid certain sticky situations. When you use local experts you are getting clarity and relief from doubt. Yes, you pay for that, but no surprises and a smooth operation are essential things when buying or selling a home.
So we thought we’d ask Michiel a few questions about his activity and the housing market and we hope you find these insights very interesting.
1. So Michiel, you know and understand the property market and have helped many expats buy and sell in Amsterdam. Is there a commonality in their requirement that you see? I mean, which part of the process is most difficult for expats ?
Here at DSTRCT we help all kinds of people. It is true that over the last 7 or so years, expats from all over the world use our services more and more. So we are well aware of their needs and requirements and the levels of guidance they need above and beyond our Dutch clients. If you remove the language barrier, pretty much everyone has the same needs and requirements and that can be refined all the way back to one thing: trust.
There is a good reason estate agents exist. People want to be handheld through the process of buying and selling a home. They want to feel they are making the right choices and if there are any pitfalls, everyone wants to avoid them. So our experience and guidance are important to them. Yes, we have helped hundreds of people to buy the right home for them, but we have also helped lots of other clients not to buy the wrong home for them.
2. We once nearly bought a property that had a nightmare VVE. You foresaw issues and added protection clauses for us. What other examples of pitfalls have you seen in the past and what should expats be looking to avoid?
Yes, I remember that. I could see issues straight from the start. It was a great apartment in a monument building, but I could see that there was no way the VVE would let you change anything and the place really needed work. You really wanted the place and it ended up being my job to convince you that another place would be a better idea. And it was! Another big pitfall that only someone with direct local experience can accurately deal with is the price. Yes, it is very important not to pay too much. That’s obvious.
The more refined art is bidding the right amount. We are still in a seller’s market and products are rarely going for the listed price and that is still demand-driven. We are pitching offers for buyers that allow them to stay in and win the race, but not to go too high. Likewise, for our sellers, they want to sell and usually as fast as possible. We make sure they get the deal they want too, but at the correct market value.
3. We all know that property prices have risen a lot in all major Dutch cities over the past few years. How do you see the market going in 2021 and beyond? Nothing goes up forever right?
That’s true, but it is also true of most large cities in Europe and elsewhere. Amsterdam was coming from a point in 2012 where its properties were massively undervalued compared to Paris and London, so that attracted buyers and investors. Add to that the many companies and their staff moving to Amsterdam, then you have a demand-driven market. That happened in Amsterdam and then caused a ripple effect out to surrounding towns near Amsterdam.
I think we will see a calming down of the market in 2021 and beyond, but it will remain vibrant as the population grows. The Gemeente is patently aware of the situation and hopefully, as the more new build comes on the market, that will stop more overheating of the market. At DSTRCT, we handle mainly, but not only, beautiful homes that tend to be at the higher end of the market. We have seen the sales cycles taking longer as of late.
4. I see a lot more for sale signs around the city at the moment. Would that be a sign that the market has peaked?
Different people read differently these signs. It could indeed be property owners deciding to realise the gains they have made in the last few years. I see it as part of the hyper-connected modern world we live in. Companies move staff around the globe all the time. If people move back to the States, they will probably not want to have to manage a rental property here, so it goes back on the market. That is actually a very healthy thing for the market.
5. What are the top three things an expat should be thinking about in terms of buying or selling well in the current market?
I think there are general things to consider whatever the state of the market. If you are selling, make sure your ‘asset’ looks as good as possible and everything is maintained and works well. Some of the people visiting your property for sale will not want to do major or even minor works, so the less they have to do the better. For buyers, try to work out which area you want to live in. This means in terms of price, schools, work, transport etc.
It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised, people let their hearts drive decisions and later realise that they lose lots of time commuting. Thirdly, for both buyers and sellers, don’t set your minds on a fixed price and then stick to it rigidly. The market decides and then the situation influences, number of offers, etc. We act in your interests to make things happen to the best possible outcome. First and foremost, for you.
Michiel, thank you for your time and the replies you gave.
DSTRCT – Michiel Van Der Zijden,
Keizersgracht 91, 1015CG Amsterdam
Phone : 020 330 9454
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