If you are staying in Netherlands for an extended period (5 years plus) you may want to consider buying your own property, although the Dutch housing market has cooled.
Monthly payments can be lower than renting, especially if you take into account mortgage tax relief and there are generally no limitations to foreigners owning property.
In this article we look at the 3 things that expats need to consider for purchasing property in the Amsterdam area. These are (1) the location of the property, (2) the price/budget and (3) the process of buying.
1. Location - A vital question to ask is which district or neighbourhood in Amsterdam do you want to live in. Would you be happy living in the city centre; in one of the outer suburbs; in a multicultural community or in a town outside of Amsterdam? Let's look at some options:
City Centre - the heart of the action and busy with tourists/visitors, you can find many quiet back streets. Premium properties such as 17th century canal houses are not cheap and many are used as commercial offices rather than residential buildings. The Jordaan district (just west of the centre) is a popular choice for appartments with picturesque canals, independent shops and a communal atmosphere.
Inner Neighbourhoods - The areas of Oud-West and Oud Zuid (including the chic Museum Quarter), the multicultural, working class De Pijp and the classy Rivierenbuurt in the south are all prime areas to live in. The new developments on the IJ waterfront from the Westerpark area to the eastern islands should also be seriously considered.
Amsterdam Oost (east) and the adjacent Indischebuurt have some renovation and developments going on - though they area poorer areas with lots of social housing.
Outer Suburbs - Cheaper places for appartments further out include Osdorp and Slotervaart which are accessible to the centre by public transport. For expats we would probably suggest avoiding Amsterdam Zuidoost (south-east) which has some social problems and Amsterdam Noord (north of the IJ) which feels detached from the city and more Dutch-centric than international.
Other Towns/Cities - For larger families looking for a house then consider Amstelveen. This is quite a popular location for expats given its proximity to Amsterdam Zuidas business district and Schiphol airport. Note, some areas of Amstelveen are under the flight path of aircraft during the day, but the airport is closed at night.
Amstelveen has a wide range of property available from appartments to detached houses. Public transport connections (tram, metro, bus) are convenient and there are also plenty of free parking spaces for residents - unlike Amsterdam centre where you need to pay the council for an expensive parking permit.
Other options for expats are Haarlem, Zaandam or Hilversum. Haarlem is only a 15 minute train ride from Amsterdam central. With a wide range of affordable property, a lively and historic centre and a short hop to Zandvoort beach, it is a serious alternative.
2. Prices - Since the financial crisis hit, property prices in the Netherlands have decreased and the housing market is somewhat stagnant. A proportion of homeowners are trapped in negative equity, meaning their mortgage is greater than the value of their house. Expectations are that prices will decrease further. The future for mortgage tax relief for home buyers is also being questioned.
So what can a buyer expect? At the bottom end of the market a studio of around 30m2 in Amsterdam will be priced from around €130,000.
A 2 room appartment (say 60m2) in a decent location in Amsterdam can go for €200,000-€250,000, whilst 3 room appartments (up to 120m2) can go for €300,000-€450,000.
If you are looking for a fine canal house in the centre it is going to set you back seven figures - anything from €1 million up to around €5 million.
In Amstelveen you can find smaller houses on sale for under €300,000, with the bigger houses around the €500,000 mark. Prices in Haarlem are a bit lower than Amstelveen.
3. Process of Finding and Buying a Property - Have a good look around the area you are interested in living. Think about transport links, parking, shopping facilities, schools and healthcare.
If you need a mortgage then go to a major bank (for example ABN Amro or ING) or visit a mortgage specialist (Hypotheek Shop) to see how much you can borrow - normally 4 times salary in Netherlands and a typical Dutch mortgage will run for a 30 year period. You will need to bring financial records such as permanent employment contracts, tax returns etc. As always with complex financial products you should do your homework or seek expert advice.
Once you have a budget then start your property search - funda.nl is the largest Dutch property search website. Alternatively go to see an estate agent (makelaar) - they will either charge a fixed fee or 1-2% of the sale price, depending on how much work they do on your behalf.
View a number of properties to get a feel for value in the area. Be aware if a property is either freehold (eigen grond) or more commonly in Amsterdam, leasehold (erfpacht) where annual ground rent is payable to the council, typically €1,000. Check the date of lease expiry - this is when ground rents are recalculated.
For appartments also consider any fees to housing associations for the general maintenance of the building.
When you find a flat / house you like make a suitable offer and negotiate from there. Alternatively the seller may ask for sealed bids (inschrijfaanbod).
If the seller accepts your offer a temporary contract is signed - either party can cancel this within 3 days. A 10% deposit must be paid via a bank within 3 weeks. You will lose this if you pull your offer after the 3 day "cooling off" period.
You should then get a detailed inspection of the property done by an independent surveyor. If all is well then the final purchase contract can be signed on exchange day at a notary office. In total allow for up to 10% of the property value for agent fees, notary fees, surveyors and taxes.
You should insure your property against fire, flood and damage and get contents insurance for any valuable items.
If you need to furnish the property then there is an IKEA in Amsterdam south-east (metro station Bullewijk or come by car via the A9). Also in the area (next to the Amsterdam ArenA, station: Bijlmer-ArenA) is the Woonmall Villa Arena, a shopping centre dedicated to house and homeware - from furniture to flooring, bathrooms to kitchens, anything you might need will be here.
If you are on a shorter-term stay check out renting a flat in Amsterdam