Moving house in Holland - Part 1

28 March 2011, by

Steep staircases, tiny toilets, large living room windows perfect for snooping in, these are all Dutch housing stereotypes that most expats are familiar with. However, the process of finding and buying a house in the Netherlands is less clear.

In November, my better half and I bought our first home here in Leiden but the road to the notary's office was a long one and we are now realising that the finished, decorated product is still some way off.

Everyone has a different experience in the house buying process. In these articles, I share some of my observations. I am keen to hear yours!

Finding a house in the Netherlands

The current market is still fairly stagnant with many homeowners holding off selling their property until they feel they can get a better price. The real estate agents (makelaars) we spoke to said that they were securing half of the sales they were notching up this time two years ago. As a consequence, house hunting is a laborious process!

We were helped by the fact that I work from home and could view houses during the day but even then it took me over a year to find and successfully bid on a house. I think I must have seen around 50 properties in total.

To begin with, my expectations were unrealistic. The cost of properties in Leiden is fairly high. Finding a sizeable home in a central location with a garden is not easy. Finding all that within budget is even harder.

As the months rolled by, my dream of the perfect home - that grand town house sitting on a picturesque canal - melted away. Those few houses we did like were snapped up quickly, sometimes in the period between arranging a viewing and actually getting to see the house. This became frustrating.

My first tip therefore is to keep a close eye on the well known property sites like and but also to consider signing up with an estate agency.

new house leiden
Helen Frew moving in her new house in Leiden

By doing this, you sometimes get to see properties just before they are officially advertised online. It gives you a vital day or two ahead of the competition! Our makelaar also "saved our bacon" when we almost put a bid on a house that turned out to be overpriced and in an undesirable neighbourhood.

Secondly, I would highlight that you need to budget realistically. If you do sign up with an expert they will give you a ball-park figure of what you can afford but keep in mind the hidden extras such as the transfer tax, interpreter and notary fees. This tends to add up to 10% of your purchase price and that is before you add he costs of renovation and decorating.

If you are at a stage where you are feeling disheartened in your house hunt, I would say to keep at it! We settled upon a canal-side tussenwoning situated on the edge of the town centre. After put in the offer, not expecting to get a positive reply, we were quite shell-shocked when the makelaar rang us with the good news that we were successful in our bid.

Moving house in Holland - Part 2 (Buying a house & At the notary's office) can be found here.

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Comments arranged by date (Total 3 comments)  
March 28 2011, 12:53PM

A vivid and clear article about purchasing a house in one of the most beautiful areas of Holland. I was wondering if you mentioned the tax-deduction laws (prizes go sky-high with this crazy law) and the so-called VVE compulsary savings if you are an apartment owner. Also interesting is the Dutch rent culture where roughly 50% of the households rent.

April 20 2011, 10:33AM

And don't forget the situation about ''erfpacht'' where you actually hire the land and you have to pay a fee per year and the fee can be fixed for a certain period. Banks are not keen on giving you a mortgage if the land is privately owned and you have to pay that fee. If the land is owned by the city, it's not a problem. Note that in Amsterdam for instance, almost all houses have this ''erfpacht''...

May 06 2011, 09:42AM

Thanks Abel and Lucia. With such a plethora of things to consider when moving house here, it is impossible to fit all the issues in to one (or two) articles so I really appreciate your informative comments.

About the Author
Helen Frew

I am a freelance policy consultant. I was born in Scotland, worked mainly in Brussels and am now liv...



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