Once I’d decided to go and be a student in Rotterdam for two years I needed to decide where I was going to live. I’m far too old to live in student halls and don’t want to be stuck on campus. Another option was renting. My student sharing days are way behind me. No self respecting young student would want to share with an old git like me. I’m not sure that anyone other than Sue would be prepared to share with me long term any more. Renting is also an expensive business.
For various reasons I am in the lucky position to be able to buy somewhere. I’m going to be there for a while and the UK pound is currently strong. It seems the right thing to do. I’ll have somewhere of my own and room for ‘short term’ visitors.
It’s quite an adventure buying somewhere in another country. We’ve almost completed the purchase so here is my guide to buying a home in The Netherlands.
So far, on the whole, it has been a really enjoyable process. There is an organisation of Dutch estate agents called NVM who have a website called Funda. It’s a bit like Rightmove in the UK.
In the Netherlands estate agents do a lot more that their British counterparts. It is a profession with professional qualifications and they undertake a lot of what a UK buyer would engage a solicitor for. The other big difference is that both buyer and seller engage an agent. I’ve come to realise that this is a brilliant idea and invaluable for someone looking to buy in another country and a different language. As a buyer you have someone who represents your interests, offers advice and accompanies you on viewings, looking dispassionately at what will be one of your biggest ever purchases. Kirsty and Phil are clearly on to something.
Unfortunately Kirsty and Phil weren’t an option. It was a challenge was appointing someone to act on my behalf. Sue and I decided to go over to Rotterdam to explore over Easter. I contacted a number of agents, randomly, to see if we could get an appointment to go and see them. Only one replied, a company called Lauwaars in Kralingen, between the University and the City. Ernst has been fantastic – clearly the man we needed.
Ernst sat us down with a Dutch coffee and explained the process. He gave us a map and sent us off on a couple of bikes to explore the city. He told us where to look and where to avoid. Astride a couple of ancient, rusting, wobbly bikes that we’d borrowed from our AirBnB host, we set off. It goes without saying that cycling in a Dutch city is easy and by far the best way to get around.
Exploring with purpose is a great introduction to a city. Apartments that we’d loved on Funda were clearly not right when we cycled past. It allowed us to look at the whole picture. Lovely apartments in nice areas but just too far out. Great streets and nice buildings but just a bit too quiet. After much peddling we identified about six apartments in two distinct areas. One was a street called Waterloostraat in Kralingen, close to the university, a very nice and reasonable quiet area. The other was around Pannakoekstraat in the heart of the city centre.
I went back for 48 hours a fortnight later to tour these apartments with Ernst. We always met the selling agents but not the owners. It’s difficult to take these things in but Ernst support and advice made it easy. The following day we went back to take a second look at two.
I’m sure it will come as no surprise, given the title of this blog, that I chose to put an offer in on an apartment on Pannekoekstraat, pending a survey. The rules are much stricter in the Netherlands. There is no chance of the buyer or seller changing the price at the last minute or selling to someone else who offers more. Once an offer is accepted, it is confirmed. Clearly if the survey had come back saying that it was falling down or full of Asbestos then I may have had a get out. The only surprise was that the tap in the kitchen is leaking.
I have now received and signed a contract. The biggest challenge has been transferring money. I’ve used an amazing service called TransferWise which is considerably cheaper than using a High Street bank. The only hiccup was getting The Halifax to let me spend my own money. We will then all visit a Notary on 29th May when the apartment will be mine.
In future blogs I’ll be able to tell you more about Pannekoekstraat and the flat.