February 16, 2023

Buying an apartment or house in The Netherlands

The Netherlands has a very healthy property market, but it can be very competitive for buyers. You need to be on the ball at every step, and this means having the insider info on what it takes to succeed. If you’re looking to buy a house or apartment in The Netherlands, there’s a lot you need to know. But that’s OK! Most of it is right here, in this article.

There are slight differences in the procedure from city to city, but for the most part the process is basically the same across The Netherlands. You can choose to employ the services of a buyer’s agent (aankoopmakelaar in Dutch), who can take care of the entire process from the search through to the viewings, bidding, the reports and the signing of contracts - but this will cost. There are other options as well, including doing it all on your own if you’re experienced enough. It’s a big decision, and not without risk - so we always try to provide the best possible advice.

Let’s start with the steps you need to take to make a winning bid on your new home in NL.

How to buy a house in the Netherlands

Step 1: The Search

Unless you’ve hired a buyer’s agent to find the right place for you, you need to get looking for your new apartment or house yourself. Start by determining the exact criteria you require. Location, Price, Size, Amenities, VVE costs - all these help to prevent wasted time. The best way to search is to check on funda, where almost every single property for sale is listed. You have to be fast. Check twice every day, in the morning and evening, and arrange a viewing immediately. Call the agent. Don’t email. Call them.

Step 2: The Viewing

The seller’s agent will corral as many prospective buyers into the apartment at one time to create a ‘pressure-cooker’ environment. This is designed to maximize competitive bidding, but be aware that not all of the other viewers will even place a bid. Some of them might be curious neighbors, and others will be lured by an artificially low ‘asking price’ only to discover the true value is beyond their budget.

Step 3: The Bidding

Based on your budget and the ‘true value’ of the property, you place a bid. It’s not unusual for the bidding to do multiple rounds, but don’t be tempted to bid more than you can afford, or more than it’s worth to you. Your bid can be made with ‘conditions’, like your ability to secure financing. This way, if you can’t secure a mortgage, or if the conditions are not met, you won’t lose your 10% deposit.

Step 4: Purchase Contract signing (pay deposit)

If the seller accepts your offer, you will both proceed to sign the purchase agreement. As the purchaser, you will need to lodge a 10% deposit with the Notary (notaris). This binds you to finalize the sale (upon penalty of losing your deposit). You can protect your deposit with conditions that stipulate ‘subject to raising finance’. After the purchase contract is signed, you have a 3-day cooling off period. If you change your mind during this time, there’s no penalty. After 3 days, you are bound to complete the sale.

Step 5: Mortgage

Many people in the Netherlands sort out the financing for buying an apartment pretty late in the game, especially compared to other countries. In the UK, for example, people will usually start with a provisional mortgage assessment before they even start looking. However, here it’s common to do this later on - after the purchase contract is signed.

Step 6: Valuations and inspections

Next, your mortgage provider will require an official valuation to ensure the property is worth what they’re loaning you. You’ll also want to get a building inspection done if it’s a freestanding building, or an older building. This will help you understand any prospective costs in the future.

Before the final contract is signed, the notary will ask for the closing fees and other remaining balances to be paid and received before the transfer date. If you’re not a native dutch speaker, the notary will require a sworn translator to ensure you understand. On the transfer date, you sign the transfer contract at the notaris’ office, and then the place is all yours! Congratulations - you’re now a property owner!

The mortgage process as an expat

As an expat it can be harder to secure a mortgage, but it’s certainly not impossible. The mortgage lender just wants to make certain that you can sustainably pay for the mortgage without going bankrupt.  For this reason they need to see a track record of your finances, including any debts.

You need to provide:

  • Proof of income: A permanent contract from your employer, plus a declaration from them about your contract and annual income. Self employed? Then you need to provide at least 3 years of accounts, bank statements and income tax returns.
  • Residency: You need to provide proof that you have been resident in The Netherlands for five years. If you are a non-EU citizen, then you need to provide a residence permit as well.
  • Deposit: Depending on the lender, they may also need you to put down a deposit. Expats are often seen as riskier and may be limited to financing of only 90% of the value of the property.

Charges, Taxes and Fees when buying an apartment or house in The Netherlands

There’s a variety of costs you need to consider, but not all will be relevant for your situation. If you don’t need a mortgage, for example, then fees relating to this will not apply.

Some of these are based on a percentage of the purchase price, and others are based on fixed amounts. You can shop around for the fixed-price fees, but most will fall into the range stated below.

All the costs of buying a property in The Netherlands:

  • Transfer Tax - Provided you are moving-into the property, you pay the regular rate of 2% of the purchase price. As of January 2021, if you’re under 35 year of age and the property is under €400,000 in value then this is waived.
  • VAT - You don’t normally need to pay VAT (BTW) when you buy a property in The Netherlands, but sometimes you do. This is normally only the case when the property is treated as a commercial asset instead of a home that you’re going to live in.
  • Makelaar fees - If you hire a buyer’s agent, you need to pay them. This fee (with the princely name of courtage) is usually agreed beforehand and ranges between 1-2% of the purchase price. It varies depending on the exact services agreed and provided, so this is partially within your control. Some will also offer a fixed fee, but this is rarer these days.
  • Survey Costs - If you have a technical survey done, this can cost around €450.
  • Translator - If you’re non-native Dutch, then a Sworn Translator is usually required. This normally costs around €150 to €200, but if you shop around it can be less.
  • Valuation Report - This is a variable cost, and can range from €400 to €700.
  • Mortgage Contract -  The costs of drawing up the mortgage contract range from  €450 to €650, depending on the lender.
  • Mortgage Advice - This can save some big money and prevent major mistakes. For this service you can pay between €1500 and €3500.
  • Transfer Contract - The notaris will draw up and officiate the contracts, including the transfer contract. This costs €450 to €600.
  • Bank Guarantee/Deposit -  You must pay a deposit of 10% when you sign the purchase contract (the first contract). If you don’t have the cash to hand, you can use a bank guarantee instead, which costs 10% of the deposit amount. This is equal to 1% of the purchase price.
  • Income Tax - There is an additional tax added to your income tax as a property owner. Why? Because you’re not paying rent, and this gives you an advantage over everyone else who does. Yes, you do pay mortgage payments, but these are ultimately just adding to your own equity and wealth. The eigenwoningforfait in 2022 is 0.45% of the ‘official value’ (WOZ waarde)  for most properties, but it is determined each year by the government, so it does change.

This means that, assuming a purchase price of €550,000, you can expect to pay: €3400 to €6100 in fixed costs, plus...

  • Bank Guarantee: €5500
  • Makelaar Courtage (full service):€11,000
  • Transfer tax: €11,000
  • eigenwoningforfait (annual): €2,475

The road can be long….but worth it

No one ever said that buying a house was easy. It takes effort and time to find the right place, and some serious insider information and determination to make the winning bid. Be comforted that around 20,000 homes are bought every month in The Netherlands. If they can do it, so can you! You just need the right information, some preparation and a little bit of good luck. We can help with at least some of those things.

Last Updated: June 1, 2022