Housing: New Studies, New Insights
2017-12-01 | By Deborah Valentine
First appeared in THEXPAT Journal Winter 2017 Publication
In our 2016 Housing column in The XPat Journal, ACCESS explored demystifying the term expat, when it came to housing. Our intention was, and remains, to clarify for local service providers who their ‘expat clients’ are, in order to improve their relationship. In our mission to serve the international community, ACCESS also plays a role in managing the expectations of locals who meet, work with, and/or provide services to the growing international community. It is our belief that when expectations are properly managed – from both ends – bridges can be built and internationals can better settle in their new home in the Netherlands.
At the time, we based our argument on a series of indirectly-related studies which had been done in the past, as well as the personal experiences and anecdotal stories we were familiar with through our work. Since then though, the International Community Advisory Panel (ICAP) has been established, and has recently published the findings of their 2017 Housing Survey.
With concrete, housing-related data, we can now carry on with our intention to build bridges between locals and internationals, and shed more light on the profile of an expat in the Netherlands. Concurrently, we can challenge some of the assumptions that claim, for instance, that housing prices in Amsterdam are soaring because of expats.
The ICAP Housing survey, conducted in 2017, had over 700 respondents, and, among the first findings was that 79% of them were unable to pay more than €1,500 per month. Furthermore, 4 in 10 indicated they would rather buy, as it would be cheaper than renting. This, in conjunction with the fact that 80% of new arrivals receive no help from their employers, strongly suggests that when it comes to housing, expats are by no means the culprit, but are often struggling to find a balance. When one considers, as one respondent said, that “…most of my colleagues pay around 50% of their base income on rent alone,” another picture is indeed drawn. Especially when you consider that 25% of those surveyed earn less than €3,000 per month. We challenge locals to think about what that would mean: paying half of your base income on housing.
Of the respondents renting in Amsterdam, 11% were paying between €710 and €1,000 a month in rent, but 34% indicated this was all they could afford – showing that internationals on lower incomes are being squeezed price-wise. One in four of these survey participants also indicated that they wanted to move because their current home was too expensive.
Navigating the Maze
Every country in the world has their own ‘user’s manual’. The Netherlands is no exception to that, and one could even add that each city in the country has its own way of doing things. When it comes to housing, survey respondents indicated, especially in the many comments received, that not knowing the system, or being aware of their rights (especially when it comes to renting), often means expats, or internationals, find themselves in a situation where they end up paying rents locals would consider absurd. To further demystify things, the survey dispelled the commonly-held belief that expats prefer to rent rather than buy, at least in the short term. Nevertheless, 14% of home-owners in the survey bought their home within a year of arriving and 45% within three years.
In both scenarios, renting or buying, knowing how the system works, where one can turn to for clarification and advice on one’s rights is crucial. Grass-roots organisations such as ACCESS can point people in the right direction. More recently, expat centres have also seen the need and benefit of ensuring all city residents, expat or otherwise, are well-informed. At IN Amsterdam, !Woon – a tenant support agency – provides expert advice for tenants in Amsterdam that is confidential and free of charge. The English information on their website is of relevance and interest to all internationals in the Netherlands, when it comes to renting a property. www.wooninfo.nl/english/
The results of the ICAP Survey are also serving estate agencies and mortgage brokers to be more aware of, and better responsive to, the realities of expats looking to purchase a home.
For the results of earlier ICAP surveys, including the one on Housing, please visit www.icapnl.com. To participate in the current Healthcare Survey, please visit www.icapnl.com/current-survey/.