Buying a house in the Netherlands
Which process should I follow when buying a house?
Buying a property in the Netherlands is relatively straightforward but there are some steps you need to take.
Finding a makelaar (real estate agent)
Buying a property without a makelaar is legal but not advisable. In the Netherlands you can work with only one makelaar, unlike other countries. When house hunting, submit a list of the characteristics you are looking for in a house to your makelaar. This enables your makelaar to make a selection of interesting properties for you to visit. To make sure that you get proper help, contact a makelaar who is experienced at buying houses for expats.
The makelaar can help you from the beginning to the end of the house hunting process, including the technical inspection, the negotiations, the understanding of the bidding system along with the administrative work that comes with buying a house.
What other costs should I consider before buying a house in Netherlands?
When you buy a house, you have to pay the overdrachtsbelasting (property transfer tax) which is calculated based on a fixed percentage of the sale price agreed with the seller. No overdrachtsbelasting has to be paid if you get (part of) a house through divorce, marriage or inheritance. Currently (2021) the overdrachtsbelasting (transfer tax) is 2%.
Is it compulsory to have a written contract to buy a house or is a verbal agreement binding as well in the Netherlands?
When buying, a verbal contract is no longer binding (contrary to rental agreements). A purchase agreement will need to be drawn up. After signing, you have three working days to change your mind and you also get a couple of weeks to obtain a mortgage from a bank.
I have made an offer and signed a ‘contract of sale’ for a house. Can I still withdraw the offer?
Yes, there is a lawful period which is valid for three working days. During this period, you are legally allowed to turn down the property.
It is also standard to have a clause that allows you to pull out in case you cannot secure a mortgage. Always check if this clause is in your contract. In case you are unable to get a mortgage, you need to provide proof of this from two different banks; otherwise you face financial liabilities up to 10% of the deposit.
I am considering buying an apartment. I have heard that I will become a member of a VvE (Vereniging van Eigenaren, Association of Owners). Can you explain what this is and what they do?
A Vereniging van Eigenaren – VvE (association of owners) is responsible for, and makes decisions about, the common parts of a building and the ground that belongs to it. Their work consists mainly of making decisions about maintenance and use of these common areas. For apartments, it is law nowadays to have a VvE. The fire insurance for the building is always arranged through the VvE. The details of the property and the obligations towards it will be registered in your purchase contract.
What does a notary do in the Netherlands?
Notaries occupy a special place in the world of legal professionals in the Netherlands, alongside advocaten (attorneys-at-law), deurwaarders (bailiffs) and belastingconsulenten (tax advisors). Notaries are authorised to draw up deeds, especially concerning: family law, property law and corporate law
Under the Dutch legal system, a notaris (notary) is required to weigh up and balance the interests of all the parties to a legal transaction. A notary is independent of all parties. For example, when a property is transferred, a notaris acts for both the seller and the buyer.
What legal services does a notary provide?
Apart from providing legal advice, a notaris (notary) also records agreements, either because the law requires it or it is in the parties’ request. The formal deed drawn up by a notary constitutes definite proof that the date and the parties’ signatures are correct. A notary is required to retain the original deeds and to issue the parties with certified copies.
The law requires a deed for a number of agreements and legal transactions such as transferring a property in the Netherlands and creating or cancelling mortgages. Normally, the procedures involved are as follows:
Lawful period to ‘think over’
This is known in the Netherlands as wettelijke bedenktijd. Through this act, a verbal agreement should be written down in a voorlopige koopakte (provisional purchase deed). This is valid for three working days so that the buyer can change her/his mind. During this period, you are legally allowed to turn down a property, and you can hire experts to inspect the property. Ask your agent for further details.
Agreement of sale
Once the deal has been made, the selling agent will draw up a koopakte (purchase deed) and will invite you to sign the purchase deed. Ensure that you have thoroughly and carefully read through the purchase deal. Do make sure that all the agreements are mentioned in the purchase deed before you sign. Only in Amsterdam is the notary involved in this part of the process and can help you with legal advice on judicial questions and terms of sales, etc. In the rest of the Netherlands the selling and purchase agent will do this part together with their clients.
Once all the parties involved have signed the deal, the notary will organise the transfer. He or she will draw up the akte van levering (the terms of delivery) for the handover. He or she will also help with the hypotheekakte (deed of terms and conditions of mortgage). The buyer is free to choose his or her own notary. The purchase deed includes a penalty clause in case any of the parties do not comply with its terms.
It is advisable to discuss the marital situation or registered partnership with the notary; it may have legal consequences while selling the property. A marriage or registered partnership in ‘general community of property’ means that all the property and debts of each partner are shared. The same holds true if you have an official cohabitation agreement older than five years, unless you have a notarised statement indicating otherwise (i.e. a prenuptial agreement or similar).
Once both the parties have signed the deed of purchase, the deal is closed and the property is technically yours. A verbal agreement is not binding. An important clause in the purchase deed is that the deed can be cancelled if the buyer cannot obtain the necessary finances – the financial clause. This financial clause has an expiration date normally after five weeks; within that period the mortgage has to be finalized. Between the provisional and the final purchase deed, which is usually on the day you get the key to the house, all details referring to the mortgage are finalised. Your mortgage provider will request an appraisal report (by an independent real estate agent) for assessing the value of the mortgage in relation to the value of the property.
The notary will register all deeds at the kadaster (land registry). This includes the leveringsakte (deed of conveyance) and the hypotheekakte (mortgage deed). All necessary papers will be drawn up by the notary, such as a deed of transfer. He or she will check all these papers for you.
Deposit or prepayment
A waarborgsom (deposit) of 10% of the purchase price or more has to be transferred by the buyer to the notary after the sale agreement has been made. In the meantime, it is wise to get a home inspection done by a technical expert. The deposit is made by the buyer to the account of the notary. A bank guarantee is also accepted as an alternative to a deposit. Before the final payment you can ask your agent to note down the meter readings and check the house to be sure that it has been vacated as agreed.
The levering or judicial transfer of ownership of the property is done by the notary on the day of the transfer mentioned in the purchase deal, and takes place at the office of the notary. The actual delivery of the property occurs when the keys are handed over.
How much do I pay for a notary service?
Notaries are free to set their own fees. The fees are based upon tariffs or rates, (which vary depending on the sale price of the property and on the amount of the financial loan) and it is sometimes possible to negotiate the notary fees and the percentage charged by the notary. It is advisable to contact more than one notary, in order to compare fees.
What factors should I take into account before buying a house or apartment?
A very important factor when buying a property is that you are clearly aware of the property’s legal standing. This means that you need to check whether it is eigen grond (freehold) or erfpacht (leasehold) property. If your potential house is freehold, then you fully own the plot and the house. Leasehold would mean that you only own the house but not the plot (this is the case for apartments as well). This means you will be paying an annual fee for renting the plot. Your real estate agent can provide this information.
Existing houses are usually sold as ‘kosten koper (kk)’. This means that all additional costs such as overdrachtsbelasting (property transfer tax) and notariskosten (notary costs) must be paid by the buyer.
New houses are usually sold as ‘vrij op naam (V.O.N.)’. This means that the purchase price includes BTW (VAT), property transfer tax and notary costs.
Bouwtechnisch onderzoek (construction inspection)
It is strongly advised to ask an expert for a bouwkundig onderzoek (construction inspection). This person will check things such as:
- crawl space (if accessible) and floors, drainage, ventilation, piping in crawl space
- state of the facades, roof, chimneys, window frames, gutters, roof, and chimneys
- determination of the presence of lead pipes and risk carbon monoxide
- fire safety and asbestos suspected.
The real estate agent who sells the house often recommends someone to do this. However, this person may not be independent. Therefore it is best to ask your own real estate agent for an expert. If you don’t have a real estate agent it may be useful to ask advice from the Vereniging Eigen Huis https://www.eigenhuis.nl/#/ (Dutch only). This is an interest group for home owners
Things to consider when buying a house or apartment
When buying a house or apartment, take the following things into consideration:
- Research appropriate neighbourhoods considering: housing prices, access to public transportation, green spaces, distance/time to your work, location of schools
- View properties during the day then again in the evening to notice any potential problems and have a sense of the area
- Limit your viewings each day
- Be sure to take photos and jot down notes
- Ask questions and strike up conversations with the estate agent, the seller and people in the area
- Take into account your estate agent’s advice
- Inquire about: who owns the property, how long it has been on the market, how many viewings there have been, how many bids have been made, why it is for sale, and how quickly it needs to be sold
- If possible, do not get into a bidding war and avoid sealed bid offers
What costs are involved in buying a house or apartment?
It pays to visit a bank or mortgage broker for free advice before you start considering buying property to get an idea of the total costs involved. In general, about 10% of the purchase price will be needed on top to pay for various taxes and fees:
- Hypotheekkosten (mortgage fee): around 1%
- Taxatierapporten (valuation/appraisal costs): if a mortgage is needed. Costs between 300-1,000 euros
- Makelaarkosten (real estate agent fees): not always involved but if it applies, costs vary between 1-2 percent of the price of the property
- Notariskosten: the notaris (notary) is needed to register the sale and the mortgage. It is usually between 1,000-3,000 euros
Note that the deposit on the property is 10% of the purchase price, paid six weeks after the purchase agreement has been signed. This may be replaced by a bank guarantee issued by a Dutch bank.