What expats should know about insurance in the Netherlands

If you’re from certain countries such as the UK or US the attitude to unfortunate situations can often be focused on blame – with people quick to point fingers. But even well intentioned people can make mistakes. Within the Netherlands, there is recognition that accidents happen – “Helaas pindakaas!” 

This has impacted aspects of Dutch life such as the cycling infrastructure. It also means that insurance is set up differently to what many expats will be familiar with.

For many expats, the way that insurance works in the Netherlands will feel alien. So, we sat down with Katinka Slegt, owner of Slegt Insurance, about what expats need to understand about insurance within the Netherlands. This family-owned business has been advising personal and commercial clients since 1972, going the extra mile to help during difficult circumstances.  

 

HTBAH: What do most expats get wrong about insurance in the Netherlands? 

Katinka: Probably the most common misunderstanding is simply: It is your responsibility to get your own insurance. Even if the problem is coming from someone else. For instance, say your apartment is flooded because water is coming from a broken pipe from the upstairs neighbour. According to Dutch law, your neighbour is not liable because they can’t help that their pipe broke. A pipe leaking is unexpected, but to an extent, it is so common it is to be expected.

If you don’t have sufficient cover in this situation, it is possible to claim against the neighbour’s insurance, but with some significant limitations. For instance, all items damaged will be reimbursed at a diminished rate, taking into account the age of the product. Whereas, your own insurance will likely cover the full, original, value of the item.

One other common mistake is failing to read the terms and conditions. Up until recently there are no insurance companies in the Netherlands who provide them in English. We do have an agreement with a major insurance company to get them translated – but this is rare. It’s for this reason that working with an insurance broker like ourselves, who are used to dealing with expats, can provide more safeguards. We can help you understand the terms and conditions and ensure there is nothing that causes issues down the line.

HTBAH: A lot of people view insurance and insurers with suspicion. What do you say to this? What should expats look for in a good insurer? 

Katinka: In certain countries insurance companies prefer to say no before they say yes. When disaster strikes you want to know you can rely on your insurance and that the process won’t be long winded. So I can understand the suspicion that some people may have. I see that as less of a problem in the Netherlands, but I still think it is very important to choose the right policy now to save yourself stress later.

It’s also important that you continue to keep the insurer up to date on any new, expensive possessions you might have. We check in with our clients regularly – do they have new jewelry? Or art? Or electronics? Then it may be necessary to amend your policy and ensure they are covered.

Having these ongoing conversations helps our clients have peace of mind, knowing that they will likely have a quick resolution if something unfortunate happens.  

The other thing I always say is: Insurance doesn’t sleep. Burglars don’t keep to office hours. Pipes don’t break just between 9AM and 5PM. I think some of the suspicion is because insurers always talk about emergencies and urgency, but few are available when you actually need them. We always ensure two people are on call at our office, so that if an issue arises it can be resolved and we can provide support 24/7. 

 

Slegt Insurance Team

HTBAH: Are there any other types of insurance, apart from the usual, that people should consider?

Katinka: The standard insurances you should have are liability, health and home insurance. If you own a car, then car insurance as well. 

I often suggest expats consider legal aid insurance. When you first come to the Netherlands you won’t know dutch law - and we have seen many expats end up in difficult legal situations with an employer, landlord, doctor, etc.

So for the first year at least, until you become more familiar with the Netherlands, it can be useful to have. Legal aid, without insurance, isn’t cheap. It can easily cost €200-300 per hour. So if you do have any problems, then it’s good to have this safety net. 

That’s the main one I would suggest. But of course there is also travel insurance, jewelry, art, etc. 

Finally, if you own an apartment then you will usually have building insurance via the housing association. However, this does not cover renovations. If you are making significant improvements many people don’t realise that they should take out renovation insurance to ensure you are protected.  

 

HTBAH: This sounds like it can get quite complex. How can expats clearly understand what they need?

Katinka: There’s certainly a lot of choice when it comes to insurance in the Netherlands. We actually offer risk management consultancy - and this focuses on preventing disruption. In your personal or professional life. So we’ll discuss how you can safeguard yourself and ask questions such as: Do you have good locks? Do you have secure windows? Do you have a smoke detector? 

We have a vast network to support this. So while we can help with insurance, which is a vital component, we also want to help you get to a point where you’re less likely to be disrupted and need to claim. 

And if you have a problem, then we’re always available by phone, seven days a week - and we can connect you with contractors. So we do go beyond “just” insurance, helping you to fix the problem and limit disruption.

 

Slegt Insurance is a member of our Expat Orientated Organisation certification, meaning that they have proved themselves as a business capable and ready to assist expats and their needs. 


Monique Burgemeester’s Useful Mission

That sounds like a great title for a book, but this is definitely not a work of fiction. Monique Burgemeester is a real Amsterdammmer through and through. She has seen the city change over the years and knows Amsterdam as well as anybody could. She has worked in the property market for many years. Having seen the growing numbers of expats looking to lay down roots in Amsterdam, she created the ‘How To Buy A House’ information events. These events are above all very useful for expats. If you have a project to buy a home, you need to attend this. At HTBAH, you can meet all the experts you need to talk with under one roof. One evening to be better informed about the whole process. Being better informed is essential to successfully get what you want and avoiding any potential pitfalls.

You will meet professionals in many different domains: real estate experts, mortgage advisers, notaries, interior designers, tax experts, property managers, builders, etc. Each event has different experts, so please consult the site to see which ones attend the event you attend. You can discuss with them your specific situation and plans. The experts will inform and give guidance on issues that you need to know or consider. That is useful and being useful is Monique’s mission.

The HTBAH event is very popular as attendees spread the word to their friends and colleagues. At the events, drinks and delicious snacks are provided so that attendees can relax and enjoy the event. This is a free event and all you need to do is register your place and attend.

So Monique Burgemeester’s Useful Mission is to help expats. We asked Monique a few questions to get more insights into her events and she provided the answers here :

 How did you have the idea to create the HTBAH?

As you know we have been in real estate for over 23 years and the last 18 years, we work almost exclusively with expats. We have been asked as a guest speaker at seminars and events, but we always felt there was something missing on a personal level. It is good to hear all the basics, but maybe you have different questions that are important for you. You can not ask them in a 15 mins Q&A after the seminar ends. Everyone wants his or her minute, so we saw that a lot of people left with good knowledge about the principles, but that is it. Most of that stuff you can find on the internet, right? If you register with us, we will provide you with a movie that contains the basic info you need to know about buying a house in Amsterdam. Then during the HTBAH event we can get into the specific details of your needs.

 What makes the HTBAH event special?

Well, we decided to make an open format event where you can have one on one talks with all experts present. Everyone is there to help you find your dream house, but also to help you with what comes with it. A renovation for example. Or a company you can hire to take care of all stuff you need when you become an owner: changing locks, cleaning, make all your utilities work etc. It is a 3-hour event, so take your time and talk with everyone present. It might be busy at times, but we provide free drinks and bites, so take it easy, stroll around ask the experts answer to all questions you might have within a reasonable time. If you really want to go deep, you can make an appointment with the expert you like and have a good chat on another date.

What kind of people attend these events?

All sorts of people. People interested in buying in the future, families who are already in the process but needs some more information. Attendees are sometimes young, sometimes aged, everyone is welcome!

Having done so many HTBAH events, what are the mains benefits for the attendees?

You meet all the experts you need in one place without being lost. My staff is amazing, they all speak multiple languages and are here to help. If you do not know what to ask, we will help you and provide you with questions to start a conversation with all experts presents. It still dazzles me that, even when it is very busy and people have to wait, the vibe stays relaxed and stress-free. I am so proud of my staff. It is a small scale event in a beautiful location. 

 Do you have any feedback stories from the people that attend your events?

They tell us that they love the format. That is something we love to hear. We have done many of these events to date and we always work hard to make it enjoyable. Yes, they surely find it useful, that is the central aim, but being useful in an agreeable atmosphere is also very important to us and the attendees. 

So there you have it. Monique Burgemeester’s Useful Mission is really useful for your homeownership plans. More information about the events is here and the next one is on November 18th 2020 in the Vondelkerk in central Amsterdam. If you have a project, you need to attend this event!

Registration will open soon.


Is it a good time to buy a house?

Good time to buy a house? We have heard this question and others over and over again, so we've made an overview of frequently asked questions and has asked an expat-expert to answer all! We kick off with Barry Burgemeester of Burgemeester Vastgoed.

Everyone can become a real estate agent. There is no diploma or certificate required to get started in this line of work. However, Barry has the proper certification and has been in the business for 23 years. The past 17 years he specialized in assisting expats with buying homes and commercial real estate. There's a lot of misinformation out there about what real estate agents actually do, so he'd published recently an article "A typical day in the life of an Amsterdam Real Estate Agent". Let's see if is it a good time to buy a house!

Aren’t we in a property bubble in Amsterdam? Shouldn’t I just wait? 

The only answer to this is that unless you’re planning to speculate on the Dutch property market and sell your home within say 6 to 8 months, then it’s always worth buying. With tax rebates and low-interest rates, you’ll usually end up paying less money on a mortgage than you do rent. It’s always a good time to buy and I’m here to help you find the right place in Amsterdam that meets your needs.

What is the real challenge in the process of buying a house?

In this market, the search for just the right home is important, and we can help you with that. Once a client has set his/her sights on a desirable house, then the real challenge starts the bidding process and the presentation of our client to the selling party. A real estate agent should advise his client on what is and is not possible. Where previously it was often about having the highest bid, now the buyer is also under scrutiny, because the selling party benefits from a customer who can also pay for the property. We can help you make the right bid, safely and freely, and within the possibilities, ensuring the highest chance of success.

So, what should I do first?

The first thing you need to know if you want to buy a house is how much money you can borrow. The market is so hot, that if you find a house you like, you must be ready to act straight away. Remember, you will need more than the actual price of the property. You can borrow up to 100% of the value of the property, so you will need your own cash – about 6% to 8% of the purchase price – to cover the bills for taxes, the estate agent and notary fees and other matters. There are a lot of different banks and institutions providing mortgages in the Netherlands so it makes sense to talk to a mortgage expert first.

My offer on a house has been accepted, what happens now?

Once your offer for a house has been accepted, you have to sign a contract. So you, your estate agent, the seller and their agent will meet at a notary’s office to sign the voorlopig koopcontract – the purchase and sale agreement. The notary is a type of lawyer, and the contract gives you three days to change your mind. The contract also includes a clause saying the transaction is ‘subject to financing’.That gives you a period of time to arrange your mortgage. This is usually four weeks. It might sound like a long time, but there is a lot of paperwork to go through. Once all that is done, you go to the notary again and sign the final deal.

We like to thank Barry very much for his clear answers and will be back next week with another expat expert answering questions! We invited Marielle Groen of Advocura to answer the questions you have asked about legal issues in The Netherlands.

Be sure and check out our Facebook community, How to Buy a House in the Netherlands. This group was specially created to provide support and assistance for homebuyers during every step of the process, from just thinking about buying a home to making the final offer.  Ask us all your questions via monique@howtobuya.house and we will get back to you!

Expat Oriented Organistion

Questions and answers | Real Estate

Our How to Buy a House event is not a seminar but is an open format event where real estate agents, mortgage advisors, notaries, builders, interior decorators, and other professionals are standing by to answer attendees’ questions one-on-one. For you, we collected some questions and answers we have had from our visitors about real estate.

*The outbreak of coronavirus is affecting everyone across the Netherlands and far beyond. We all have a role to play in preventing its spread. We postponed our next housing event until September 16th in Amsterdam. Any new information or developments are always incorporated into the advisory reports that RIVM provides to the Cabinet, so our government leaders can decide whether to ease current restrictions or implement stricter measures. Of course, we will follow all rules and regulations and also use our own common sense to keep everyone safe. We will keep you posted via our social media channels and website*

I want to buy a house, what should I do first?

The first thing you need to know if you want to buy a house is how much money you can borrow. The market is so hot, that if you find a house you like, you must be ready to act straight away. Remember, you will need more than the actual price of the property. You can borrow up to 100% of the value of the property, so you will need your own cash – about 6% to 8% of the purchase price – to cover the bills for taxes, the estate agent and notary fees and other matters.

Do I need to team up with a real estate agent to get a house?

No that is not mandatory, however, we strongly advise you to do so. Finding a house is one thing, actually signing the contract is another. If you have found a house you like, make sure you have a real estate agent with you to carry out the negotiations with the seller. An expert will make sure your offer is based on the market value of the property, not the asking price. An expert will also look into other tricky subjects, like making sure the homeowners’ association – if you are buying an apartment - is healthy and making sure there are no hidden problems with the property. Your estate agent is there to help you and make sure your requirements are met.

Do you need to have a diploma to be called a real estate agent?

Everyone can become a real estate agent. There is no diploma or certificate required to get started in this line of work. You can decide to be an estate agent overnight.

Is an agent who is not a member of a real estate trade body trustworthy?

In the Netherlands membership of a real estate trade body is entirely optional, so not all good agents want to be a member of a trade body. That does not mean they are not qualified to help you find your house. Don't choose a real estate agent just based on the fact that they belong to an association.

We do think it is good to ask for a real estate diploma/certification, so you know the basic knowledge is there. Also, take a good look at reviews, ask for contracts translations in English, terms and conditions in English, see if there are no woolly clauses and most important; finding a house is a team effort, so your agent and you must team up. If it doesn't feel good then get out of the team.

What's the catch about bidding? Shall I just make an overbid on a feeling?

No. A real estate agent should advise his client on what is and is not possible. Where previously it was often about having the highest bid, now the buyer is also under scrutiny, because the selling party benefits from a customer who can also pay for the property. A great agent can help you make the right bid, safely and freely, and within the possibilities, ensuring the highest chance of success.

What happens if my offer is accepted, am I safe then?

Once your offer for a house has been accepted, you have to sign a contract. So you, your estate agent, the seller and their agent will meet at a notary’s office to sign the purchase and sales agreement, in Dutch; "voorlopig koopcontract". Until this event happens it is only a gentlemen's agreement.

Is it possible to determine the "voorlopig koopcontract" if I change my mind?

The contract gives you three days cooling off period to change your mind, so you can terminate the contract without any questions during these 3 days. Without being too Dutch and blunt; it is, however, better to have a good think about the property before signing the contract. All parties need to do a lot of work before signing the contract, so if you are not sure about buying a house, then don't. The contract also includes a clause saying the transaction is ‘subject to financing’.That gives you a period of time to arrange your mortgage.

Why do I need a notary?

The notary is a type of lawyer who specialises in civil contracts. You will visit the notary to sign the "Voorlopig koopcontract". In some cities that part can also be done at the seller's office, but in Amsterdam, you need to visit the notary to do so. Dutch law states that signing over the house in your name must be done by a notary. So you will have to visit the notary multiple times, also to sign the "akte van levering" – the deed of transfer and (if you need a loan) the mortgage papers. If you do not speak Dutch, a sworn translator will also be needed. Once the "akte van levering" has been signed, you will get the keys and your dream home will be yours. The notary will register the property in your name at the land register.

What is the difference between "erfpacht", which means leasehold and "eigen grond" or freehold properties?

Amsterdam homes often have erfpacht – which means you buy the bricks but you rent the land your home is built on, usually from the city council. It is quite common and nothing to be afraid of. If you buy a home with erfpacht, the information about the house will tell you that the erfpacht – the leasehold – often have been paid until a certain date. When that period ends, you will have to pay for a new contract. The bill is based on the value of the land at the time. Make sure to have a good chat about leasehold with your real estate agent to understand what the new regulations are and to understand the concept.

"Do not wait to buy real estate, buy real estate and wait"

Is this the right time to buy a house, aren't we in a property bubble?

The only answer to this is that unless you’re planning to speculate on the Dutch property market and sell your home within say 6 to 8 months, then it’s always worth buying.

Be sure and check out our Facebook community and be a member of How to buy a House in the Netherlands. This group was specially created to provide support and assistance for home buyers during every step of the process, from just thinking about buying a home to making the final offer. Ask questions online or via email and get your answers.

Expat Oriented Organisation

Visit the Expat Oriented Register. The registry is free and intended solely as a service to our expat community.

We do not charge any company for being on it and are not seeking agreements for compensation. What we do want is a good and reliable business guide that expats may use to safely find their way to freelancers and companies with suitable business ethics. In 2020 we will ask for a handling fee of € 70,00 ex VAT to list the company online.

See you at the next event!

 


Introducing the Expat Oriented Organisation Certification Mark

The How To Buy A House Expat Oriented Organisation Certification

How To Buy A House, organisers of events for expats looking to buy a home have announced the launch of the Expat Oriented Organisation Certification Mark.

 

Expat Oriented Organistion

 

Background

Monique Burgemeester, founder of How To Buy A House (HTBAH) came up with the idea of certifying organisations who she partners with based on the criteria she has long used to ensure that the service providers she recommends are structured correctly in order to provide quality services to expats.

HTBAH believe that buying a property in the Netherlands as an expat is not a circus nor an improv comedy act. Buying a home is the most serious financial decision that people make in their lives. It’s momentous and daunting in one’s own country, but when living and working as an expat in the Netherlands, it’s even more important to get the right advice to be able to make the right investment.

The EOO certification is about ensuring that expats are working with organisations who are credible, provide outstanding services and understand the needs of expats.

Buying a home in the Netherlands a lousy comedian
Buying a home in the Netherlands is not a laughing matter

In order to ensure this organisation seeking to be certified need to meet the following criteria.

1. Have an English section on their website

Holders of the EOO certification need to have content available in English on their website. Not just a Google translated version, but information needs to clear and easy to follow and the site needs to provide clear contact details.

2. English speaking staff

An organisation that’s looking to sell services to expats must have staff who are able to communicate both verbally and in writing in English.

3. Clear contracts without hidden or vague clauses

It goes without saying that the contracts of service providers will need to be clear and without any vague or hidden clauses.

4. Contracts translations in English

While some contracts may have to be in Dutch in order to be compliant for Dutch law, EOO service providers must be able to provide their clients with English translations of their contracts

5. Terms and Conditions in English

All terms and conditions should ideally be no longer than a single page and written in English

6. Flexible Opening Hours

There’s nothing more frustrating for expats than having to attend meetings during office hours. All EOO certified organisations have flexible times for meeting their clients

7. Registered in the Netherlands

EOO organisations should be registered at the Kamer van Koophandel (KVK) for at least a year.

8.  Possess knowledge about the needs of expats

Applicants for the EOO will need to be able to demonstrate experience and knowledge about the challenges faced by expats in the Netherlands and be able to provide solutions and services that will support them.

9. Service orientated

EOO members need to be customer focused and be willing to go the extra mile (or kilometre) to deliver quality services to their expat clients.

10. Be nice

A smile goes a long way. Be nice!

If you’d like to apply for the Expat Oriented Organisation Certification please contact us. If you’re already a partner of HTBAH you’ll also need to request this certification.

 

Exemptions

Not all of our partners will be able to apply for this certification. Notaries, lawyers, banks and accountants are certified by their own professional bodies.


Why do you need a notary in Amsterdam?

Why you need a notary in Amsterdam

In this article, we will explain the need of a notary in Amsterdam. Realizing your dreams of owning your own home is satisfying, but the purchase of buying a house is an important decision in life, but becoming the owner is not that simple.

In Amsterdam, it is customary for the notary to draw up the purchase agreement after which it is signed by both parties at the notary’s office. Subsequently, the notary takes care of the implementation of the stipulated agreements as laid down in the agreement. The notary records this in a deed of delivery.

Only after signing the deed at the notary’s office and registering the deed in the public registers of the Land Registry, you are the owner of the new house! If you take out a loan for the purchase, a mortgage deed will usually also be required.

The mortgage deed gives the lender (usually a bank) the certainty that you meet all your contractual obligations. A mortgage deed is often required when you already own a house but want to borrow extra money. The mortgage deed will also be registered in the public registers of the Land Registry after it has been signed at the notary’s office.

In most cases, the buyer determines which notary is involved in the transfer. Whether or not a broker is involved in the transfer, you can always contact the notary directly for advice or consultation about other matters such as family law.

NOTE: all the money involved in a housing transaction travels via the escrow account of the notary, no third parties are involved.

Do you have any questions about a notary in Amsterdam? Ask our Experts.


Questions About the bidding proces? Ask Monique Burgemeester

About bidding for a property in the Netherlands

The bidding process for a property is relatively easy if you use a real estate agent. He or she can help you to place a good bid, based on the market value and not on the asking price. It is not done to bid on more than one house at the same time.

If you place a bid and your bid is accepted, the seller (or the seller's agent) will usually negotiate exclusively with you. If your bid is not what the seller expected he or she will decline the bid and you are free to make another bid. The seller can accept other bids if your bid is declined.

Bidding for a property the process

In this overheated market, the seller often arranges for a tender. That means that all interested buyers have one change to present their best bid before a certain closing time. After that closing time, the seller will pick the best and will proceed with the buyer who has won the tender. Bidding is not only about the price. The preconditions are also important for a seller. Flexibility, % percentage of restrictions on finance and also knowing you actually can pay for the house are things sellers will be happy with.

Your bid has succeeded

If you won the bid: HURRAH!!!, but not too loud. A verbal agreement or email confirmation is not binding for the seller and buyer. It is a gentlemen’s agreement and in The Netherlands, it is common to shake hands and stick with it, but … only a signed purchase agreement is legally binding. So, make sure you will sign the purchase agreement asap and keep your fingers crossed!

After signing a purchase agreement the seller has to keep his or her fingers crossed because the buyer has a 3 working days consideration time. We call that a cooling off period or in Dutch: “3 dagen bedenktijd”. During that period the buyer may cancel the agreement without any reasons or costs.

WARNING: Do not bid without restrictions of finance if you cannot afford it. If you need more information, please feel free to send us an email

At How To Buy A House we regularly hold events in the Netherlands for expats who are thinking about buying a home in the Netherlands. Check out our home page for the event's agenda.

We also have an active Facebook community group where you can ask any questions you may have about buying a home in the Netherlands. Feel free to join our Facebook group.