Real Estate

Real estateNetherlands: the right house for every phase of life

Row of houses in the Dutch city of Haarlem
Row of houses in the Dutch city of Haarlemimago images / Cavan Images

When Jessie Wagenaar opens the balcony door of her old apartment, one wonders. The courtyard is not much larger than an allotment plot, but it looks incredibly green. The balconies all around are tastefully furnished like Jessie’s own, and one suspects that it can be very cozy here when the neighbors are celebrating one of their court parties. But today it is quiet on the balcony – so quiet that you can hardly believe you are in one of the oldest quarters of Amsterdam.

The balcony is a quiet oasis in the middle of the liveliest city in the Netherlands. The rest of the apartment with its bay window, the parquet flooring and the stylish kitchen also looks as if someone had prepared it for the photo shoot of an interior design magazine. The longer you look around, the less you understand that someone wants to sell such an apartment voluntarily and move away.

Cover special issue real estate
The article appeared in the special issue “The Big Dream of the House”

But that’s exactly what Jessie Wagenaar is up to. This is due to her daughter, who will soon be a bit too big for the children’s room of the 67-square-meter apartment. That’s why the family wants to move. Jessie and her husband bought a new apartment, just a few blocks away, at 104 square meters. It is again in an old brick house that looks almost exactly like the old one from the outside. If you look out of the window there, you can see a canal. Swans and ducks make their way, in between those small boats chug past, on which Amsterdam residents sail to work, couples picnic together or groups of pensioners meet for a morning pint.

Those who move here lose nothing, but gain square meters and quality of life. But can you still afford such apartments in this city? Amsterdam is not Munich or Frankfurt, but the square meter still costs between 6,000 and 9,000 euros in the most expensive city in the Netherlands.

Flying change

You can do it like Jessie Wagenaar. She is hardly in her mid-30s and is already buying her fourth property. And not because she happens to work as a sales woman in the real estate industry, but because she does it like other Dutch people like to do it. They often buy their first apartment at the age of 25 or 30, say the statistics of the national housing report.

For most of them, it will not be the last apartment they will buy in the course of their lives. On average, they adapt their home ownership to their living conditions every ten to 15 years – then a little less often from 45 years. A few years ago, Dutch people who bought an apartment for the first time were on average 32 years old. In the meantime, first-time buyers in large cities in particular are somewhat older, which is due to the increased real estate prices, but the average age of buyers is under 40. In Friesland, for example, where the broker Zwany van Brussel has been doing business for over 20 years, is already considered old, who buys a house at 30. “Young people used to buy here in their early 20s,” she says. German buyers, on the other hand, are almost retiring at the age of 48.

If you want to know why the real estate business in the Netherlands is so different from here, you first have to take a look at the rental market there. It is considered one of the most regulated in all of Europe. Most of it consists of social housing with manageable rents, the amount of which is linked to income. That means: up to gross earnings of EUR 36,000 a year, everyone pays the same percentage. “And the waiting lists are long,” says Han Joosten, head of market research at the real estate developer BPD. “You have to wait twelve years for such an affordable rental apartment in Amsterdam, and four years in Utrecht.” Only ten percent of all apartments are rented free to those who earn more. Because there are so few, they are correspondingly expensive.

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