A bit of history
I moved to Amsterdam from the UK in 2003 and worked as a Fund Manager for a Pension Fund —lots of playing with numbers and investmenty kind of things. My accommodation was paid for by my employers for the first 6 months which is very common amongst international companies who recruit expats. After that, I had to decide where to live and whether to rent or buy.
I knew I wanted to stay in Amsterdam so decided it made sense to buy a property instead of continuing to rent. Not only are the tax breaks considerable and it is far cheaper to buy rather than rent (unlike the UK) but I wanted to be on the property ladder and own my own home.
The big search began which has to be one of the most frustrating projects I have ever undertaken. Although nearly all property for sale in Holland is listed under one website, which was a good start, I didn't understand the language and a Dutch-English dictionary wasn't much help. For example, I realised that the space being sold (in square metreage) could be situated over say the 2nd and 4th floors (but not the 3rd) and '3 kamers' (3 rooms) did not mean 2 bedrooms, a large cupboard constitutes a kamer in Holland. The quirkyness of many Amsterdam apartment layouts was irritating, not endearing to me. Many of these details were not apparent until I stepped inside the property.
Knowing what a fiercely competitive and cut-throat business, estate agency is in the UK and Ireland, I was surprised that virtually all my email enquiries to makelaars went unanswered. By not speaking Dutch, I could hardly pronounce the street names so I thought email contact would be easier! When I did finally make contact with a makelaar about a property I wanted to see, I was told that viewing anytime after 5pm or at weekends was impossible. How frustrating! Did these people want to make any sales? Luckily, I had a very sympathetic employer who would let me take long lunches in order to look at the odd property. Despite this, my impatience and annoyance with the system meant my search was severely hampered.
8 months later, I found a wonderful apartment and negotiated a suitable purchase price. 5 months after that, I moved in. There were so many hurdles and paperwork and lots of strange processes during this time that I just simply didn't understand. There was so much to know but no one place I could go to to find it all out. A gap in the market surely…
My thwarted account is not unique, it was and still is typical of several expat friends' experiences so I decided to do something about it and started providing bespoke assistance for house hunting expats in and around Amsterdam. I have now escaped the Financial World, left the credit crisis behind and now work full-time for this highly rewarding venture.
Kate Holdsworth, Managing Director
P:+31 64 661 3315