New job in the Netherlands

So, you have a new job offer in the Netherlands – Congratulations! As an expat, grabbing a new job offer is always exciting. At the same time, there are many things to look out for especially if you have more than one offer (Amazing!!! 👏👏👏) in your hand! You need to compare them to make a decision for yourself.

Minimum salary requirement for your Visa: Many of us expats are here in the Netherlands on a specific type of residence permit (visa) – this usually means there is a minimum salary requirement. You may check the salary requirements for different types of visas at the IND website. Always check this before accepting an offer. There may be other conditions to satisfy based on the type of visa you are on – be sure to check these out also on the IND website. An example is that if you are on a Highly skilled migrant visa, your prospective employer should be a recognized sponsor by the IND.

Permanent contract or temporary contract or freelancer: If you do not have a choice, there is not much to decide. However, if you do have a choice, think about this one.

  • Permanent contract (onbepaalde tijd contract or vast contract): This is a contract with no defined end date – meaning, until you or your employer decide to end it. But there are several rules that apply before your employer can fire you. So, this is a relatively secure option. You are usually paid a fixed salary in these types of contracts.
  • Temporary contract (tijdelijk contract): This is a contract with a defined end date – usually for 6 months/1 year/2 years and if they still want to continue with you, they may offer you a permanent contract. You are usually paid a fixed salary in these types of contracts. There is another variant – the type where you are offered a permanent contract with a company (like a consultancy) but they place you at a client location for short term projects. When the project ends, your employer will search for another client location. In this case also, you are usually paid a fixed salary.
  • Freelancer (zelfstandig zonder personeel or ZZP): This is the type where you work for yourself. Just like a temporary contract, you will work at client locations for defined short period of time. You usually agree on an hourly wage – this means that you get most of what you are being billed for.
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Do you want a secure feeling about your new job? Then go for a permanent contract. Do you want to earn good money? Then go for a freelance position. Now, you may ask when there are these 2 options, why would you go for a temporary contract – this is because most employers don’t offer you a permanent contract at the beginning. They simply offer you a temporary contract for 6 months/1 year/2 years and if they still want to continue with you, they may offer you a permanent contract. There are of-course other hybrid models (midlance) which offer you best of both worlds!

30% ruling: If you are one of those lucky ones who (still) have the 30% ruling, make sure your prospective employer takes over this responsibility and passes on the benefit to you. This is usually a straightforward process – just contact your prospective employer and they should do it for you.

8% holiday allowance included or separate? The 8% holiday allowance (vakantiegeld) is mandatory for every employee in the Netherlands – so the question really is not IF you will get it but HOW is it mentioned in your salary package. Employer X may mention your monthly salary as 3000 Euros and holiday allowance is paid above that and Employer Y may mention your monthly salary as 3200 Euros including the holiday allowance. Assuming all other factors are the same, which one would you choose? This is like asking which one is greater – 90 min or 1.5 hours? 😉 Just check the details before making a decision.

Number of holidays: The standard formula for the number of holidays is 4 times the number of weekly working hours. So, if you work for 40 hours/week, you should get 160 hours (20 days) of holidays for the year. This is the minimum required by law. However, many employers offer more than this minimum. Compare them and make a decision. Employers also differ in the number of holidays you can carry forward to the next year. Some employers allow you to carry forward and some employers allow you to sell only a maximum number of holidays and there may be a minimum number of holidays you need to take in a year – else, they will lapse. Compare all these factors also before making a decision.

Pension: Every employee will accumulate mandatory state pension (Algemene Ouderdomswet or AOW). In addition to this, many employers offer a pension scheme of their own. Pension schemes can vary a lot between different employers and some employers may not offer it at all.

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Number of hours per week: This is quite straightforward but worth mentioning here. In the Netherlands, there is a lot of flexibility with respect to this– you usually can decide for yourself how many hours you want to work. Your benefits (like salary, number of holidays etc) depend on this.

Probation period: Most employers have a probation period (Proeftijd). This can range from 1 month to 2 months. During this period, the employer may decide to dismiss you without notice.

Notice period: The minimum notice period for you as an employee is one month. However, some employers may mention a longer period. Always check and compare this with other employers if you have multiple offers in hand.

Transport allowance: Unlike the holiday allowance – it is not mandatory for employers to provide travel allowance (reisaftrek) but most employers do. So, check if this is included in your contract. If you are not provided the travel allowance, you can declare your travel costs as deductible items during your annual income tax filing. Read more about this on the belastingdienst website.

Non-compete clause: This one is tricky and is really about what happens when you decide to leave this new employer. I know it sounds silly that I am already talking about what happens when this new job ends, but it an important aspect to consider before making a decision. Many employers have these clauses mentioned in their contracts. These clauses may prevent you from working for a competitor in future. If you are in a position to negotiate, try and get this clause removed!

CAO: Collective labor agreement (collectieve arbeidsovereenkomst or CAO) is an agreement for large groups of people and are generic in nature. They have the general employment conditions not specific to you. These are generally more favorable than individual contracts. Many large employers in the Netherlands have CAOs. The contents of the CAOs can differ a lot. Choosing an employer with a CAO can be more beneficial than choosing an employer without a CAO.

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Probably, there are more things to consider but I tried to cover the most important ones relevant for expats. Irrespective of which you choose, good luck with your new job! 😊

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End year tips

What a year it has been! I think this year will be remembered as the year of Corona for a long time. We are all ready to bid good-bye to 2020, but I am here to remind you of few things to be taken care of before you close-off the year in style (at home unfortunately!!)

  1. Health Insurance: This is the only time of the year when you can switch your health insurance for the following calendar year. Check out this blog explaining how you can choose one!
  1. Tax deductions: If you are one of those rich people 😊 (earn more than 68,507 Euros per year) and you have tax deductible items like mortgage interest deduction, donations etc., this is for you. On such items, the tax deduction is lower in 2021 than in 2020. Meaning, you will get back less from the belastingdienst (Dutch tax authorities). What can you do about this? Bring your payments forward into this year rather than in 2021. Example: If you want to make a donation, make it now rather than in January and you will get a better benefit. Read more about this on the belastingdienst website.
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  1. Buying your first house: We talked about the rich people, now let’s talk about young people (younger than 35 years in 2021). If you are planning to buy your first home and satisfy a few conditions, you don’t have to pay the Overdrachtsbelasting (Transfer tax). Read about it here. What can you do about this? Wait till 2021 to do your official paperwork.
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  1. Saving on wealth tax: In the Netherlands, the assets you have as of 1st January is used to calculate the wealth tax for that year. Every year, the belastingdienst sets a tax-free limit. Assets (capital) below this limit are exempt from the wealth tax. What can you do about this? You could reduce your assets and in turn the wealth tax on them by making smart choices now in December:
    • Paying your bills and taxes: This is quite simple. Pay all your pending bills, taxes, that speeding ticket you got when you were zipping around Amsterdam etc. These are payments which you cannot avoid, so pay them now and reduce your capital rather than wait till January.
    • Extra payments to your house: After all your bills, you still have money left above the tax-free limit. If you have a mortgage on your house, consider making extra payments to the bank. Most banks accept extra payments up to 10% of the mortgage value without a penalty. This has an added benefit that your monthly payments to the bank will come down. Check with your bank on the possibilities.
  1. Take your vacation days: The way this year has been, we could not travel much, and we could take those vacation days. Most employers have policies that say a certain number of your vacation days will expire if not taken. Check your company policies and take those vacation days before they lapse.
  1. 30% ruling: For many of us impacted by the abrupt ending of the 30% ruling, this December may be the last month when this still applies. What can you do about this? Enjoy the feeling while you can and maybe set aside some money until you get used to the new normal. I know this is not really a tip, but I had to include this!

Leave a comment if you have a question. Hit the Like button if you liked the article!

Health Insurance

Dutch healthcare system

Dutch people are generally healthy, but you still need a healthcare system 😉.

The Dutch healthcare system is supposed to be top ranked in Europe. Basic Health Insurance is mandatory if you are living or working in the Netherlands. This covers your basic needs like doctor visits and hospital visits. This could be different from the way things work in your home country.

Registering with a General Practitioner

If you are new to the Netherlands or recently moved to a new home, this is one of the first tasks you need to do – register with a General Practitioner (huisarts) in your area of residence. You can search this website for huisarts in your area. In the Netherlands, a huisarts is your first point of contact for any health issues. If you have to reach out to a specialist, your huisarts can refer you to one of them. So, do not forget to do this very important step!

Health Insurance

Basic Health Insurance (Basisverzekering) is mandatory if you are living or working in the Netherlands. Children up to 18 years are covered under the parents policy. Health insurers are obliged to accept everyone irrespective of their age, pre-existing health conditions, gender etc. The Basic health insurance covers your everyday needs like huisarts visits, hospital stay, medicines etc. If you are healthy and do not expect to go to the doctor very often, then this is sufficient.

However, everything is not covered. This is where supplementary insurance (aanvullende zorgverzekering) comes into play. Examples are dental care for adults, physiotherapy etc. Insurers are not obliged to accept everyone; they can charge you extra based on your age or your pre-existing health condition.

Types of Basisverzekering

  • Naturapolis: This is the type where the insurer concludes a contract with most healthcare providers. However, the insurer may not conclude a contract with ALL healthcare providers. This is where insurers differ in terms of what they offer. If you visit a healthcare provider who is not contracted, you may have to pay part of the costs yourself.
  • Restitutiepolis: You have the freedom to choose any healthcare provider of your liking and you will get fully reimbursed for your costs by the insurer. The premiums for these policies are more expensive than the Naturapolis (extra freedom of choice you see…..)
  • Combinatiepolis: This is a combination policy which claims to combine the benefits of the Naturapolis and the Restitutiepolis. But in my experience, I have not seen this truly happen because what the insurers can offer in this can vary widely. Most insurers have those annoying star marks* on these policies with respect to reimbursement for non-contracted healthcare providers. Do compare every detail before you decide to choose one. This is also usually more expensive than the Naturapolis.
  • Budgetpolis: Just like airlines, health insurers also provide a budget alternative. This is the low-cost no-frills variant of the Naturapolis. You have a limited choice of healthcare providers and just like the Naturapolis, you may have to pay part of the costs yourself if you visit a non-contracted healthcare provider.

*conditions which are hard to find, read and understand (unike this one 😊)

Costs

You pay a premium (premie) for your insurance. This is usually monthly. If you choose to pay annually, many insurers offer a discount (upto 2%).

Own risk (eigen risico) is the deductible for your insurance. This is the healthcare cost you must pay yourself. The insurer pays for the costs only after this. For the Basic insurance, the government decides the amount every year. For 2021, it is 385 Euro. Here is an opportunity for another discount 😊 -> if you feel healthy and don’t expect to incur a lot of healthcare expenses, you can opt for a Voluntary deductible (vrijwillig eigen risico). This will increase your deductible by a certain amount and in return you get a discount on your premium.

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How to choose an insurance?

Firstly, think about what health related expenses you anticipate? You cannot obviously expect emergencies to happen, but you may have ‘known expenses’ – think of these. An example is a dental treatment which has been long pending – you may need aanvullende zorgverzekering for this.

Do you want complete freedom of choice with respect to healthcare providers and don’t mind a higher premium? Then go for a Restitutiepolis.

Would you rather pay a lower premium? Then think about a hospital/clinic/any other healthcare provider you are likely to visit. This is most likely in your neighborhood. Then choose a Naturapolis. Check the insurers website to see if they have a contract with this health care provider.

Ask yourself this – “Do you expect to have very less healthcare expenses?”. If the answer is yes, you should probably go for a Budgetpolis because these are the cheapest and you don’t mind their limited choice of healthcare providers. You may also opt for a vrijwillig eigen risico which will give you a discount on your premium.

You can compare different insurances on websites like independer and consumentenbond.

When can you switch?

You choose your health insurance for an entire calendar year. Every year between mid-November to end of December, all insurers make their premiums known for the following calendar year. This is the time for you to switch if you wish to.

Here’s wishing you a healthy life and hope you will never need to use your insurance 😊

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Free learning resources for Dutch

You might say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but I say there are several free ways to learn Dutch for purpose of inburgering exams. Few of them are described here.

  • Duolingo: This is a great resource for absolute beginners. There is a web version and an app for Android/IOS. Duolingo doesn’t teach you in a traditional way – meaning, you don’t start with alphabet and the sounds, but with short sentences. Even if you do not know the alphabet yet, this is still a nice way to begin. Setup a daily goal and spend 10 to 15 min every day.
  • Your local library: In many cities across the Netherlands, your local library may have some classes usually organized by volunteers to encourage expats to start learning. This is also a great way to meet new people. Just walk-in to your library and ask them.
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  • Check with your gemeente (town hall): Usually local town/city administrations have some budget to arrange classes through language institutes in your area. Just call your gemeente and find out if there are any classes and the process to enroll for them. These classes are usually arranged through good institutes, so the quality will be good – that also means there may be a waiting list before you are accepted.
  • Bart de Pau YouTube videos: Bart de Pau is a popular Dutch tutor. You can find his YouTube channel here. A special mention for his alphabet and pronunciation videos – I love them.
  • Dutch Newspapers: Now, this way might not seem interesting but let’s try and make it a bit more fun – start with just reading the advertisements and nothing else. If not anything, you atleast get to know if there is a sale going on somewhere in your neighborhood 😊. If you are an absolute beginner, this might not be the best way. But after a few weeks of Duolingo and Bart de Pau videos, you should be able to understand a few words here and there. The vocabulary used in newspapers is usually repetitive – meaning, if you start reading regularly enough, you will pick up many words automatically. There are free newspapers at train stations. You may also read news on Dutch websites if you promise not to use the ‘translate’ feature of Google Chrome 😊
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  • News on NPO: The “NOS Journaal” news on NPO is supposed to be the best Dutch spoken. There are usually free of local dialects, use simple words for easy understanding, have a clear pronunciation. This is a great way to pick up your listening skills. Even if you don’t understand everything that is being spoken, just listening to it continuously helps you register the sounds of the language (like a child imitating an adult even when the child does not understand what it means). Imitation is one of the best forms to learn a language. A tip: If you watch the news broadcast of the previous day in the NPO app on your smart device, you have an option to turn on subtitles (in Dutch, but still……). Then you can relate the pronunciation of the word to the spelling of the word.
  • Books: There are several books like ‘Kijk op Nederland’, ‘Welkom in Nederland’, ‘Nederlands in gang’ for preparation of Writing and KNM exams. If you have a membership at your local library, you should be able to borrow them for free!
  • Letters you receive at home: From the day you arrived in the Netherlands, you would have received letters in Dutch related to everything. In the beginning, you would obviously translate every single word. But slowly, you will start picking up words (one of the first words I learnt was ‘betalen’ = “to pay” because almost every other letter asked me to pay something 😊). Try and figure out the meaning of the sentence using this word and from the context – this will help you learn new words faster!

Then, there are several websites specifically aimed at practice for the inburgering exams. I have listed few of them here:

Official practice exams from DUO:

For all exams:

For KNM/KNS:

For Reading:

For Speaking:

For Writing:

Happy learning! Hope you find them useful!

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Tips for inburgering exams

With the news making rounds that the difficulty level of the inburgering exams may be increased from A2 to B1 in 2021, almost everyone is scrambling to complete the exams as soon as possible. And rightly so! If you can do something in A2 level, why would you want to wait till it gets to B1 level?

So, here I am to give you some tips for the Writing and Speaking inburgering exams in A2 level

Writing (Schrijven):

  • Writing exam is on paper unlike other exams (on the computer). If you are like me and think you don’t have a great handwriting, do your practice on paper rather than on the computer.
  • During your preparation, time yourself – this will help you get used to the time pressure in the exam.
  • What do they evaluate in your answers? This is called the assessment model (Beoordelingsmodel). Adequacy is the most important thing they evaluate in the exam. You can see the full assessment model in the duo website. If adequacy is not good, other things don’t matter at all (doesn’t matter if you write grammatically correct sentences that do not answer the question):
    • Write atleast 3 sentences for each exercise (opdracht), but keep it precise (not more/not less)
    • Write about everything that is asked; do not miss any point asked in the opdracht
  • During the exam, usually there is one question where you need to fill-in a form. Many people consider this the easiest because you just need to fill-in your personal details (you do remember your name, phone number, email address 😊 don’t you?). As this exam is on paper, you have your entire question paper with you – you can start in any order. Start your exam with this question because it is a great confidence booster!
  • Write short sentences as much as possible.
  • Use more of Hoofdzin (Independent sentence) and less bijzin (sentence which is dependent on the hoofdzin) as much as possible. This will avoid mistakes related to word order.
  • Usage of conjunctions (voegwoorden) gives you extra points. Use conjunctions like (en, of, want, maar, dus) rather than conjunctions like (omdat, als etc). You use the first set of conjunctions between two hoofdzins and you use the second set of conjunctions between a hoofdzin and a bijzin (This is more difficult and a possibility for mistakes related to word order).
  • Check Articles (de/het) of all words. Tip: In Dutch, majority of the words are ‘de’ words. So, when in doubt, simply use ‘de’ and the probability that it is correct is higher 😊. ‘Diminutief’ is a noun ending with -je, -tje, -mpje, -pje, -etje. These are always ‘het’ words.
  • If they mention the number of sentences in the opdracht – try and stick to it.
  • Use appropriate beginnings/endings. (Greetings – Beste, Hallo etc) and (Salutations – Met vriendelijke groet, Groetjes etc)
  • When asked, do not miss even dates and signatures – you might be wondering how this is important in a language exam, but it is about adequacy.
  • In forms to fill-in, pay attention to: [Voornaam (First Name)] (vs) [Voorletters (Initials)]. This is an easy mistake to avoid!
  • In forms to fill-in, strike through the wrong one and circle the correct one: [M (Man)] (vs) [V (Vrouw)]
  • Check eenvoud (singular)/meervoud (plural) of all words that you write. This is a common mistake that we tend to make when learning!
  • Check Tenses (present/past) of all words.
  • Write with enough space between words/lines so that there is space to make corrections if required. Again, this is useful for people like me who write something promptly and get fresh ideas later 😊 – then it is hard to fit them in if there is no space. Remember, you cannot erase (you should write with a pen and not a pencil).

Speaking (Spreken):

Before you start your exam; don’t worry!
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  • The assessment model (Beoordelingsmodel) for speaking is also in the above-mentioned duo website. Again, Adequacy is the most important thing they evaluate in the exam:
    • Keep it precise (not more/not less) but answer accurately; make sure it is an answer to the question and not something random
    • Speak about everything that is asked; don’t miss any point from the question
  • Try and keep the Dutch pronunciation of words which are common in English as well (Ex: goed vs good; water vs water etc)
  • Avoid repetition/stammering/re-forming the sentences; re-record if time permits
  • Try and avoid long pauses between words; re-record if time permits
  • Do not worry about an accent – it is acceptable to have a foreign accent
  • Other tips (related to grammar) mentioned for Writing are also applicable for Speaking.
After you finish your exam and following the tips 😊
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Here are some common topics to prepare:

During your preparation, think of the below topics and come up with example (simple) answers. If you get a similar question in the exam, you shouldn’t be searching for ideas at that time. This will help you for both Writing and Speaking exams:

  • About your favorite restaurant
  • About your favorite dish/fruit/vegetable
  • What did you do in the weekend?
  • About your favorite city
  • About your last vacation
  • About the weather
  • About your favorite activity to stay healthy
  • About your house/job/family/city/country
  • About your hobby
  • Introduce yourself
  • Describe your problem to the doctor
  • Describe the route to your house

Good luck with your exams!

I learnt most of these tips during my preparation and some of them from my experience of the exams. Hope you find them useful!

Leave a comment if you have a question. Hit the Like button if you liked the article!

Steps involved in buying a home in the Netherlands

Hey “An almost proud owner of a home” 😊. Good to see you here! This blog is to explain the steps involved in buying an existing property in the Netherlands. If you are still thinking if you should buy a property or not, do check out my other blog which explains why you should buy with a mathematical example.

So, here we go:

  1. Deciding on the type of property: Do you want an apartment or a house away from the city center or a house in a historical city center? Are you someone who loves gardening? Then maybe you want a house with a garden. Are you someone who loves the waterside? Then, maybe you are looking for canal house. Different people have different wishes – when I say different, I also mean wife and husband 😊. Decide together on what exactly are your wishes. Believe me, this takes more time than you can imagine, so start early!!!! I suggest start looking for properties in your area even if you have no intention to buy that house. This will give you an idea on the different types of properties available and will also give you a clarity on what you don’t want (let’s be honest, when you visit a house, you will mostly spot things which you don’t like – that’s just how our mind works).
  1. Deciding on a neighborhood (buurt): Deciding a city/town where you want to live is one thing. Then you also need to decide on a neighborhood you would like to live. Do you want to live in lively neighborhood bustling with shops/cafes or would you rather live in a quiet neighborhood near a park/lake? Do you perhaps want to live in an area where there is a (international) school? Or something close to public transport? This website shows the liveability of your area. Many cities/towns also have their own websites. Just Google for your city name+ buurtmonitor for information about your city.
  1. Determine your budget: You would most likely need a loan to purchase a house (unless of course you are super rich). So, how much can you borrow from a mortgage lender? This depends mainly on your income and a few other factors. You can make a free first appointment with most mortgage lenders and they will give you an estimate of how much you can borrow. But this can take a lot of time if you have to visit 2 or more mortgage lenders and it will also be difficult to compare them. This is where a Mortgage advisor (hypotheek adviseur) plays a role. The Mortgage advisor can give you quotations from multiple mortgage lenders and also compares them for you. A mortgage (hypotheek) is formally arranged after you have signed the preliminary purchase agreement. However, it is important to make sure you have already investigated your mortgage options and budget.
  1. Looking for a property: You can start looking for a property yourself by using websites like funda, pararius etc. or you can engage a real estate agent (makelaar). Now, you might have a question as to why you should engage a makelaar when you could do it yourself for free? There are some advantages of engaging a makelaar for a fee (there is no such thing as a free lunch 😊):
    • they have early or sometimes even exclusive access to houses which are going on sale.
    • they know the local market and help with negotiation and or the bidding process.

Makelaars have different payment models. Some of them charge a variable fee (% of the house value), some of them charge based on the number of properties you visit before you make a decision and some of them charge you a fixed fee. Do explore your options and agree with them on a payment model before engaging them.

  1. Zero-down on a property: This is of course the most important step. You find a property which you like. Now, what are the things to keep in mind?
    • How do you know if the seller is quoting a fair price for the house? For a small fee, you can get the recent property sale prices per address from kadaster. This gives you an idea about how the asking price of the house compares to recent sales in the neighborhood.
    • Check if the property has ground lease rent or leasehold (erfpacht): In cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht, it is common to find houses with a leasehold – meaning, you don’t own the land on which the house is built, instead you pay a lease amount (erfpachtcanon) to the owner of the land. There can be municipal leasehold or private leasehold. If the property you are interested in is a leasehold property, the seller must inform you about this.
    • Structural survey: You would want to know what the state of the property is before you buy it. Not all faults might be visible to the naked eye. This is where a Structural or Technical survey can help. An independent surveyor can do an assessment of the property and provide you with a detailed report and an estimate of how much repair costs might be (if any).
  1. Bidding and making an offer: It is time to negotiate or bid and make an offer. In some cases, you might be able to negotiate on the asking price. In an ideal word, you wouldn’t want to pay more than the asking price. But with the current demand-supply situation in the Netherlands, there are often multiple prospective buyers for any property. This simply means the highest bidder will be chosen by the seller. Your makelaar can help you decide what is the right amount to bid. When placing a bid, keep in mind that the mortgage lender will give you a loan only for a certain amount. This amount depends on the taxatierapport (explained later).
  1. Sign the purchase agreement: Yay!!! Your bid has been accepted. Finally, things are starting to fall in place 😊 The seller’s makelaar usually prepares the preliminary purchase agreement (koopovereenkomst). It is called preliminary because this is not the formal handover of the property to you (this happens later through a Notary). Make sure the following are covered before you sign it:
    • financing clause: simply means that if you cannot get your mortgage approved, you can withdraw without any penalty
    • structural survey clause: if you are not happy with the Structural survey results, you can withdraw without any penalty
    • The date of transfer of ownership: this is the actual date of the formal handover at the Notary (just can’t wait for this date……😊). Make sure you have enough time between now and the date of transfer of ownership so that you can approach a mortgage lender and arrange your funds.

You will need to pay 10% of the agreed price to the seller’s notary when you sign the purchase agreement. This serves as a deposit. You can get a bank guarantee (waarborgsom) for this if you cannot arrange the funds yourself.

From this point on, the timer has started (tick, tick, tick………).

  1. Valuation report (taxatierapport): This is an appraisal of the property done by an independent valuer (taxateur). You will need this report to approach a mortgage lender for a loan. In 2020, the mortgage lender can offer you a maximum mortgage of 100% of the value on this taxatierapport (not on the asking price or your bid price). The validation institute  NWWI must have validated the report.
  1. Preparing your mortgage application: Reach out to your mortgage advisor/mortgage lender for a loan with all the required documentation (includes your income details, taxatierapport etc). You will be informed of the outcome (hopefully approval 😊) in a few weeks. You can avail tax deductions on the interest paid (hypotheekrenteaftrek). During your mortgage application process, your lender will inform you about the mandatory insurances you need to take.
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  1. At the notary (notaris): The big day has arrived! This is the day you are formally going to be the owner of the property. The makelaar and the mortgage advisor usually accompany you (so you have some men behind you 😉). If you don’t speak/understand Dutch, you will also need a translator. Arrange for a translator prior to your appointment with the notary. In my case, I felt like I had an army behind me 😊 (makelaar, mortgage advisor, translator, my wife and myself). Fun fact: Usually notary deals in the Netherlands happen either on the 1st or the 15th of a month. So, these 2 days are extremely busy for makelaars and translators. What exactly happens at the notary:
    • First, you and the seller sign the Deed of Transfer (Leveringsakte) and the seller hands-over the keys to you (Photo moment 😊). This deed explains about transfer of ownership, the agreed purchase price and other details.
    • Then you sign the Mortgage Deed (Hypotheekakte). This deed explains the agreement between you and the mortgage lender, the amount of loan given to you etc.
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  1. In your home: Welcome home 😊. By far, the most exciting step!!! You have made it this far by going through a hell lot of paperwork (mostly in Dutch)! Don’t forget to pop a champagne and celebrate!
  1. Arranging your utilities: You have to arrange providers for your utilities like electricity, gas, water. You might want to check out this blog about how to choose a Utilities provider.

Costs involved (buyer’s costs usually amount to around 6% of the purchase price) and can include:

  • Transfer tax (Overdrachtsbelasting): This is the transfer tax that you as a buyer pay when you purchase an existing property (bestaande woning). Current situation is that you pay 2% of the purchase price. Starting 2021, this will be zero for first-time buyers under the age of 35. You can read all about it here (in Dutch)
  • The costs of your makelaar (if applicable) [around 1.5% of the purchase price]
  • The fee of your Mortgage advisor [around 3000 Euro to 4000 Euro]
  • (or)
  • The Mortgage processing fee of the lender (if applicable) [around 1000 Euro to 1500 Euro].
  • Notary costs [around 1000 Euro to 2000 Euro]
  • Valuation (Taxatierapport) costs [around 300 Euro to 800 Euro]
  • The bank guarantee costs (if applicable) [around 1% of the guarantee amount]
  • The costs of a structural survey (Bouwkundige Keuring) (if applicable) [around 300 Euro to 800 Euro]
  • Translator fee (if applicable) [around 200 Euro]
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Some of these costs (Notary cost, Valuation cost, Mortgage advisor cost) are tax deductible. So, all is not over….you get back something too!

Personally, I felt a sense of accomplishment after I bought my home. It is a long process to buy a home but well worth investing your time and effort! Good luck!

The explanation mentioned here is purely from my own experience. It is not to be taken as professional advice.

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Why should you consider buying a home in the Netherlands

You’ve been living in the Netherlands for a few years now and you have started to think long term. How about buying a property in the Netherlands? It sounds simple, but it is not an easy decision to make! But it can be beneficial to you. Let me explain how.

Renting vs buying: For most of us expats, in the beginning renting is an obvious choice. But a question you need to ask yourself is: How long do you intend to stay in the Netherlands? If the answer is anything more than 3 years, then you should consider buying instead of renting. Let’s take a layman’s example: For an 70 m2 apartment outside the city center (centrum), you typically pay a rent between 1000 Euros to 1500 Euros per month (sorry, need to exclude you Amsterdam as you are too expensive for this example) depending on the city you live in. Best case scenario, 1000 Euros per month, that is a whopping 36,000 Euros for 3 years – this is money you are throwing-away – you will never get this money back. On the other hand, if you buy the same apartment worth about 350,000 Euros (again, you won’t get it for this price in Amsterdam, but in a smaller city perhaps), you would pay a monthly amount to the bank (via a mortgage). And guess what, the monthly amount will look very similar to your monthly rent and in many cases, even cheaper than your monthly rent. There are different types of mortgages available, but in most cases, your monthly amount will have a principal component and an interest component. The interest component is the throw-away part but the principal component is actually your investment. You will get this back in the form of your house in a few years. While you are still paying the 36,000 Euros out of your pocket in a period of 3 years, only the interest component of this is throw-away and the rest is yours. Oh, another thing – the interest is tax deductible, so you get back some money from the belastingdienst (Dutch tax authority). Yippie! 😊

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Now, let’s say you want to move out of the Netherlands (why-o-why do you want to do that!!! but anyways…..) after 3 years of buying your house. Don’t worry, you have options – you can either rent it out (if you have an outstanding mortgage, you need permission from your bank) or sell it. If the housing market has crashed and your apartment is worth only 330,000 Euros now (worst case scenario) and you still have an outstanding mortgage of 314,000 Euros (350,000 minus 36,000) with the bank. When you sell the apartment, the bank takes the outstanding balance (314,000 Euros) and gives you the rest 16,000 Euros (330,000 minus 314,000). So, you would have paid a net amount of 20,000 Euros over a period of 3 years (36,000 minus 16,000). Despite the market crash, this is still better than the 36,000 Euros you would have thrown-away in case of renting! I have not elaborated on other scenarios like renting it out and I don’t have to show you the numbers if the house prices have appreciated – it will only be more beneficial to you!

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Phew!!! We did some number crunching, but in the end, even a market crash did not impact you so badly… so that’s a relief indeed. I am not a finance guy, so the example taken here is a simple one with a worst-case scenario. If you look at the actual mortgage formulae, the calculations are more complex, but the idea is the same! I have excluded Amsterdam for this example, but the calculations will look similar even for Amsterdam (just append an extra zero to every number you see here 😉)

If you have read the article till here, I am convinced that you are convinced to buy instead of rent 😊

If you need more reasons to buy, here are a couple:

  1. All-time low interest rates – the mortgage interest rates are going down and down and down and doooooown. They are in search of that zero, I guess!
  2. If you are turning 35 in 2021 or later, this is for you 😊. Overdrachtsbelasting is the transfer tax that you as a buyer pay when you purchase an existing property (bestaande woning). Current situation is that you pay 2% of the purchase price. Starting 2021, this will be zero for first-time buyers under the age of 35. The Dutch government wants to encourage young first-time buyers. This can be a substantial saving. You can read all about it here (in Dutch). Overdrachtsbelasting is not applicable if you buy a newly built property (nieuwbouw)

Check out my next blog on the steps to buy an existing property.

The examples and explanation mentioned here are purely from my own experience. The examples are not to be taken as professional advice.

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Public Transport in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a compact country – which means you can reach any corner of the country within a few hours. Coming from a vast country myself, I know how useful it can be to be able to reach anywhere within a few hours! What better way to explore this beautiful country than using public transport? This post is to explain about how Public transport works in the Netherlands. First things first – if you are in a new Dutch city and you are looking to get back home, all you need is a smartphone because there is free WiFi in almost all train and bus stations (and in most trains and buses as well – that’s a bonus).

Types of public transport available

Like many other European countries, there are several modes of public transport available in the Netherlands – Train for long distance travel, Bus, Metro, Tram and sometimes Ferry for short intra-city travel. So, you might be wondering how long is “Long” in the Netherlands?? One of the longest train rides in the Netherlands is from the student city of Groningen to the harbor town of Vlissingen which takes about 5 hours.

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How does public transport work?

The Dutch public transport system is integrated and well connected. You can easily switch between different modes of transport to reach your end destination. Unless you are making a one-off journey (believe me, you wouldn’t want to stop with just one journey in this beautiful country 😊), it is highly recommended to get an ov-chipkaart for public transport travel. This is a smart card which can be used across all types of public transport. With this, you don’t have to worry about buying individual tickets anymore. I started using this smart card from the very first day I arrived in the Netherlands but did not realize what ‘ov’ stands for until recently. It simply means openbaar vervoer (Public transport in Dutch). Quite obvious if you understand a bit of Dutch 😊

There are 2 types of ov-chipkaarts available – personalized and anonymous. If you like to admire yourself every time you use public transport, then personalized is the one for you because it has your photo on it! Jokes aside, there are other advantages of going for a personalized ov-chipkaart because you can get it blocked if you happen to lose it. Both of them cost 7.5 Euro. You need to top it up with a minimum amount before you can travel. You can register your card on ov-chipkaart website here to track your travel, check your balance etc. The minimum amount you need to have on your card differs per type of public transport – for train without any subscription, you will need 20 Euro, for most other public transport, you will need 4 Euro. The actual fare depends on how far you travel.

If you must buy an individual ticket, you can buy these in train, metro stations and bus/tram tickets directly on the bus/tram with the driver/conductor. Some companies accept cash, but some of them don’t. Always make sure you have a Dutch debit card for easy purchases. Individual tickets are generally more expensive than using the ov-chipkaart.

How to travel from A to B?

Your ultimate travel planner in the Netherlands is 9292. You can also download this app on your iOS, Android. This is integrated with all the public transport types/companies in the Netherlands and it shows you the best possible routes to reach your destination.

There are several public transport companies operating in different regions of the Netherlands, but if you use this app, you don’t have to worry about which company operates in your region. Simply key-in the details and off you go!

NS season tickets for regular travel

NS (Nederlandse spoorwegen) is the national train company. If you travel by train regularly (for example to work), you can opt for a NS season ticket (abonnement) depending on your route and distance of travel. There are several season tickets available and they are described in the NS website.

Kortingen

What is a Korting (en)? It means discount in Dutch. It is one of the first Dutch words I learnt (for obvious reasons 😉). If you are travelling together with another person who has a valid NS season ticket, you can get a 40% korting on your travel during non-peak hours (daluren). Again, the NS website explains which season ticket has this feature. This is called the joint journey discount (samenreiskorting). You can apply for this at a NS kiosk in any train station. This short video explains how to do it.

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Other ways to get cheap tickets

If you do not have a season ticket, for one-off long-distance travels there several other ways to find cheap NS day tickets (dagkaart). You can find these deals here. Popular supermarkets/departmental stores like Albert Heijn, Kruidvat, Hema often have these deals. NS also has deals sometimes during the year. Keep checking these links often as most deals are for a limited time only.

Another great way to travel for cheap during non-peak hours is the NS group tickets. You need a group of 4 or more people to avail this discount. If you are travelling with less than 4 people, here is a tip for you: there are several Facebook groups (search for NS group tickets) just to find a travel companion. Simply join a group, find your companion in the same route, and make a new friend 😊

Ov-fiets

After finding your way through all the Kortingen and other cheap tickets, you buy a ticket and finally arrive at your destination train station. For the last leg of your journey, to make your travel a little exciting why not bike to your end destination? Ov-fiets is the rental bike offered by NS. The ov-fiets is available for rent in almost all train stations across the Netherlands. You need to add a season ticket to your personalized ov-chipkaart to be able to use this.

If you would rather use your own bike, it is of course possible to carry it in the train for an extra fee.

Leave a comment if you have a question or would like anything else to be added.

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Utilities providers

Utilities providers in the Netherlands

So, you got the keys for your new home in the Netherlands. Congratulations! One of the most important things you will need to setup are the Utilities. Unlike few other countries, some of the utilities in the Netherlands are privatized – meaning you can choose a provider yourself. This can be good news if you understand how things work or terrible news because you have to do all the hard work. But do not worry – this article will help you make an informed decision.

You will typically need providers of electricity, water, and sometimes gas (depending on the area you live in). In some areas, you will have district heating (Stadsverwarming) instead of gas. Water providers and district heating providers are usually fixed depending on the area you live in and you as a consumer do not have a choice here – so, one less thing to worry about 😊

For the other providers, there is plenty of choice available. Some of the most popular providers for electricity and gas are Essent, Greenchoice, Budget Energie.

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How do Energy providers work

The Energy provider in consultation with you will come with a “fixed” monthly amount that you will pay – this is based on an estimate of your usage. If you are new to your home and you are not aware of your usage, the provider will use a previous estimate. At the end of the year, your provider will send you an annual invoice (jaarnota) with your actual usage and the difference amount you have to pay (or receive).

How do you choose

Energy providers can be confusing in terms of what they offer and it can be quite a challenge to choose the right one.

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There are many comparison (vergelijken) websites like https://www.independer.nl/, https://www.energievergelijk.nl/ etc. You simply have to enter your address and they provide you a list of providers with their quotes. Keep in mind that these websites do not compare all providers. If you have a quote from another provider and would like to compare, keep reading!

What should you actually compare before choosing the right provider

The price breakdown of the quotes will show different components:

  • Energiebelasting and Opslag Duurzame Energie are government levies on your consumption of electricity and gas. These will remain the same irrespective of the provider. So, you may safely ignore these during your comparison.
  • Vermindering energiebelasting is a reduction on your energy tax. This is also determined by the government every year. This will remain the same irrespective of the provider. So, you may safely ignore this during your comparison.
  • Netbeheerkosten is the same irrespective of the provider. It is determined by your meter company every year. Again, you may safely ignore this during your comparison.

That brings us down to just three things you need to compare:

  • Leveringstarief normaal is the Delivery rate per kWh of usage during day-time.
  • Leveringstarief dal is the Delivery rate per kWh of usage during night-time (the exact timings can vary depending on the area you live in). This rate is typically lower than the normaal rate.
  • Vaste leverings kosten is the Fixed Delivery costs per month.

Only if you have a smart electricity meter (dubbele or slimme meter) installed at your address, you can make use of the two different delivery rates (Leveringstarief normaal and Leveringstarief dal). If you do not have a smart meter, then you can get a single Delivery rate (Leveringstarief).

Tip: Having a smart meter can save you money. As the Delivery rates during night-time are lower, it can be beneficial to use the washing machine during these hours. Now, that’s one money saving tip for you 😊

In addition, many providers also provide Welcome bonuses and/or cashback offers if you stay with them for a certain period of time. Always take these into consideration before making a decision.

Green energy

Comparison websites like independer also show a Durability indicator for every quote. Providers supply “Green” or “Gray” electricity/gas. Greener the better for the environment!

In conclusion

Due to the large number of Energy providers, there is healthy competition in the market and the providers try to attract you with their offers. Many people switch providers every year (or two) to take benefit of the lower prices and/or cashback offers. Do take your time to compare and switch if it makes sense!

Leave a comment if you have a question or would like anything else to be added.

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