Buying property when you are not a resident in the country.
September 7, 2018 11:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm currently living in Hong Kong, and I'd like to buy a small apartment in either Rotterdam, Arnhem or Antwerp. This is a combination retirement option and investment. (It makes no sense at all to buy in Hong Kong.) I won't have much time to look, but I can ask local friends to help me by visiting places for me. Does anyone have any experience doing something similar which they can share? Difficulty Level: Dutch/US dual citizenship.

I'm looking for experience, stories, tips and tricks. Big bonus if you have experience with the US side. I'm thinking I need to get a dollar mortgage to not get eaten alive by tax if I ever sell the place, but I have no experience doing this.

I've been looking at property agents who specialise in this kind of transaction, but they all seem to be aiming at quite a different price class than mine. And they definitely don't have modest two bedroom apartments in their listings. One of my questions are the pros and cons of doing this with just a local agent with no expat experience.
posted by frumiousb to Home & Garden (4 answers total)
Local agents will help you by seeing places for you and sending you videos and answering your questions. I did this once: bought a condo in Honolulu sight unseen based on a video my agent made when he saw the place for me. I was in South Carolina for work at the time and went into contract before I came back to Hawaii. However, I had very specific requirements I'd already decided on, so he wasn't looking at lots of vastly different stuff for me; I had already become familiar with what was in the neighborhood I wanted by monitoring the MLS, and we just closely examined a handful of properties. Everything worked out with the condo. It's possible to do. If you can narrow down what you are looking for to specific characteristics and/or neighborhoods, you will have an easier time viewing and considering properties without being there in person.

I have no idea how you could go about getting a dollar mortgage for an investment property in Belgium, but I would start by contacting Belgian real estate agents who work with expats and asking them to refer you to mortgage brokers. You could also check online communities for expats, as someone on there has likely done this before.
posted by zdravo at 12:00 AM on September 8, 2018

How about finding an accountant, in NL, who deals with expats? Get refs from the local expat forums. They should be able to answer a lot of your questions.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:19 AM on September 8, 2018

I think it’s as simple as finding a real estate agent to show you pictures of flats until you can fly to Holland to actually make an offer, and finding out from your bank or lender how much down payment you need depending on where your sources of income are.

A long time ago, I bought property in Paris while being neither resident nor French. All it took for a 10% down payment on the mortgage was the fact that my salary at the time was wired into a French bank account.

It you speak Dutch, there should be plenty of information available online. In fact, I’d advise you to look for info in Dutch rather than English.
posted by Kwadeng at 1:00 AM on September 8, 2018

Personally, I'd do the searching myself on sites like Pararius or Funda rather than relying on a real estate agent. Then you have your choice in terms of type of place and price class.

For mortgage assistance, I'd go with a company like Expat Mortgages, mainly because they're used to dealing with unusual residence situations. I'm not a permanent resident, and they still managed to get me a great deal on my mortgage. They have an office in Rotterdam but they seem to work pretty much everywhere. You used to have the option of adding the agent fee onto your mortgage, but I'm not sure that's allowed anymore (or it might vary by bank).

I do think you might have trouble if you really want a non-euro mortgage; every article I've read has said that after the Mortgage Credit Directive, Dutch banks decided to only offer euro mortgages. Also, if your salary isn't paid in US dollars when you apply, I'm not sure you can get a US dollar mortgage anyway.
posted by neushoorn at 2:38 AM on September 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

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