House hunt: What happens next

Once Marlon and I had decided on The One, I was nervous about bidding. I didn’t want someone else to get it first, and I didn’t want the owners to junk our offer!

It turned out to be surprisingly easy. Things went fast—really fast. Via our broker, we bid below than the asking price first thing Monday, and were rewarded for our promptness by being the first (and I suspect the only ones) in line. The owners (via their broker) counter-bid on Tuesday; we counter-counter-bid, they replied with their final price, and we put in one last counter-offer on Wednesday. By Thursday evening, the owners had accepted our offer and the apartment was ours! Or at least one step closer to being ours, officially.

Since then, I’ve allowed myself to get a little more infatuated with “our” apartment. In fact, last weekend I kind of stalked it. We visited the Sunday market at Westerpark (which is awesome and deserves another post), just minutes from “our” new place. To take the tram home, we walked through “our” street. It was lovely and I couldn’t believe we would be owning a home here soon. It felt like we had made the right decision.

However, there’s much to be done before I can drop the quotation marks from “our” apartment/”our” street. Here’s where we get into the nitty-gritty of buying a house in the Netherlands, and where we’re more than happy to pay a small premium for an English-speaking, expat-friendly broker to help us through the not-so-fun stuff. Of which there is a lot.

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House hunt: The One

I could tell you about the eight other apartments that we viewed after that first housing tour (nearly three weeks ago, but only blogged this week), bringing our total count to 14.

I could tell you about the place we viewed that ticked all my boxes on paper, but freaked me out when I stepped into the long, narrow, neck-like hallway leading to the bedrooms and realized that I could not be alone in it. Ever. Especially not at night.

I could tell you about the third-floor apartment in the Museum Quarter that I fled from before I even stepped in. I opened the front door, saw a vertical wall of stairs, said “No f*cking way” and walked off. (Good thing our broker wasn’t with us for that one.)

I could tell you about the places that came close. Or I could just tell you that we found The One.

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House hunt: Westerpark

(Go west!) Life is peaceful there
(Go west!) In the open air
(Go west!) Where the skies are blue
(Go west!) This is what we’re gonna do
-Go West, Pet Shop Boys

Is it possible to fall in love with a neighborhood? It seems that’s exactly what happened when Westerpark and I met for the first time.

It was a sunny Sunday morning when Marlon and I cycled to Westerpark for a look-see. We’d seen a few promising, budget-friendly apartments in the area on Funda but didn’t know much about the neighborhood, so we decided to go and check it out ourselves.

Living in the rather posh Oud Zuid has spoiled us, so we were a little tentative about the surroundings at first. It wasn’t seedy or creepy or anything like that, but you just kind of get used to being surrounded by cravat-wearing, Lexus-driving people in this area. I know, it’s not normal.

But low-key Westerpark had a few tricks up its sleeve. The first arrow into my heart came as Marlon and I were peeking into a ground floor apartment that we were thinking of viewing.

De Wittenkade apartment for sale

The place was nicely done up for sure, but that wasn’t what got me. It was the sweet little old lady that tottered up to us in her housecoat and walker as we had our noses pressed up against the window.

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So, tell me what you want (what you really, really want)

Before we set out to view apartments for sale in Amsterdam, I thought Marlon and I knew what we wanted. Our wish list included:

  • A minimum of 80 square meters—smaller than our current place, but not too small
  • Something special—period details such as original moldings or exposed beams
  • Ground floor or first floor, max
  • Two bedrooms—one for us, one for the baby (plus a possible future kid)
  • A bathtub and a back yard would be nice, at least a balcony will do
  • An open kitchen

It turned out that we had only the vaguest idea. Our broker (who specializes in expat rentals, but gamely took us on) easily stumped us by asking questions like: “If you were to rank your criteria, what would be your top three considerations and why?” Cue long and puzzled silence.

That’s why our first “housing tour”, as they call it here, was so important. Each of the six apartments we saw was like a date, or a mini-relationship. Each clued us into a little piece of what we wanted and didn’t want—which, like love and many other things in life, are tedious but necessary steps that eventually lead to The One.

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House hunt: Choosing a neighborhood

Buying an apartment in Amsterdam has given Marlon and myself a lot to think about. I’d like to think we know much more about life here than when when we first went house-hunting, nearly two years ago. Plus, buying is so much more complex than renting. So I decided that before showing you some of the places we’ve seen, I’d share some of the peculiarities of house hunting in Amsterdam to give you an insight into life here.

The first thing I wanted to share is, to me, the most striking difference in looking for an apartment here versus the two cities I lived in previously. And that is how much impact choosing a neighborhood has on your decision.

In Manila, your neighborhood is determined pretty much determined for you by budget and commute time. For example, as a prospective Pasig resident, you might love the feel of Valle Verde… but only really have the budget for Barangay Bagong Ilog (lol). Reducing the amount of time you spend sitting in traffic is also a major concern, so proximity to a school or workplace usually seals the deal.

In Singapore, the neighborhood hardly matters as everything feels so.. alike. With very few exceptions, you will find the same HDB flats and condos, the same malls with the same shops, the same infrastructure everywhere. That’s why it’s so easy to just settle in. The sameness eliminates the guesswork about what is the right or wrong neighborhood.

Even people I know who lived in Geylang (the “red light district”) had a cushy condo just minutes from an MRT station. The area you live in hardly comes into play unless you’re trying to get your kids into a certain school or achieve a certain status. When we were looking for a condo in Singapore, our decisions never hinged on how Yio Chu Kang “felt” versus, say, Novena. Character is just not a factor.

In Amsterdam, the first question I’m usually asked by friends I’ve told about our decision to buy is, “Where are you looking?”

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