Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Making and Breaking of a House Sale in the Netherlands: Our Two Weeks of Hell

We have just been through two weeks of hell with potential buyers for our house. The only thing that has kept our sanity in tact is the fact that we have a great estate agent selling our house who is also acting as our "buying" estate agent or aankoopmakelaar as it is called in Dutch.

The concept of having an estate agent that concentrates on selling your house and one that focuses on helping you buy a house is something that was alien to me when I moved to the Netherlands. For the first two houses we bought we only used an agent to sell our house, and we did all the buying 'stuff' ourselves. We learned our lesson..... (for pros and cons of hiring an aankoopmakelaar visit EigenHuis.nl - in Dutch)

With our next planned move we decided to use an aankoopmakelaar and it turned out to be a great move - he had secured us our next house within a few hours (yes, hours!) and we couldn't have been happier. That's what a GOOD aankoopmakelaar brings to the process.

Frustrating? You Could Say That!
Photo: Pop Catalin
Unfortunately, not all aankoopmakelaars are of the same calibre and the one representing our potential buyers managed single-handedly to destroy the chain for all buyers and sellers involved. After two weeks of messing around we threw in the towel and declared negotiations over - with such an agent and a process a house sale was just not worth the stress and aggravation.

The aankoopmakelaar had obviously promised the potential buyers he would get them a certain price at the beginning of the process and tried everything he could to keep that promise - deadlines were not communicated to his clients, he failed to relay price negotiation movements to his clients and lies and dirty games were in abundance. He told our estate agent one thing and his clients something completely different. In fact, he personified the reason why estate agents have earned themselves a bad reputation - at least in the UK anyway!!

Our estate agent was not amused to say the least and it was reassuring to us that our 'buyers' estate agent had horrified our own estate agent with his unusual and deplorable behaviour. To hear an estate agent say "I'm glad that's all over," and "I'm glad that didn't go through," when it doesn't end in a sale is truly a marvel...... He'll be taking the issue further but we're just glad we're out of the process.

We have certainly learnt a lot about the world of estate agents from the last few weeks. Our estate agent explained there is a code of conduct between estate agents, especially in a geographical area, and lying and deception is just not done. Yes, estate agents play games but they don't tell lies and manipulate the process and parties involved. For such behaviour, they lose their NVM status.... if they were good enough to have it in the first place of course...... In a housing market that has already been sickened by the economic crisis such estate agents do nothing to help.

The housing market is a tough one out there for sellers at the moment - BUT this does show that a bad choice of aankoopmakelaar can mean the process ends in disaster for the buyers too (ours wanted to move end of August this year so they have a fun few months ahead trying to make that happen).

Here's a couple of tips if you are looking to buy a house in the Netherlands:

  • An aankoopmakelaar can be worth their fees and more if they are good - ask around for a recommendation. 
  • Make sure that the estate agent you choose belongs to the NVM (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Makelaars) or the VBO. This means they must adhere to certain standards. Yes, you guessed it, our 'interested party' chose one who is a member of neither organisation and standards were low to say the least......
  • Make sure the aankoopmakelaar knows the local market you are trying to buy a house in. The one representing our 'buyers' did not and made demands that were instantly thrown out. It didn't make him look very competent or the buyers very credible.
  • Make sure you don't insult the sellers and get them off side with a ridiculously low opening offer. It doesn't bode well for the negotiation process. Nothing like pissing off the owners of the house you want to call home......
  • If a deadline is set for discussion, keep to it. Unless the sellers are desperate to move patience and trust in you as a potential buyer will quickly be lost.
  • It's important that you trust your estate agent and that it clicks between you. Are you getting the full story from your aankoopmakelaar?
And of course if you are looking to buy or sell a house in the Zoetermeer and wider area I can recommend a good estate agent - just send me an email and ask!

Who has more tips? Anyone had a good/bad experience buying or selling a house here?

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