Amsterdam is a popular city with expats – especially South Africans – who have Dutch roots and are attracted to this diverse city that is rich in history and tradition. Amsterdam is also one of the world’s top travel destinations and expats working in the city find themselves in a modern society where equality is valued and hard work is appreciated.
In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2017, the Netherlands ranked 28 out of 190 countries for 2017 and the country makes it easy to trade across its borders, ranking first in this category. For ease of starting a business it comes in at 28 and highly skilled expats in the retail, food processing, financial services and gas and oil industries are more likely to find employment in Amsterdam.
Despite all these positives, expats in Amsterdam have recently been warned that they need to be aware of real estate scams specifically targeting new arrivals in the city. The scams are countrywide but are specifically targeted at expats in Amsterdam.
The reason for the plethora of scams is that finding a flat or house to rent in Amsterdam can be a serious challenge for expats and new residents. There is a significant housing shortage in the city, especially in central areas and the market is skewed by rent-controlled public housing and unscrupulous landlords and agents.
If it looks to good to be true, it probably is.
Newcomers are advised to follow this old advice and are encouraged to get any real estate documents translated by a lawyer who is able to spot any warning signs that the deal may be fraudulent. Expats are also advised to get to know the basics of Dutch real estate agency processes and then take all the protective measures they can take.
Things to look out for
A common scam includes asking expats to pay extra fees after they have found suitable accommodation. Another favourite scam is the reverse mortgage scam, in which expats who own their own homes are persuaded to take out reverse mortgages, which aren’t suitable for their circumstances and result in endless unspecified fees. Another common trick involves approaching new arrivals and persuading them they can own homes without giving a deposit – provided they pay additional fees. Also watch out for online property rental ads which request a bank transfer as a holding deposit as these can easily be scams. Look out for inconsistencies, for example where the email address does not match the website.
When in doubt, walk away
If any red flags are raised, it’s better to walk away. The Kadaster website will also give you information on the property owner, who should also be the landlord. If they are not, request written confirmation of the advertiser’s right to rent out the property. Pararius (pararius.com/english) is a useful site with a large listing of rental properties from trusted agents. Direct Wonen (directwonen.nl/en) is another large agent whilst Perfect Housing (perfecthousing.com) is a housing agency catering to the high-end expat market.
If you are a South African living in Amsterdam and would like to know more about how you can maximise your expat wealth through financial emigration, accessing your South African retirement annuity and our tailor-made tax solutions for South Africans around the world, contact FinGlobal today.