Why expats should work with local real estate agents
If you’re looking to rent or buy abroad due to your relocation, but aren’t sure where to begin, a local real estate agent can help you avoid the often-costly mistakes expats make when signing a lease or deed.
Without solid knowledge of the market, the language and the laws relating to rental properties, searching for accommodation as an expat can be a murky process. Amsterdam-based, HOUSINGAGENT.com offers 10 ways working with an agent that can help you avoid the pitfalls of renting and-or buying property abroad.
1 Gain access to unlisted properties
Because the best rental properties usually go quickly, listed properties are often already rented before they appear on real estate websites. Working with local real estate agents gives you access to unlisted properties, maximizing your chances of finding the perfect apartment or house.
2 Expand your market knowledge
It is difficult to get to know the various cities and neighborhoods as extensively as an experienced agent, especially for expats. Agents are knowledgeable about the local rental market, and have access to databases that indicate the value of a property so you don’t overpay. Finding accommodation with realistic, fair prices can be problematic for expats looking for properties.
3 Take advantage of negotiation skills
Aside from the monthly rental costs, there are other factors to consider when renting a property, such as whether the property is furnished (which can sometimes mean additional costs), whether bills are all-inclusive and the duration of the rental contract. In addition, a Diplomatic Clause can be negotiated, which allows tenants to end a rental contract if their work is moved further than 50 km away from the property, or if the tenant resigns or is fired from their position; this clause can be particularly useful for expats who have moved for employment.
4 Benefit from vast legal knowledge
Agents are well versed in rental laws and will ensure your agreement with your landlord complies with the most recent laws, concerning the contract language, local housing codes and contract termination. For example, if you are renting an apartment in the Netherlands, you have rights that expats may not be aware of—your landlord, for example, cannot end your written or verbal agreement other than in extreme cases (failure to pay the rent, for example). In such circumstances, landlords must go to court to argue for the termination of the tenant.
5 Gain local knowledge of cities and neighborhoods
Agents know the city and its neighborhoods, and not just its demographics and the average rental prices—they know the local flavor, the culture and where you’ll best adapt as an expat. A knowledgeable agent can help you find exactly what you are seeking—be it an active, nightlife-rich area or a quiet family neighborhood. They can also advise on the best schools or offer inside knowledge of the public transportation options. This local knowledge will save you from doing extensive research and wasting hours looking in the wrong neighborhood.
6 Get language support
Agreeing to the terms of a contract written in a language you don’t speak can be daunting—and risky. With a local agent, expats that do not yet speak the language have instant support with translations and negotiations, and they avoid the costs and hassle of hiring a certified interpreter.
7 Do an inventory check
Many apartments for short-term rentals are furnished, but others are completely empty—there are even no light fixtures or carpets. Your rental agent will visit the property with you to take a (digital) inventory of what is included, so you can prepare your budget when you do move in.
8 Assistance setting up utilities
Once you have signed a rental agreement, the agent will continue to work with you to ensure you are registered with the utility companies (water, electric, gas) and have telephone and/or internet services. Again, for expats who do not yet speak the local language, it can be a difficult endeavor, as much of the information about utilities is not available in multiple languages. In today's world agents work with a digital check-in app that allows you to connect to utilities as well.
9 Get those reference checks
To ensure the landlord is comfortable with you as a tenant, an agency will often organize a reference check to verify that you have the means to pay the rent and have been a reliable tenant in the past. Equally, to ensure your landlord has the right to let the apartment, a rental agent can help you register your address at the local municipality. You are legally obliged to do so, and if your prospect landlord says you cannot, it’s a sign of an illegal sublet.
10 Join a strong network, the HousingAgent.com network
Many agencies work with corporate clients, HR departments and relocation companies to help find the ideal property if relocating for a job. They are, therefore, very accustomed to helping expats navigate the rental market, and they are aware of the ways in which the system differs from expats’ various home countries.