An Amsterdam Makelaar
Ok so I’m a Makelaar in Amsterdam, that’s a Dutch word, and I know that it’s a difficult language for you English speakers. I’m what you call a real estate agent. I am lucky, yes lucky enough to work for a well known Amsterdam Makelaar, in the Herengracht, which translated means Herencanal. I’m thirty four years old, I live with my wife, Lieke, in a 78 square meter apartment in the Pijp area of Amsterdam that we bought for a very good price two years ago. Lieke, works part time as a HR advisor for a bank. We have two small children, so she works fifteen hours a week, which is fine as my job pays very well.
I choose from four pairs of shoes, (all brown) pick my favorite outfit, a grey suit from Suit Supply, drink a coffee, eat a bowl of Brinta, and then drive to my first appointment of the day. I’m showing a couple an apartment in the Prinsengracht. I am not a highly educated man, I don’t read much, but there is one word that I love above all others…… EXPAT. I owe my apartment and my new Volvo to all these Expats here on company assignments. I love them.
Apartment hunting with the Amsterdam Makelaar
So, I am showing an American couple that are here to work for one of the big four accounting firms a 90 square meter apartment in the Prinsengracht. It is on the fifth floor of an old Herenhouse, has no lift and a lot of stairs. I meet the couple in front of the building. He is in his forties, grey hair, eyes that show a sharp and calculating mind. I need to be careful, however his wife, pretty, a little overweight, smartly dressed, and has the eyes of a greedy little piggy. I need to concentrate on her, she’s the decision maker.
We climb up the narrow stairs. He asks “Isn’t there a God damn lift in this building?” I respond quickly, “In Amsterdam it is not normal to have lifts, unless you look at places in IJburg, but there is nothing to do there. We Amsterdammers stay fit and slim because of these stairs.” He doesn’t look convinced by this, but his wife makes a comment about how thin we Dutch are and thinks more exercise is a good idea.
The apartment has never been renovated. It’s not in a good condition. It’s fully furnished. The furniture looks bad. Everything is brown and it smells of smoke. There is dust everywhere. The place isn’t worth more than 1500 Euros a month. The owner is willing to accept 1450 not including utilities. I speak to the couple. “As you can see, we have a beautifully furnished apartment, decorated in a classic old Amsterdam style. This place is very popular and in demand. The owner, knowing the company you work for, has recently rented a similar property across the street for 2200 Euros a month. As he respects your organisation and is also a client of them, is willing to let you have this place for 2000 Euros a month, if you sign today.”
The husband queries the price, his wife interrupts him. “Darling, the company is paying and our budget is 2500. For 2000 a month we’ll still have 500 left that we can use for other things.” He is not convinced, “Yes but it’s so small, and so high up,” I tell him that this street has many famous people living in it and that a colleague of his lives in the same building and is paying more for the same size apartment. That closes the deal for his wife and they agree to move in. Lekker!!!
We finish the paperwork, I then call Lieke. “Hey Schatje, another expat couple agreed to pay 500 euros a month more than the owner was asking for. We will celebrate. Tonight on the way home I will stop by Albert Heijn and buy a Jamie Oliver ready meal, and I’ll spend 4.99 on a bottle of wine, that’s how happy I am.”
From Russia with too much cash
I call into the office and after we have laughed about the dumb expats I go to my next appointment, it’s a fifty square meter 1 bedroom apartment in the Vijzelgracht. I am showing it to a Russian lady from Moscow. I love Russian customers, Moscow is so expensive that they think that everything here is goedkoop (cheap) I must try to not rub my hands together when I see her. So the woman, Gadverdamme! she is beautiful, however, she wears too much makeup (I’m Dutch and am not used to women in makeup) she is wearing high heels, that are not necessary here, why is she wearing them? There is also something about her that is strange, oh yes her hair, she has been to a hairdresser, what a waste of money. Lieke only goes twice a year, once before Queensday and for Sinterklaas. Oh that reminds me, I read a blog by the shallow man about Sinterklaas, what a LUL. We are racist? He should go back to London.
I show her the apartment. There is an old English saying that we learned in school, “Not enough room to swing a cat” which means that the place is very small. Well this apartment smells like after swinging the cat, that they buried it under the floor. “What a lovely place we have here, it is very central, close to a lot of bars, which I know is important for you Russians as you like a drink right? Rude? I’m not being rude, I’m just telling it like it is. Yes as you can see it’s fully furnished. Washing machine? No it doesn’t have one. Cooker? No that’s not included. That is why it is such a good deal at only 1500 Euros a month.”
She will think about it, but I have another trick up my sleeve, I show her another place, in the Kerkstraat, that I tell her costs 1700 a month. It is 40qm and is even worse than the place I just showed her. She suddenly likes the place in Vijzelgracht. Deal closed. Hup, Hup Holland, another goal for Amsterdam’s best makelaar!
I go to lunch to a place that is full of people just like me, the Oyster Club. That klootzak, the Shallow Man, criticised the place for having bad service. Who does he think he is? The King of England? If he doesn’t like it, he should go back to London. What he does not understand is that all Dutch workers are equal. So if the waitress takes her time because she needs to go outside, smoke five cigarettes, check her smartphone to make sure that she hasn’t missed any critical news from friends in the previous five minutes. Why not? That is part of our Dutch culture. They are not slaves. So they take it easy. Goed zo!
After one and half hours, the food arrives, which is ok, I was able to talk to another colleague, and even let a couple of Dutch ladies flirt with me over a cigarette outside. I then go to my last appointment of the day which is with a German Expat to view an apartment in the Pijp, just a few doors away from where I live.
It’s a 100qm apartment, split over two floors. The owner has suggested 1700 a month, I will start at 2100 and see what he says. The klant, the German guy, looks like a typical Duitser. Tall, blond hair, blue eyes, and those little horn rimmed glasses. He is wearing a black suit, he looks like an undertaker. All is going well with me showing him the apartment until I tell him the price. At first he is fine, but then says the most offensive thing that you can ever say to an Amsterdam Makelaar. It’s outrageous, it’s degrading, a slur. I am so angry that he would mention this. He says that fatal word………………………………………..huurcommissie.
Expats, if you feel that you are paying too much rent for the place you are living in, you are legally entitled to have the place assessed by the Huurcommissie. This is an independent organisation that can legally enforce a lower rent price in the event that you are paying too much. Be aware however, that you’ll probably make an enemy of the owner of the apartment and the cheap suited Makelaar for life. I know people that have done this in Amsterdam and have saved hundreds of Euros a month by doing so.
No Makelaars were hurt during the writing of this article.
Till then, hou je bek!