An Interview with the Expat Makelaar

Tom Cruise, an unusual chap, who like the Shallow Man doesn’t appear to age, once starred in a movie called Interview with the Vampire.  Unfortunately, not frequenting places where goths tend to hang out, I was unable to secure an interview with a vampire. Instead, I opted to interview a species who are almost as legendary, and are loathed and revered in equal measure by many, a makelaar!

Decisions, Decisions

There comes a time in the life of an expat when an important decision needs to be made. In the words of the Clash “Should I stay or should I go?” If the decision is made to remain in the land of brown shoes and soot-covered gentlemen who are definitely not black, then the next logical step is usually to decide to stop lining the pockets of a landlord and buy your own property.

The Shallow Man recently wrote about the Expat Housing Seminar an event that provided in-depth advice to expats on how to buy property in the Netherlands. One of the most impressive presenters there was the makelaar Mie-Lan Kok. Intrigued to meet a makelaar who actually appeared to know what she was doing, I sat down with her to find out a bit more about how she does business. I brought a crucifix and some garlic along just in case.

The Expat Makelaar

On a day that was so cold that I saw polar bears wearing scarves and gloves, I arrived fashionably late at the Pakhuis de Zwijger to meet the subject of this post, Mie-Lan Kok. I should also add that in spite of the terrible weather that day, there were still a couple of Dutch women sat outside the cafe smoking. Resisting the urge to make a joke about this I joined Mie-Lan in the warmth of the cafe. She was gracious enough not to give me a hard time for being late. If she had, my response would have been “to look this good does takes time you know.”

Love and the Right Property

I’d been quite impressed by a comment she’d made during her presentation at the Expat Housing Seminar, where she said that buying a property is like falling in love. I asked her to elaborate on this.

“I’ve been in the real estate business for over 15 years, and if you think about it, the process that you go through when choosing a place to buy is like selecting the ideal partner. It’s one of the biggest decisions that people make in their lives, so using the falling in love metaphor, my job is to make sure that people don’t choose the wrong partner.”

If only she’d been around several years ago, she could have helped me avoid a catalog of bad choices with Russians, French, and Croatians, but then I had to remember that she was talking about property, not women. I asked her how she ensures that people do successfully choose the right apartment that will fit their needs.

Mie-Lan Kok will make sure that you take that important second look


A Makelaar That Listens to the Needs of Her Customers?

I was a little shocked when she explained how she helps her clients find the right partner….

What’s really important, not only for me, but for my team as well is that we listen to the needs of our clients. We proactively question them further about what they are looking for, and we ask them how do they think their life will be five years from now? Are they planning to return to their home country? (Why would anyone leave the workers paradise aka The Netherlands). We ask personal questions such as are they planning to have children in the coming years? I had a couple that were really keen on an apartment in Amsterdam, which was on the third floor of an old 1930’s style converted house. I asked them to consider what it would be like to carry a pushchair and a baby up those stairs. Even though they weren’t planning on having children immediately, this did make them reconsider their choice.”

The Expat Makelaar actually listens to her customers

The usual listening skills of a Makelaar

Mie-Lan has been running her expat makelaar business for over ten years now and operates in what is known as the brown shoe triangle of Amsterdam, Utrecht and The Hague. I asked her what differentiates her business from the rest of her shark-like colleagues.

Well firstly I’d say that we do business only in English. We’ve been dealing with expats for years, and have really learnt a lot about the perceptions people might have when buying property here, depending on where they’re from. We understand also the importance of good customer service, which I know is something that still needs a lot of improvement generally here in the Netherlands. We understand the challenges and dilemmas that face many expats and because of that we can tailor our service accordingly”

When referring to expat challenges and dilemmas, I asked her if she was talking about the challenges of choosing between eating at Ciel Bleu or Samhoud and Places, but in fact, she was referring to the fact that expats sometimes buy a property with a view to having it let for rentals at a later date. If this is the case Mie-Lan Kok is able to provide advice on the best location to buy, based on the budget of the client. They also provide information on the risks associated with subletting and contract termination.

The ‘S’ word again

We really are the ultimate expat makelaar. We understand expats and their needs and offer some of the following services:

  • Weekly progress meetings, all team members are aware of the needs of our clients, you’ll never have any delays or issues if the person you’ve been dealing with is not available due to unforeseen circumstances
  • Asking the right questions with regards to VVE costs, maintenance.  If a VVE is not active enough, this can actually lead to higher maintenance costs at a later date, due to renovation, plumbing
  • MLK can recommend building contractors and painters who all can do business in English.

  • Background search on property, leasehold, foundations

  • The Surveyors report is always provided in English
  • We offer all clients the option to transfer/enable lights, water, gas, Internet and cable TV

Save money like a Dutchman

Mie-Lan believes that her real value add, apart from all of the other services that they offer is in the negotiation stage of buying a property.

Buying a property is the largest purchase that you’re ever likely to make during your life. We have extensive experience in negotiating the best deal for our clients. Some people when choosing a makelaar, use the commission charged as a deciding criteria when in fact what’s really important is to use a company that can get you the best possible price. A good negotiator can save thousands on the final price of a property. This is something that we aim to do every time. Don’t just take my word for it, just take a look at some of the testimonials from happy clients of mine. Many of my clients are now onto their second homes and I’m honored that they’ve chosen me to help them sell the property they originally bought, and with their search for a new home.”

Use an experienced negotiator to save more than a penny or two

So to summarize, even though you might despise Makelaars, which is a normal and healthy thing to do, Mie-Lan Kok will not only provide exceptional customer service, they’ll actually save you money, and make sure that you don’t end up with the wrong property. To contact them click here.