For those of you that don’t know, we recently bought our house in The Netherlands and have been doing a few upgrades-both items involving a process unlike what we experience in the US.
Buying a house in The Netherlands is quite an easy process actually. As we didn’t have to look at homes, we just went to an agent (he charged a flat rate fee since he was mostly handling paperwork which we billed us for about a month after we finalized the purchase of the house) and he assisted us with the paperwork to make an offer and directed us to someone who could help with financing. Unlike in the US, there isn’t a need to look over all documents with a fine-tooth comb. In The Netherlands, the government has actually designed these contracts to protect the buyer. Our poor US-centric minds couldn’t quite accept that, so we did still review the documents as best we could (being that they were in Dutch), but in the end, I don’t think it was wholly necessary. After that, we had an estimator come out to establish the value of the home and then established our financing which was also very straight forward and designed to protect rather than snare you unsuspectingly. There were no inspections necessary; you could pay if you wanted to, but we were assured that since our home is newer construction, there was no need. In fact, it seems inspections here might have more to do with structural issues due to sinking ground and water levels. In fact, there does not appear to be any building code standards that are used as some very shady electrical and plumbing work had previously been done in the house (don’t worry, we knew there was a problem and had the previous owner pay to fix it before the sale went through). Then at the closing, we went over the papers and signed (this took less than 1 hour) and we were Holland homeowners!
After the papers were signed, we decided to have our tile floors changed to laminate. After searching for well-reviewed companies, we went to the store to inquire about options and pricing. As it turns out, everything happens in the store. Unlike in the US, no one comes out to measure the rooms and determine what extra items are needed to finish the edges or to evaluate your current flooring to determine what to lay down as an underlayer. You give them the measurements (good thing we had floorplans with all of that), and you tell them what you want (luckily they will make some suggestions based on the information you give them or pictures you have). Since they weren’t sure what we would like to finish the edges, they charged us for two options and told us that after we decided onsite, they would take the unused product back and refund the money. They held true to their word, and the job was finished without complaint from us. Our next project along those lines is to have our stairs redone, but for the life of us, we have yet to find someone who will do this work.
We also had painters come and redo the outside trim. This was quite a lengthy process as they had to scrape all of the existing trim, prime and then hand paint everything including our front and garage doors. During the painting process, we had to have all of the windows and doors open for hours so that the inside trim could dry. This was a very cold process since it was well into fall here (we had tried to get the painting done months before that, but the painters were busy and couldn’t come for a month, and then it kept raining daily making painting impossible). And the craziest part- before they knew I would be home most of the time, the painters asked for a key to the house so that they could open doors and windows as needed, which felt very weird to me.
Now, perhaps the strangest thing about all of this installation and repair work is that Dutch workers take a lot of breaks. And often, the expectation is that you should provide hospitality during these breaks. Being very American, I really never offer anything. In fact, it never really occurs to me that I should, but our electrician did ask if I could make him coffee one of the days that he was here, and the painters asked if they could come in and use my kitchen table to eat their morning snack during their break (I decided to leave the room). All of the workers used our bathroom freely or asked to come in and use it (they even made a point of coming in and using it at the end of the workday before they left-maybe normal for them, but I thought they should just hold it until they got home!).
So, you see, even things like home buying and repair can be quite strange and foreign in another land. It’s a nice reminder that while you need to function and belong, you don’t quite belong. But, surviving the process is also a nice reminder that, even when things feel strange and you don’t quite understand the process, you can still survive and get things done. Here’s to another day of making it in this so-called Dutch life!