*This article is applicable on the Flemish part of Belgium*
I’ve written this first post for my readers who are planning on buying real estate in the near future, but have little knowledge of the purchase process. Everyone will encounter a real estate transaction at least once in their lifetime, and I’m here to prepare you for it. To clarify the first steps, I will sum up some of the important topics in the first phase.
Mark your search area
Firstly, it’s important that you ask yourself where you would want to live. That question combined with a practical point of view influenced by your daily activities, will find you a neighbourhood that interests you.
Explore the market and your resources
There will be a lot of listings in your search area, so start doing your first research online or contact a local real estate agent. Us agents, we know the market very well and by having a conversation with you, we can determine what you are looking for and in which price range you will find it.
Ah-hah price range…. It’s important to know your financial capability. Set up a meeting with a bank or another financial instance to obtain the right information about your financial situation. It’ll save you a lot of time if you do this in the earliest possible stage. Ask for a loan, explain your income situation and simulate a possible purchase with your maximum budget.
Get assistance from a professional
Create a comfortable situation for yourself and contact a real estate agent with your search criteria. Keep in mind that it is very important to visit a wide range of properties. This will give you and your agent a clear perspective on what you want and need.
But the agent is not the only important professional you should rely on. Find yourself a good notary to assist you with the draft of your purchase deed. This needs to be handled with utmost care.
Keep your eyes open during a visit
Dare to see yourself starting a life in this place, challenge yourself to see the potential. I find it very important to give my clients the freedom to dream during a visit. There will be enough time in the next stage to look at the details.
Go back for a second visit
A love-at-first-sight experience is not a bad thing, but it’s important to keep a clear perspective and take into account the following topics:
- an appartement is not a house
It’s not as self-evident as it sounds for people who are used to living in a house. It’s obvious that you won't be living alone in an apartment building, but you need to take into account that you will no longer make decisions on your own. There will be other people, assembled in an “association of co-owners”, who meet at least once a year to make decisions about the common parts of the building. Because you will get your share in those parts too (like the entrance hall, the elevator, the facade…) you will have to contribute in those costs through small monthly fees. Ask for the last 3 reports of these meetings in order to know how this will affect your finances.
- ask fo the EPC
EPC stands for energy performance certificate. This reflects the energy efficiency of the apartment. The importance lies in the effect on your future heating costs. I won't profoundly cover this topic, but the following image gives a good summary. The ideal categories are A-D. Ask for advice about apartments within higher categories.
Furthermore, an electrical inspection can be of use. There’s no need to panic if the electricity is not fully compliant, the standards for this get more and more severe every day. The owner is not obliged to deliver to apartment in complete conformity. It is best to ask for advise on the impact and cost of the state of electricity.
- Insulation norms
The standards for roof insulation and the safety standards for the elevators in apartment buildings have been adjusted. There’s been given a deadline to fit all the requirements. These are big cost items divided amongst the co-owners, make sure to ask whether you will need to pay a share in this after the purchase or whether it has already been financed.
-Pay attention to details
Don’t be afraid to be thorough, but don’t exaggerate. Invite a third person who looks at it from another point of view, but don’t do it numerous times because you’ll find yourself lost in a chaos of opinions.
Optimise your offer
When you feel like everything is falling into place, you can make an offer. Determine in advance your maximum and count in a negotiation margin as you will surely receive a counter offer.
There are two options; either you did the research in advance and you can simply sign a purchase offer.
Or you request a purchase offer under suspensive condition of obtaining a credit for financing. This is if you have not yet received an official reply from the bank. If you do not obtain the loan, the purchase offer can be dissolved. Please note that you must have consulted at least three financial institutions in order for this dissolution to have legal base.
If the offer is accepted, the next phase in the purchase process can be initiated! Are you curious about how this works? Stay tuned, until the next blog article!
For real estate questions or advice, you can always send an email to;