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Getting Advice on buying a property in Belgium

Question

Hello guys,

I have been working and living in Brussels for more than 5 years but recently I got a green-light from my bank to receive a property loan. Now I am gathering my thoughts to choose the right type of property to buy. This is my first property and I am going to live in it with my wife and new born baby. But since I have to pay the loan installment for a long time(20 years) I am looking at it as a long term investment as well.

Would it be wise to buy a house in the suburb that comes with a big yard and bigger building but its rather old and requires a complete renovation (including the parquet and tiling , full new kitchen and painting... basically you can only count on the walls and the roof!) OR buy a brand new, fully equipped house which is closer to the city center but with much less overall ground and smaller building with the same price or even more expensive?

I am a DIY guy and not afraid to live in an old building and gradually renovate it myself but have no idea how much such a substantial renovation can cost in Belgium. This is a very important decision and I will really appreciate a second opinion about it.

anon

If you're a "DIY guy", then get down to places like Brico and spend some time looking at tools / hardware / timber / tiling / paints etc and get an idea of costs.

If you really don't have any "idea how much such a substantial renovation can cost", then you probably aren't the right person to be doing it.

In any case, if you're planning on a major rennovation, don't do anything until you have spent at least two full days at Batibouw 2020 next spring https://www.batibouw.com/en . Go and speak to different contractors, building supplies specialists, central heating manufacturers, plumbing suppliers etc. etc. Look at the various building systems available, look at thermal insulation packages etc. etc. etc.

Also, you need to factor in the fact that for older houses, and if you pay a TVA registered builder, they can buy supplies at a reduced VAT rate. It can in certain situations (especially if you have expensive materials that require low labor costs to install), be economical to hire a VAT registered builder to do the work as they can buy the materials at the reduced VAT rate.

Unless it is small peripheral jobs, do not try to do any electrical or gas work on your own. Electric and gas work needs to be done by a registered and trained fitter AND the work has to be certified, otherwise your home building insurance will probably be invalidated in the event of a fire. Same with plumbing and flooding.

Finally, be aware that pricing for lots of DIY basics such as paint, or tiles, can be extremely high in Belgium. You can find that travelling to neighborinig countries, even crossing the channel to the UK (although it will depend on the prevailing exchange rates) can save you substantial amounts.

Dec 5, 2019 23:33
Anonymous

A notaris also advertises properties so you can buy direct from them (no need to pay estate agent fees). If a house is very old you might only have to pay a 6% tax on the purchase price. Often cheaper to buy products in France. https://www.leroymerlin.fr/ (paint, paint brushes, wall paper, curtains, appliances, boilers, tiles, electricity cables, bathrooms, kitchens, windows, doors, insulation, smoke alarms, CO2 detectors etc.). Beware of extra hidden costs when renovating.
If you can afford it look at buying property outside of Brussels and ticks all yours, your wife and new babies needs (doctor, dentist, hospital, schools, shops, etc.). City of Grammont 9500 has properties with gardens which need some renovation work.

Dec 7, 2019 18:28
anni

I would personally go for renovation because If you decide to go for renovation for the following reasons:
1. The price of newly build properties are crazy and you have to add the 21% TVA for the construction on top of notary tax and loan fees.
2. If the property is in a good state it will be still expensive but you can never be sure how well it was maintained, if there aren't hidden problems as humidity etc. and the finishing might not be to your taste.
3. The loan can cover the renovation works as well. Speak with your bank what are the options. You need to provide an estimate from an architect and if it is approved then send then the invoices.

Dec 9, 2019 13:17
Oppressed in Oppem

Think very carefully before embarking on a major renovation job. Do you want to spend the next few years with your young child or sorting out problems with Belgian builders? In order to make it even worth your while, the dilapidated property you are thinking must be very competitively priced, i.e. cheap, to take account of the fact that you will need to spend upwards of 100k putting it right. Things like boilers, insulation and roofs cost a lot of money. There will always be issues you didn't budget for. You will also need to ask some questions - where will the family be during the works? What are the transport connections like? Do I need to get a surveyor to check out the site and its history?

Personally, I would go for the new build. My family and I have made a mistake buying a house in the sticks "with a big yard" which we now discover needs major work to bring it into the 21st century. What we need to spend is more than what it would cost to build a new house, and it's unlikely the investment would be reflected in the sale value of the property. Far better to have got a new build and concentrate on the important things in life, i.e. the family.

Dec 9, 2019 13:57
mik123

We bought a (not so) old house in the best area of Overijse. We thougth that location is priority and we will manage with the renovations. After a number of years of working with architects and renovation companies, I can say the following:
- Total renovation currently costs around 800-1000 EUR per sq.m., if you want to do it in one go, before you move in.
- You never know how much your project will cost in the end. Belgian contractors are masters in adding more and more to the price and always legally backed by the initial offer.
- Finding a good and available contractor is very difficult, especially for foreigners.
- As in all other service sectors, appointment dates and deadlines do not mean much.
- In a total renovation you have to change the plumbing, repair electricity, roof, staircase, radiators, furnace,etc. DIY is not possible for the bigger part of the works.

I can give two recommendations:
- Take the decision suburbs vs centre based on your life style. It makes a big difference to live in a house with a large garden, but quite remotely from social life, or live in a smaller place downtown, where it's noisy and dirty but you can easily go anywhere and enjoy activities. Once decided, you will know what compromises to make. There's no doubt that newer constructiion is better than older but not at all cost.
- If you buy an old property, take a professional builder to examine it in advance and advise you about its faults. Make sure you know what you are up to with the renovations.

Dec 10, 2019 14:26