Common Housing Scams You Might Encounter As An Expat

Real estate fraud or scams is a big concern of the government in the Netherlands, with Amsterdam being especially a problematic city. As an expat, your excitement to plant roots in the Netherlands might make you a target to criminals. That’s why it’s important to be aware of real estate scams and keep a level head. One of the most important ways to protect yourself is to use logic: if an apartment for sale or rent seems too good to be true, it usually is. It’s also important to consult with the ExpatsHaarlem Housing Coach if you don’t speak Dutch. That way, you can get documents translated, your contract viewed by a professional, and be made aware of anything that raises a red flag. You can also empower yourself by being aware of common housing and real estate scams. Here are important ones to know about.

The need for “extra fees”

A fraudster might make you think that you have to pay an extra fee, such as an agency fee, for the place you’re renting or buying. But this could be a scam! In fact, any request for more payment, such as Western Union transfers, should make you wary. It’s a good idea to consult with people who know the language and rules of the real estate industry, and do more research online so that you’re not conned. Just because you’re an expat, it doesn’t mean you’re a target!

Reverse mortgage scams

Many expats own a home in the Netherlands after living in it for a few years. Since homes can be bought by residents in the Netherlands or those who live remotely, this makes fraud even easier. The request for more fees can also occur in a reverse mortgage scam. A reverse mortgage scam commonly occurs when the fraudster tries to get a senior homeowner to take out a reverse mortgage loan that actually isn’t the best option. The criminal who pretends to be offering the mortgage could insist that other costs and fees are required, in an attempt to get your money.

By being aware of a reverse mortgage scam, you can protect your hard-earned money and home. Always be wary of people who tell you that you can own a home without making a down payment, and don’t sign anything you don’t fully understand.

When bank wire transfers are not legit

Scammers are becoming smart, and they might try to steal the identity of an owner who wants to rent out a home. If you find a place to rent online but then get asked to send a bank wire transfer to pay for it so that it’s booked, this might not seem dangerous. After all, many apartments in Europe are booked in this way. The only problem is that when you take a closer look at the owner’s information, you might find that there are gaps. For example, you might find that their email address isn’t exactly the same as what’s on the rental website. It’s also a red flag if the “owner” is located in a different country.

To stay safe, always check who owns the apartment for rent by logging onto the Kadaster website. Here you’ll find the administrative date on properties. If you find that the owner doesn’t seem to be the same person as the landlord, as questions about this. It’s in your best interest to request written authorisation that confirms this person is acting on the owner’s behalf.

Never agree to rent a place you haven’t seen – online doesn’t count! A study on Craigslist found that suspicious rental postings often stay on the website for nearly two days before they’re removed, and 53 percent of rental scams that are posted on the site aren’t noticed! Some warning signs of rental or other real estate scams include if you’re not given a chance to see the property in person, or the place seems unrealistic and too perfect.

“Bermiddelingskosten” – What Is It?

Fees known as “bedmiddelingskosten” used to be what real estate agents charged new renters. How it worked is that they’d ask for extra monthly rent – sometimes double the amount! – as a service fee. This has been determined to be a fraud by the Dutch Supreme Court! Be careful of any real estate agents who still try to get these costs out of renters. Sometimes they’re called other things, such as “contractskosten” or “sleutelkosten.” By being aware of these terms, you can avoid being the target of rental fraud.

There are always scams going around in the real estate industry. As an expat who might not speak Dutch, it’s important to follow the above guide to protect yourself against housing scams.

Read more about Housing in our specific Housing section