If you have decided to settle in Belgium, finding accommodation will be your utmost priority. Find in this article an overview of the country's real estate market.
Although many European countries have been seriously affected by the global economic crisis, particularly in terms of real estate, Belgium seems to have been spared. Holiday and long term rentals, as well as sales transactions are keeping the pace in almost all Belgian cities. Hence, expatriates can quite easily find accommodation, according to their preferences and their financial means.
If you intend to move there, take the time to determine in which city and neighborhood you would prefer to settle. Most cities lifestyles and environments are different from one another. But in general, you are very likely to adapt yourself easily due to the country's high expatriation rate.
What you need to know
The Belgian population speaks three languages: Dutch, French and German. Unless you are familiar with the three languages, you would probably choose a region where you will be able to communicate easily with people around you. Here is an overview:
- in Flanders (Northern Belgium): Dutch (Flemish)
- Wallonia (Southern Belgium): French (Walloon)
- Eastern cities: German
- Brussels (capital city): all three languages, including foreign languages by expats.
If you are moving to Belgium as a young professional seeking a job, or with your family, you will definitely want to settle in a region where you will find no trouble in adapting to the environment and lifestyle. The country's most appealing neighborhoods are the following:
Watermael Boisfort, which is found in the capital city, near the forest. This neighborhood is definitely going to seduce you if you like green spaces.
Uccle, which is also found in the capital city, is popular with expat families for the various facilities it offers such as schools, leisure activities, transport availability, etc.
Woluwe St Lambert, for its part, is known to be a calm and cultural region, but also a commercial pole.
La Hulpe, Lasne and Waterloo, which are found in the Wallonia, also display a very active and busy life as since they are only 30 minutes from Brussels.
Rhode St Genese, which is found in the Flemish Brabant, is ideal for those who prefer to live in the countryside.
Ixelles, which is not very far from Brussels cultural center, has huge mansions and manor houses surrounded by lush forests.
Note that Belgium consists of some 589 neighborhoods. Hence, finding accommodation, be it a house or an apartment, should not be a difficult task.
Internet will definitely be an essential tool during your accommodation search. Start by surfing general and specialized real estate websites right from your home country. If you are already in the country, you can also check out classified ads in local newspapers or register with a real estate agency.
Moreover, owners generally display “Te huur” or “For rent” signs in their yard or on their balcony or window frame to indicate vacant housing. You can spot these while taking a stroll around different neighborhoods.
The fixed term lease no longer exists in Belgium. However different lease terms apply nowadays:
- nine years (which is the most frequent type of contract) – according to this contract, the lease generally has a 3 to 9 years term. The lease period begins either as soon as the tenant concludes a verbal agreement with the owner or on the day the written contract is signed.
- three years or less (short-term lease) – in general, short-term leases do not exceed three years. The tenant may sign several successive lease contracts or sign a single lease document covering the entire lease period. Short-term lease may be extended only once, in writing, and with the same conditions as in the original contract, except for the duration which, however, shall not exceed 3 years.
- more than nine years (long-term lease) – long term leases generally exceed 9 years, but within a determined rent period. Conditions that apply are the same as in the case of the 9-year contract.
- the lifetime lease - the life lease does not end until the tenant passes away, especially since the owner is not entitled to break the contract. However, the tenant is legally allowed to break the lease. The latter is required to give a 3 months’ notice to the owner.
A lease guarantee will be required in order to counter any damage caused by the tenant during his occupation. However, the guarantee will only be paid if it is mentioned on the lease documents. To date, no law compels the tenant to pay a guarantee to the owner. Note that the guarantee generally amounts to three months’ rent.
There are 3 types of lease guarantees in Belgium:
- to be paid to the lessor into an escrow account in the latter's name
- to be paid to the lessor in several installments
- a standard contract between the Public Center for Social Action and a financial institution.
Once the lease has expired, the guarantee will be refunded to the tenant provided the latter has been regular in settling his monthly rent. Consequently, an agreement will be concluded and signed between both parties.
An inventory will be carried out before you start occupying the accommodation and when you vacate the premises. The inventory is an essential step helping to determine if the accommodation is fit for occupation or if any repair or upgrading is required. Note that the inventory has to be reported on an official document which has to be attached to the lease agreement. This operation will be repeated as soon as your lease period expires.
Rent prices are not regulated in Belgium. However, local authorities have set up a rent calculator in order to help tenants calculate rent prices they will have to pay according to their contract, date on which the contract has been signed and date when it comes to effect.
Property tax in Belgium does not apply to tenants. However, landlords are required to pay this tax. Hence, your lease documents should not mention any tax.
Expat.com - Housing offers
Economy FGOV - rent calculator economie.fgov.be
Institute of Professional Real Estate Agents www.ipi.be
Brussels Irisnet www.brussels.irisnet.be
Belgian Pocket www.belgopocket.be
EU Rentals www.eu-rentals.com
Logic Immo www.logic-immo.be