House buying for beginners

Photograph: Unsplash

Over two and a half years is how long it took for Stefan Meijer (30) and his girlfriend Sophie (29), from the first time they set foot in the office of a mortgage provider, to the eventual signing of the contract for their first house in Groningen. Both have well-paid jobs, yet finding a dream house (or just any house) proved a nearly impossible task. Week of the Starter now reaches out to people like Stefan and Sophie to ease the entry into the housing market 

Reports from NOS reveal that Stefan and Sophie are not the only starters encountering problems while entering the housing market. While starters made up for around 50% of the house sales between 2009 and 2015, this number had dropped to 30% by the end of last year. Worrisome news, the cabinet admits, and thus reason to proclaim the week of 28 September Week of the Starter.

The event is an initiative of the ministry of Internal Affairs, in cooperation with various other big players involved in the housing market such as the Dutch Homeowners Associations and the NVM (Dutch Realtors Association). Its aim is to create one central spot where starters on the housing market can find all the information necessary to start renting or buy their first house.

“Buying a first house can be a scary and difficult experience, therefore, we want to help out young people by guiding them through the process,” Week of the Starter spokesperson Menno van Tartwijk explains. “The information coming at you on the internet can be very overwhelming, therefore we want to give some practical tips and offer some inspiration with the limited means we have.”

“This looks a bit like symbol politics to me. If the government wants to help, they should just build affordable houses,” an unimpressed Meijer responds about the event. He adds: “The intention is good, I think. But it doesn’t really change anything. The problem is not finding information, there just aren’t enough affordable houses available for first-time house buyers.”

“As long as there are not enough houses for starters, it is going to stay very difficult for starters to find a place,” Van Tartwijk acknowledges about the more structural problem on the housing market. But he also points to the necessity for actions with direct effects: “These problems aren’t going to be solved anytime soon, so it’s important to keep looking for improvement in the present as well.”

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