So, you’ve decided to move your whole world to Belgium? Congratulations, great choice, welcome! With that decision made, you just need to take care of the little details. Things like moving your belongings or finding a school for the little one(s)… Oh, and, of course, renting or buying a new home.
So, which should you do? What will it cost? What’s involved? We’re glad you asked! Let’s start by taking a look at some facts and figures of having a home in Belgium.
'Belgium is a surprisingly inexpensive place to have a home. Rent is an average of 31% cheaper than in The Netherlands, or about 35% cheaper than the USA.'
What does it cost to buy or rent in Belgium?
Belgium is surprisingly inexpensive place to have a home. In fact, Belgians spend an average of only 18% of their disposable income on accommodation though this is more like 30% for professionals moving to the larger cities.
It is especially cheap when compared to other parts of Europe. For example, rent is an average of 31% cheaper than in The Netherlands or, if you’re from further afield, about 35% cheaper than in the US.
This translates to a one-bedroom apartment coming in at an average monthly rent of €820 per month or €1,240 for a three-bedroom. Though this does jump to €1,100 and €2,000 respectively for Brussels, for example.
That said, price differences can vary hugely between cities, communities, and even neighbourhoods, so be sure to do your research before finalising your budget.
If buying is more your thing, the average Belgian apartment costs just over €3,500 per square metre in the city centre or €2,850 outside. And, before you ask, the average interest rate for a 20-year fixed rate mortgage is 3.27% at the time of writing. That makes owning your own place surprisingly achievable, even within the bigger cities.
Thanks to Numbeo, for the information. If you’d like to read the latest data (the above is from November 2023), you can check out their site here.
As with every country, there are nuances to renting or buying a home in Belgium. Let’s dive in and look at what you can expect, what you need and who can help.
Renting an apartment or house in Belgium
If you’re on a short-term contract or want to get to know the country before buying, then renting is a great way to find your feet. Around 28.7% of the population choose rental accommodation.
Most rental terms in Belgium are around three years, however, short-term options can readily be found in the larger cities. A common short-term choice is serviced apartments which often cater to the expat and contract work community specifically.
One reason for the number of people choosing rental properties over ownership is the level of legally protected rights renters get in Belgium. If you choose to rent, you will have greater freedom to redecorate or improve the property than many others in the EU. Additionally, rental agreements are designed to make it hard for the landlord to evict the tenant, giving a greater level of protection and security for renters.
Once you’ve found your dream place, you’ll need several documents to be eligible to rent, these include:
- A copy of your passport.
- Proof of earnings, such as a recent bank or savings statements.
- If you’re a non-EU/EEA resident, you will also need proof of employment or long-stay (category D) visa.
- It is not uncommon for some agencies or private landlords to request references too.
Moving on to the costs, it is typical for a tenant to pay two to three months rent as a security deposit, depending on whether you’re moving to Flanders, Brussels or Wallonia. Note that this must be made electronically, it’s not legal to complete this in cash.
All going well, an inventory report will need to be completed. This makes a record of the contents and condition of the property. This is often done by an external company and typically costs €300 and €400, which is usually split between the landlord and tenant.
Note that, in addition to your rental, you may also be responsible for additional costs including monthly service fees which can range from €50 to €100. This covers things like maintenance of elevators, the cleaning of common areas, and so on.
As well as being legally required to take out fire insurance, you’ll be responsible for your utilities; these are never paid for by the landlord. For an apartment these two should come to less than .
Buying an apartment or house in Belgium
If you’re ready to take the plunge and buy straight away, you’ll find it’s a great time to buy. Belgium is one of 16 countries in the EU where house prices have started to come down due to higher interest rates cooling the market.
Mortgages are widely available for those under the age of 65. One key requirement is that you will need to show that your mortgage repayments will not exceed 35% of your monthly income. The mortgage industry offers a range of products including fixed-rate, variable rate, and combined rate.
As with any property purchase, there are costs and taxes to pay before the place is yours. In Belgium, these are currently:
- Deposit of around 10%
- Registration tax for existing properties (note that rates vary between the different regions in Belgium)
- Federal VAT on properties newly built or less than two years old
- Notary’s fee (0.2-4%)
- Cost of deed of sale (€800–1,000)
The process for the actual purchase of the property is similar to other countries, the three main steps are:
- The commitment to buy (offre d’achat/ koopintenties): when completed, you are committed to buy but the seller can back out without penalty. There may also be a small holding fee to pay here, which you will lose if you back out of the purchase.
- The sale agreement (compromis de vente/ verkoopcompromis): This is the legal bit and gives the detail of the contract. This is where you will usually have to pay the deposit. From signing this document, you will have four months to pay the balance of the purchase.
- The notarized deed (acte notarié/ notariële akte): The final step and, when complete, the property moved to your ownership. The deed must be signed within four months of the sale agreement.
And, just like that, you’re a new homeowner, congratulations!
As with any complex legal process, there can be bumps and nuances on the way. We would always recommend that you take professional advice from a suitably qualified specialist in Belgium, speaking of which…
When you’re ready to make the move to Belgium, you’ll find all the support you need from our members, we’re ready to make sure your next move is an adventure every step of the way.