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.
From Blade Runner to The Terminator, for most of us the concept of artificial intelligence has always felt a little Hollywood. A fantastical idea to underpin a great story, but nothing real. Yet here we are. AI is here and it’s here to stay. So, what is it really and how can we make it work for us?
At its core, AI is the ability for a computer to think like a human, or at least to appear to. This currently presents itself as computer programmes which are able to reason and learn from experience.
The recent explosion in awareness of AI has come from a new type of system based around a technology called Generative AI. This sounds fancy, but in practice it means a system that can create text, images, music or other media based on patterns it finds in examples which it is given called training data.
We can see this at work with today’s most popular AI system, ChatGPT. This is software which can create human-like text based on a user’s request. ChatGPT creates articles using information taken from a huge collection of text including books, articles, and web pages To this they add more information from news articles and Wikipedia.
All of this data is used to train software which is designed to mimic human thought. When the software has processed all of the data, ChatGPT can predict what text should come next in a sentence based on analysis of text it has seen before. It can also refine output to express specific feelings and make the text context appropriate. This leads to very natural, human-like text being produced by ChatGPT and systems like it.
Users can write a request on ChatGPT and ask it to produce original text on most topics. They can even request a specific tone or feel. So, if you’d like your marketing to sound like it was written by Shakespeare, ChatGPT can make that happen.
This same process is used by all other AI software, whether they’re creating text, images, video or any other types of media.
The limitations and risks of AI.
Whilst what they can do is amazing, current AI systems are far from human capabilities and bring risks of their own. Some headlines would make you think that the risks are a future in which Skynet takes over the world, but in reality, the concerns are a little more mundane, though no less important.
One concern is the sources of information used by these generative AI systems, as this data defines the capabilities of the AI. That is to say, if your AI isn’t trained with quality, reliable data, then this can lead to issues. There are concerns that, as more information and content is created by AI, this could lead to a downward trend for the quality and an increase in bias of the media these systems produce.
This reliance on data sources means that the system only knows what it is told. It is important to understand what information an AI system has access to before using it.
As discussed, Generative AI stores large amounts of information. Current systems use publicly available data, but, as the use of AI grows more sensitive or private information could be included within their training data. AI is as vulnerable as any other IT system to being hacked, so this will create concerns around privacy and security going forward.
Finally, there are also ghosts in the machine, a bit like Short Circuit, if you’re a fan of 80’s movies. Whilst we understand how the software within an AI is made, we don’t know how they actually process and reproduce information. This makes it hard to predict what an AI will do. We’re already seeing this with AI chatbots who have been found to be making up information, as has ChatGPT.
How can your business use AI today?
For all of the concerns, AI still has great potential and is something to think about for your business. In a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 80% of business leaders are already use generative AI regularly and are finding that it improves efficiency and performance.
But what can AI actually do for your company? Here are some of our favourite uses for AI available for your business today:
- Customer Service – implementing an AI Chatbot, such as FreshChat on your website can help with fielding the first level of customer queries. By responding to frequently asked questions and simple requests, an AI can cut down on staff workload and reduce response times for customers.
- Finance – Generative AI is great at spotting patterns and making predictions. This means it is perfect for fraud detection and financial forecasting for your business. A great AI forecasting tool is Datarails.
- Transportation – AI driven apps like Waze are great for route planning and traffic prediction, ensuring you make your meetings on time.
- Marketing – as marketing moves to deeper levels of automation, AI can help with customer segmentation, social media, and more accurate targeting for your marketing. When it comes to marketing AI, we’re fans of Sprout Social.
There still remains a lot of concern that AI will result in job losses for those in non-leadership roles. That’s why it’s crucial to keep in mind one important fact; AI is a tool. Integrating it into your business should be approached from a “people first” perspective, ensuring that it complements your team, not replaces them.
AI opens up new opportunities and roles within your business. Consider offering training on AI best practice and qualifications for the new tools to your team to empower them to use AI with confidence.
It’s also worth considering adding AI policies to your business. This will enable you to define acceptable use for AI as well as data protection and privacy expectations. If everyone understands what AI is and is not for, problems can be avoided before they occur.
The future is together.
AI is no longer science fiction, it’s science fact. By understanding what AI can (and can’t) do, you can make informed choices about when, where and how to add it to your business.
Whilst there’s no doubt that this technology will develop and grow in the weeks, months and years ahead, early adoption will help you make the most of this exciting technology. Successfully adding it to your business will increase efficiency and give you a competitive advantage, but only if done with care.
Well, the first step is to build a plan of action to make your business a sustainable service provider. However, knowing where to start can be a challenge.
Thankfully EuRA, in collaboration with the Coalition for Greener Mobility, has produced a new white paper covering sustainable development goals for Destination Service Providers (DSPs). This includes details of the framework DSPs should use to develop and meet sustainability goals in all areas of their business.
The aim is to help you create your own Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) programme. It will help your business look beyond financial goals and begin to develop value within society. Part of this includes considering then managing environmental sustainability and social responsibility issues. An effective ESG programme should also describe how you monitor and review your performance and manage your business.
We recommend that ABRA members develop and adopt an ESG programme as a matter of best practice. To get you started, here are our top take aways from each section of the EuRA Sustainability White Paper.
A good ESG programme should be built into the fabric of your business. Your environmental planning should consider every operational perspective of your business, from the office to service delivery.
Within the office, consider:
- Power suppliers – choosing suppliers who provide renewable energy has never been easier. This will have an instant impact on your business’s carbon footprint.
- Paper consumption – the world has never been more digital. It’s worth taking the time to see which of your business practices can be taken fully digital. Moving away from printing unnecessarily will not only protect natural resources, but also save your business money in paper purchases and storage solutions.
- Training – Ensuring that your team is fully up to date with business policy and best practices will help minimise your carbon footprint.
Service delivery can also have a strong impact on how sustainable your business is:
- Work with the right people – ensure that you’re working with other companies who share your sustainability goals. If they don’t, provide them with guidelines covering your requirements and support them to become compliant with your needs.
- Help your assignee – Providing information on public transport, sustainable power suppliers and recycling options will help your assignee start sustainably.
- Consider how you move – Is it possible to use public transport or even to cycle for your team? Can service delivery occur at the weekend when traffic may be lower? By being conscious and minimising use of fossil fuelled powered vehicles, you can cut carbon emissions and save money.
The social side of an ESG programme is where you consider how your business impacts wider society. We’re not just talking about the environment though, this is also about the wellbeing and quality of life of customers, assignees and suppliers.
By considering what impact your business has on the lives of others, you can quickly develop a plan to be a positive force within your community.
- Take care of your team – look at ensuring your team has a positive work life balance, that vacation means time off, not less calls, and that stress is kept to a minimum. You should also ensure that you’re providing an environment where your staff can develop skills and feel fairly compensated for their time.
- Financial transparency – create and enforce equal pay and payment best practice policies. Also allocate annual budget to train your team and to achieve the business’s ESG goals.
- Bring your customers along – inform and educate your customers on sustainability best practices. Making your own ESG programme easily accessible and a prominent part of your messaging can help here too.
- Encourage your community – by actively engaging with your local community, your business can be a force for good for all. This can take the form of charitable work, sponsorships, internships or encouraging employees to let you know what the business could be involved in.
All DSPs are subject to checks, best practices, areas of compliance, reporting and policies to ensure their ethical and legal operation. ESG governance ensures accurate reporting, transparency of operations whilst pursuing integrity and diversity within leadership.
Key areas to think about within your business include:
- Compliance – consider the policies and practices your business needs to follow. This can include GDPR, anti-money laundering and anti-bribery policies.
- ESG/Sustainability Advocacy and Ownership – The success of any far-reaching policy hinges on consistent implementation. Tasking one or members of your team to own and implement the ESG programme is a great step towards success.
- Risk Management – it’s crucial that you consider factors inside and outside your own business. Completing risk assessment of suppliers, partners and your own workforce will give you a clearer picture of business vulnerabilities and ways you and others can improve.
- Write it down – Your entire ESG programme should be documented and available. There’s no point in creating a policy unless everyone who needs it can access and use it.
If you’d like to read the white paper in full, you can request your copy from the EuRA website. The EuRA sustainability framework is a living document, so it doesn’t cover every possible situation. If you think something important is missing, we’d love to hear about it to get it added to future versions.
ABRA is working towards our own ESG programme, which we aim to have in place during 2024. Our Sustainability Committee will define the programme roadmap, and objectives. Once completed, we will pass this on to all members and make it available to all.
If you would like to help with this process, then members may join our Sustainability Committee. If you would like more information, please contact us here.
You also might enjoy EuRA’s Sustainability Training Series, an interactive webinar programme. To find out more, or to access the session recordings, visit EuRA.