Find your home in Belgium

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Finding a home in a new city is difficult; finding a home in a new country is almost impossible. Marleen Kentane is a real estate agent in Belgium, helping expats find a home in their new country. She chats to Cliffordene Norton.

Photo: provided

Marleen, you assist expats in Leuven with finding a home in their new country. What inspired you to work with expats?

First of all, I assist expats not only in Leuven, but throughout Belgium! I’m a licensed real estate buyer’s agent or property hunter. I work for the buyer, not the seller, and I help people find houses and apartments in Belgium and also abroad.

So, Belgian people who want to buy a second home abroad can also be my clients. My daughter is an expat (she lives and works in Morocco for a Belgian company), so I know exactly how difficult it is for foreign people to arrive in a country they don’t know, and where they don’t know the law, etc.

Every country is so different, including regarding real estate. Since I’m a professional real estate agent, I’m qualified to help people, and my job is also to make sure that my clients pay the correct price for a home, and that all the administration is legal and correct.

Take us through the process of buying a home in Belgium.

A couple of weeks ago, I helped a young couple from South Africa find their apartment in Leuven. They contacted me, because they saw a post of mine on Facebook. So, we began to write emails to each other, and they described what type of apartment they wanted in Leuven.

I started my search (internet, contacting agencies, etc), and soon I had found the right apartment for them. I first sent them photos and a description of the apartment, and they were interested. Then, I made an appointment to visit the apartment, and there I showed them the apartment via video call (WhatsApp).

They agreed with my choice, and I fixed all the paperwork with the other real estate agent (on behalf of the owner of the apartment). Since the couple didn’t want to book any hotel or B&B for the day they would arrive in Belgium, but wanted to enter the apartment immediately when they landed in Belgium, I had to fix their “guarantee/deposit” at a bank, arrange their fire insurance, etc.

In Belgium, normally, you cannot receive the keys of your apartment before you have fixed the guarantee. The clients didn’t want to rent a furnished apartment, so they ordered all their furniture online, and I arranged the whole delivery of that. I arranged the paperwork for water, electricity, gas, etc. In fact, you should read the recommendation they put on Facebook. See below:

Gabriella Harris is with Marleen Kentane
20 February at 06:52

Hi everyone!

We’re home-grown South Africans and have just moved to Leuven, Belgium. We would like to share our success story and the amazing service provided by Marleen Kentane from Globe Properties.

Though she specialises in finding properties, it has been more of a full emigration service.

She found us the perfect apartment (video calling us from each prospective one), sorted out all the paperwork, made sure we understood how everything works (gas, electricity, etc is very different to South Africa!).

Marleen even called IKEA to clear up a misunderstanding with our delivery, and then stuck around an entire day waiting for the delivery. She fetched us from the airport, joined us in setting up our SIM cards and home Wi-Fi packages, etc, and has reassured us that she’ll be around for any further questions or concerns.

It gave us peace of mind knowing that everything had been considered and we wouldn’t arrive having missed something.

Yes, you could probably get everything done by yourself, but, when emigrating, you have soooo much stress, that having someone familiar in Belgium willing to help is a huge relief. I would really recommend you budget in this service if you are thinking of emigrating.

We could not have done this without you. Thank you, Marleen!

Do you need any additional documents to apply for an apartment, especially since applicants do not have a credit record in Belgium?

In Belgium, when you are looking for an apartment to rent, the landlord or agency asks for at least three payslips (proof that you work, what company you are working for, how long, etc), but an expat cannot give these payslips, because he has not worked in Belgium yet. So, the only thing to use as proof is one’s working agreement with the company. In the agreement, it is also mentioned how much the salary will be, and this is sufficient. In big cities like Brussels and Leuven, there are many expats, and landlords/agencies know this.

What are the challenges you face when looking for a home for expats?

There are no particular challenges for expats compared with Belgian clients.

What should expats take into account when looking for a home?

That it is very difficult to rent a house or apartment by themselves without professional help, and the risk of being ripped off because they don’t know the Belgian law. My job is to avoid this.

Also, the language can be a problem. Not every landlord (especially older people) speaks English, and, most of the time, the landlord will not rent his house or apartment to a foreign man/woman. If I can do the visit and negotiate, it is never a problem, even when the landlord hears afterwards that the rental is for a foreign person.

Any additional tips for people looking to move to Leuven?

For Leuven or any other city in Belgium, please contact me, because you don’t know what you are getting into without help (see the recommendation of Gabriella).

I’m working with a renowned interior architecture agency, in case you buy a house in Belgium and would like to change or renovate the house or apartment.

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Buro: MvH
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