Another fracture and a new home!

Though I didn’t want it to be this way, my blog posts have now turned into quarterly reports, when I was hoping they would be weekly. But I guess time really does allow for news to accumulate… like the purchase of a new home!

A few months ago, Andrew and I thought we’d start looking around at homes in the area and in Amstelveen to assess options and see what our non-negotiables were (like a bath and no more than two flights of stairs). We weren’t seriously looking per se, just mildly curious, and only saw one apartment close to us before finding “the one” that we would eventually buy. Our initial aim was was to check out 10 – 15 homes, and get a better sense of pricing and what was out there, and then down the line, see what worked for us.

We have LOVED living in our area, being across from the school, and close to everything, like parks, river, city centre and main stations. Also, we live in a great apartment building that’s fairly modern, has minimal noise, and is so well insulated we haven’t turned on our heat once this winter. Plus, I have a Jewish mom’s bird’s eye view into the school playground (who can forget the famous incident of 2020 where on my son’s first day of school EVER in the Netherlands, I stuck my head out the window, called out to him and waved at him at breaktime, when he was standing with a crowd of boys).

So just out of interest, we checked out an available apartment in our building a few floors below, with the same viewpoint of the school (just saying), which ticked all our non-negotiable boxes. Fortunately, the market had settled a bit, and whereas months before we had heard stories of people overbidding on property to secure it, this wasn’t the case when we first offered.

Every expat told us to go through an agent to find a home, and then opt for a mortgage at one of the well-known “good-for-expat” banks. Since we had already found the place, we could skip that part, but we still needed help with the offer/contract, and where to start bidding. Clever Andrew found just the person, and this was the first critical and great decision we made as we wouldn’t have known where to start with an offer. Our initial thinking was “We better offer the full price because this is Amsterdam, and maybe this is what’s done otherwise we won’t get the place”.

Long story short – this agent helped us negotiate and better understand the contract and processes. Then, the best next thing we did, contrary to what the common expat advice is, we consulted with an independent mortgage advisor. We were always told to get a mortgage with one of the big banks as they were most expat friendly, but we decided to go another route, which worked out well (when I say “we”, I mean Andrew, the brains behind most of our life admin). Turns out that this bank was listed close to number 10 in terms of the best rate/offer for us, and thanks to the advisor, we were able to compare lots of bank offerings. What’s more, he also guided us on what paperwork we needed and what steps we needed to take at every point.

As we learnt, a house transfer involves a final inspection of said home before heading to the notary with both buyer and seller present. And if Dutch isn’t your first language, you need to pay for a translator to translate some of the legalese that the notary reads out in Dutch. At the final notary visit, the bill of settlement, delivery deed and mortgage deed were discussed and signed, and the keys were given to us. The translator insisted on taking photos of us while signing (clearly not her first rodeo) and I got quite teary. I sold my Joburg home before we emigrated like the TinMan – not feeling much aside from relief. This time, I felt happy-nostalgic-excited-proud.

On the dotted line…

And so, life now finds us with keys to an apartment a few floors down, ready to move next week. Bonus – I can carry my plant babies (about 15 of them – I’ll probably need more) by hand to their new home without worry of damage, and instead of bubble or paper wrapping every piece of crockery, I can shlep them downstairs in a trolley. We will still be getting movers to help us with the big things like beds and cupboards, who will also be versed in disassembling and re-assembling the beds.

The other headline news for this post is that Rebecca broke her arm a few weeks ago at school. She jumped off something and landed badly, so we got “the call” (who doesn’t fear seeing the school’s number flash on the screen) to fetch her. There was no doubt it was broken – it was literally warped (eek) so we went straight to the ER and obviously didn’t need to advocate for our case and prove there really was something wrong.

There were two breaks in her arm, and they had to set it in theatre, under anaesthetic. We were allowed in with her, and we were treated with much care and empathy too. I remarked that it felt like we were the only ones in the hospital – so great was the care. There were seven doctors and nurses in the theatre sorting out Rebecca. A senior and junior anaethetist, a doctor, a nurse, someone to set the bone, someone to bandage the arm, and someone to do the X-ray.

Interestingly, I’ve found that in the Netherlands, I sometimes battle knowing who the doctors and who the nurses are – doctors generally introduce themselves as “Mevrouw xx” and the “hierarchy” seems flat.

Rebecca was miserable that evening and the next morning, but after a normal’ish day at school, she was back to her former self, and managed really well with the cast and sling for the next few weeks. She had a few follow-up X-rays and checks with the paediatric orthopaedic specialist. She also had a cast change, and the team there wrapped up her arm in a bandage with hearts, and sprinkled glitter in a colour of her choice onto her arm. Again, the care has been exceptional. Now she has been liberated totally, is back to doing everything, and will go for another check in about five months’ time to see all is going well.

Eyes on the ball… no one felt like turning around to pose for a picture at the Ajax women’s football game


In the happy space of the big Amsterdam library


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  • Denise Kemp

    14 March 2023 at 4:40 pm

    Another interesting and well written piece Tanya

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