Seven lessons from Expat Mortgages staff on carrying on in times of corona
Admin team member Myrthe Bosschieter, mortgage consultants Richardo Cruz Fortes and Mira Makkinje share their pearls of wisdom from the new Expat Mortgage office – the home office.
1. It’s better for the environment
Myrthe Bosschieter, was full time for just a month at Expat Mortgages before the office shut in March, but sees the positive sides of home working.
“One change is that we don’t print things out any more, because thankfully most things are digital,” she says. “A lot of our clients told us they couldn’t sign mortgage documents physically because they didn’t have a printer either, and so most banks have decided to accept a digital signature.”
Another advantage is that the crisis has encouraged businesses to modernise, she adds. “A lot of companies realise that you can do a lot more online than they thought, and in some ways it’s extremely efficient: we have no travel time, no parking tickets and no printing paper. It’s proven that it’s possible to organise a mortgage entirely online.”
2. We’re all less important than we thought
It’s a humbling time too, when nurses, carers and supermarket shelf stackers are recognised as more important than accountants and lawyers. Richardo Cruz Fortes, a mortgage consultant specialising in The Hague and Rotterdam, knows who is wearing the trousers in his household right now. “What I recently found out, although I am the breadwinner, is that my job is less important than my wife’s job,” he confesses. “She works for the municipality of Amsterdam and her job title has been designated ‘vital’…”
3.You can wear your slippers to work
Below the camera line, nobody sees your slippers…but you can still achieve huge amounts through conference calls and webinars. Notaries only accept an actual signature on house deeds – with just one client there – but Richardo has been able to support his customers with a live video chat.
Meanwhile, Myrthe recommends Expat Mortgages webinars as a way of finding out more about buying – without even having to step out of your house. “An adviser gives an online workshop explaining all of the general information about buying a house as an expat in the Netherlands and giving everyone a chance to ask questions,” she explains. “If you are interested in more specific information, you can make an online appointment with an advisor. Then there’s no need to do it ‘in real life’ at all.” Actually, mortgage adviser Mira Makkinje adds, online meetings are often more efficient anyway.
4. We aren’t just learning lessons: we’re teaching them too!
Richardo used to spend a lot of time on the road, but now he has three passengers in the back. “I am the home-schoolteacher/working dad, I have three children (ages 12, 7 and 6) and they all need a certain amount of attention to fulfil their school day,” he says. “In the meantime, I also need to work, of course, and prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. So it is fair to say that I am not bored at all…! But it is a beautiful time we all get to spend with our kids and to actually see them grow with their school achievements is a blessing.”
His colleague Mira Makkinje, even gets the odd lesson back from her three teenage children, who have been known to teach her a bit of English grammar after hearing her on the phone with clients!
5. Work…and work out!
One of the more unusual staff training exercises at Expat Mortgages is the physical bootcamp. It used to take place at 5pm on Mondays in the Amstelpark. Now, there’s not just one appointment online each week – there are two!
“I never thought I’d be following an online training course, to strengthen my stomach muscles ” jokes Myrthe. “We do follow the bootcamp with a glass of wine, though. I’m not sure whether that’s good for my stomach muscles but it makes me laugh and that’s definitely good for me!”
Richardo comments that in fact the living room physical training is even more inclusive. “It is even happening with people who never ever did anything in sports 😉” (It’s not clear if he’s counting himself…)
6. It’s a great time to buy a house
It sounds strange, but if you’re determined and have a stable income and future in the Netherlands, this could even be the best time to buy. “There are fewer people interested in purchasing a property, which makes buying easier,” says Richardo. “I have already seen cases where my customers really negotiated the price downwards. It’s also surprising how positive most of my customers are. They say, ‘Hey Richardo, now we actually have time to visit and view a property and to ask the sellers or selling agents questions which they take the time to answer!’”
Mira sees no signs of sales slowing down and Myrthe agrees that for serious buyers, the coronavirus means there’s less competition. “The advantage is that fewer people sign up to view a house, which means that only the really interested potential buyers are left,” says Myrthe. “You can take your time to view a house – on your own – and anything you touch will be cleaned by the estate agent afterwards.” The advice is still that you should always view a house in person, though, because a video and online photographs never tell the full story.
7. Stay positive!
The motto at Expat Mortgages is #StaySafeStayPositive and Mira sums it up: “Let’s all stay positive, keep a distance from each other, enjoy a bit of home time now that we have a bit more time, and take your time to discover what type of house you need and really want. I think there are some real advantages for expats who are buying right now.”