Home is where The Hague is : why you should consider buying in Den Haag.
The Dutch king has a palace there – two, in fact. Although tourists all flock to the Dutch capital of Amsterdam, locals say that in fact you can better live like a king in The Hague.
The Netherlands’ third largest city isn’t just home to its royals and government. It’s also the only bustling centre where you could learn to surf, with its 11 kilometres of sandy coastline. There are 180 nationalities among some 540,000 residents, and more than 200 international organisations and NGOs, but people from The Hague stress that this is a place to live: officially it has never been granted city rights, and many people love its village-y feel.
““The vibe is laidback,” stresses Stephania Ammerlaan-Beeke, a mortgage consultant specialising in The Hague and surrounds at Expat Mortgages. “Yes, it has our government and administration but this is where you come home and enjoy family life and the beach. We do have areas to go out, and the convenience of a big city, but please, no rush!”
The Hague’s facilities are impressive, though. According to Stefan Hegels, spokesperson for The Hague & Partners, which promotes the city, it has 116,000 trees, plentiful parks and squares and one of Europe’s greenest urban environments. “Nature is really close: on the northern and southern sides the city is enclosed by dunes, National Park Hollandse Duinen, which is a protected natural habitat where you can walk and cycle,” he says.
A 45-minute or so commute to Amsterdam and nearby big recruiters such as Shell, in Rijswijk, are another draw for international workers, alongside the city’s own governmental institutions. “We have more than 50,000 expats, and about 10% of the people who live here come from abroad: it’s a really lively city as far as that goes,” he adds. “You see that in the image of the city and the culinary offerings, restaurants, and one of the world’s largest outdoor markets.”
This diversity is reflected, too, in more than 11 international schools – a great perk for expats, especially while the Dutch education sector is struggling with resources and severe teacher shortages. There are also an estimated 3,750 international students studying Leiden University’s campus The Hague and The Hague’s university of applied sciences.
Ammerlaan-Beeke says there are particularly attractive houses on offer near some of these schools. “Many of the schools are located in a really nice area, the Statenkwartier, towards Scheveningen and the beach,” she says. “Houses there are well-kept and have good square metres, luxurious bedrooms and high ceilings. You need to bring €500,000 and €1million but there’s quality for your money.”
Other areas popular with expats are the Archipelbuurt, which has a village-y feel, and Loosduinen, a family-oriented area near the southern part of the beach. Bezuidenhout also has characteristic 1930s homes, and the newly-built Leidschenveen – near The British School in The Netherlands – starts at €280,000 and has plenty of modern convenience.
More and more people are clearly waking up to the merits of buying a home in The Hague. Last year, prices rose by just over 9%, and figures from the Rabobank now put the average cost of a home at €320,000 – third in the country, although more affordable than the eye-watering €473,000 average price in Amsterdam.
This means that if you’re serious about buying in The Hague, after checking what you can realistically borrow, the experts say you would be wise to arm yourself with a real estate agent. Bernadette Willems, owner and director of BW Housing estate agents, said that a good agent will help you find the home that fits you – and give you candid advice about what to avoid. “The market, like Amsterdam, is booming,” she said.
“That’s one reason you need an agent: all the agents know each other and it’s always a plus when you bring one. People look at a house emotionally, but I tell them if it isn’t the right house to buy. And if people buy through me, even after they have bought, they can come to me if they have problems.”
There is a certain set of airs and graces to The Hague, Ammerlaan-Beeke – a born and bred native – admits with a laugh. “A typical Hague thing is a dessert called Haagsebluf – a pink dessert with a lot of air that means to bluff. That’s how we look upon ourselves, with a wink. We can certainly be posh and have a few airs!”
But, she says, such is the draw of the city that expats who move in will soon be just as proud and protective of their new home: “Expats in the Statenkwatier don’t move, and want to protect it from the big bad outside. It gets in your blood!”