Our Forever Home            

                                                                                                       "Home Is Where The Heart Is"

                                                                                                                      Ca 2017
                                                                              A house is made of bricks, a Home is made of love and dreams!

Chapter 1

Our search for our forever home began in the Spring of 2019 and was a long and often arduous process. The housing market in the Netherlands is a difficult one to navigate, primarily because there is  great demand and homes are expensive. Because there is such competition for homes, quite often we were rejected by the seller's realtor to even tour a house because they already had a list of potential buyers. It made no difference we were pre-qualified and approved for a loan and had proof of cash payment to make up the rest of the purchase. This fact did not seem to even cause the realtor to bat an eye, which was so amazing to me. It was not unusual to call for an appointment to view a house and be offered a date almost a month later. Also, you work directly with the seller's realtor. Coming from the robust housing market in the US (and specifically in Dallas, where I received and accepted a full price offer within one hour from the time the house listed.... and my realtor continued to show the house and accept contingent offers until we knew the first offer was secured), this was definitely a lesson in patience.

Another difference between the US and the Netherlands is that the American housing market demands a home be in pristine condition when it is listed if the seller wants to reach their asking price. Homes are cleaned and staged and everything is done to bring in a potential buyer quickly and to "sell them" your home. Not so in the Netherlands. "Take it as it is" seems to be the standard.... and with that comes a lot of projects and a very high asking price for a home the size of a postage stamp. So, it was with this reality that we embarked with enthusiasm and hope to find our dream home.  During the last year, I have learned that while a room may be called a kitchen, the kitchen appliances may or may not stay with the home. I have learned that the majority of homes (both new and old) do not have closets in the bedrooms. I have learned that a home with more than one bathroom is quite extraordinary, and that a kitchen sink is about the size of a standard American bathroom sink.  I have learned that  Dutch families place more pride in their outdoor space (garden and covered patio space of garden house) than they do their house.  I have learned that a Dutch family of 5 lives comfortably in a space equivalent to 1,400 square feet.

It's funny how, over the course of the years I have lived here, my list of important home features has changed. In the U.S. I would have been looking at the size of the kitchen and the quality of appliances, and the size of the master-bath and walk-in closets, etc. All of these features are very "American" ideas of what makes a home comfortable. For me, an evolution has occurred and when we sat down to make our list of what we want in our forever home, I had the following at the top of my list:

    1. bathroom/toilet on the same floor as the bedroom
    2. space for a dedicated laundry room that was large enough for both a washer and dryer
    3. an entry hall or utility room where coats, shoes, etc. could be kept.
    4. secondary living space (not just a living and dining room combination)
    5. a tucked away place for the litter box
    6. off street dedicated parking
    7. a bedroom on the main floor (or at least a space which could be used as a bedroom which is on the main floor).
For those of you who know what Dutch stairs are like, you will understand that 20 years from now I will be thankful that I insisted on this.

For any of you reading this who have visited my homes (Virginia and Texas) you are probably scratching your heads with this list of "must haves" and I understand that. I look at them and chuckle at how life has changed and how our needs and wants have shifted.

John was born and raised in the province of Limburg, Zuid Limburg to be exact. Right on the edge of the beautiful Heuvelland. The rolling hills of this area and the close proximity to both Belgium and Germany make it a very attractive place to live. Click on Voerendaal and it will take you to Google maps with all the places, that is the village where our current home is located. John has lived here 14 years. He was born in Heerlen, which is the bordering town. He was born in a house on General Patton Street. But that is a story for another time.

Chapter 2

As we started our home search, we knew we wanted to stay in Zuid-Limburg. However, after a long search with very little home inventory,  we expanded the radius a bit north into the Middle of Limburg. Our home tours started in earnest in July when I returned to the Netherlands. John had already been doing some limited tours of houses we had identified through FUNDA (similar to Realtor.com), but for one reason or another we had not pursued anything. I won't go into details of what occurred during our home search because we ultimately found the house best suited for us so we are glad nothing else worked out.
Just on a whim we expanded our search to the middle of Limburg and found that John's commute to work was of equal distance but just approached from North to South rather from South to North. Once we were comfortable leaving the south of Limburg and the area John was raised, we began to see that the opportunity for a larger home with a lower price was possible. Every house we have looked at has needed some amount of updating so we wanted to factor that expense in with our target budget.
When we saw the photos of the house in Posterholt we knew there was potential. Our research told us the home had been on the market for a considerable period of time. We liked the church village where the home was located, and its close proximity to the beautiful city of Roermond.
As we looked at the photos provided on the listing, we saw what we thought might be the reason the home had not sold. When it was built, the owner had made a winkel (shop) on the front right side of the home. This was no longer used as a shop, but the exterior of the home looked like a shop was there, and the internal photos showed a large room with no personality. The current owner is a therapist and apparently she used this space as her office and where she counseled/taught children. When I saw the space I immediately knew what I would do with it, and I was anxious to have a tour. John arranged for a tour and we were happy with what we found.
foto 7
The house had been "lived in easily" by the present owners. Nothing was in disrepair and we could easily move in without needing to do any major upgrades other than removing upstairs carpet. The space was big and sunny. The location was in the heart of the village with a bus stop just steps from the front door. A nice market within a short walk, and a lovely cobblestone street in front of the home. We were especially happy with off-street parking, two-car garage (almost unheard of in the Netherlands) and a walled garden with a lot of privacy and no grass to maintain. We also liked that the existing kitchen was new and functional and would not require us to do immediate work on the new kitchen we envisioned to be built in the existing shop area. There is a bedroom with a private entrance off the patio, toilet, and washroom room on the main floor which we really wanted, and sufficient bedrooms for us to have an office for me, a "man cave" for John, a large guest bedroom, another bedroom which we can use as a closet, and (drum roll) a dedicated laundry room with a sink. The owners are older and retired. The man is named Wim and he is a retired teacher. His wife, Agnes, is a retired child therapist. They have lived in the home since 2005. They have "gently lived" in the home..... We asked our makelaar (realtor) his opinion about why the home had been on the market for such a long time and he said the size was too big for most Dutch, and the area where the shop had existed (and presently the owner's therapy practice) was confusing to people because they did not know what to do with it. John and I discussed this and we both shared the same vision for the large shop room. We saw a large kitchen and family room with expansive counters, large stove, farmers under-mount sink, glass front cabinets which went to the ceiling, built in hutch and refrigerator, built-in desk, and build-in bookcases. We also saw that we could have room for a large kitchen island as well as a place for a table and a TV and a seating area with sofa and chars. We really want a place of gathering and we knew this room, which was so confusing to others, would be perfect for our needs. The price of the house was already reduced. We arranged for an engineer to come and evaluate the condition of the home. It took several weeks for us to get this scheduled. Overall, the engineer felt we had a solid home and the things he identified which needed to be done were, for the most part, things John could do. The things that should be done over time were not anything unusual (more preventative maintenance) and things a home owner would expect to do. The engineer felt the home was in great shape and that we had a good deal at the current list price. A point of frustration for me with this process is that I am use to the American way of buying and selling a home, and I was wanting to see market research for comparable homes listed in the area and final purchase price - things that are not available here. So, I began my own research and then prepared my own analysis (about 5 pages) of comparable homes in the area; how long on the market; original list price; final sale price, comparable features, etc. Based on this, John and I made an offer which was quite a bit below the already reduced price. The sellers countered (which we knew they would) and we stressed to their realtor that I had done extensive research and was not going to pay more for the house than what we were offering..... we knew they needed to sell and had been trying to sell for a long time, and our offer was low enough that with counter offer we could come up with our price and still be well below our budget. We offered to come up a bit with the price and the sellers accepted. John was already approved for his part of the home purchase (via a mortgage) and we are fortunate that interest rates are at record lows right now. Just before I left for the States we signed for the house, this is only so the house goes of the market.
Foto 1    FOto    Foto
Little did we know of the arduous process for having my part of the home purchase transferred to a Dutch bank from my US bank account but I will spare you the details of that.
I am too use to the American process (remember my house received an offer within one hour of listing and we closed in 30 days) so having to be patient for three months while we went through the closing process was frustrating. We receive the key to the house Friday, May 1st. We will immediately start to remove the carpet upstairs (downstairs has hardwood and stone tiles) and the new carpet for our bedrooms will be installed May 12th. We have selected "cappuccino" color (a little lighter than the carpet in Jim's study at the Butternut house).
We will have 22 solar panels installed on May 6th. John is most excited about this since electricity is so expensive here and I come with my American habit of keeping lamps burning for ambiance. The other reason for solar is that Europe is pushing everyone away from gas appliances and at some point they will no longer be serviced so we want to be in compliance when that occurs (we prefer gas but it is what it is).
We have a moving van rented for May 8-11 and several friends, and John's nephew, who have offered to help us load/unload. Of course, with our masks and our gloves.
Our house is unusual in that each room has several closets (not walk-in closets) but closets nonetheless - some with shelves and some for hanging clothes. This is highly, highly unusual for an older home here. However, this is still not enough for our (my) clothes, so the smaller bedroom will be converted to a closet. We found a store in the town of Hoensbroek which was remodeling and they were selling their clothing display closets and shelves and we were able to buy those. They will be delivered on 7th. They are very tall and will need to be cut down a few inches and painted, but that is a project we are happy to take on as they are well made and will make for a wonderful clothing room.
The last project for the summer will be insulating the attic, which is something John will do (with my help.....). We already have a plan for the kitchen but we will most likely delay the installation until Sept simply because of the impact of the virus and trying to get the work scheduled. We have some nice antiques for the new house - all bought locally from private sellers. More to come on that.