Some good news for property developers in the Netherlands: a recovery in the housing market “appears to be in sight”, according to a report from the Dutch Union of Estate Agents. Average house prices had dropped by 17.7 per cent since 2008, without allowing for inflation, but thanks to a cut in property transfer tax and low interest rates things are on the up.
In The Hague, the country’s seat of government and home to almost half a million residents (including the royal family), developer Haag Wonen is selling the last owner-occupied apartments in the De Kroon tower, a 125-metre structure in the centre.
Haag Wonen is offering a 184 sq metre penthouse on the 40th floor with a terrace and a balcony, which will be delivered as a shell, for €999,950. Views from the penthouse, which is likely to become a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home, take in the port of Rotterdam and the Hook of Holland.
De Kroon is an example of Dutch multifunctionality: floors 14 to 40 contain the owner-occupied and “non-subsidised” rental apartments (this section has its own entrance and lift). The floors lower down the building are a mix of office space and social housing – flats for rent through a housing association – with shops and a supermarket at street level.
It is also one of a clutch of recently built towers that give the downtown of The Hague a distinctive, vertical feel in contrast to the concentric rings of 17th-century canal houses that typify the centre of Amsterdam.
According to Robert Kleissen, spokesman for Haag Wonen, the penthouse is a unit that has no direct comparison with any property in Amsterdam, 60km away. “In the Zuidas district of Amsterdam [referred to as the ‘New South’], which is distant from the centre, a unit of similar quality and height would probably cost around 25 per cent more,” he says. “But even in the Zuidas there are few residential buildings above 10 storeys.”
Meanwhile, at Amadeus Den Haag (10 minutes’ walk from the parliament building), an eighth-floor, three-bedroom unit with 126 sq metres of living space is priced at €495,750. The property is set to be delivered in 2015.
However, many of The Hague’s most desirable homes were built in the last half of the 19th century and the early 20th. For example, in the Statenkwartier, a coveted residential neighbourhood (with a buoyant private sector rental market) close to the International Court of Justice, calm streets of brick town houses, some with delicate wooden balconies, dominate. The Paagman bookshop on Frederik Hendriklaan, with its busy café, sets the tone in this relaxed part of the city. A 332 sq metre house at the end of a row built in 1906 with five bedrooms and two bathrooms is available for €1.14m via Frisia Makelaars.
A four-bedroom terraced house adjacent to the German School – one of a number of international schools in the neighbourhood – has an asking price of €699,000 through the Fred Smit agency.
In the Archipel, a mainly residential district between the Statenkwartier and the centre, a double-fronted mansion built in 1883 with three storeys and 14 rooms (500 sq metres in all) is on sale for €2.9m through Estata.
The property, which has original features, including parquet floors and a period stairwell, is located in Surinamestraat. The agency instructed to handle the sale calls it the “most beautiful street in The Hague”.
Homes in this part of The Hague frequently have decorative stucco mouldings over their front doors, adding to the attractiveness of the urban environment. At times the Archipel also appears slightly kooky: one large house near Surinamestraat sports a couple of lines from a poem printed across a vast, windowless wall.
Happily, neither the Archipel nor the Statenkwartier has much of the visible drugs tourism that affects such fashionable Amsterdam neighbourhoods as the Jordaan. But The Hague also lacks the kind of buzz that has attracted so many young artists and designers to Amsterdam in recent years.
Michel Caes, a baker from Paris, moved here seven years ago. “The Hague is calmer than Amsterdam and the pace of living isn’t as fast. People also respect the rules here and the city is well organised,” says Caes, who now runs four shops in and around The Hague selling French-style bread, cakes and sandwiches. “But what surprised me is that The Hague is basically just as cosmopolitan as Amsterdam, with the advantage that there is more interaction than in Amsterdam between the different groups of expats, and between the expats and the local Dutch.”
Also part of The Hague is the seaside resort of Scheveningen, which is popular with kite-fliers and walkers outside the short summer season. There is a large casino here and 1,200 pleasure boat moorings.
The city authorities are keen to promote The Hague as an “international city of peace and justice” and attract still more overseas professionals. The moniker sounds clunky, but the reality is that The Hague has drawn significant positives from the presence of organisations such as Europol, the European Patent Office (in Rijswijk, just outside the city) and the International Court of Justice, as well as 115 embassies and consulates. Some 7.3 per cent of jobs in the city are related to international organisations, according to a report commissioned by the city. And international employees, with their average annual income of €79,500, have cash to spend.
● In 2012 the median price of a home in the Netherlands was €210,000, according to the Dutch Union of Estate Agents
● Property transfer tax is 2 per cent of its value
● Rotterdam-The Hague airport is 20km from the centre of The Hague
What you can buy for ...
€100,000 A one-bedroom unit in a secondary location in need of work
€1m A 184 sq metre penthouse in the city’s De Kroon tower
€2m A six-bedroom villa with a garden on the fringe of the Archipel