Newcomer Practical Tip 2: Settling In - Accommodation
By contrast to many other European capitals, Brussels has a wide variety of quality, reasonably priced accommodation available. Here are a few pieces of advice on where and how to look for accommodation.
A: preliminary research sources
Local property websites contain a fairly comprehensive list of available property. Have a look at: Immoweb (in English/Flemish/French); or another site called either Vlan (in French only) or Easy (Flemish only).
The general English-language Brussels websites give useful advice about renting and purchasing property. Together with English-language print media, they also list property for rent and purchase.
But be careful: some foreigners in Brussels are perceived as wealthier and so able to pay more for property than other residents. Sometimes a landlord or seller will advertise a property at one price in a local website or newspaper and increase the advertised price in the English-language media. This tactic does not happen all the time, but keep in mind that where you say you saw the property may affect how much you are asked to pay for it.
B: visit the areas you are interested in
If you can, drive, cycle or walk around prospective residential areas. It is a good way to discover that part of Brussels and also, importantly, to find properties that have not been advertised in online or print media.
Most properties for sale or rent have an advert that is visible from the street. The signs to look out for are either:
- For rent (Flemish 'Te Huur', French 'A Louer') or
- For sale (Flemish 'Te Koop', or French 'A Vendre').
C: usually no need to make an immediate decision
Upon arrival, most newcomers are looking to initially rent. Subject to your particular time, budget and location constraints, Brussels rented property market favours tenants. There is a lot of immediately-available accommodation; you just have to find the right property in the right location.
Some newcomers are overcome by a certain 'wow' factor: by comparison to the rented accommodation back home, the first property they visit is: so much cheaper; better quality; and currently available, that they feel they must sign up for it immediately.
Avoid this wow factor. Unless the property is in great demand due to some special factors, there probably is an approximately equivalent property not too far away. Do not feel pressured by the landlord/seller/estate agent into immediately signing-up for anything.
D: Real estate agents: useful intermediaries or not?
Like in the rest of the world, some real estate agents add value to the accommodation search process and others do not.
Brussels has many real estate agents. So if you are going to use such an intermediary, ask your future employer or colleagues for recommendations. Immoweb has a useful estate agent search function and related information page.
Next practical tip: 3. Healthier Brussels Living
Date: 25 October 2005