Mehar Fatma meets up with Jaap Russchen of Amsterdam House Hunting to find out what sets him apart from the rest of the makelaars (real estate agents) in the market.

Russchen’s company Amsterdam House Hunting boasts 25 years of experience and its repertoire still sparkles like the newly polished Italian marble tiles he has sourced for an expat client. But Russchen insists that it is realising a childhood dream that gives him a competitive edge. At his cosy office space in Amsterdam, Jaap and his small team of specialists work tirelessly to custom-fit the needs of their expat clients as they try to find them their dream home.

In a business where time is money, getting you to spare some for an interview has not been an easy task. Even as we speak you are headed for a viewing. I must apologise for that. Timing is crucial to my business. In these last two decades I have made it a point to spin my day around my clients’ schedule. And weekends are no different for me as most families and couples find it much more convenient to view houses and get on with detailed discussions on their free days.

What was the founding stone of Amsterdam House Hunting? As a toddler, I was fascinated with buildings and their architecture. Often, my mother had to pull me away from construction sites and newly built apartments. I always found my way in. When I was 18, I purchased my first house in Amsterdam and with the help of some friends refurbished it to my taste. That was the beginning of it all.

Tell us about your first clients. Were they expats? After my first purchase, I decided to help some of my colleagues from the UK who were interested in buying property here. I was able to come up with a decent portfolio and managed to negotiate good deals for them. That is when I truly realised my potential in the real estate business.

Why Amsterdam? I say why not! Amsterdam is the most interesting and international city in the Netherlands. The market is dynamic here and in the last couple of years, things have improved tremendously.

Buying a house in a foreign country can be intimidating for an expat, if not harrowing. How does your company fit in the picture? My job is not limited to getting my clients a house of their choice. Unlike many makelaars who are keen on selling apartments that are in their portfolio, I work from the buyers’ side. My company does not maintain a fixed portfolio. Our research is based on what our client wants. Some customers emphasise on an aggressive market research and a big portfolio to choose from and there are others who are more concerned about negotiating a better price or need help with the renovations and assessing the expenses. We are happy to support them through it.

Your company’s website talks about complete process management. Can you elaborate a little? We offer an end-to-end solution and buying the house is just one chunk of it. I am constantly liaising with vendors for good rates on renovation plans and cutting deals with interior designers. We help with every aspect because we know that with expats, some of these issues can pose a big challenge. Most expats are not clued into the market and might find it difficult to arrange it themselves. So here we are easing them with these requirements – house inspectors, plumbers, installing new kitchens, stylists, granite floor specialists, just about anything!

Which is your favourite neighbourhood in Amsterdam? That is a tough one. The dynamics of this city never fail to impress me. There is always a nice corner somewhere waiting to be explored. I’m always pleasantly and positively surprised in nearly every neighbourhood!

Can you give us some insider tips on where we can look for a great house on a decent budget? (Laughs) Among other neighbourhoods, I think Buitenveldert is coming up beautifully. It is not very far from the centre and yet it has the quaintness and charm of a quiet suburb, perfect for raising a family. There are plenty of parks and shopping areas and it is 15-20 minutes bike-ride away from Amsterdam central. Apartments are still quite affordable there.

Are the sellers here as tough as most buyers make them out to be? Most sellers can be quite tough on private buyers – they don’t always take them seriously and language can be big hindrance. It is always advisable to buy a house with professional help.

What are the usual concerns of an expat buyer? In my experience, the local language is the biggest concern for them. Even the rules and regulations regarding housing and taxes can be quite overwhelming for many buyers. Have a house on your mind? Email Jaap Russchen at!

What others are saying about Amsterdam House Hunting:

Being a foreigner in the Netherlands it was important to work with someone who I trusted and who knew the details of how to buy a property. I felt that Jaap represented my interests and took care of the all details (also great negotiations!) of buying an apartment. –Magdalena Aguilar

When we decided to buy a family home in Amsterdam we started to browse the web for a good agency. We consider ourselves very lucky to have stumbled across Amsterdam House Hunting. At the first meeting Jaap promised to help us find our dream house – and he DID! Three months later and at least 10 (sometimes very funny) house viewings later we have found our dream home. —Andy and Federica

I owe Google a gift basket for finding Jaap. The Dutch real-estate model is quite different and coupled with the language barrier it would have taken me much longer to realize my property goals. Jaap went above and beyond what is expected from a real-estate agent. What I valued most were his attention to detail and his intuitiveness to figure out what his client wants and perhaps doesn’t know how to express. Now that’s service! —P. Arindam

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photo credit: Alfred Elkerbout via photopin cc

Meher Fatma

Meher Fatma is a full-time mom and a freelance writer. Passionate about DIY projects, she loves putting her crafty ideas to use at Button Balloons, an online party shop that she co-owns