By Alex Howlett
The counts of Holland, who ruled the country in the Middle Ages, were attracted to The Hague because of its vast forests. Today, housebuyers are flocking to “The Count’s Hedge”, as it is known, drawn by new developments in the city centre.
Median house prices across the Netherlands rose 11.8 per cent between 2017 and 2018; in Amsterdam they grew 16.3 per cent to €425,200, and in The Hague by 19 per cent to €280,000, according to the NVM, the Dutch association of estate agents.
The Hague, the Netherlands’ third-largest city, lies 50km south-west of Amsterdam on the North Sea coast. It has proved more able than the capital to respond to a rise in demand for housing, amid a nationwide shortage, with new supply. The Hague is expanding as developers create new neighbourhoods in former industrial areas and around the central railway station, largely made up of apartments for young professionals.
“It’s urbanisation but also gentrification,” says Bas Wilberts, a director at Savills Netherlands, the estate agent. “There is a preference to live close to the facilities, the restaurants.”
As a result, buyers — many of whom have been priced out of Amsterdam — increasingly are considering The Hague. Home to the government, the UN International Court of Justice and Noordeinde Palace (King Willem-Alexander’s “working palace”), the city is expected to grow in population by 17.3 per cent between 2018 and 2040, compared with a 6 per cent rise nationally, according to the NVM.
Cost is not the only driver, however: the number of tourists visiting Amsterdam has more than doubled since 2011. “Many Dutch people don’t want to live in the city any more because it has become too crowded,” says Tjerk van der Linden, managing director at Engel & Völkers, the estate agent.
Expats are investing more in The Hague’s residential market. A report from NVM in April 2018 found that expats accounted for 40-50 per cent of house viewings between the first quarter of 2017 and first quarter of 2018. Kate Everett-Allen, head of international residential research at estate agent Knight Frank, says expats “may want to act now” as house prices continue to rise, and that buyers from US in particular could enjoy some exchange-rate advantage if they do so.
Van der Linden says The Hague is one of the most popular places for expats to live in the Netherlands, probably because of the international employers based in the city, such as the International Criminal Court and Unicef Netherlands. Data provider Global Property Guide has found that about a quarter of jobs in The Hague are with either international organisations or the government.
Being close to other Dutch cities, including Rotterdam, Utrecht and Amsterdam, The Hague might be affected by the movement of organisations to the country from the UK as a result of Brexit, leading to an increase in foreign buyers and putting further pressure on the residential market. The European Medicines Agency, for example, has already relocated from London to Amsterdam.
Van der Linden thinks house prices in The Hague will rise further. “[The increase] started in Amsterdam a few years ago, and will continue to develop for a few more years in The Hague,” he says.
Because of its coastal setting, he describes The Hague as “the Barcelona of the Netherlands” — which is perhaps a bit of a stretch.
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