This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
Another One for Brussels....Overijes
please add me to the list of those moving to Brussels!
We're coming from the States, husband's paperwork will likely take until 1st of August to prepare. Thought about coming over to look at houses in August, but will it be difficult to see the due to vacation time for landlords and agents?
How do agents work....I see properties listed on immoweb with different agents, would we sign an agreement with a particular agent to show me all the properties they have, or would I select properties myself to look at and call the agents to show it to me?
Husband will be at NATO HQ and children in school in Wezembeek, so we are thinking perhaps Overijes or Tervuren. How do the 2 villages (towns?) compare? Is one larger, or more green, or has more access to shops and activities? We do not speak French but are in lessons now. Our housing stipend should allow us a nice house with a garden.
I will be looking for ballet, gymnastics, karate, swimming (these are all things the children say they want to continue, don't know if we actually will) and piano lessons....should I post a separate thread, or will Brussels experts look at this one?
I am sure this is the first of many posts, thank you in advance for your kind help!
Neither. Not in a million years.
Overijse is car essential, a hellish commute to work, not even near Wezembeek.
Tervuren, well it's still not near to NATO, but at least it's nearer to school.
Why are you not considering Wezembeek, Kraainem or Woluwe-St-Pierre or even Sint-Stevens-Woluwe? All these areas are nearer to NATO, all are green, all have great facilities, unlike Tervuren and Overijse. You mentioned French, now all are French speaking (well SSW is officially Dutch but go shopping in Aldi there and you might think otherwise, it's mixed), well Overijse and Tervuren are firmly Dutch speaking.
What school will the children be at in Wezembeek, the German school? Montessori? If it's Montessori and you want them to learn French, well you may just be a bit disappointed, send them to a local school if you want them to learn French. If it is Montessori and you've chosen it thinking your children will actually speak any French, then at least live in a French area, where activities are in French.
You look on Immoweb and if you like the house, you contact the person or agent who posted the ad. If you like the house, you sign a contract with the owner. Do not be tempted to allow any estate agent to suggest houses to you, they will suggest the most profitable and least easy houses for them to rent. Take control of your own house hunting. I'd suggest not even using a relocation agent, waste of money and can often be counter-productive.
All the activities you mentioned are far more plentiful in Kraainem / Wezembeek / WSP than in Overijse and Tervuren - if you choose Overijse and Tervuren, you'd just end up driving to WSP for swimming and gymnastics, so why not just live near the activities and WALK.
BTW you pay agents ZERO. They make their profit from the landlord giving them the first month's rent. Agents are not allowed to charge tenants, though they indirectly pay through the landlord, unless they are an agent who is doing all the searching for you - but that's the job of a relocation agent really not an estate agent, both often work in tandem to screw foreigners on expat deals and the end result is often ending up in the wrong area.
Just take a look on the map yourself at where everything is.
Sorry forgot to say, that is a map of the language border here, it's where on each side the majority language is French or Dutch, doesn't always correspond to the official status of areas eg Wezembeek is in Dutch Flanders yet is 80% French speaking.
Juneblues, thanks for the explanations....I had thought the border was a strict one with the language.
We hadn't considered those towns as we wanted to live slightly away from the city, we are used to living in more of a village setting and I thought the towns closer in to Brussels would be more city-like.
It's very hard to picture anything without having seen it. For instance, Google maps says the commute from Overijse to NATO HQ is less than 20 minutes but I imagine that is without traffic. We did like all the green space on the map around those two towns.
There are areas of Wezembeek which are just a villagey as Overijse or Tervuren, in fact Overijse is not pretty in the slightest, at least Tervuren is. So why spend an hour in traffic every day when you can spend 20 minutes or even cycle?
20 minutes Overijse - NATO , yes in the dead of night. In reality, allow an hour, most of it not moving very fast.
Wezembeek, Kraainem, WSP, they are all green and I'd say greener than Overijse and as green as Tervuren.
Sorry I cannot think of a single advantage to Overijse, which doesn't come with a huge disadvantage.
The border is strict in political terms only. In reality, the Dutch speakers are moving out and east and north, the French speakers are moving increasingly into Flanders.
The Americans who wish to bring with them their American way of living in big houses, big yards, going absolutely everywhere in the car by choice, they tend to live in Everberg, Kortenberg. You get a big house with big bills for the house and the extra expense of driving everywhere and also for an extra car, it usually ends up costing more to live out there, once you've added the extra costs on to the rent.
What school are your children going to then? I recommend living as close as possible.
For what it is worth...
I have lived in Tervuren - lovely town, fabulous park, expensive housing (esp. near the park). Easy to get to Wezembeek, cannot comment on NATO.
Lot of English speaking - I learned no Flemish really and if you go in the post office and speak French - beware - it is a Flemish commune and probably one of the more militantly Flemish. In the supermarket in Wezembeek I only heard French.
Overisje would not be my cup of tea, not hugely attractive.
My children were too small for the activities so cannot comment on that.
If you want to learn French then Tervuren is not really the place to be. IMHO it is quite difficult as an English speaker to get enough practice with either language - so much English is spoken esp by the Flemish, but you would be better in a French commune. If you mix though with lots of expats I think your language skills would not improve much.
Not sure why the "not in a million yrs" comment about Tervuren - it is a lovely town, super park and Arboretum. I used to love going to Leuven, great city. But depends on your budget - Tervuren is expensive.
As juneblues says look at other areas.
House hunting - we had an agent - time was short so my husband saw 14 houses in 2 days - it will take you a lot longer to find all of those - at the end of the day if the agent finds a house you like and can afford who cares what money they are making on it? There is a lot to do when moving so if you have a relocation agent use them - if you do not speak French then in my experience you will struggle to get stuff like your telephone connected.
PS - had friends in WSP and Kraainem and both nice though not sure they walked much - all depends where you are. There is a good tram service - depends if you are near it.
Sorry - last comment - the agent got us a house that had only come on the day before and the rent was dropped slightly. Super house. We got an English landlord for which I am eternally grateful for - Belgium has it's own job creation scheme when it comes to renting houses - you have to have a very detailed inventory and at the end of the lease you will be charged if a lightbulb is not working. Having a relocation agent on check out will help you not get shafted by the landlord (I comment on mine being English as they were very reasonable - mended stuff that was their responsibility IMHO and did not seek to make money out of us at the end of the lease).
I personnally go for Wezembeek itself, or Moorsel or Sterrebeek would work well - some lovely big houses there. My dd is at school near Nato and I live in Nossegem near to the E40 - it takes me AT LEAST 20 minutes from there. Usually longer. So from Wezembeek - add 10 minutes, from Tervuren add 15 - 20 minutes
WSP and Kraainem are completely covered by public transport, nowhere in these communes is more than a 10 minute walk away from a metro/tram/bus.
The not in a million years is because NATO to Tervuren is NOT a good idea. Add to that the main road is being dug up for the next 2 years, you never know from one day to the next where the diversion will send you. Yes it's a lovely town, but not all compatible with working in NATO or for a French environment, or activities in French either.
You can connect to phone, internet, electricity and gas by internet, many companies have their websites in English too. Allow a month for phone/cable/internet especially if arriving in the Summer.
Here's an example of a Wezembeek-Oppem house. It's not that far from Montessori or BAS, if those are your schools.
If you must use a relocation agent, you must remain in control. Do things like make a solid search area, upper limit not to be crossed over, be flexible with things like number toilets and power showers and big kitchens, this is Belgium and houses are different here. Look for things like double glazing, good insulation, no mazout (oil heating) if possible.
juneblues, we actually have looked at that one! Online, of course, as we are not there yet. Which is just for fun, really, because we doubt the houses showing now will be available in late August/early September.
This will be our 5th time living outside the States, so we are quite familiar with European housing; we're looking forward to Sky TV, actually. We know we are not likely to find a big kitchen (we've had Cornish Hens for many Thanksgiving holidays since they are all that will fit in a European oven) or closets or an open-plan living room, etc.
I had no idea about the traffic; when my husband has visited NATO HQ in the past, he was in a hotel right nearby, so did not have to deal with it.
The estate agents we used in the UK and Germany only showed us their properties but it sounds like a relocation agent could show all the available properties in our preferred areas and price range. This may be useful, but I have no idea how to find one.
And juneblues, that is excellent information on the Tervuren road construction....that will definitely impact our decision!
I know people who've done their own move and people who've used relocation agents, on balance I'd say those who did their own move managed to find houses just as fast and also got what they wanted, not what the relocation agent wanted them to rent (so they could take the backhander as well as the official commission).
You should contact all the adverts you like on immoweb and find out exact addresses and whether available. Then you make a spreadsheet and map, noting on the spreadsheet any details important to you like distance to work/school, proximity of shops/public transport.
Overijse is very big and spread out as it happens. 20 mins drive across at times. Makes no sense for NATO. Wezembeek might be what you are looking for - can be very non-city but you can drive under the ring road and avoid it on the way to NATO. Brussels suburbs can be very nice as it happens - low density, lots of trees, lots of individualism in the house designs. The concept of housing estate didn't really take off - for similar rent you kind of choose between three-story terraced house and what is referred to as a "villa two miles further from the shops.
The villages themselves are very quiet, that said - and once you go outside WSP/kraainem you will be car-bound but with kids that's usually the case anyway I guess.
Spot on Wonderdaddy.
for the same budge a 3 storey townhouse in WSP/Wezembeek/Kraainem with everything in reach on foot or by bike or public transport is the same price as a detached villa 2 or 3 miles further away from NATO and of same floor space costing more money to run and car bound too.
Americans do seem to like paying more and spending more time in the car and living in the villages, not sure how integrated they ever become, especially if their children end up at BAS and live in Everberg or similar.
OP I grew up in Brussels, and have a close friend who is still there, but is about to move to Washington and is looking to rent her lovely Tervuren house out, if you're interested! It's a good size, modern, light and bright, has a nice family garden and an outdoor pool. My friends and I all went to the European school (and Belgian primary, in my case) so ended up with good French as some of the subjects are taught in French there, even if you're in the English language section, as we were. It's a great place to be a kid in - so multicultural, and so much to do. I still go back regularly.
To add my twopenneth, I seriously wouldn't go for either of those. Tervuren or Overijse to NATO, a disaster. Most direct way I would think would be round the ring and that direction in the morning (and often until gone 10am) is bumper to bumper. Some areas of Wezembeek are just as villagey. Listen to juneblues, she is our local expert!
Re the language, it would NOT be appreciated if you spoke French in Overijse or Tervuren.
Tervuren is Dutch not French, although more French moving in as they buy up houses which are cheaper there than in Brussels. You'll have a longer commute, will have to always travel if you want anything in French, will have to contend with the roadworks which are a major disruption in Tervuren. Yes you might get a bigger house there, with bigger bills to match, but for sure you'll be spending less time in it! So why not go to a place nearer to work, in French as you have mentioned in your original post, spend more time at home. Tervuren is great for someone who wishes to live in Dutch or someone who wishes to live in the expat bubble there, but is not great at all for NATO compared to areas like Wezembeek, Kraainem, Sint-Stevens-Woluwe and Woluwe-St-Pierre. Americans who wish to transfer their American way of living to Belgium and who work at NATO tend to live as I said in Everberg, Kortenberg, Sterrebeek.
You can avoid the Ring to NATO by going through WSP/WSL, but if you use that route from Tervuren, first you have to negotiate the roadworks there, then you have to go at a snails pace through Wezembeek or crossing the ring into WSP, all that will add on much time. There are many NATO workers who cycle from WSP/Kraainem/Wezembeek, it's still often quicker than driving. I know someone selling a high powered scooter which would be ideal if you don't fancy cycling, it's for sale on facebook now, on the "Brussels For Sale" group, you have to be a friend of a member as it's a secret group, it's the largest type of group for Brussels with over 800 members.
This house has been on the market a while, think people are put off by small garden, but you won't get more villagey in Wezembeek than this one. It's beautiful in that area. It's near Castle club, a 5 minute walk, you can walk to the 39 tram, you can cycle to local schools La Fermette or Notre-Dame de la Trinité which almost always have places, or to the German school or to International Montessori Wezembeek next door.
It's on with several agents, 1700 is cheapest price. It's Parvis St Pierre 18, 1970. I'd choose the Bridge estate agents because they are good in my personal experience compared to others.
I used to drive to NATO HQ from Tervuren - drive was no problem at all, and I avoided the Ring at all costs (due to that lovely junction that had cars coming on and exiting at the same place). There are several routes through the back streets, and it used to take about 20 minutes.
(OP here) Thank you all...we're hoping to get a house hunting trip in soon, but everything is moving so slowly right now...