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Sunday, September 23, 2012

House Hunting in Belgium: Converted Mill On Three Acres In Walloon Brabant, Belgium

$2.2 MILLION (1,750,000 EUROS)

This three-story brick house built in 1850 is set amid rolling green hills, 25 miles from Brussels in the French-speaking province of Walloon Brabant. It has four bedrooms and three baths; a recent renovation retained architectural elements like exposed oak ceiling beams and rafters, and even remnants of machinery, like the pulley above the living room framed by ceiling beams. The baths and kitchen have been redone, as have the electrical, water and heating systems.

The house has about 7,600 square feet of space; the central living room has a 26-foot ceiling, opened up as part of the renovation, in which the owners removed two higher floors to reveal beams, braces and rafters, said VĂ©ronique Schatten, office manager for Engel & Voelkers Wavre, the listing agency. The room has three elongated south-facing windows, as well as three smaller windows on the opposite wall. A large stone fireplace set in a brick wall came from a chateau in France.

Other rooms on the main floor include a small television lounge with an open mezzanine above that functions as a home office; an open kitchen; and an adjoining dining area with a terra-cotta-tiled floor. Kitchen cabinets are wooden; the stovetop is ceramic and appliances are by the German company Miele.
In Belgium, a Converted 19th-Century Mill

Of three bedrooms on the second floor, two have en-suite baths with Grohe ceramic fixtures and white tile walls. On the third floor is the master suite, which has a dressing room in addition to the bath, and a pitched ceiling with exposed wood. The teak-paneled bath has a ceramic tub, a large tiled shower, and two porcelain sinks by the Italian company Antonio Lupi.

In the basement is a brick-walled wine cellar with a lounge, which still has a round chunk of granite in the floor, a remnant of the mill’s machinery. Also included in the asking price are two 19th-century buildings with terra cotta roofs, one most likely a horse stable, the other a renovated one-story building that was intended to be a pool house. The pool was never built, so the building, equipped with a bar, a fireplace, French doors, and a terrace, is used for entertaining.

Red beeches line the driveway leading to the main house. The lawns are dotted with chestnut and oak trees, trellised walkways and sculptured shrubs. The center of Brussels is 40 minutes away, an hour during rush hour.

Walloon Brabant is in the “Green Belt,” a ring of suburbs and semirural areas around Brussels. Castles and monuments punctuate the countryside, among them the site of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.


The market has been steady and strong, nearly unaffected by the crisis that crippled housing markets in countries like Ireland and Spain. According to Olivier Thiel, a residential investment specialist in the Brussels office of Knight Frank, a London real estate and consulting firm, “Almost everyone who is 30 years old has bought real estate, and they see it as a type of savings.” About 70 percent of Belgians own property, said Mr. Thiel, adding that property prices in Walloon Brabant had gone up an average of 50 percent over the past decade, and that higher-end properties had risen 16 percent over the last five years. Even so, Ms. Schatten says that properties priced above a million euros are not moving.

In Walloon Brabant, a province of Wallonia, the transfer tax is around 14.5 percent of property value. Owners tend to keep properties a minimum of 10 years before selling, in order not to lose money on the purchase. “It’s kept it stable, slow,” Ms. Schatten said of the market.


Nearly all buyers in Walloon Brabant are Belgian, typically young Brussels families seeking more space. The small number of foreigners who do buy in Walloon Brabant are generally residents of France, Britain, Holland and Scandinavian countries, and have children attending international schools in the area.


There are no restrictions on foreign buyers. As in many European countries, buyers do not usually hire a lawyer, relying instead on the public notary to handle the transaction.

But while there is no imperative to hire a lawyer, especially if the buyer is using a real estate agent, some factors may dictate retaining one, said Siegfried Busscher, a lawyer with the Brussels-based Schoups law firm. If there are international tax issues, he said, a lawyer should be consulted.

Foreigners are eligible for mortgages from Belgian banks; they must meet the same requirements asked of any Belgian buyer.


Brussels and Wallonia tourism:

Belgium portal:

Belgium tourism:


French, Dutch and German; euro (1 euro = $1.28)


The transfer tax and notary fee cost approximately 15 percent of the property’s value. The property tax is $1,679 a year.


Marie Ledeganck, Engel & Voelkers Wavre, 011-32-10-475-000;


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