So you’re finally planning to spend your dissolute life in Amsterdam, right?
Here’s a reality check for you: if the only things you’re looking for in Amsterdam are sex and drugs, don’t even think about it. To move here, first you have to find a job, then the second step is finding a decent apartment, and that won’t leave you much money to spend on the above.
Amsterdam housing can be really expensive and challenging, compared to other countries, but here’s a few tips to follow if you’re struggling in finding an apartment:
1. SET THE BUDGET
It’s the main rule everywhere: ask yourself what you can afford and what do you need. Renting an apartment in Amsterdam can be quite expensive, especially if you’re stuck with the dream of having a house on the canals. If you’re looking for a 1 bedroom apt, expect to spend at least 1.500 € for the rent, but remember that you have also additional expenses to add:
- Housing Agency: they usually get the equivalent of 1 month commission, but it’s a one time fee.
- Gas & Electricity: expect to pay an average of 150 € each month. If you want to get an idea of rates, Nuon has a good test to estimate your expenses.
- Water: 30/40 € per month should be enough, but at least you have a very good and safe system of drinkable water. Waternet is a good provider.
- Local Taxes (water purification, sewage and garbage): it all sums up to an average of 500 € per year
- Internet: because you can’t survive offline! It all depends on the provider and the desired speed, but just to have an idea you could spend around 50 €/month with UPC for a package of Internet+cable tv+landline or you can just have a Tele2 40mb for 22 €/month.
You’ll see that you’ll have to include an extra of at least 250/300 € to your monthly budget.
2. LOCATION SCOUTING
Prepare your lesson prior your arrival: read travel guides, study your Google street view, listen to your friend’s trip tales. Anything that lets you understand what would be your ideal neighborhood goes. Do you want to stay in the hectic centre surrounded by tourists? Do you prefer multi-culti and young De Pijp? Are you more of a romantic lover of Jordaan and Canal Belt? Or you’re posh enough to live in the South?
Are you a canal person, romantic and traditional, or are you a posh expat aiming for the Old South?
You’ll get an idea on what to expect but don’t stuck with that, because you’ll get easily surprised once you’ll be in Amsterdam, scouting the location: there’s plenty of fascinating areas there are not usually in the guides (Prinseneiland is a little gem) or outskirts worth to live in (Ijburg, Amstelveen).
Rent a bike and explore: Amsterdam housing market is very quick and you need to be in the city anyway to close a rental agreement, so it’s best to see how the areas are in terms of transportation, services, nightlife, safety, etc…
3. LET YOUR DOGS OUT
Even if the rental market in Amsterdam is dominated by agencies, it’s always better to dig for help in your network of friends and co-workers. There’s always a friend of a friend that lives in Amsterdam and has a co-worker whose uncle is renting an apartment. It may not be the one for you, but it’s a great start to understand the city, it gives you an opportunity to meet new people and get first-hand info on life in Amsterdam.
And last, but not least, you can spare the money for the agent’s fee!
4. SCHEDULE YOUR VIEWINGS
People come and go from Amsterdam very quickly and availability of apartments usually changes from day to day. It’s usually best to plan a housing trip to Amsterdam at the beginning of the month so you have a wider choice, since most of the leases end the last day of the month.
Are you looking for a long term lease (over 1 year)? Fully furnished or semi-furnished? Understand that “unfurnished” means that the property is totally empty: no kitchen, no curtains, often no floor.
Agents will push you, they’ll say they have dozens of other viewings, you’re still not so sure. DO NOT make any verbal offer, because it’s often binding and you can’t negotiate the price and condition afterwards.
If you’re not sure about an apartment you can pre-schedule a second viewing the day after or ask for an option, but if you’re sure, be quick, have your smartphone ready and send your offer by email. It’s always better to track all the negotiation process in order to avoid any problem later. Agents do take this very seriously and it’s also a safety net for you, the tenant.
There’s always space for negotiation from the asking price, usually a 10/12%, so you would start your email placing your offered price, duration of the lease, any special request on the house (little repairs, furniture, etc). Be sure to include everything and send some pictures as a reference, as it will be hard to obtain something once the deal is closed.
And don’t forget to ask for the diplomatic clause: it allows you to terminate the agreement prior to the contract expiration date, usually with a 2 months notice. It applies if you have to leave the property in case your work status changes and you have to leave the city.
6. CLOSE THE DEAL
Yay, you made it! Be sure to sign both copies of the agreement but remember…they will ask for a proof of income, so have your employment agreement ready.
And enjoy your new home!