Like any newcomer to Amsterdam, I was searching frantically for a roommate and roof over my head well over a month. The city inhabits nearly one million people all within a 120 sq. mi area.
I went through sneaky agents like the way you swipe through Tinder. They're that kind of agent who shows you crap places that look nothing like the photos in their advertisements. And because of the housing shortage and constant influx of people in Amsterdam, they can get away with it. I wish I didn’t delete the photo of the “2nd bedroom” which was a storage closet. Unfurnished by the way. Well played landlord.
Here’s a silly video I took while visiting a nice, but over priced place outside the ring (or the outside center). Didn’t know at the time of filming, but the landlord (owner) expected me to earn 3 times the rent in monthly income. 4 times if you’re a male tenant. Plus 2 months worth security deposit up front..and so forth. Too bad I don’t own a money tree. Pardon, my loud phone, it's ringing in the background. Bad-timing...
But fear not! This can happen. I’m just trying to prepare for what you may encounter with rentals, landlords, and space. I asked a couple local Amsterdamers (not agents) on fair rental prices in the center and they’ve expressed that a shared, semi-furnished flat can range from 700-1000 euros per month (per person). When I was living in an affluent city in Germany, 700 euros was expensive, whereas, in Boston/Cambridge, you get a closet. It depends on what kind of living costs you’re used to and the living standards of the city that reflect it. You’d be considered lucky if you find something under 700 euros, but the square meter size of the place or utilities can be questionable. Spending 75-150 euros on utilities is normal depending on usage and season. Keeping a flexible budget and a positive attitude helped me stay afloat, but I must say, it can easily take a month before settling down on a reasonable lease.
Granted, if you’re a freelancer or starting a new job, agents are more willing to work with you. Not to say that students can’t find a room, but that ain’t easy either. Living in a hotel or hostel adds up fast. Unless you have a partner or friend who can help house you while you search for a flat, it will be tricky just to “pack up and move to Amsterdam.”
If you’re active on Facebook, you can find groups like, “Find a flat/flatmate in Amsterdam.” They’re filled with newbies trying to find a room or flatmate. I’m fortunate to have found my roommate through a Facebook group after posting my inquiry and photos of the place I wanted to rent out. It’s hard to look for a roommate without an apartment on hold. So basically I’m encouraging you to get a good agent. I found mine via here. Also, it can be a challenge to convince your agent that you’re capable of finding a nice roommate, PLUS convince the Dutch landlords that you are a suitable tenant as well as your “familiar” roommate. And when I say familiar I mean you should know your roommate pretty well beforehand. My roomie and I were lucky enough to intuitively like each other in a pre-meeting and convince the Dutch owners that we were compatible to live with each other.
Again, the tables really do turn once you have an apartment on hold with an agent and as you look for a roommate. If you’re trying to compete as a suitable roommate, it can be downright exhausting through awkward group interviews and rejections. It took my boyfriend 2 months find a reasonable person that was willing to rent him a room.
Note* Careful for scams, or folks who want to rent to you without registration. In other words, they’re not allowing you to “register” with the local municipality of Amsterdam and acknowledge your residence. How do people get mail anyway if they aren’t registered? If they don’t allow registration, then it’s black and they're making money with your ghost residence and can kick you out any time for no reason. On the contrary, If you only need to stay in a temporary room, then maybe it’s an exception. Just do it at your own risk.
Is Amsterdam worth it?
Hell yeah. Once you cross a few traffic lights, dodge the daily flood of new tourists and busy bee bikers, you will suddenly be trotting down a sleepy street with houses dating back to the 1600s. Most of America doesn’t even date back to that era so this is a real treat for a history lover. Slanting, squeezed and crooked where the illusion of falling over seems possible, these homes emit a sort of cozy feeling, or what the Dutch may refer to as “gezellig.” My room is asymmetrical with angles that do not align in 90 degrees-how neat! Above my bed, wooden beams support the ceiling reminding me that for nearly 400 years, previous residents have stared up at the same beams before blowing out their bedside candles. I wish I could trace back the previous residents who lived here.
Perhaps a visit to the Amsterdam archive could offer residential information based on city addresses. Outside my window, knock on wood* I see my purple bike locked to a nearby fence. Biking locally in a city, without the pains of a long car commute, is a luxury. Though the freedom of traveling far with a car is gratifying, riding a bike in a city where they’re more bikes than people, keeps me active and happy. I don’t face a pretty canal, but I can hear the hustle and bustle on Haarlemmerdijk behind our house.
Haarlemmerdijk is a street filled with boutique shops, small businesses and dare I say it, hipster filled cafes and of course coffee shops. Yes, I admit to bringing my laptop to one of “those cafes” and writing from the window. It’s an ideal people watching zone. And a place to watch awkward bike confrontations. Those Dutchers go way too fast. You would think otherwise considering all those kiddies sitting in those bike barrels. I get cuteness attacks just looking at them.
Anyway, you heard all the practical stuff about housing. And a snippet on why I'm liking Amsterdam.
Cheers and keep an eye out for my 2nd part of the series: Getting Settled in Amsterdam: Expat Series Part 2- The All-Mighty Visa. Living in the EU for more than 90+ days:
Is there anything I missed or didn't cover regarding housing? Have you ever experienced a crazy housing experience in a new city? Happy to see your comments below