It’s almost my fourth year in the Netherlands. We’re on our fifth apartment in the Netherlands after a lot of moving around. These are my tips for finding an apartment in the Netherlands for foreigners/expats and I hope that they help you find a flat (or house) to live in!
LEGAL DISCLOSURE: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a real estate/lawyer licensed in the appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
- How much does it cost to live in the Netherlands?
- What to expect in terms of finding an apartment in the Netherlands
- Housing definitions to be familiar with while seeking housing in the Netherlands (e.g. expat housing v. non-expat housing)
- What to know about pet-friendly apartments in the Netherlands
- Paperwork to prepare for viewing apartments
- Tips for looking for apartments in the Netherlands
How much does it cost to live in the Netherlands?
It varies a lot from region to region how much it costs to rent a flat in the Netherlands. Amsterdam has the highest rents in the Netherlands while you’ll find more affordable rents further south and east (Zeeland, Brabant, Limburg,
I’ve only lived in Holland, but a one (or more) bedroom apartment should range between 750-1400 euros monthly, excluding utilities. In some places, you can pay a bit less if you’re looking for a single room although you might not be so lucky in Amsterdam where a room can cost upwards of 700 euros a month.
The best websites for housing in the Netherlands
Kamernet is the premier website for looking for room rentals in the Netherlands. If you’re moving to the Netherlands by yourself, this is a great resource although it can be quite competitive. (Some potential roommates ask for photos, salary, habits, CVs, and entire questionnaires filled out during round one.)
Funda is the best website (in my opinion) to find a rental in the Netherlands. It’s a mix of less expensive Dutch market rentals with text only in Dutch and pricier expat-oriented rentals. Don’t be afraid to apply for those Dutch rentals as they’ve worked out for me each time!
If you’re looking for a bit of luxury or simply don’t want to fuss with the details (at a price), Pararius is where you should be looking. This website caters to expats (primarily in the Holland area) with fully-furnished apartments that are often move-in ready with utilities included. The price reflects it, but if you have a good disposable income and you’re tired of the housing market, it might be worth your time.
What to expect in terms of finding an apartment in the Netherlands
Apartment hunting can take months in competitive markets
As this guide is a bit more general, I caution that it can take several months in Amsterdam, even with looking aggressively, to land an apartment. In other parts of the Netherlands, it’s easier.
It took me about 2 months in the Hague and quite a bit longer in Amsterdam (4 months) while working full-time. You’re unlikely to find anything from abroad as many apartments can move off the market in less than a week.
Apartment appointments are often not convenient for you and you may need to take off work.
Apartment renting in the Netherlands is slightly different than other places. Real estate agents don’t always work on weekends, so you may need to take off work in order to view apartments.
In many high-profile housing markets, you might not be the only one viewing apartments as viewings can have 10+ people there at the same time. Not surprisingly, you can’t be indecisive.
Dutch apartments are often unfurnished.
Coming from the United States, I had a very different idea of unfurnished. In the Netherlands, an unfurnished apartment may lack floors, painted walls, lights, and appliances. I’m not kidding. That said, you don’t need to worry about wrecking your landlord’s items if you’re in this situation and it’s often cheaper in the long-term to buy your furniture yourself (or secondhand).
In the Netherlands, semi-furnished may mean that there are floors and painted walls. Keep your expectations low. Furnished is exactly what you think it means, but you will pay a premium and be expected to return the furniture in that condition.
Know your minimum and maximum rent
You might be thinking what is the minimum rent!? As someone who is not Dutch, you are unlikely to qualify for social housing. Any apartments that cost 720 euros (or less) euros monthly (2019) are reserved for the subsidized housing market. In Amsterdam, this market has a long waiting list of seven years!
As a result, newcomers to the Netherlands need to rent on what is called the free sector (“
Generally, real estate agents look at your pretax income on a monthly basis to check the rent/income ratio. This ratio is capped at 1/3-1/5 of your income. It depends on the agent, but the idea is that you are not spending more than 30% of your salary on rent. The formula can get more complicated if you live with a partner/family. (There are calculators for this online!)
Your financial stability matters / Freelancing will hurt you
It’s very hard to find apartments if you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer as many landlords prefer the stability of a conventional contract that is for more than a year. If your contract is shorter, you might be asked to provide proof from your employer that they intend to employ you beyond your current contract.
If you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur, you’re often expected to show three years worth of income documents to show your stability. You might be able to convince some real estate agents if you have substantial savings, but it can be tricky.
Expat apartments in the Netherlands v. Dutch market apartments
There’s a perception in the Netherlands that foreigners have a lot more money than the locals. If a listing is translated into English, expect to pay a pretty penny more as your listing (and other listings dubbed “expat apartments”) often cost up to 30% more than the average Dutch rental. These apartments are also more competitive as many foreigners don’t apply for Dutch-only listings.
If you’re a new immigrant to the Netherlands, you’re likely to end up in an expat rental. In some cases, but not all, these apartments are more likely to be furnished and/or have utilities included in the price. (You must ask!) If you’re new to the Netherlands, this is a blessing, but long-term, you’re paying more than you should.
I lived in an “expat rental” for my first year in the Netherlands and it was nice not needing to worry about utilities. However, we saved significantly more money (300+ euros monthly) by moving into an unfurnished place that with floors and appliances that we got from the previous tenant for a reasonable price. My cat could also finally scratch up the couch!
Expat rentals tend to be more flexible than traditional Dutch rentals in terms of paperwork. We managed to land our first apartment by showing our savings in the United States. Yet the real estate agents related to our apartments on the Dutch market were only interested in our income related to our contracts.
The main downside of the Dutch market is that people aren’t there to hold your hand. You’ll need to figure out your contracts (often only in Dutch) yourself (unless you hire a real estate agent) and you need to set up your own utilities. It’s not that hard, but it can be stressful if you’re still getting settled.
Utilities to consider in the Netherlands
- Water: You may need to pay for water to come to you and for your “dirty” water to be cleaned by the city. (Yes, really.)
- Internet and/or Home Telephone.
- Gas and/or electric depending on the apartment.
I include a rundown of my costs for my utilities in the Hague within this post. Expect to pay around 100ish monthly for these services.
Pet-friendly apartments in the Netherlands
If you have a pet, you should be reasonably concerned if you’re looking for apartments in the Randstad area. Many “expat” apartment rentals outright discriminate against those with pets, however cats are easier in terms of pets. It’s harder with dogs.
By default, many Dutch housing contracts don’t mention animals unless it’s in the real estate/owner’s contract (by choice) or prohibited by the housing complex. For this reason, it’s worthwhile
A tip: If your cat stays indoors, owners and real estate agents might be more interested in your application although this may not be the case if the apartment is furnished…
Subletting is often easier than renting, but it also comes with risk. In most cases, sublets need to be allowed by the owner of the building or housing corporation. Similarly, you should be able to register. Without your name on the lease, you will have limited rights if anything happens.
If you’re hiring a real estate agency, you’re the one who may need to pay a reasonable fee to an agency as you hired them. Technically, key turnover fees are illegal and they should not exceed one month in rent.
However, if the landlord hires an agent to rent out their apartment, you should not need to pay anything. Only one party has to pay! Contact the Juridisch Loket, a free Dutch lawyer hotline for questions if you’re not sure about your situation.
Paperwork to prepare for viewing apartments in the Netherlands
When preparing for viewing apartments, I recommend having these documents prepared in a dossier. I typically made about seven copies of this bundle of documents to leave with a real estate agent if I was interested in a property. I always came prepared as many applicants come armed with copies of their financials.
Work contracts for the coming year and the past 12 months
It’s hard to find an apartment in the Netherlands without a contract or while being unemployed. I recommend delaying your move and/or staying in temporary housing until you have this sorted out.
If your work contract is for less than a year, you might need a letter of intention from your employee stating their intention to give you a new contract once your current one expires.
Pay slips from the last 12 months
Non-EU: Residence Permits / Passports Copied
Bank Statements (past 12 months)*
You generally need a Dutch or European bank account set up first.
Freelancer/Entrepreneur: Profits/Income from the last three years
Tips for looking for apartments in the Netherlands
Get temporary housing for 1-3 months until you’re ready to make your move
You’ll need a bit of time to get a Dutch bank account, and/or get your paperwork in order. You’ll also need to be ready to pounce on the market. I recommend finding temporary housing through established websites (e.g. Student Hotel and [I hate saying it!] Airbnb) until you have the time to devote 1-2 weeks to look aggressively for an apartment near you.
Apartments are generally available immediately or within 2-3 weeks of the current date. It can help your case if you are available to move in sooner if the apartment is empty at the time of the viewing. Apartments are generally not available much longer in advance unless they’re not built yet, which comes with potential risk (e.g. no apartment).
Use the websites to find the newest listings then call!
I always recommend sorting apartments by date to only look at the most recent apartments. Beyond a week, the apartment is probably off the market. I recommend calling the real estate office to check availability rather than using a form/emailing them.
I find that Monday morning (9-10am) is the best time to look for the most desirable apartments on Funda! It’s best to ask for the first possible appointment and to avoid larger open houses as they’re more competitive. Some real estate agents in desirable areas only make 3-5 appointments on one day prior to looking for a candidate the next day.
Real estate agents sometimes call back at weird times about viewings, so I recommend sorting and prioritising apartments to ensure that you’re booking an appointment for your top priority apartment. You might need to take off work as missing an appointment means missing an apartment. Don’t waste time with apartments that you don’t want! You can view/download the excel here that my friends and I have used here.
If it’s been a week (or more), cross off the apartment and restart your search. You’ll find something eventually, I promise.