I LOVE Amsterdam and I'm so glad that I moved to the Netherlands. Finding expat housing in Amsterdam is hard. When I moved here, I didn't know how to find an apartment although I'm now on apartment #3 already. Hopefully this helps others find a room or expat apartment to rent in Amsterdam! Includes rental housing information that you need to know, a free download to keep track of applications, the best neighborhoods to look in, and strategies for finding housing.
How much does it cost to rent long term in Amsterdam?
In the city centre, there is a lot of variation. These prices are exclusive of utilities.
I've now written a post about the full cost of living in Amsterdam from rent to utilities, so please click here for more info!
How long does it take to find an apartment or room?
Plan on 2-3 months of staying in a short-term rental and having the funds to cover that. That's the average for most people I know, myself included. It is HARD to find an apartment here. Don't expect an apartment to fall into your hands without a lot of searching and disappointment unless your company finds you an apartment. (If your company is finding you an apartment, they're likely to use a housing service, which will make things very easy.)
I'm visiting Amsterdam in a month. How can I rent an apartment?
The housing market is terrible. If you can, please stay off airbnb and stay at established hostels/hotels as there are a lot of residents struggling to find housing. This article is for residents, not tourists. If you're a tourist, feel free to check out my other Amsterdam posts: Neighborhood guide to Amsterdam, 15 Dos & Don'ts for Tourists, Cheap eats guide (under 10 euros), or Castles in the Netherlands that are a day trip from Amsterdam.
Social v. Non-social housing aka Free sector / Vrij huurwoningen
In the Netherlands, there is something called social housing. If you make under a certain income, you can apply for housing where the rent is a maximum of 710 euros. There is a very long waiting list for apartments in Amsterdam (7-16 years...). There also is a lottery, but it also requires meeting the income requirements. (There is an exception for refugees.)
If you are an expat, you cannot live in social housing without applying through the government and meeting all the conditions. If the rent of an entire apartment is under 711 euros per month and you are not cleared by the government, you do not qualify for it, so don't apply. If you're not cleared to rent in social housing by the government, you can only find housing in the non-social sector (aka the free sector) where there are NO maximum rents and the rent needs to be over 711 euros.
Note: it is generally ILLEGAL to sublet a social housing apartment, so if social housing is mentioned by a roommate/landlord, your housing is most likely illegal. Both you and the actual tenant can be evicted if the government finds out. (More about social housing here.)
Expat v. Dutch / Non-Expat Housing
The price and convenience is the main difference.
Expat rentals (aka listing is in English only) are much more flexible and competitive. They're likely to have most of the utilities taken care of, come semi-furnished/furnished, ask for fewer documents, and be more competitive. Your profile in terms of finances/job contracts matters more as the owner often decides who is the renter. The income requirements and prices will be higher with expat rentals as there is a perception that expats have more money. You need to be careful with expat rentals as the real estate agencies (makelaars) act as middle men, so it is important to know your rights.
As someone who has done both Dutch and expat rentals, the Dutch rentals (aka listing is only in Dutch) are a better deal price wise, but they require a lot more paperwork, reading some Dutch, potentially some handy work, and often negotiations with the previous owner. Most importantly, you'll need to figure out how things work on your own (e.g. set up your own water / internet / gas). Many of these are through large housing corporations, so the selection process is less personal and more based on who applied first who is qualified. If you're moving here as a non-Dutch speaker, it is possible, but it won't be easy. It's easier once you've been here for a year (or more).
Furnished v. Semi-Furnished v. Unfurnished
Unfurnished means it comes without kitchen appliances, washing machines, and a floor. It may not even be painted. You can save a lot this way although it's common to find an unfurnished place where you can negotiate with the previous tenant to keep some of the appliances/flooring for a price. This is negotiated between with you and the previous tenant once the apartment is rented. You may have to install your own soundproofing (the floors are THIN here!) AND floors. Most people do not want to rip up the floors when they leave, so negotiating shouldn't too difficult if you can find out a fair used price for everything you're getting. You can price used flooring on marktplaats to find a fair price.
Semi-furnished. This usually means you get the bare minimum: a fridge (sometimes), floors, and fresh paint. ...That's it.
Furnished: Only found on the expat market. Expect a much higher price. The furniture will not be yours, so you will need to be careful with the furniture as you may need to pay damages.
What's best? If you're on a tight budget, a unfurnished (if you can negotiate for the floors) or semi-furnished place is best. You can furnish your place inexpensively using IKEA, maarktplaats, or the expat Facebook groups. You'll save a lot buying gently used furniture and appliances.
Inclusive or Exclusive
Inclusive: Mostly only the case for expat apartments. You'll usually pay quite a bit extra for this, but it is quite much easier at first. Some apartments cover some aspects, but don't include gas/electric.
Exclusive: You'll need to pay city taxes, water, internet, gas, and electric on your own. After you move in and register at your address, waternet and city taxes will be automatically sent to you. (Be sure to note the initial readings of your water/electric prior to move in.) However, you'll need to set up your own gas/electric and internet about one month before you move in. It's way easier than you realize and you can always call customer service to ask how to set it up in English! (Greenchoice can be used for both gas/electric and XL4All is a well-regarded internet provider.)
Unless you're making a very high income, getting a whole apartment as a single person will be near impossible as most landlords look for your rental to income before taxes ratio to be 1/3, 1/4, or 1/5 the rent (depends on the rental). (Gross = Before Taxes. Net = After taxes.)
1/3 Ratio = You (and a partner combined) make 3x the rent per month before taxes. If your partner is not employed, you'll need to have an higher income to rent (usually with a 1/5).
Freelancing will hurt you. Even if you have an amazing income, it will hurt you as most owners prefer to see a contract for a set period (12 months+) to guarantee that you can pay the rent. You will need a lot of extra money to guarantee the owner that you can afford it for a single apartment or find a room rental where your roommates are more lenient.
What is a Makelaar? (They're Real Estate Agencies
I was taken advantage of by one, so know your rights before you do. The big housing corporations have standard forms for their many apartments and many of these will be on the Dutch market. For the expat market, you're more likely to deal with the real estate agencies who act like apartment brokers for individual owners.
If YOU hire the real estate agency to helps you find an apartment, you're the one who pays the 1 month of rent fee MAX when you find your apartment. If the landlord is the one who hired the real estate agent, they are the one who pays it. It is ILLEGAL for the real estate agencies to ask money from both parties and to ask for more than 1 month as a fee. Know your rights.
Amsterdam housing scams
Nobody besides scam artists will rent to you without meeting you in person and carefully checking over your paperwork. DO NOT SEND MONEY TO A STRANGER ON THE INTERNET. I don't care how nice the place is, but there's lots of scam artists targeting the expat community and those new to it as they know SO LITTLE about renting. If the person only has an email/telephone number, it's not real. You'll need to wait until you arrive here to get an apartment that is not temporary. You can find temporary rooms through Kamernet. For most rentals, you'll need to view it in person before your'e offered it. It's typical to find an apartment 1 month ahead of move-in. That's it. (More about apartment scams here.)
Is subletting legal in Amsterdam? Not really
You need to be careful with this. For many of the big housing corporations that own many of the buildings in Amsterdam, subletting is NOT allowed unless the owner/housing corporation agrees ahead. If you can register there, it's likely that it's okay, but if you only have a lease with your landlord/roommates and not with the owner/housing corporation itself, you need to be careful going into this as your name should be on the sublet / lease.
Kamer is the word for room. When you're searching, it often lists the number of rooms, but it does not count the bathroom and kitchen. Instead, it counts the distinction between the living room/ bedroom. So, 1 kamer means it is a studio apartment and 2 kamer means that it's a 1 bedroom apartment. If you are a single person, it is VERY unlikely you can get anything beyond a studio apartment in a good neighborhood without a high income.
How to register your apartment with the Dutch government
If you cannot register there, it is illegal. Typically, you can register at a temporary address/hotel at first, but you must have a registered address with the government after a couple months for official reasons to receive your BSN number (important for life/bank accounts/jobs). If you have people who are not living there who are registered there, that is not OKAY. The city of Amsterdam has a number that you can call to investigate housing fraud.
Where to search for room rentals
Kamernet is where to look for room rentals. Treat it seriously as you will likely be interviewed by your potential future roommate(s) about everything, from your habits to your finances.
Is Amsterdam pet friendly?
Cats are not always considered pets here as they often help with the mice (an issue), so if you have cats, you should not have difficulty finding an apartment on your own--although it might be trickier finding roommates okay with the cat. Dogs / other animals are harder to find an apartment with.
Best neighborhoods to live in Amsterdam
I always see a lot of questions asking where to live in Amsterdam. It's a lovely city, but it depends on your needs (family-wise/financially) and commute to work. Be aware of the public transit in the area. You will probably bike to work, however Amsterdam has a robust public transit system, including trams, buses, and the Metro. It's best to know which neighborhoods are most convenient to your work and which lines go to your job directly (when you can't bike). If you live in the city and have a car, it might be expensive to park it on the street as you'll need to pay a monthly fee.
The nicest areas of Amsterdam are within the ring (aka Prinsengracht and Centre) or de Jordaan. Close to West close to Vondelpark is also pricey. De Pijp and Prinseneiland are beautiful areas where it is slightly more affordable, but you'll still pay a premium for the neighborhoods. Oost is rapidly changing although it's still fairly affordable although finding an apartment there can be tough for this reason. (For more about neighborhoods of Amsterdam, click here for my personal guide to my favorite neighborhoods!)
Cheaper, but more modern is the Eastern Docklands (Cruquiuseilands, Zeeburg, KNSM) for spacious newer rentals that are good for families/couples. Similarly, expat families should consider Amstelveen, where it is possible to rent a house, which is where one of the international schools is located. Noord is a cool area to live in with many new buildings going up constantly. (Your commute will require a slightly longer commute, including going across the water by car/bike (bridge) or ferry, but you'll save a lot and there's many family-friendly options.) Zuid is a great area as well.
American Areas you'll save money living in: South East Amsterdam (Bijlmer), Bos & Lommer, Slotervaart, and Nieuwe West. These are primarily immigrant neighborhoods. I lived in one of these areas and felt 100% safe, even walking back at night.
As you get further from the city, you'll find more affordable housing with an easy commute to Amsterdam from Diemen, Hoofddorp, Zaandam, Almere and Haarlem. If you live in these areas, you'll need to commute to work by train/bus and a car might be helpful.
Paperwork to rent an apartment in Amsterdam
Work contracts (Current [for upcoming year] + Past 12 months). You will have a lot of difficulty finding a full apartment here without a contract. If you're moving here unemployed, do temp housing until you have a contract. (If your work contract is for less than a year, you may need a letter from your employer about the intention to keep you on for a year, which is typically required for mortgages, but you can ask your manager/Human Resources for this!)
If non-EU, residence permits.
Bank Statements (Past 12 months). They'll want to see your bank statements for the past 12 months for every single month. I know it seems unnecessary, but many owners/companies will carefully check your finances for stability.
Pay slips (Past 12 months).
(Expat rentals are often more lenient if you have your work contract and substantial savings.)
How much money do you need saved to rent in Amsterdam?
Welp, you'll need it for a deposit, so plan on having at least 2 months rent as you'll need it for the first month of renting and the deposit. Additionally, plan on covering 2-3 months of temporary housing while you settle in.
I know you want to have an apartment when you move here, but you'll need to HERE to physically go to the viewing. Similarly, most apartments are available immediately or only at the beginning of the upcoming month. If you're planning moving here in 3 months, the apartment is not going to be available then (Sorry). Things move fast, so keep this in mind.
Plan to start looking seriously (not earlier!) about 1 month before you move with a solid backup plan for temporary housing. You'll see a bunch for the beginning of the next month, so if you can move in earlier than the official date listed, mention this when you view the apartment as many landlords are often happy to accommodate you if the apartment IS empty. (I got an apartment over another couple due to this!)
Best Websites to Check For Housing
Funda.nl is the best place to look for apartments. It includes a good mix of Dutch/expat rentals. I found my previous apartment through it and it's the one I recommend most for whole apartments.
Kamernet.nl is where to look for rooms. There are also Facebook groups, however you'll also encounter scam artists. This is the best place to find a room. If you're a couple, don't plan on trying this route as people don't want to live with a couple (sorry).
If you're only interested in high-end, fully furnished places and you have the income, pararius can be good, however it is very catered to high income expats.
For VERY cheap housing, you can look into anti kraak housing. Whenever is a building becomes abandoned OR a building is about to be sold (but won't be move-in ready for a few months), someone can live there. It needs to be livable, however the idea is to keep squatters out and ensure the property remains in good condition. It seems crazy and you might not have the place for more than a few months, but you can save a lot. I've known people who have had full office building floors to themselves as well as normal apartments. The process involves being able to read a lot of Dutch, but it's worth the work if you're on a budget. (More for Dutchies!)
Strategies to find an apartment in Amsterdam
Friends are the BEST way to get an apartment.
Leases are often passed to friends/acquaintances to minimize the movement of furniture/ripping up the floors. It's in your interest to ask around. (I got an apartment this way.)
Filter by date online. More than 3 days; It's gone.
Get a Dutch bank account.
You will need to pay the deposit with a Dutch bank transfer. If you're European, great. If you're American, this is problematic. Set up your bank account (once you have your BSN) ASAP as it usually takes 2-3 weeks. ABN Amro and ING are very expat-friendly.
If your employer is bringing you here to work or you're a student, ASK your employer/university for help.
Know your MAX rent, inclusive and exclusive, with the income requirements. If the apartment is too expensive, you will be rejected.
Get rid of your must-have list. It's unlikely you'll be living on a canal. (Sorry.)
It's not enough to email; CALL to ask the status of an apartment.
Be fast on a Monday morning to get viewings and update the sheet daily.
I found the most effective way to get viewings was to call about a listing that I really wanted to see at 8:30am/9am on Monday morning while real estate agents were adding new listings. Update it every 48 hours as things move fast here.
Keep Track of your Applications in an Excel
You'll receive calls at random times about viewings for apartments on Whatever Address 111. I'd be a bit disoriented, so I said yes to every single viewing. I wasted a lot of time seeing apartments that I only applied for out of desperation.
Getting organized with an excel is the BEST way to keep track of which apartments you like, when the listing was posted, which apartments that you received viewings for, the specifications for the apartment, and which apartments that you need to follow-up with.
You can view/download the excel here that my friends and I have used by subscribing to my mailing list for more expat posts, travel tips, and inspiration! (Updates once monthly with NO spam.)
Keep in mind your favorite apartments. I'd often get calls about apartments (Hello, I'm calling about X Straat 101!?), however not all of them were high on my list; I was just desperate. It's worth holding out for a better one and knowing which call you're waiting for. (This is included in the excel!)
Make a Document Folder
Remember those documents that I mentioned before? Print those and put them in a folder. Every single time you get an appointment for a rental, bring it with you as if you're not ready to rent it on the spot, the person with the appointment later that day will be ready.
If you get a viewing, ask how many people are seeing it BEFORE you. If there's 5+ or everyone comes in at the same time, know that it's unlikely.
Focus on newer listings posted in the past 24 hours. Beyond that is less likely to still be available.
Ask when the EARLIEST viewing is available. Get that one.
If you apply, prepare to clear your schedule as viewings are almost only weekdays mid-day.
As a real estate agent told me, "If you don't want it or you can't come, it will be rented by the end of today."
Make your decision before you go to the viewing. Indecisiveness = No apartment.
If there's one open house, it will be your only chance before it is rented. The time/date will not be changeable .
At viewings: Keep an open mind, be polite, and dress well.
Many times, the real estate agent/owner will be there and they have the final say in who gets the apartment. Leave a good impression.
If you don't hear back for a week about a viewing, it's gone. (Update your Excel & start again.)
So, did you find this helpful? Anything I missed? If you found it helpful, please share this with others desperate for housing!
I've now written a post about the full cost of living in Amsterdam from rent to utilities, so please click here for more info!
For the record, this is unsponsored without any affiliate links and only based on my experiences! Updated February 2017.
Karen & Jacob. American expats and cat lovers from New York City and Kentucky who lived in Amsterdam.... Then, Paris. (Confusing, we know!) Now, we're living in The Hague, the Netherlands.
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