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.
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.
FAQ about apartment renting in Amsterdam
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 as of 2018.
- A single room for a single person. Expect 650-800 euros per month at minimum, if not more, depending on location, space, and amenities.
- Studios are rare to find. Expect to pay 1,000 euros per month in the city centre (non-inclusive) for a small apartment. I currently live in a studio that is 45 square meters. It’s doable for two people, but tight.
- 1-2-3 bedroom apartment. The average is about 1250-1300 per month for a 1-2 bedroom. It can go up higher (1500-2,500+) if you’re looking at larger apartments or expat places. Depends a lot on location and expect to pay a lot more if you’re in the ring in a nicer area.
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?
I’m visiting Amsterdam in a month. How can I rent an apartment?
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
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
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 fee when you find your apartment. Technically, the fee should not exist as key turnover fees were banned, but you typically end up paying something to hire an agency. It should not exceed one month’s rent.. If the landlord is the one who hired the real estate agent, they are the one who pays the makelaar fee. 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
Is subletting legal in Amsterdam? Not really…
How to register your apartment with the Dutch government
Where to search for room rentals
Is Amsterdam pet friendly?
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
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?
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.
Strategies to find an apartment in Amsterdam
Friends are the BEST way to get an apartment.
Filter by date online. More than 3 days; It’s gone.
Get a Dutch bank account.
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.
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.)