Last Updated on
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 past apartment #3 already. Hopefully, this helps fellow expats find a room or an apartment to rent in Amsterdam! I include tips for finding an apartment in Amsterdam, 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. There are large-scale changes coming in 2020 that will be impacting the market. You can read about them here (in Dutch).
FAQs about apartment renting in Amsterdam
How much does it cost to rent long term in Amsterdam?
In the city center, there is a lot of variation. These prices are exclusive of utilities as of 2019.
- A single room for a single person. Expect 700-1200 euros per month at minimum, if not more, depending on location, space, and amenities. It should be noted that the new changes regarding the 2020 law will make it much harder to get a room in Amsterdam, so these prices might increase as a result.
- Studios are rare to find. Expect to pay 1,200+ euros per month in the city center (non-inclusive) for a small apartment. I lived in a studio that is 45 square meters.
- 1-2-3 bedroom apartment. The average is about 1300-1500 per month for a 1-2 bedrooms even among my Dutch friends. It can go up higher (1500-2,500+) if you’re looking at larger apartments or “expat” places. This price depends a lot on location and expect to pay a lot more if you’re in the ring in a nicer area.
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 strongly recommend reading about the 2020 Amsterdam housing law changes, which will strongly impact the market. Landlords will need to apply for the right to rent out rooms within an apartment that is not intended for groups and there will be limits on how many houses are intended for groups (e.g. shared housing). Similarly, you will need to have a lease with your landlord/housing corporation directly. Please read up on these changes to avoid getting scammed.
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, you can read about the best areas to stay in Amsterdam and hotels that I can recommend. In the coming year, there will be fewer Airbnbs and B&Bs as this process will be more strictly regulated.
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 738 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 the minimum for social housing, you do not qualify for it.
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 the minimum for social housing.
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.
Expat v. Dutch / Non-Expat Housing
The price and convenience are 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 middlemen, 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 cost is negotiated between 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 for damages.
If you’re on a tight budget, an 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 electricity 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.)
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 a 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
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 are 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. It is becoming harder now due to new laws.
For most rentals, you’ll need to view it in person before you’re offered it. It’s typical to find an apartment 1 month ahead of move-in. That’s it.
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.
If you only have a lease with your landlord/roommates and not with the owner/housing corporation itself, do not agree to this as under the new housing laws, every tenant (even if you’re only renting a room in a larger house) must have a lease with the landlord themselves. Similarly, it’s one person per room.
A friend of mine had a lot of trouble after it turned out that her roommate/landlord was illegally selling the address for people to register at. As the lease was between the landlord and the building, she was able to keep her apartment while he was evicted.
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.
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 of 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 illegal. 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 commutes to work. Be aware of 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 for 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 more 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.) It’s popular with many families looking to have a bit more space. 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 safe despite what everyone told me.
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 difficulties 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. (Expat rentals are often more lenient if you have your work contract and substantial savings.) If you’re a freelancer or an
Pay-slips (Past 12 months).
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 of apartments available 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, but 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, but 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.
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.