How to Find a Rental Apartment in Amsterdam
Finding a flat/apartment or house to rent in Amsterdam can be a serious challenge for expats and new residents. There is a significant housing shortage in the city - particularly in central areas - and the market is skewed by rent controlled public housing and a few unscrupulous landlords and agents.
Here is some information to consider when trying to find somewhere to live in Amsterdam...
Social Housing (sociale huurwoningen)
You should first be aware that nearly 60% of all dwellings (houses/apartments) in Amsterdam are rented from semi-public housing corporations (woningcorporaties). These properties are generally only available to Dutch residents on lower incomes (earning under €36,798) with rents capped at a maximum of €711 monthly (2018).
Social housing is offered through a waiting list system. A resident who has an "economic tie" to a Dutch city can register to join the housing list of that particular city. In Amsterdam this is done through the organisation WoningNet Stadsregio Amsterdam. Housing corporations in Amsterdam include de Alliantie, Eigen Haard, Stadgenoot and Ymere.
However, waiting list times for social housing can be many years and possibly even decades for prized central locations in Amsterdam. Many tenants will simply stay in a dwelling until old age.
Housing corporations also offer a limited amount of housing for those earning just above the income limit (€36,798 to €41,056) and to the free sector (vrije sector), although priority is always given to those with urgent needs.
So in reality, expats and new residents cannot rent from the social housing sector unless they have a Dutch partner who is renting one, or they find a short-term sublet. If you are moving in with someone who is a social housing tenant then officially you should get a letter of permission from the housing corporation. You need to show this if registering with the council.
Private Rental Market (huurwoningen)
The majority of housing in Amsterdam (and the Netherlands) is made up of either social rentals or owner-occcupied homes. This means most expats/new residents are effectively forced to rent out a house (woonhuis) or flat/apartment (appartament) from the smaller private sector, which accounts for just 5-10% of the market.
You will have to pay market prices which are significantly higher than the social housing rentals. Due to the popularity of Amsterdam, the small size of the city and this skewed housing distribution, private sector rents have increased significantly over the last few years.
As of 2018, the average private monthly rental price in Amsterdam stands at around €23 per square metre. That's about €1,800 for a 80m² apartment.
That may be doable for international corporate types working for a multinational companies in the Netherlands and/or couples with 2 salaries. However things could be difficult for those on middle to lower incomes as there is a huge shortage of properties in the €700 to €1,300 range.
Some would say Amsterdam is becoming increasingly unaffordable for those on middle incomes, catering only for the wealthy or lower income people.
2 bedroom apartments in an outer suburb will generally start from around €1,300 monthly; for a prime location in central Amsterdam expect prices in the €1,800-€4,000 range. Rental prices will obviously depend on the size of the property and the location.
Apartments will be either fully furnished (gemeubileerd), partly furnished (gestoffeerd) or unfurnished (kaal).
For something more quirky you could consider living on one of Amsterdam's canal houseboats (woonboot). Rental prices are not cheap and range from about €1,800 to €2,500 per month - though supply is very limited.
Searching for a Flat/House in Amsterdam
Have a look at Funda (funda.nl/en) which has a comprehensive listing of rental properties in the Netherlands including the Amsterdam area.
Alternatively you could talk to an estate agent (makelaar) or housing agency. A good estate agent should be registered with the national association NVM - Nederlands Vereniging van Makelaars. You will normally have to pay a commission to the agent if you find a place through them - around 1 month's rent.
Pararius (pararius.com/english) is a useful site with a large listing of rental properties from trusted agents. Direct Wonen (directwonen.nl/en) is another large agent whilst Perfect Housing (perfecthousing.com) is a housing agency catering to the high-end expat market.
If you are moving over on a work contract you may get your housing (partly) covered by your employer in some cases. Those here for shorter stays up to 6 months could use a serviced apartment.
If you plan to stay in the long term (5 years plus) you should probably consider buying a property in Amsterdam.
Renting a Room / House Share
If you want to cut costs then consider house sharing or renting a room (kamer) in someone else's house or apartment. This is a popular option for students living outside of official university accommodation and younger working people.
Most rooms will cost between €400 and €900 per month - depending on the location and size (ranging from 10m² to 25m²). Check whether utility bills are included in the rent. Find listings at Kamernet (kamernet.nl/en) which has thousands of available rooms.
Other room/house search tactics include using Facebook to get the word out to your network; checking adverts on Craigslist and marktplaats.nl; monitoring noticeboards at supermarkets, libraries, ABC bookshop and universities; or searching for sublet rental apartments on AirBnB, though note there is an official 60 day limit.
It is sometimes possible to sublet an apartment (including social housing apartments) from local residents who are leaving town for a period - from a few weeks to up to 12 months. This can work well for both parties - a fair rent can be negotiated which is often lower than the private market. A temporary "house sitting" contract can be drawn up where the renter agrees to look after the property / plants etc.
However, this is a grey area and you should take care - there are a few unscrupulous "landlords" who rent out poorly maintained corporation flats (illegally) at a high rent (cash only) to desperate expats. The renter cannot then register with the council which can cause bureaucratic problems. Also if you are in Amsterdam permanently then going from one short term let to another can be disruptive and stressful.
If you arrange to visit an apartment for a viewing please exercise some caution, especially if you are a lone female meeting a private landlord - we have heard some horror stories. Tell someone exactly where you are going or better still take a friend with you to the appointment.
Locations in the Amsterdam area & surroundings
There are various location choices for renting in the Amsterdam area. Rental prices in the inner canal belt are extremely expensive - many houses are only rented as commercial offices.
Amsterdam's inner suburbs such as Jordaan, the Museum Quarter, Oud Zuid, Oud West,De Pijp and Rivierenbuurt are all very sought-after locations. Amsterdam Oost has a more edgy feel being a working class and multicultural area, but is now up-and-coming thanks to renovation and development.
There have been major developments around the IJ waterfront (at the back of central station) including the Zeeburg and IJburg areas with lots of modern apartments built.
Cheaper rents can be had in the more outer suburbs such as Bos en Lommer, Osdorp (west) and Bijlmer (south-east).
Beyond Amsterdam: Many choose to find accommodation outside of Amsterdam, especially if you require a house rather than an apartment. Popular with expats and families are the surrounding towns/cities of Amstelveen, Abcoude, Haarlem, Hilversum, Hoofddorp and Zaandam - all are an easy commute to Amsterdam.
Going further afield, you could consider Almere and Lelystad (in the adjacent Flevoland region - east of Amsterdam - where housing costs are significantly lower); or the Leidsche-Rijn area of Utrecht, a growing new development.
Some students and young people register with an anti-squat organisations such as Camelot (nl.cameloteurope.com) or Adhoc (adhocbeheer.nl) which allows them to live temporarily in vacant buildings such as schools, warehouses, apartments and offices.
Rents can be very low and the buildings can provide a unique experience. However you may be asked to leave at short notice.
Questions/Checklist for Renting in Amsterdam
Is the flat unfurnished, partly or fully furnished?
What is the monthly rent?
Are the bills all-inclusive? See our guide to utilities in Amsterdam.
Who pays the municipal taxes?
Is there a telephone line / internet connection?
Do you need to register with utility companies?
Does the flat have a washing machine?
How long is the rental contract for?
Is there a deposit needed? (1 or 2 months rent is common, check contract)
Is there a "key" fee charged to the tenant? (officially this is not allowed)
What is the notice period?
Do you need references?
Is the contract in Dutch or English? (if Dutch get a native speaker to check)
Is the flat on a quiet side street or on a main road where there could be noisy shops/bars and
Amsterdam trams passing
Who is responsible for maintenance issues?
Does the property have double glazing?
Does the house have central heating / radiators? (some older flats have gas fires in the living room and no bedroom heating - not pleasant in winter)
Where can you park a bike?
Can you register with the council?
Be aware that Amsterdam has it fair share of mice, so if living in an older building then try to keep your kitchen clean and store food well in cupboards!
Rental payments are usually made by monthly bank transfer to the landlord or managing agent - so you need to open a Dutch bank account.
When you move in take some photos of the rooms so that you have a record of the apartment's condition. This could be useful when getting back your deposit.
Persistence is the key and you will eventually find somewhere to live in or around Amsterdam.