Finding a new home to live in Amsterdam can be time-consuming and expensive, independent of whether you’re a native Amsterdammer, a newcomer or a student. In fact, it might seem nearly impossible to find a place to live that is both affordable and available when you need it. To succeed, you need to use your networking skills and plenty of insider tricks.
Therefore, it is important to come to the city with a clear idea of how to find accommodations and with vast knowledge of where you might begin to look for the place that you will call your home.
Being an expatriate only makes things harder, since the majority of lettings in Amsterdam is owned by housing associations with waiting times typically longer than 5 years, during which you should be registered by the municipality of Amsterdam.
Thus, one should move towards the privately owned real-estate market, which occupies about a third of the lettings in Amsterdam. While it is not necessary to go through one of the many real estate agencies that work throughout the city, these are often the most reliable way to find and access the properties that are available at the time that you will be searching for an apartment.
The landlords themselves decide who they rent their properties to. To find a private rented home, you can contact a landlord or a commercial estate agent. These are subject to municipal regulations and must have a license from the municipality, although there is a great amount of commercial agencies working without permit.
There are plenty of helpful internet-based search engines for housing, most of which redirect you to agencies.
Living in a houseboat in Amsterdam is popular, but finding a houseboat is not easy; the demand is greater than the supply. All houseboats are privately owned. If you are looking for a houseboat in Amsterdam, then you will be renting or buying from a private owner. Houseboats are regularly offered for rent or sale on internet sites. This can be for a shorter or longer term, but it is always expensive. When buying a houseboat, remember you need a mooring permit!
Moreover, as experienced Amsterdammers and expats can attest to, some apartments in the city have not been well maintained, have been neglected by their owners, or simply do not last the duration of the contract that you might sign; these are also reasons why an agency might prove the best way to find an accommodation, if you plan to stay for a longer period of time.
When looking for apartments, you will likely find that the prices are rather consistent, while the spaces will vary according to where they are located in the city. In the centre of the city, for example, apartments tend to be smaller, and they are tightly packed together, situated in the historical canal houses that give Amsterdam its traditional image in the global mind’s eye. The historical centre comes, of course, not without disadvantages; the buildings are frequently not well maintained, with bad sound isolation (since wooden walls prevail) and elevators are rare.
On the other hand, if you look just beyond the centre, the surrounding neighbourhoods offer larger residential areas, where apartments are just now being renovated to accommodate a growing population, and these homes offer residents more space, both inside and outside of their homes.
Finally, before taking any action, you should be well-informed about legal issues concerning your moves. The Housing and Social Support Department (Dienst Wonen, Zorg en Samenleven) provides information related to the city’s residential housing and Amsterdam Housing policy.