Amsterdam is an outstanding place in most ways, the unfortunate consequence of which is that it’s quite difficult to find a place to live in Amsterdam. The city is physically quite small and densely populated so accommodation is always in high demand. By far the best approach to house hunting is through personal networks but this is not as easy when you first arrive. These days most people use the services of housing agents to find longer term rental accommodation and, consequently, they are not generally cheap. Almost all housing agents will ask for one months rent plus 19% VAT as their commission at a minimum. Between July and October is a relatively brutal time to look for housing as many people are on the move during these months. October through January is probably the quietest time of the year and thus the easiest period to find a place to call your own.
For now, at least, the Dutch government is eager to keep people buying homes with the result that there are certain tax benefits and incentives to buy your own place in Amsterdam and beyond. Renting is also a well established practice in Amsterdam and there are many agencies and organizations that will be quick to help you out if you have any difficulty with rent or landlords (see for example http://www.woonbond.nl – In Dutch).
Amsterdam housing is usually small and often not in the greatest state of upkeep. But if you engage the services of a housing agent do not be afraid to make them work for their commission; everything is negotiable and monthly rents can be reduced if you find legitimate fault with the premises – finding an agent who demonstrates that they are on your side will make your life a great deal easier.