This article was first published in iamgreek.nl
You can find this article also in Greek here.
From my recent experience I can surely tell you that finding a house in the Netherlands and also moving to that can seem as a race or something, extremely difficult and demanding for many reasons. I am sharing with you some of my moments of the last 2,5 years and I hope that with my post I will sufficiently inform you about what you can expect regarding housing in the Netherlands – especially all that are new in this country.
Finding the exact type of the house that you were looking for seems equally possible with winning the lottery
All my friends that came in the Netherlands after me – in order to try staying permanently – were looking for a cheap house (as all of us I guess!), which would be also big (because you cannot have a life in 20 m2!), furnished (so no extra furnishing to buy and waste money), with bills included in the price (so you get rid of companies and banks), in a good neighborhood (because it is important to feel free taking late walks at night without feeling afraid), with good transportation (as it is important to go everywhere you want, whenever you wish) and close to the new job they found (since traveling to work for a long time is a torture, especially early in the morning!)
Now, let me tell you something: Forget the text you just read above! From personal experience I can say that houses with all the above characteristics practically they don’t exist. If by chance you find one and only house which will be so good as the hypothetical one I just described then you must know that it will be immediately rented by some guy/girl faster and better trained in hunting houses than you (guess what: he/she is looking for the same thing with you because he/she is not stupid!). Another hypothesis is that the “perfect” house will be claimed by 150 people including you at the same time period. Big luck will be the only factor which will show who will get the keys of the “super” house!
Nothing is for free and without guarantee in the Netherlands
We are talking about a pure capitalistic country (yes, Greece is also capitalistic but you have no idea how big is the difference between the two countries!). The whole country is a big company. Do you know what companies want? Proofs (don’t throw away anything, not even brochures regarding pizzas and kebabs) and of course money. If you want to rent a house you should be able to prove that you can pay the rent. If you don’t have the needed money then someone should be your “guarantee”. In the past some friends of mine tried to rent a house but without having themselves an official salary. So they asked from their families some work statements (e.g. pay-slips) or certificates which were proving that their parents were retired (in case that the parent who was paying for the rent wasn’t working anymore).
Of course you can find again some house agents who will not accept these papers and they will ask for a specific salary amount. Remember that your future rent should be equal with the 1/3 or ¼ of your salary. Don’t think it’s weird! People with high salaries are forbidden to rent cheap houses in specific areas (because these houses are available for poorer people) and if they finally rent one of them, maybe in the future they will pay a fine. At the beginning it sound weird also to me (as I was thinking an “open” market where everyone can buy or rent whatever he/she likes) but in the end I understood that Dutch people try to provide a house to everyone no matter how much money he/she earns.
Try to convince yourself that “pushing” house agents to do their job which in the end it will be paid by you is something common and normal!
I have already cooperated (or, whatever!) with two house agents and one house owner. I can tell you with full certainty that if you lack of patience, self-control (because you should be able to stop every time you want to yell them and this feeling will be frequent), persistence to call them or e-mail them often (to check if they still remember that you exist) and of course money (because requisition of money is the only thing on time here), then really why you want to rent in this country? One and a half year ago a friend told me something like: “House agents (makelaars) are the most hateful Dutch group of professionals”. I remember myself finding her words a bit too much. Well, not anymore!
And don’t get confused: Dutch house agencies are completely different from Greek house agencies. Brokers in Greece fight to earn money and they usually don’t earn much. Brokers in the Netherlands are not that hard-working and trust me: they will take their money no matter what! Don’t play games and don’t think in a Greek way because Dutch don’t play games at all! They will take your money – and YOU will have done the whole job – and the only thing you could say in the end would be “thank you!”.
Sometimes a bigger house is cheaper than a smaller one!
The biggest proof is that many studios and even rooms are more expensive from regular apartments. There are too many reasons for that, but let’s skip this part. Just think about the possibility to rent a normal house with the same money you would give for a room.
Check if there are any floors in the house!
Please don’t laugh! At the beginning I was pretty shocked too but it happens really often! The first year that I was a student here I heard one of my roommates saying that it was too difficult for her to find a proper room because most of the previous owners were expecting from her to put floors into the room/house. “But what do you mean that there are no floors?” I asked her and the funny thing was that the first idea that directly came into my mind was a “bare” house with no floors, so there should be some people flying inside it! Of course I quickly understood that Dutch houses have – of course! – some kind of flooring but it is usually made of concrete. So you cannot exactly bring your nice chairs, bed and couch inside a house with this type of floor (hippies are excluded because probably they have already lived on trees!). That is why they usually choose to put carpet or laminate as a floor material.
If you are asking me: I choose one thousand times laminate than carpet. Maybe it will cost a little more but I prefer to spend money than having a carpet which can be hardly cleaned. Don’t you dare to use it especially if we talk about a kitchen. In one month you will know what you have eaten all this month (some drops that have been falling from any kind of food you have eaten and you will see soon how wonderful smell will be coming from your carpet!). And please don’t make me mention all the possible small new “friends” you can make!
Sometimes a room could be a better solution than renting a whole house
Here I am talking for something exactly opposite than what I said in number 4. If you are alone, for the first time in an unknown city and country, without anyone familiar and with limited budget then you should certainly think the idea of living with housemates. In Greece it is not something that common (but during the last years it is a changing phenomenon especially because of the crisis) but here is a really rational housing option and for many people really pleasant. Fingers crossed that your housemates will be some normal, nice persons since you don’t want to regret your decision to live with other people.
Keep in mind that from time to time you can find amazing houses that it is impossible to find in other seasons.
Every year the Netherlands welcome thousands of foreign students from every place of the planet. Everybody is looking for the same thing you are looking for (we talked about this in number 1). If you also add all permanent citizens who want to live their old house and move to a new place, then we can officially say that things are difficult! The best period to find a house normally starts around May (many houses get empty because students and temporary employees are leaving) and the worst period by far is the end of August and the beginning of September when people actually “killing” to find anything! Another period that it is possible to find a good house is the period around Christmas when also many houses get available. Of course we never say that there aren’t some lucky ones who will find something good in a difficult season, but the general truth is more or less like what I just described.
Clarify with the house owner/agent if bills are included in the rent price
For bills (electricity, gas, water) you will usually pay 150 to 200 euros (for normal consuming). It is very important to know if the owner will pay the bills with the money you give or you should take care of the bills (by registering as soon as possible to various companies and pay them every month through your bank account).
Arrange a viewing of the house before the booking
If for some serious reasons this is not possible for you (e.g. you are a student and you will be in the Netherlands on a specific date to follow your upcoming courses) then at least ask for some photos of the house.
Maybe you will have first to pay and then to take the house contract
Yes, it is so irrational but already happened to me! Don’t be afraid, they are not thieves (well I suppose, I cannot swear!). The thing is that they have turned each procedure in their favor (I am talking about house agencies and companies) and this is not only a result of strict capitalism but also a fact related to serious past problems that they have experienced with renters who were not paying their rents (The Netherlands are also in crisis guys!).
Ask for a translation and some explaining of the contract
OK, I haven’t heard anything too bad regarding contracts but there is always a first time, right? And as we usually say in Greece: “Know where you put your signature”.
Except the contract ask for two important papers
The exact numbers of the meters (gas, water, electricity) and a list with all the broken/non working items of the house. Both of the papers should have a signature of the owner.
Regarding the second paper I suppose you understand that you need something which will be proving that e.g. the big hole on the wall and the huge scratch on the cupboard wasn’t your fault, but that’s how you rent the house. Regarding the first paper I can mention so many examples of friends and classmates/colleagues who were enormously charged and they experienced big problems because they didn’t have a proof of what were the numbers of the meters the day they took the keys of their new houses.
From personal experience I can tell you that one well-known Dutch electricity company tried to charge me with 1.500 euros extra because the previous renter was consuming every month an enormous amount of kWh (and later I learned from a sure source that the specific renter was arrested as drug dealer and he had put in the house dozens of lamps for his plants!).
Anyway, despite the funny part of this story, I was not willing to pay 1.500 euros that I didn’t consume. The well-known and “respectful” electricity company wasn’t ready to understand that I wasn’t another stupid client (and unfortunately many smart people already paid and they will be paying bills without knowing what they actually pay!), so I didn’t have another option but asking for some help. I visited “Law Office of Rotterdam” (“Juridisch Loket”) and there I finally found a solution. It was made clear to me that somewhat often companies use to do that (to steal money from people) and the responsibility is mine (so I should ask for number of meters if I want to be safe and not in threat). In general, people I met there were very kind and cooperative – besides their job is to give law advices. They asked for every paper or digital document that was proving that I was right and we arranged a new appointment soon. And then the miracle happened: someone of the electricity company called and asked the whole issue to be solved as friendly and easily as possible (as they were finally afraid of having future law problems!). I know, everything seems a bit “terrifying” but trust me, here at some point you will find a solution to your problem. But I know people in Greece who were been fighting to find a solution to their problems for decades!
Moving from an old house to a new one
First of all you should know that regarding the Dutch Law the day you are moving is an official day-off from work. This is one of the best Dutch provisions! If you move inside a city then you have a day-off (extra of the 22 days that you normally have, so it is a present of the Netherlands to you!). If you are moving outside of your current city (e.g. you were living in Rotterdam but now you are moving in den Haag) you have the right to be 2 days-off your job. Cool, huh?
From the beginning you should have a ready list which will include everything that you want to transfer. You will quickly figure out that this list is really useful to take offers from moving companies and to help companies decide if they can do what you are asking. The more organized you are, the quicker you will have a date and a good moving company to help you.
Be careful with prices that moving companies give: For my last moving I received in my e-mail 4 different offers with a big gap between them(e.g. the cheapest asked me 1.000 euros less from the most expensive one!). Ask them to give you in details the cost of everything regarding the moving (e.g. how much money workers will be paid, how much is the rent for the van, how much costs the gas etc.)
Demand big care regarding your furniture and your personal things: You pay so you have the right to say 100 times “Please be careful with this!”. If it is necessary explain which boxes contain fragile items – if you want to save your glassy things! Extra tip: Pay attention also to your friends that came to help with moving. Yes, they are doing you a favor without any financial goal but that doesn’t mean that they can ruin half your house!
By the end of moving ask for some proof that this moving has been done and it was finalized successfully: If you will not ask for a receipt (maybe you made a deal with less money and without receipt – yes, these things happen also out of Greece!) then ask for any signed paper which will have the exact date of moving written upon it. I suppose it is pity to be asked twice to pay a moving, right? And there is no easy way to persuade Dutch people that someday you gave the money they are asking you to someone.
Epilogue and general advice
Renting a house in the Netherlands is a big and complicated task. No matter how many discussions we will have, there will be always more things to discuss as everyone has a story to tell and every place in this country is special. Housing in Rotterdam is completely different from housing in Amsterdam or Utrecht – at least that is what I heard from friends who live there. A good web browsing in different housing sites could make you figure out what is up in every city and area. And then, you are smart guys enough to understand which should be your goal and what is the priority you should put your expectations/requirements regarding your future house. Don’t feel too bad if you understand that you should search a lot if you want to find something decent – and in your shoes they have already been millions of people!
In any case, if you are looking for a big Greek community, then start looking for a place firstly in den Haag and Utrecht and secondly to Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
Have a nice searching, stay patient and above all cool!