Thanks to the great lifestyle and its role as a business hub, Amsterdam is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. That means you're not likely to find cheap housing, especially in the more desirable neighborhoods. Rentals don't last on the market here very long so you'll have to move fast.
Once you start your housing search you'll come across some unusual terminology and symbols. It's important to understand what these are since they have a financial impact, so we've outlined the most common ones you'll see:
RENTING IN AMSTERDAM
Finding a rental in Amsterdam requires quick action...and patience. Apartments don't last long on the market given the high demand in many of the more desirable neighborhoods.
There are a number of real estate websites (listed in the Helpful Real Estate Websites section) that you can use to find a home. Most properties listed on these sites will either be immediately available or available within a few weeks. You should ignore the ones that are "in overleg" since those are in the process of being rented out.
Whether you find a property on one of these websites and contact the agency listed or go directly to a real estate agency, in general the agents are representing the landlord. If that's true of the agency you work with, then you, as the tenant, are not required to pay any agency fees or commissions. It used to be standard for them to charge a fee equal to one month's rent if they were successful in getting you the property; that morphed into charging a "contract fee" of €300 to €400. Both of those practices are illegal (again, if the agent is representing the landlord).
If you do use an agent that is not representing the landlord, however, you can expect to pay a commission of up to 1 month rent plus an additional 21% VAT.
Rent is displayed per month in the Netherlands (example: € 2,000 /mnd). Security deposits are typically equal to 1 or 2 months rent. You should be sure to ask whether there are other fees you'll be responsible for (such as electricity and gas) or if they're all inluded in the rent.
Laws in the Netherlands are very pro-tenant but you should still protect yourself by ensuring your rental agreement is in writing. Once the initial rental term (typically 12 months) has passed agreements can only be terminated by the tenant, but you must give the landlord one month's notice.
If you suspect you may need to move before the initial rental term has finished you can request a Break Clause, also known as a Diplomatic Clause. This let's you or the landlord terminate the agreement at any time.
BUYING IN AMSTERDAM
There are no restrictions on foreigners purchasing property in the Netherlands. If you know you'll be staying in the Netherlands for a while there is a key benefit to owning versus renting: homeowners get a tax refund on the interest paid for the home's mortgage up to a maximum level of 52%.
Purchasing a home can be a time consuming process with a number of steps:
There are a number of costs you'll incur beyond the purchase price:
Note that if you do secure the services of a real estate agent they may make you sign an exclusivity agreement. This means that even if you end up finding (and buying) a property on your own you'll still owe them a commission.
HELPFUL REAL ESTATE WEBSITES
Funda.nl - The Netherlands' largest real estate website makes it easy to find homes for rent or for sale by street or neighborhood. It's only in Dutch, however, so non-speakers will need to use Google translate (although it's pretty easy to figure out the key words). Mobile app available.
Pararius.com - Another big real estate website, Pararius has the advantage of offering its content in several languages. However, its search feature doesn't let you be as specific with location as Funda, but you can view results on a map to focus on a certain area. Also offers a mobile app.
Kamernet.nl - This real estate website is focused on helping you find an available room (though you are able to search for a whole home as well). The downside is you can only search by city, not neighborhood, so either you can't be too picky or you should expect to spend a lot of time looking through results.