"Expats only", say many of the ads. And by "expats" they mean "suckers".

So goes the Amsterdam scam. Scamsterdam. Amsterscam. Ok, I'll stop - you get the idea.

For $2000/month (1250 Euros), you will be sitting in a 65-meter-square (210 feet) one-bedroom place in a relatively central part of the city.

Cost aside, the housing system is full of interesting pitfalls for the uninitiated, along with some perks too. Here's how it works:

  • Social housing, which here means something much different and more comfortable that social housing in North America, is a program by which most Nederlanders can apply for, and get on a waiting list. This is government-subsized housing, in some very nice places throughout the city.
  • The waiting list, depending on who you speak to, can be anywhere from 6 months to several years.
  • Once "in", you live in a sweet apartment for say 300-400 Euros, provided you don't make over a certain amount of salary.
  • You pay this rent for many years, in some cases a lifetime, irrespective of the money you earn - and you've likely increased your salary since the time you applied to get on the list. Technically this is not allowed, but it is nigh unenforceable or trackable.
  • You then pair up with a mate or buy another home and rent your place for some 800-1500Eur profit to a hapless and desperate expat.
  • The expat does have some recourse, in the form of a committee that assesses the real value of a home; it can then reduce the amount you need to pay (and really p*** off your landlord in the process, one can imagine - but many people do this and save a lot on renting). But a number of landlords won't let you legally register, which then makes it impossible to get this commission to investigate.
  • All of this is of course buyer beware - no one forces you to live in a non-registered place - but like in any foreign country, newcomers simply don't know the local rules and are thus easy prey.
  • The landlords do assume a significant risk on one hand though, in that they cannot evict renters without a serious process - in some cases lasting several years. Once "in", a renter can really kind of squat and make things difficult. But who wants to do that? Bad karma.
There are more technical ins and outs, but that's it in a nutshell. Very different from the more capitalistic, less-Left-leaning West, with the only real similarity is that everyone is just playing by the rules of supply and demand. And Amsterdam, with its million things to do and laissez-faire lifestyle, is in demand.

The real tips?
  • Don't rent anywhere that you cannot register and do try to haggle for a lower price, if you are an attractive tenant (professional, courteous, have excellent choice in blog-reading).
  • Do look at Craigslist and then call to view a place right away - good spots go fast.
  • Do join a group like "Amsterdam Apartments 4 Rent" on Facebook, where the likelihood of being scammed is diminished by the fact that you can see who's posting the ad.
  • There are agency fees with some places; they provide some assurance that you are not getting jobbed, but they can also charge one month's rent as a fee. Haggle this.
Happy hunting!


Tina said...

Wow. Apartment hunting in Amsterdam sounds crazy! I like how we do it in the US... find a site like this, check out a cpl. places, and sign a lease! Anyway, I like your writing style, and look forward to reading more from you. :)

Kimberly said...

It is true that once a landlord gets a renter, then it is very hard to kick him/her out. That is why many choose to rent flats to tourists in temporary basis. For example, apartment rental in Buenos Aires is usually in dollars for tourists who are definitely going to leave. It is a sure thing!