Going Dutch – some hints to find the perfect new home

Moving to the Netherlands or already here? Here’s some tips to help you choose the right city to live in.

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Amsterdam is celebrated as a city of canal ringed streets lined with beautiful old houses – and home to an eclectic population of happy, free-thinkers who spend their days enjoying the urban delights by bike.

It’s a reputation that entices thousands of international workers to accept employment contracts relocating them to Amsterdam, albeit often only a temporary basis. In fact non-Dutch residents, originating from about 180 countries, make up about half of the city’s population and combine to create the multi-cultural atmosphere that is a major draw for many expat families.

According to Joost Luttge, director of business development for Perfect Group, when searching for a new home, expats aspire to ‘the real Amsterdam’ experience. In other words, internationals hope to find their new home in a typical Amsterdam neighbourhood, preferably along a canal, and within the ring or grachtengordel – just like in the postcards.

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But outside the city centre, there are other equally good places to make your home. The narrow streets of the Jordaan and the grandeur of Oud-Zuid (with the added advantage of easy access to Vondelpark and the international schools) – are also very desirable places to live. More recently Westerpark, de Baarsjes and Amsterdam Oost have grown into popular locations with expats looking for rental apartments in Amsterdam.

Space

But whether new arrivals find exactly what they are looking for is a different matter.

‘People moving to the Netherlands from countries where spacious houses on large blocks of land is the norm, find the small size of Amsterdam homes and the density of residential areas challenging,’ says Luttge.

Often space requirements become the reason for not moving into the city, and renters may be drawn to Rotterdam or The Hague where more space for less money – is possible.

In general, the selection criteria for expat renters includes the inevitable costs (rent, transport, parking); the availability of furniture; and, location (access to work, schools, transport; gym, shopping area).’ Many potential renters seek plug and play apartments – that is, fully furnished apartments with television and Internet included in the rental contract, Luttge says.

So how does Amsterdam compare to what international renters are looking for in other Dutch cities, like Rotterdam and The Hague?

‘The differences in the rental market tend to be related to the individual core businesses based in the each city,’ says Luttge.

Diplomatic postings

The Hague is home to the International Law Courts and the larger foreign embassies, hence many of the internationals choosing to relocate to The Hague are on legal or diplomatic contracts, which are for longer postings than contracts issued by private business.

By contrast, many Rotterdam expats are employed by the international technology or chemical companies based in the city. Interestingly, the profile of international workers looking for apartments for rent in Rotterdam is predominantly that of an unmarried employee without children.

Expatriates in both The Hague and Amsterdam often base their decision to live in these cities on the availability of international schools.

So what is the secret to finding that special home in the Netherlands, somewhere you can park you bike, hang your (rain) coat, and just relax?

Avoid the summer

‘Perhaps the best piece of advice is to do your own research before heading to the airport,’ says Luttge. ‘Search the internet, connect with other expats living in the city, read everything you can to assess whether the city can met your needs.’

And you need realistic expectations about the availability of properties that will match your needs and budget. ‘Inform yourself properly … then select the agent that best works for you and makes you feel comfortable,’ he says.

‘And if possible, avoid making the move in July and August, when many expats plan their relocation to coincide with the school year and summer break. This means there is then more competition in the rental market.’

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