The Dutch may have a reputation of looking after their money – think of ‘going Dutch’ for dinner for example – but compared with many other European countries, living in the Netherlands is both cheap and easy.
Compared with countries like Britain, for example, public transport is cheap – and you can always really go Dutch and cycle everywhere. Buy a season ticket to get in free to most of the countries hundreds of museums, shop for food at the markets and take advantage of the country’s glorious beaches to relax.
The cost of living in the Netherlands is around average in European terms. If you look at the Economist’s Big Mac index, which compares the cost of a hamburger in many countries, the Netherlands is cheaper than Germany, France, Italy and Belgium. So junk food fans can be happy as well.
Take renting a house, for example. If you know where to look and what pitfalls to watch out for, you can find yourself a nice little pad in a popular area. First and foremost, make sure you use a reputable, licensed rental agency.
In Amsterdam, there are great apartments to be had, but you have to be realistic about your budget. There is a lot of pressure on the cheaper end of the market – and as a newcomer you will find it very hard to get accepted for a rent-controlled property.
However, you can get a nice one bedroom private-sector apartment outside the expensive city centre for around €1,000. Osdorp and Noord in particular are worth checking out. Noord, just across the IJ by ferry, is undergoing a considerable upgrade at the moment, sparked by the new media developments around the EYE film museum.
Spoiled for choice
Housing is cheaper in Rotterdam and The Hague, and for €1,000 you will be spoiled for choice. This furnished flat in The Hague, for example, is typical of what you can expect in the centres of these two cities.
The weak Dutch housing market is having a knock-on effect on the quality of rental housing. Home owners are finding it hard to sell their properties and people are unwilling to buy. This has made renting a home much more popular. But competition in the rental market has grown as well.
‘We have noticed that home owners are more willing to invest in decent furniture, new appliances and presenting their property better,’ says Fred Tromp, director of rental specialists Perfect Housing.
The rent you pay may or may not include gas and electricity. In general, says Tromp, longer rental agreements – those of at least a year – exclude gas, water and electricity. This means tenants have to apply for these services themselves. Shorter tenancies are usually all in.
‘Expect to pay somewhere around €150 in utility bills per month for an average apartment (80m2 – 120m2) based on a household consisting of two adults and one child,’ says Tromp. Tenants also have to pay waste collection fees but no longer have to pay property taxes, so that is an added advantage to renting a home.
If you do experience problems with your landlord, your first option is always to try and work things out directly. After all, the tenancy agreement is between you and the landlord, not the broker. But of course, if things get difficult, brokers like Perfect Housing have an experienced service desk for support.
And are there any things foreigners should be aware of in particular. Finding no light bulbs and no toilet paper is a common experience. But what about finding your dream home has no floor? It has happened. The most common complaint tenants have is about the return of the deposit they pay when leaving the property.
Taking photographs of everything when you move in gives the tenant a visual record to use in case of a dispute. But if it really can’t be sorted out ‘we have the experience to mediate between tenant and home owner,’ says Tromp. ‘Problem solving through discussion is the Dutch way as well.’
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