Attempting to rent a home in the Netherlands turned Julia Corbett into a paranoid spammer with stalker tendencies thrown in. She explains how the rot set in.
After not one, two or three, but four properties slipped from my fingers I can safely say I have experienced the housing hell in the Netherlands.
Our adventure began when my Dutch partner returned home after some years in England and I became a student in the Netherlands. It has been a more bumpy start than expected after experiencing a lack of suitable housing options.
From Hilversum to Leerdam and Den Bosch to Busson, I have learnt that luck and timing has more to do with finding a place to rent than most people will feel comfortable with.
My Dutch boyfriend of nearly five years took eagerly to the rental sections of housing websites and arranged a day crammed full of viewings of apartments, houses and loft conversions.
Having donned a smart outfit and brushed my hair for the encounter with our future landlords, I found myself being scolded for turning up five minutes late to an appointment that lasted no longer than 30 seconds. We dashed in and out of the four rooms in a supermarket sweep-style daze, wondering where our furniture would fit, before we were ushered out and abandoned in the street as our suited agent sped off on his company moped.
‘Where is the carpet?!’ we cried at our next viewing only to be informed that carpets, paint and exposed piping were a luxury we must solve on our own.
Things seemed to be looking up when we met a new potential landlord, a 94-year-old retired businessman who rowed for 30 minutes every day and had a garden that was more perfectly manicured than the lawns of royalty. Would I like to live in the grounds of a mansion boasting nine deer, six chickens three dogs, a cat and six small caged birds? Yes, absolutely, sign me up!
After my partner negotiated an agreement and I chatted to his wife in broken Dutch while being fed home-grown tomatoes, we skipped away from the viewing giddy with excitement. A home, within our budget, complete with lovely landlord. Success!
However, our property bubble was swiftly deflated when we tried to initiate the contract process, only for the estate agent to claim our new landlords no longer wanted us as tenants. Our upset turned to anger and paranoia: what was wrong with us? Why were we unworthy of their out-house? Deciding to carry out the somewhat stalkerish task of returning to the owners for answers, we learned that they had been told by the estate agents we were not interested and rented the property to someone else.
Though I try not to sound bitter about my experience, I have learned that our tale is not at all unusual for those who cannot yet afford to buy but must live independently. The average rental property in Amsterdam now costs €2,000 a month and businesses have claimed the city is unable to accept more growth because there is not enough suitable rented housing. For the first time the University of Amsterdam has been unable to match the demand for student accommodation and in other cities students are having similar experiences.
‘Just buy a house!’ has been a solution put forward by family, friends and colleagues, both who are expats themselves and those who were born and raised in the Netherlands. But that’s not the easiest thing to do either.
The Dutch phrase Van ‘t kastje naar de muur – being sent from the closet to the wall – best sums up the experience of being forced to hunt down estate agents and demand answers and information, to discover only bad news.
Meanwhile, our search for a home to rent and make our own, like many others in the same situation, continues.