Apartment-Hunting in Amsterdam: A Day In The Life Of A Disillusioned Renter

Apartment-hunting in general is a tedious task. But apartment hunting in Amsterdam specifically, sucks.

If you’re looking to rent an apartment in Amsterdam, you’re dealing with sky-high prices, fierce competition, impersonal real estate agents, and inflexible viewing times. Unless you know someone who knows someone who can hook you up or you’re willing to pay an extra month’s rent to hire an agency to help out, you’ll have to get your hands dirty and accept that finding a place to live will become a part-time job.

With the lease to my current apartment expiring too soon for comfort, what started as casually looking for a new apartment to rent has turned into an intense sprint. To give you a taste of what this looks like, here’s some insight into the bleak state of the Amsterdam rental market.

7:00 – You wake up, and start checking your email for updates on new properties. You realize the email updates aren’t including all properties that fit your criteria, so you take out your laptop, proceed to be blinded by it because you never turn down the brightness, and continue looking.

7:15 – Have 24 tabs open with potential new apartments. Go through them looking for a decent place to live.

7:18 – Be confused about the listing that has the shower in the middle of its only bedroom.

7:22 – Be confused about the listing that states two bedrooms, but clearly shows one bedroom, separated by a curtain.

7:25 – Be confused about the listing that looks like it’s in a prison complex.

7:27 – Find the perfect place. Realize it’s only for residents that are 50+. For half a second, think about falsifying documents to age yourself up by 25+ years and learning how to do elderly costume makeup. Move on once you realize that’s too much effort.

7:45 – Out of curiosity, check how the state of the market is in other cities. Realize that in any other city, for the price range you’re going for, you’d get more than a pimped-out shoebox and a space that’s built with modern needs in mind. Remember you hate commuting and all of your friends live in this city and also you don’t know how to drive despite almost being 30, so you rely on public transport for everything. Debate starting your own company to work remotely forever and live in an affordable, well-laid-out home. Realize you’ve gotten sidetracked once again and continue searching in Amsterdam.

07:55 – Apply to the apartments that fit your lofty criteria: minimum one bedroom with a real door separating it from the living room, 50+ m2, under 1,700 euros, some storage space, with a balcony or garden, and pets allowed.

08:00 – Answer any emails from realtors because all the emails go to your email and not your partner’s, G. G has tried applying to apartments but you’ve both realized that coincidentally, your Dutch last name gets triple the responses his English last name does.

08:15 – Get ready for the first viewing of the day. You spend 30 minutes trying to choose an outfit that makes you look reliable but also helps you stand out. You settle on mom jeans and dad sneakers, hoping to invoke the essence of parental reliability.

09:15: You’re at Apartment #1. The realtor is 10 minutes late and you’re somehow viewing the apartment with 2 other couples, despite the real estate agent stating in their email that due to COVID regulations, only one person could come per viewing. Nobody else is wearing masks except for you. The agent does not apologize for his tardiness.

09:16 – You’re in the apartment. While you walk up to the fourth floor, you wonder why the Dutch, despite being the tallest nation in the world, decided to build the smallest, most narrow steps in existence.

09:20 – The realtor recognizes one of the couples. He stares at them and says: “still looking, eh?”, without an ounce of empathy. You have now unlocked a new fear.

12:30 – You’re at Apartment #2. Once again, you’re with another couple. The couple runs in and tells the real estate agent that they’re actually 15 minutes early for their appointment, but that should be fine, right? The real estate agent said it is. It is definitely not fine in your opinion, but nobody asks for your opinion, so you spend the next ten minutes shuffling around the apartment, avoiding getting too close to the other couple.

12:32 – The living room and kitchen look promising. You ask for where the bedroom is and realize what you thought was a roomy closet with a sink is actually considered the bedroom. You ask if there is separate storage since there is no space for a closet. There is not.

14:30 – You finally have some time to check your emails. Out of the 18 you applied to in the last couple days, 5 get back to you. It looks like a good day.

14:31 – The first email sends you to a site where you have to pay to apply for the chance to view the apartment. You do not apply.

14:33 – The second email asks if you can do a viewing tomorrow. You say you have a work meeting that overlaps and ask for any other time. They say it’s their only time slot and that if you can’t come, you’ve lost all chance of seeing it. Oh, and considering the state of the Amsterdam rental market, you should be more flexible. You wonder how they expect you to be able to come to a viewing at a moment’s notice while holding a well-paying enough job that allows you to be eligible for said apartment.

14:35 – You open the next email. It says there’s a viewing option for today at 13:00. You check the time and realize you missed it. You check for when it was sent. The email was sent at 12:43 today.

14:45 – After answering some screening questions, you finally have two viewings planned for the next few days.

15:40 – You’re at Apartment #3. Although it’s almost in another city, you like the apartment. When you ask them about the length of the contract, they remind you that the contract is only for 2 years max. because otherwise, you will have too many rights as a tenant. You shudder, dreading the thought of going through this process again in 2-year’s time.

15:52 – You check your email and see one from one of the agents saying that, unfortunately, even though the listing says nothing about pets and is an actual house with a garden in a quiet neighborhood, no pets are allowed. But, if you’re interested, you can come to the viewing. You email back jokingly, saying the cats are non-negotiable and you wish them luck finding someone. They email back reiterating “NO PETS” (all caps), but you’re still free to change your mind about the viewing. You email them back one last time, reiterating that you will not be putting your cats up for adoption for this house, but thanks for the offer.

16:01 – You receive a call about the apartment you applied to yesterday. You assume good news since they usually email rejections. You get your hopes up. You did not get it. When you ask the real estate agent as to why, they say it was down to the wire, that you’ve been great candidates, and it’s really nothing personal, but that it just came down to the landlord’s personal preference.

16:13 – It’s time for Apartment #4. This one is it. You’re happy you didn’t give up on the apartment that only had blurry pictures of the windows with subpar views. It’s been recently remodeled, the layout makes sense, and the rooms are actual rooms, separated by real walls and doors. On top of that, the real estate agent referred to you by the right name, asked you about your background beyond the tenancy requirements, and tried to crack jokes. For the first time all day, you no longer feel like crying.

17:10 – You run to the last viewing of the day, Apartment #5. You get your numbers mixed up and stand in front of the wrong apartment 6 doors down from the one you should actually be at for 5 minutes, before realizing your mistake.

17:13 – The landlord is at this listing. They see you struggling to open the balcony door for a good 3 minutes, that feels like 3 hours. They stare at you and mention they won’t fix that. They also mention they won’t fix anything else that’s broken or will break. You wonder whether they realize that part of a landlord’s job description is to fix the broken things in the apartment and not only to allow someone the privilege of paying off their mortgage.

17:58 – Get a call from a realtor. One of the apartments you applied to has already been rented out but, for a finder’s fee equivalent to one month’s rent, he found you a similar one – one that’s not even on the market yet! Without asking, he’s sent pictures to your Whatsapp. It’s the apartment you viewed (and rejected) yesterday with another realtor for free. You ask for the price of the rent out of curiosity. It’s 50 euros more expensive than the one initially quoted to you.

18:00 – The day is done. You go through the listings one more time. You start looking at what it would cost to buy a house. You quickly remember that you’ll never be able to save enough for a house because the prices are going up by 20% every year, so each year you’ll fall further behind because you spend all of your money on rent.

18:05 – Pour yourself a glass of wine and begin the application to the one place with potential. You try to write a convincing letter to the landlord, letting them know all about you, your life, and why you deserve to live in their apartment more than the eight other applicants. You attach all the documents needed and feel weird giving all your personal information to somebody you just met today, for less than fifteen minutes.

Oh, and be sure to have it in before 9:00 tomorrow. Because the Dutch love taking their time with everything except matters of real estate.

Positive update since the time of writing: the sprint was all worth it! We found a place! I might have aged seven years in three months’ time but we’ve got it!

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