I remember even now – I was in Geneva visiting a friend at CERN and I got an email: ‘When you’ll be able to start?’ I said: ‘On monday, no problem!’. Booked a room on AirBNB and took a flight to Amsterdam to start the new job.
Little I’ve knew about Amsterdam renting situation, and to be honest I did not care at that time. But if we think logically and take in mind:
1. The big job marketplace the city offers, more and more big companies like Sonos, Nike, Booking.com, Microsoft, TomTom, Xerox & more. Already we have a big crowd of folks that need housing. Keep in mind that the new Dutch trend in apartments is building them directly on water.
2. Foreign students University of Amsterdam that love to learn in such a vibrant city. They often stay in the west, an area called Westerpark and if they don’t get lucky finding an apartment, plenty of shipping containers are available! (Keetwonen buildings)
3. And last but not least the avalanche of happy tourists that Amsterdam has to face. I was talking with a landlord that owns three apartments, he was renting them per night at tourists. Despite often having no clients in the weekdays, the weekend makes up for that. Being more profitable than renting at a ‘per month’ basis.
Despite all these, I went against the grain searching for a rent. Usually a good place to start is Kamernet.nl and Marktplaats (a general marketplace owned by ebay). Besides this you have the usual Craigslist, really poor and expatriates.com, a place that I personally felt like a sitting duck for ridiculous ‘newcomer’ prices.
On Kamernet you register for free, but afterwards find out that you need to pay a small fee to access the ‘Early Bird’ ads. The ratio of private vs agency ads are at a decent 50/50.
After I found out my postcode and get along with the peculiar way of the website I managed to get some showings. I was mainly targeting a studio, but a large room in a shared house. During this time, I could not stay anymore at the airbnb room I previously got, but I was fortunate enough to find an apartment via one of our art director’s friend. It was in De Krommerdt, a muslim area becoming a overrun by hip kids. I paid the usual airbnb price (around 850€ per month) and had to take care of two cats.
Round One: The first place I viewed was on Spuistraat, meet up with the gatekeeper at a bike rental shop. It looked like an ex brothel, really dirty and crappy. A direct NO!
Round Two: A Room in a shared flat owned by two sisters. I went confident to see the room and ended at an interview session along other 7 (yeah seven!) people that were interested. We had tea, talked about our life, beliefs, the opacity of the window shades and how firmly you have to push the toilet button to get a proper flush.
After one hour and a half I excused myself and left, on my way I noticed my name was on an excel file. I was the 26th person interested in the room – It was clear I could not have a chance!
Round Three: A cramped studio on the 6th floor in a building with no elevator. I just imagine I will end up falling asleep on the stairs around the 4th floor after a hard night out!
Time went so fast and I had only a week left on my current stay. I remember I walked down the canals looking at boathouses and a couple of parked motorhomes. Fantasizing how cool is to live on a boat, park near your job place and sail away on weekends:)
I took a leap of faith and had another try, it was the 7th place I assume. A fairly large studio in De Pijp, a nice area with a lot of bars, caffee’s, a recordshop and one of the busiest street market of the Netherlands, the Albert Cuyp Market.
I had a bad day with an awful tootheach, I meet with Agnes, a nice lady in charge the building. She was also an astrology teacher at the Uni, passionate about arts galleries, typography and the vibrant scene in Amsterdam. We had kind a long chit-chat about this subject. Next week I moved in.
It was the perfect place, a big room in a typical dutch building, a fully equipped kitchen, large balcony with bbq spot and a market full of goods at 3 minutes distance (yeah, I love to cook!) – All these for the hefty price of 930€ (bills included). But I enjoyed at the best of Amsterdam and I have followed an old saying ‘When you choose a place in a city, choose to stay in a place near the center!’
This is not an uncommon situation, in every crowded city finding a rent it’s not a pleasing process. You must get to the place several weeks early, book a costly hotel or find a friend with a generous mattress and them surf the city to showings.
This got me inspired to start working on Eyeball.it with a couple of friends, a startup that takes the stress of finding and booking rent. The agent makes a HD virtual tour of the property with the phone and presents it to the future tenants via a video conference.
We just launched the Test Drive website and we already have the first customers on the beta to help us shape the product. If you have questions or felt the same problem, write us a line!