The lease on our apartment will be up in a few months, so we’ve begun talking about what we want to do. Our current apartment is fine, but there are a few things we don’t like about it, so it has been a forgone conclusion that we would be moving out at the end of our lease.
The big question is: what do we do now? At first, I just assumed we would rent another apartment. Easier said than done. Amsterdam is an expensive place for renters, and landlords (and makelaars – the Dutch version of a Realtor) purposely screw over expats who don’t know any better. Ever since moving in, I’ve known we were overpaying for our apartment, and this has been confirmed to me by a few Dutch acquaintances.
What annoys me is that every blog, guide, or ‘how-to’ that I read that purports to offer “the best way to find the cheapest housing in Amsterdam” doesn’t really do so. They’ll all admit that expats generally over-pay, and tell you to try to negotiate. Then, they tell you to check out the same housing websites everyone is already using, where all of the overprices apartments are listed. How do the Dutch find apartments? Oh, they “know somebody.” That’s it. That’s the big secret to finding a cheap apartment like the locals. “Know somebody”. Gee, thanks.
As a result, I’ve been debating going the purchasing route. On one hand, I know that buying is generally the better financial decision than renting, since you will hopefully get at least some return on your money when you go to sell. The Dutch government does offer tax incentives (though they’re reducing them currently). Dutch mortgages work differently over here than they do in the States, so I’m not entirely sure I understand them. Also, to go with a particular bank or go with a mortgage broker? They both get their money somehow, is it better to pay the fee up-front or just bundle it into the mortgage? To go with a broker who specializes in expats, or not?
The other big question: Are we ready to commit to Amsterdam longer term? Right now, our lease is up in 4 months, and we have a contract with T-Mobile for another year and a half. Those are the only things keeping us here. Not that I’m ready to move, mind you. Roxy has a job, but not one she likes. I’ve told her I’m willing to move anywhere in the country if she finds a job that suits her. By purchasing a home here, if she were to find a job somewhere else, she’d be committing to a long train ride every day. This is not uncommon, as it seems like more than half of her co-workers live in other cities and commute by train. I suppose we could look at places in Haarlem or another nearby city where things might be cheaper, but who knows.
There’s no real point to this blog post besides venting a little of my confusion & frustration. I’m happy here in Amsterdam, and I do still pinch myself every now and again, just to make sure I really am living here, and not just dreaming it.