A Complete Guide to Housing in the Netherlands
Part 1: Finding a room
The Netherlands could be considered one of the best places in Europe for pursuing higher education for obvious reasons. However, there’s one big challenge ahead before university starts: finding a place to stay.
If finding a room in the Netherlands is no easy task even for Dutch students, imagine the struggle of international students who have to secure a room all while being physically hundreds of miles away.
Fortunately, with the power of the internet (and the Student Guide NL), there’s no need to panic.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who’ve already found your accommodation, make sure to check out part 2 of this guide: Moving into your new accommodation.
Types of housing
In general, two main types of accommodation are available for students in the Netherlands: rooms offered on the private market and student housing. The former are usually rooms rented out by one or a few landlords, as opposed to student houses that are generally managed by large housing companies.
The main difference lies in the number of people you will be staying with. For example, students often share a house with a few roommates in private housing, whereas in student housing up to hundreds of students stay in the same building.
Next, rooms may be furnished or unfurnished. Opting for a furnished room may be more painful for your wallet, but it will save you the awkward moment of having no bed to sleep in after a long flight.
On the other hand, if you choose to stay in an unfurnished room, besides having to buy furniture, please keep in mind that although the rent is cheaper, you may not even have flooring or lighting in your room!
Another thing to think about is whether you want to live in a private studio apartment or don’t mind sharing facilities (bathroom, kitchen, etc.) with others. Of course, the more you share, the cheaper the rent (usually).
Of course, you could always try to make arrangements to share the cost of renting an entire house with a few friends.
The monthly cost of renting a room in the Netherlands depends on the type of housing you opt for.
As mentioned, if you’re sharing facilities with others the rent is usually more affordable, ranging from 200 euros to 400 euros on average for student housing and 300 to 500 euros for private housing.
In contrast, the cost of a studio apartment is around 400 to 700 euros for student housing and 700 to 1000 euros for private housing.
Another crucial factor that contributes to the cost is the location of the room, especially for rooms in the private market, such that rooms closer to the city centre are more expensive.
Needless to say, rent costs vary between cities in the Netherlands (with the capital, Amsterdam, being the most expensive).
Fortunately, you may be eligible to apply for housing allowance granted by the Dutch government.
There are multiple platforms that you could use to find a room in the Netherlands.
First, free platforms, including some housing companies and social media platforms, are where many international students find their home in a foreign country.
However, always remember to be aware of scams, especially when finding a room on social media.
Accommodation reserved by the university
As a first-year international student, your best bet may well be housing reserved by the university. A popular option for students is to rent a room through SSH Short Stay.
Many universities around the country have reserved housing through this organisation, and students simply need to be accepted into one of those universities to apply.
While the different housing complexes can vary, they all have fully furnished rooms, shared kitchens, bathrooms, washing machines and free internet, making it easy for any newcomer to get settled.
SSH Short Stay is specifically aimed at international students who are new to the Netherlands. As such, a room here will come with an international community of people in a similar situation.
It’s not uncommon for people to gather for large group dinners or spontaneous weekend drinking, and you’ll be sure to be introduced to more foreign cultures than just the Dutch.
SSH is also specifically recommended by many Dutch universities, so scams are highly unlikely, as long as you book through their official website.
While there are some studios offered, many rentals are single rooms where the kitchen and bathroom are shared with dozens of other students, which should be taken into consideration.
It should also be noted that a stay here only lasts for a maximum of one academic year, and only for the first year of your education, making it ideal for exchange students but maybe a bit less so for those planning to stay longer.
When booking with SSH, be sure to register as early as possible as the spots get filled quickly. If there are no available rooms but you still have your heart set, check on their website regularly as someone could cancel and leave something open for you.
There are also other housing websites that specialise in catering to students. A few examples of these could be Xior Student Housing and DUWO, who specifically aim at rental housing for students.
They’re like SSH in many ways and usually offer a student environment that’s very similar. Some housing websites like this operate locally, so remember to search for some in your specific area.
There are plenty of options for residence besides just SSH, even if you’re looking to live with other students.
For example, there are Facebook groups where students can look for housemates in their city, or where you can post what kind of residence you’re searching for, whether that be a room, an apartment, or an entire house. Rooms here may be rented out for a single month to indefinitely, meaning there’s something for everyone.
However, Facebook’s easy availability also has its downsides. While it’s always important to keep scammers in mind and try to avoid this, this caution should apply even more here.
As anyone can put up a post about looking for a tenant or a housemate, it only makes it easier for scammers, so beware. Make sure to ask for a visit and meet the landlord before signing a contract or making any form of payment.
You know how people say money makes the world go round? The same applies to paid platforms that may just offer you a slightly higher chance of getting a room since there are often many more options on these sites.
The registration fee required is typically between 15-35 euros.
Furthermore, there is also the option of hiring a real estate agency, especially if you’re interested in renting an apartment with a few rooms.
One of the housing websites that’s very popular among students in the Netherlands is Kamernet, where you can find studios and apartments for yourself or share with others.
Here, you can look through many different rooms and apartments, many of which cater to students. It should be noted that you need to pay a subscription fee in order to respond to any of the announcements.
When a group of students are searching for a new housemate, it’s common to have an informal meeting before anything is decided.
This process is known as co-optation. It’s simply to get to know you better and see if you would fit in with the pre-existent group so you can all be more confident in having a comfortable social environment. And don’t worry; it can easily be done from home over a video call.
Unfortunately, a common problem for international students in the Netherlands is that many Dutch students only seek fellow Dutch housemates. If that’s the case, they will usually say so in the description. Otherwise, if the description is only written in Dutch, it could be a sign that they’ll only take people who speak it.
Additionally, some websites only offer rooms in student housing (e.g. ROOM and Studentenwoningweb) but usually operate on a waiting-list system even after paying for registration. And mind you, one may have to wait for almost a year to get close to the top of the waiting list.
Other options could be rental websites such as Pararius. These places offer apartments or studios instead of single rooms, so expect the prices to be generally higher.
Something to keep in mind here is that some landlords may seek tenants that are specifically not students (meaning, you have to have an income), though they usually make a note of it in the description if that’s the case.
If you’re having trouble finding something for yourself, it’s always an option to hire someone professional to help you.
Many real estate agencies have their own housing websites, showing houses and apartments that they have available. Other than that, they can also be hired to find something that specifically suits your needs.
A fee does follow if you choose to hire a housing agency to find something for you, but on the other hand, the chance of you finding something also rises, and you’re more likely to find a reliable deal.
When looking for rental agencies, be aware that many of them operate locally, and it’s, therefore, wise to check who’s available in the city you’re going to live in.
Finally, if the new semester is approaching and you have yet to find your new permanent residence (it happens), why not take up a temporary one? There are several options to those in need, though some of them can be a bit on the expensive side.
The Student Hotel has a series of hotels in the major university cities around the Netherlands and offers a comfortable living while you search for your new home.
Though anyone can book a hotel room, it is mainly aimed at students and others affiliated with educational establishments. Students can even book a semester package for a several months long period if they want to stay longer.
This is a more expensive option than usual and can cost around €1,000 or more per month, though it comes with a fully furnished room.
Another alternative could be by using Couchsurfing or similar applications. Even if you have no contacts in the Netherlands, there are students, professors, and others willing to lend out their couches out to those in need.
While this may not be a preferable option, it can allow you to get back on your feet in your new environment and give you a bit more time to find something more permanent. Besides, it still beats sleeping in a tent.
This depends on your needs for convenience, safety, or accessibility.
You may want to consider finding a room that is close to campus since you will be attending lectures almost every day.
Or maybe somewhere near the city centre where you will be close to the vibrant city vibes. You may also want a supermarket nearby for easy grocery shopping.
Importantly, you may want to consider the security of the area that you plan to stay in, although the Netherlands is generally considered a country with a low crime rate.
Ultimately, it is up to you to weigh your priorities and make a decision.
Another important aspect to consider is the accessibility of the area. What shops are within walking distance? Is public transport available in your city, and is it near your housing?
If it is, just take into account the fact that public transport in the Netherlands is rather pricey. Otherwise, consider investing in a decent bike as it will soon be your new best friend that will bring you places.
As housing in the Netherlands has very limited availability, you should try to look for a room as soon as you are committed to enrolling in a Dutch university.
The general rule is to start looking at least 2 or 3 months before you will need the room. So if your study programme begins in September, you should start going through your options latest by July.
Do note that most landlords on the private market are looking for tenants to start the housing contract immediately.
TIP: Register yourself as soon as possible if you’re using a housing website that operates on a waiting-list basis.
Other aspects to consider
Choosing a room that is perfect for you can be tricky. It goes without saying that you have to take your budget into consideration when choosing a room. It will obviously not be nice to realise at the last minute that you cannot afford a room that you’ve been offered.
Besides that, it is also good to be aware of the type of contract the landlord or housing company offers.
Oftentimes housing provided through the university’s housing service only allows up to one year of stay, while housing companies may offer so-called “campus contracts” that will allow you to occupy the room as long as you are still enrolled as a student.
Other than that, landlords offering rooms in the private market are usually more flexible in terms of your duration of stay.
Another important thing to note about your contract are the terms and conditions: will you or the landlord be responsible for costs that cover utilities, housing taxes, maintenance, pest control, and more?
Is subletting your room allowed, and if yes, what are the policies? It is always good to ask your landlord these questions before officially signing the contract.
Finally, one thing that is often overlooked when selecting a room is your personality. While some enjoy and constantly need company around them, others prefer to have a private safe space all to themselves.
Only you can decide for yourself if you will feel more comfortable befriending the entire block whilst doing your meal prep in a kitchen that you share with ten other students or being able to spend time solo without disturbance from others in a self-contained space where you have everything you need.
Help and Advice
If your parents/guardians are financing your stay in the Netherlands, it is definitely wise to approach them to discuss your rent budget.
If that’s not the case, try asking around your circle of friends or acquaintances to contact someone who is currently staying or have stayed in the Netherlands in the past, as they may be able to provide you with information of the latest housing situation and caution you about matters that only locals will know about.
It might also be the case where you simply don’t know anyone that could provide you with assistance. Don’t worry too much, though, as most universities have specially dedicated departments to helping international students settle down in the Netherlands. They will be happy to answer any of your doubts or questions regarding housing matters.
Once you’ve selected a room of your preference, it is best to complete the application process as soon as possible.
The application process differs largely between the type of housing. If you’re aiming for a room offered in the private market, chances are that you might be invited to a viewing, along with a few other potential tenants.
This is not only a chance for you to examine the conditions of the room, but also a chance for the landlord to select a tenant of his choice. Ask the right questions to let the landlord know that you’re a genuine and trustworthy tenant.
If there’s a high demand, it will quickly become competitive among viewers, so you’ll have to be quick and decisive. If you’re satisfied with the room, inform the landlord as soon as you make your decision and wait for the landlord to give you a response (it is not uncommon to do this on the day of the viewing itself).
Do note that you may have to keep some important documents such as your identification document ready.
However, if you’re an international student from a non-European country, it is almost impossible for you to attend a viewing due to the distance.
Therefore, your very first room in the Netherlands will most likely be in a student house, where you won’t have to attend a viewing.
In this case, the application process can be done online, where you’ll have to submit a few important documents such as your passport/identification document, proof of enrolment, and in some cases, proof of income or a letter from your income guarantor.
Make sure you submit all the required documents and all that’s left to do is to wait for a response.
After you receive confirmation of an offer to the room, you will receive a contract with the complete terms and conditions. Make sure to clear any doubts with the landlord or housing company before signing the contract.
You will then be required to pay a deposit that usually sums up to twice the rent you will pay (e.g. a deposit of around 1000 euros if your rent is 500 euros per month). The safest option is to make your payment via credit card if you don’t have a Dutch bank account.
TIP: Insist on NOT paying anything until you’ve received the keys and tested them. There were cases where students were scammed after signing fake contracts and receiving keys that did not work. The scammers were long gone with the payment by then.
Finally, if the transaction is successful, you will receive a contract signed by both parties (you and the landlord) shortly.
Now, book your flight tickets if you haven’t done so, and may the countdown to your move-in date begin when you will finally receive the keys to your room.
Congratulations, you just got your first room in the Netherlands!
Make sure to check out the second part of Everything you need to know about housing: Moving into your new accommodation.