Seeing as how Liz and I are completely not settled in yet, the most responsible thing to do is write another post and waste some more time. Apartment hunting is less than awesome, and we’ve been looking for apartments since the day after we landed. I’ll bitch for a bit and then give some initial impressions on how to look for apartments abroad.
Last Friday we saw one place we really liked. It’s way too pricey for my tastes, but I’m a terrible barometer for these things. I’d live in a luxurious closet conveniently located an hour from Amsterdam if it was cheap. I also plan on making my future children wear Keds and sweatpants until they’re old enough to notice how uncool they are, then I’ll ignore them until they figre out how to call social services. So, I defer to Liz on matters of price, and quality, and most other things.
For those of you wondering (likely no one), Dutch real estates brokers are called makelaars and they’re incredibly lazy. They don’t work on weekends and even mentioning weekend work elicits a chortle. Chortle. Makes me think of Squirtle, which makes me think of Pokeman, which makes me think this is off-topic, which makes me wonder why I haven’t stopped typing about it yet.
Since the makelaar was busy being tall and enjoying bread and cheese over the weekend, which I assume are prime weekend activities, we had time to agonize over whether or not to make an offer. Positives: the apartment is huge, in a good neighborhood, overlooks a canal, and has balconies. Negatives: it’s expensive, pretty far from the city center, and we were afraid of being too rash after only seeing a few places.
After seeing a few more disappointing apartments and continuing to fret over our decision, we panicked a little and put in an offer. It was a nice relief to know that in a few days we’d have a place to live. The next morning the makelaar tells us that the owner changed his mind and only wanted to rent short term. Pissed, we thought it might be okay to rent it for a month or two so we could see other places and make more sober decisions. We offered to rent short term, making the best of a crap situation.
Later the same day, the landlord decided the apartment was no longer for rent at all. That bastard’s level of Indian giving would make Thomas Hutchinson proud. We were truly shocked that after putting all our eggs in one basket like the responsible adults we are, the owner would take our basket, steal the lovely bow I placed on it, and poop in it.
We’ve looked at some more apartments and are agonizing once again. Here are a few things you might want to consider if you’re trying to find a place to live in Amsterdam, possibly elsewhere in Europe. Plan ahead, long term and short. Don’t think that it’ll just be easier to find an apartment once you arrive. Know what you want before you get on the plane, where you want to live, and what kind of commute to work you can handle. Feel free to scratch the commute thing if you plan to be pathetically unemployed like me. Set up appointments well in advance of arrival even if people mock you for being over-prepared. Look at English and Dutch sites to see what kinds of fees are included with the makelaars. Don’t know Dutch? Stop whining, use Chrome, and hit the translate button.
Once you arrive in Amsterdam, don’t expect the makelaars to cater to you. The housing market is strong here, despite what may be happening in the broader world. Expats are looking for new housing on a regular basis, so clientele are being regularly supplied and apartments are going to be rented with or without you. Get on them early and often. Early because they are draconian about no work after five, and often because they have a habit of not reading emails. If you’re coming from the US and you think you can make appointments after work or on the weekends, stop that nonsense right now. Try to plan viewings early in the day, especially on Friday because you’ll want to get any administrative shenanigans started before weekend radio silence begins.
Worried you’re being too picky? Apartments here are pricey, so being picky is warranted. Just don’t let the indecision and search for perfection cripple you because others will not be so discerning. If nothing looks great, ask the makelaar on Thursday or Friday to start setting up appointments for next week because it’s not uncommon to lose all of Monday to scheduling snafus.
Whether in Amsterdam or any other city, use the above info cautiously. I know my incisive commentary makes me sound like an expert, but I’ve yet to find a place to live, so this is more retrospective observation than proven advice. Proceed with a large grains of salt in tow, but feel free to ask me anything, apartment hunting or boardgame or scrapbooking related. And, whether you want it or not, updates will be coming.